Messages from our Alumni

From outgoing SUMANI President, Avantika Goswami’16

In my role on the SUMANI Board, some of my main duties were 1) strategizing and planning with the team for each semester (Spring/Summer/Fall), 2) playing an active role in taking key ideas to varied stakeholders (at the Earth Institute, Net Impact, other Columbia bodies and beyond to develop mutually beneficial partnerships, 3) coordinating the Board’s activities and ensuring that our initiatives are moving along as planned, being communicated widely and given sufficient visibility.

This 12-month experience has been special to me for many reasons.

To begin with, the SUMA program is an exciting place to be right now. Being put in a position where I could have a voice in organizing initiatives that could benefit the program and expand its reach was incredible. The relationships I built through SUMANI are invaluable to me, as they have exposed me to the breadth of driven individuals across this city who are ready to a) listen to you, and b) support you to implement your ideas. SUMANI pushed me to think of creative ways in which young, motivated individuals can contribute to critical dialogues, whether it was by co-hosting a debate about Columbia’s responsibilities towards climate change with 6 other student groups on campus, or by inviting our alumni to present their current (highly relevant) work to our students via a casual afternoon brunch. Each activity broadened my knowledge of the ways in which our messages can reach and engage different audiences, and the opportunities that we as students can harness to grow as sustainability leaders.

The most valuable aspect of my SUMANI involvement, however, has been working with the rest of the SUMANI 2016 Board. Working in teams toward a common cause can be challenging. Working in a team in a completely voluntary capacity, even more so! Nevertheless, I found in the rest of the Board a group of like-minded, energetic individuals eager to take creative risks in order to create new opportunities for the SUMA program. As a Board, our chemistry enabled us to work collaboratively and intelligently to conceptualize events that had a “tangible outcome” for all attendees, to act on specific feedback received from students and attempt to organize initiatives that catered to those needs, and to create varied exposure for the SUMA program through events like the Columbia Sustainability Careers Reception or through SUMANI Trendster launched by us in January 2016 (where a Trendster blog post by Wendy Hapgood was featured even on the Net Impact website). Our Board adopted a shared-leadership model – brainstorming jointly through the year, communicating regularly, and giving and receiving feedback to/from one another. I’d highly recommend that SUMA students expose themselves to an opportunity like this, as there are few better practice grounds to build critical real-world skills like stakeholder management. Apply to join and lead SUMANI 2017!

From outgoing Vice President and Director of Events, Mitika Bajpai’16


A shared leadership model requires everyone to put their best foot forward and contribute to achieving the organization’s vision. Over the past year, the role of every member on our Board was to help achieve the vision we co-created for the organization, and contribute positively to our growth.

Having said that, my role on the Board included the following responsibilities:

  • Organizational Development

One needs to set up and ensure a conducive culture to help every team member perform effectively, and grow with the organization. This was done by implementing several standard and collaborative HR practices to help our team perform. Utilizing every individual’s strengths, and facilitating intellectual and productive discussions, are other talent management practices that were applied in this role.

  • Event Management

Ideating, planning, organizing logistics, inviting the right speakers and audience, moderating/ facilitating discussions during the event, collating feedback after the event – these are a few steps that are crucial to delivering a SUMANI event. In our team, we had Event Leaders for each event who took responsibility of delegating tasks and successfully executing the events. The role also required a calm and composed outlook to managing any crisis that arose while organizing the events.

  • Stakeholder Engagement

Engaging and maintaining good relationships with several internal and external stakeholders. The stakeholders included (but not limited to) – representatives from Columbia University and the Earth Institute, national and local chapter representatives of the Net Impact community, and students and professionals within the sustainability or impact space. The role requires professional communication and strategic direction to engage all the stakeholders and collaborate with them to help deliver the organization’s vision.

From outgoing SUMANI Director of Events, Khyati Thakkar’16


Every day, I am brimming with ideas about how to make this program more valuable or about building connections within or outside the SUMA community. Some of them are of course too radical to follow, some I’ve been able to implement by being on the board of SUMA Net Impact chapter.

We worked according to a shared leadership model where each of us led events with the support of other board members.

As the Director of Events, I worked with my team to build themes for events, focus areas, collaborations, and created a valuable network of connections from outside the SUMA community which can be utilized by our successors. It has been an enriching experience working with equally driven and creative minds. I have thoroughly enjoyed and learned a lot from the people I connected with. Since the realm of sustainability is evolving, the people outside the SUMA community are very receptive and encouraging if we reach out to them.

Being on the Board has helped me understand better team dynamics and improve people skills. I was able to align my personal goals with the team goals. I would encourage those interested in building a brand for themselves to apply for this Board. It demands time and responsibility, but it also offers great value in terms of self-enhancement and visibility in the program as well as in the industry you’re interested in diving into.

Good luck!

From outgoing Director of Communications, Abigail Orzolek’16


As the Director of Communications for the 2016 SUMA Net Impact Board, all of my efforts were geared towards building a strong online presence for SUMANI.

The SUMA student body posseses a great diversity in interests and expertise. Highlighting our colleagues’ knowledge and experience, and building an online profile for the SUMA program, was one of SUMANI’s main initiatives, and I was responsible for the creation and maintenance of such.

This manifested as:

Postings on our social media accounts. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Reviewing submissions and publishing on our website as SUMANI Trendster.

Publication of a monthly newsletter.

Maintenance of our website and social media profiles.

This position moving forward will focus on email communication, newsletter publication, internal and external outreach, and maintaining a consistency of our online activities.

The greatest takeaways I have from my term as Director of Communications are twofold. A fluency with social media applications (that includes a legitimate term of action), as well as an intimate familiarity with the SUMA program (its student body, student groups, and professors), the Earth Institute, and an ever developing familiarity with the Columbia community. If you are looking to increase your exposure and experience, and continue our mission of building the SUMA program into one of repute, a position with SUMANI is an excellent way to do so.

*Trendster is a voluntary, crowd-sourced initiative facilitated by SUMA Net Impact. It does not represent the collective views of Columbia University, the Earth Institute or Net Impact

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