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Program to train grad students in environmental finance

Cornell University's new Environmental Finance and Impact Investing (EFII) program will train graduate students to become experts at the intersection of sustainability, the environment and finance.

The program is joint collaboration between the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs (CIPA) and the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management. It is the first program of its kind to be jointly offered by a graduate school of business and a graduate program in public affairs.

Graduate students in the program will be trained to invest in, manage or regulate businesses or projects seeking financial, environmental and/or social goals through a series of courses coupled with applied projects. Known as EFII program fellows, graduate students will gain experience in a range of topics, including finance and analytics, markets and regulation, science and technology, and economic and political analysis. In addition, they will be required to engage in professional learning opportunities that will include internships and hands-on, applied projects with investors, industry, government and nongovernmental organizations.

"Today, sustainability, the environment and finance are coming together in new and compelling ways," said Mark Milstein, director of the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise. "It is critical that academic institutions like Cornell ensure our graduates are able to use financial acumen to help finance technologies and businesses that generate value through the improvement of society and the environment."

Recent reports from such financial services and philanthropic organizations as J.P. Morgan and the Rockefeller Foundation suggest that over the next decade "impact investing" -- in which an investor places capital in businesses that can generate financial returns and achieve an intentional social and/or environmental goal -- could represent trillions of dollars of assets under management.

Impact investing requires the application of financial skills to projects and ventures related to issues including financing to address climate change, ecosystem services and poverty alleviation, said Mark E. DeAngelis '91, MPA '92. A professional-in-residence at CIPA and chief executive officer of Macro Climate Solutions LLC, DeAngelis played a key role in developing the structure and content of the new fellows program. "Effective investment in this space requires private- and public-sector professionals who have expertise and training in a unique and diverse set of subject areas," he said.

Added Thomas O'Toole, CIPA's executive director, "This program represents a bold new partnership between the public and private sectors that will enhance our understanding of the most difficult environmental challenges facing our country and our world.

"The roles we hope students in this program will assume after graduation will serve as a testament to the innovative educational strategies of Johnson and CIPA, as well as the ability of our students to leverage their skills as assets to international organizations, financial services firms and consultancies," O'Toole said.

Shannon Dortch is a communications specialist and social media manager with the Johnson School.

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Joe Schwartz