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Columbia SPS Alumnae Featured in Forbes 30 Under 30

By Shana Childs (’14JRN)

What if you could build your own home that could withstand flooding or extreme heat? Or what if, instead of inspecting an art installation behind glass or a stanchion, you could touch or even stand inside it without risking damage—because you and the art were in the metaverse? Columbia SPS graduates Bobuchi Ken-Opurum and Audrey Ou are respectively imagining—and building—a future where both are possible. And their work has earned them spots on the 2023 Forbes 30 Under 30 lists for sustainable energy and fine art. 

Dr. Bobuchi Ken-Opurum (’18SPS, Sustainability Management) is the director of research at the Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute and founder of Re-HOUSED, or Resilient Housing for Self-Development, which landed her on the 2023 Forbes 30 Under 30 Energy list. Based on original research Ken-Opurum conducted while earning a doctorate, Re-HOUSED is a toolkit for low- to moderate-income individuals building their own housing; specifically, it helps self-builders to make design decisions that will increase their homes’ resilience against flooding and heat stress. 

“The Sustainability Management program deepened my interest and knowledge in climate and global sustainable development, especially in water resources and designing for the built environment. A lot of my courses were dynamic and structured in a way that spurred nonconventional thinking about ways to address climate issues such as flooding,” said Ken-Opurum. “I met brilliant people from diverse backgrounds—both on campus and in New York City—who provided support during my time at Columbia SPS, when I was planning to pursue a Ph.D., and even professionally today.” While in Columbia’s M.S. in Sustainability Management program, Ken-Opurum refined her specialty in sustainability in the built environment. She went on to Carnegie Mellon University to earn a Ph.D., conducting research on climate, architecture, engineering, and construction management as they relate to coastal Nigeria.

In spring 2021, then–Applied Analytics student Audrey Ou cofounded TRLab, an NFT platform conceived “to bring art collecting and education into the metaverse.” Less than two years later, Ou and cofounder Xin Li-Cohen have raised $6 million in funding, partnered with Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang and Vogue, and been featured on the 2023 Forbes 30 Under 30 Art & Style list. Ou, who is also the CEO of TRLab, earned an M.S. in Applied Analytics from the Columbia University School of Professional Studies in 2022. 

In its latest high-profile partnership, TRLab is creating the first official Alexander Calder NFT experience, which will award NFTs to virtual participants as they learn about and interact with Calder’s work as well as send proceeds to the restoration of his art, including his signature mobiles. “This is an inkling of what’s to come with the next-generation application of NFT technology, where NFTs can be still images or art, but they can also be tokens in a collective experience and, in this case, signifiers of knowledge,” Ou said in an interview with Jing Culture & Crypto in August. 

Selected and published annually by Forbes magazine, 30 Under 30 showcases “600 of the brightest young entrepreneurs, leaders, and stars” across finance, education, food, technology, social impact, and other sectors. 


About the M.S. in Sustainability Management Program

The Columbia University M.S. in Sustainability Management provides students with cutting-edge policy and management tools they can use to help public and private organizations and governments address environmental impacts and risks, pollution control, and remediation to achieve sustainability. The program is customized for working professionals and is offered as both a full- and part-time course of study.

About the M.S. in Applied Analytics Program

Columbia University’s Master of Science in Applied Analytics prepares students with the practical data and leadership skills to succeed. The program combines in-depth knowledge of data analytics with the leadership, management, and communication principles and tactics necessary to impact decision-making at all levels within organizations.