Meet Victoria Hamilton from the Climate and Society Class of 2023
This fall, Columbia Climate School welcomes a new class of students to the Master’s Program in Climate and Society. The 12-month interdisciplinary program trains students to understand and manage the impacts of climate change and climate variability on society and the environment.
The incoming Class of 2023 includes 80 students with diverse backgrounds and career paths, impressive skills, and big plans to help protect people and the environment.
State of the Planet will feature interviews with several of these extraordinary students over the coming weeks. In the Q&A below, you can meet Victoria Hamilton, whose Indigenous heritage inspires her to conserve nature and stand up for marginalized communities.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you became interested in studying the climate?
My decision to major in environmental science and geography in college stemmed from a desire to study and eventually work in a field aligned with my heritage. I am a proud member of the Montaukett tribe in New York. My native grandmother, Yellow Bird, taught me, Little Yellow Bird, a love of nature and respect for the gifts offered by the Earth. Growing up in a coastal town in Southern California, I developed a love for the ocean and the natural environment that surrounds it.
As a local, however, I’ve learned that the California coast doesn’t always live up to the fantasy of pristine white sand. I turned my disappointment into action, and in high school I started working with local marine biology programs to mitigate the damage to our beaches. Giving up my time to pick up trash and organizing my peers to participate in big cleanups made me feel like I was making a positive contribution. My upbringing and these experiences have reinforced my commitment to preserving the Earth for future generations.
What specifically attracted you to the Climate and Society program?
The Columbia Climate School presents this unique opportunity combining the Earth Institute and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. The Environmental Justice and Climate Just Cities Network as well as dedicated teachers can help guide me to a career where I can be most effective in contributing to social change. Being surrounded and challenged by brilliant faculty and talented students will prepare me to conduct and defend research to the highest academic standards. Likewise, these minds will challenge me to devise original policy approaches to solving the long-standing problems of communities that have been ignored.
How does the program align with your career goals?
When I applied for graduate programs, I was looking for a school where I could learn more about the physical and social sciences behind the impending climate crisis. I was excited when I found the Climate & Society program because I knew I could benefit from mentorship on how I could pursue this intersectional lens in a professional career. I want to work in environmental policy and hopefully serve as a voice for marginalized communities.
What are you most looking forward to learning while you’re here?
I want to dive into how we can create fair environmental legislation for all groups of people – specifically, for those who are often underrepresented in climate change discussions. I look forward to exploring these specific interests further with the electives.