Sustainability Management Graduate Students Create New Podcast Series, SustSpec

Current Sustainability Management graduate students David Hugens (‘17) and Hilary Osborn (‘17) needed a creative outlet. After a bit of brainstorming, they decided to create a podcast around sustainability issues, which would include commentary on current events as well as interviews with young professionals in the field of sustainability.

SustSpec is a bi-weekly podcast dedicated to the discussion of modern sustainability practices and experiences. SustSpec was born from the Sustainability Management graduate program at Columbia University and is produced in partnership with SUMA Net Impact (SUMANI).

We spoke with the hosts via email about the idea behind the podcast and what compelled them to create the show.

What inspired the SustSpec podcast?

David Hugens: We came up with SustSpec in 2015 and intended to use it as a creative outlet. As an avid listener of podcasts, I thought that – with a small upfront investment and a willing project partner – we could make something that represented the people and ideas that resonated most with us. Currently there are only a handful of sustainability-focused podcasts, and they either address surface issues or are exceedingly academic. We saw that we could fill a niche and began sketching out ideas for what a contemporary, young, professional podcast would look like.

Hilary Osborn: During orientation for the Sustainability Management program, as I was listening to different professors speak about their experiences with sustainability, I had an inkling of an idea for an informational interview series. I made a list of boilerplate questions that I wanted to ask various young professionals who were using sustainability concepts in their professional careers. I was still trying to hash out what format I wanted for the project. David and I had gotten to know each other during our first semester in the graduate program, and he mentioned that he had an idea for a podcast. Our ideas for the project really aligned, and having two people collaborating on it really brought it to life.

What kinds of subjects do you discuss, and who are you interviewing?

HO: We discuss current issues through the lens of sustainability. We want to conduct interviews with anyone whom we feel has a unique perspective on how they got into sustainability, how they integrate it into their careers, and what is important to them in their fields.

DH: Originally, SustSpec was supposed to be an informational interview series, but we quickly found that we as co-hosts had a great rapport. We had plenty to talk about.

Typically, the kind of information on this subject matter is prescriptive and authoritative in its presentation. In producing SustSpec, we are especially careful to try and avoid that tone and ensure that we use the terms “I feel” and “I think” rather than making presumptive statements. In doing so, we open up SustSpec to a variety of topics, all through the lens of sustainability.

So far, we’ve interviewed several members of the Columbia University M.S. in Sustainability Management (SUMA) community and are hoping to expand our interviews to any young professionals currently applying sustainability and sustainable practices to their daily lives, whether it’s through their profession, their education, or even activism.

What's the goal of the podcast?

HO: We want to provide a forum that shows the range of possibilities for professionals that want to pursue sustainability. We aim to showcase how environmental concerns are incorporated in our current social, political, and economic climate.

We want this podcast to inspire our fellow students at Columbia, as well as anyone involved in sustainability-related academic programs. There is so much potential in these studies and what they can do for the future of our policies and practices. We want to shine a light on all of these possibilities and opportunities for our peers.

DH: This podcast is an opportunity for us as young professionals and students to have a platform that not only compliments our studies and interests but may also contrast with some of the information and opinions out there. We’re not trying to be shock jocks or rabble rousers. Rather, we want to offer a forum for young people and young professionals interested in sustainable development and practices. We are not purporting to be a singular voice for all young people in this realm; the podcast is an outlet for what we observe and encounter on a regular basis in a field that we are exceptionally passionate about.

Learn more about the Sustainability Management graduate program.