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The impact of the climate crisis, by now, is hard to ignore. From wildfires across the US, to the extraordinary heat that is scorching Siberia, both COVID-19 and global warming have “brought us to a threshold,” according to United Nations Secretary General António Guterres in his State of the Planet speech last year.

It doesn’t end there. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has reached record levels. Researchers have confirmed that the past decade was the hottest in history. In June 2020, scientists found that the heatwave accelerated the melting of sea ice in the East Siberian and Laptev seas and delayed the usual Arctic freeze by almost two months. In the last three decades, the world has lost 178 million hectares of forest — a number that keeps increasing annually.

In the US alone, residential and commercial buildings are responsible for 40% of energy consumption. Globally, buildings and their construction account for 36% of the world’s annual energy use and 39% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

To combat these challenges, and reverse decades of damage, professionals with initiative and expertise are needed. Education is an essential element of the global response to the climate crisis. To get the right qualification, future change makers should choose wisely.

For Sonam Shah, an engineering undergraduate from India, the decision was easy. She sought technical know-how and practical insight. Her goal was to ultimately understand the rationales and perspectives of construction industry professionals around issues of sustainability. She found everything she was looking for and more at Thomas Jefferson University’s College of Architecture and the Built Environment.

“The design charrettes and other group projects gave us opportunities to understand the perspectives of fellow students and professors from different backgrounds and recognise novel ways of implementing ideas,’’ she shares.

Thomas Jefferson University, College of Architecture & Built Environment

Source: Thomas Jefferson University, College of Architecture & Built Environment

After graduating from the MS in Sustainable Design programme, Shah is now a mechanical engineer at Arup, a global firm that shares her mission to solve today’s biggest challenges in all sectors of the built environment.

Shah’s success is typical of Jefferson graduates. Many are enroute to building a more sustainable future in their respective fields. Fern Gookin is now the director of sustainability at full-service recycling company, Revolution Recovery. She also founded the nonprofit, Recycled Artists in Residency, where artists use the recycling centre to create new works with the discarded materials. Joseph Parisi works at TD Bank as a sustainability programmes manager, working with the Enterprise Real Estate division to further develop the bank’s renewable energy strategy, wellness design strategy, water diversion programme, green purchasing practices, and more. Laura Wright is a senior associate and industry analyst at Sustrana LLC, a startup which has developed an online platform to help make strategic sustainability accessible to businesses of all sizes.

This is the sense of responsibility Jefferson’s College of Architecture and the Built Environment inspires. Based in Philadelphia, the institution’s mission is to educate the next generation of design and construction professionals to create an equitable and sustainable future — not just for themselves, but for society. Clearly, they are succeeding.

Thomas Jefferson University, College of Architecture & Built Environment

Source: Thomas Jefferson University, College of Architecture & Built Environment

At Jefferson, the options to excel post-graduation are numerous — thanks to the college’s East Coast advantage.

The city of Philadelphia is surrounded by thriving design and construction industries. The best part? Jefferson’s East Falls campus is just ten minutes away from this urban lab and its robust offerings. Neighbouring cities — like New York, Washington, Virginia Beach, and more — are filled with multinationals, expanding the range of work opportunities available to Jefferson students and graduates.

Upon arriving in this vibrant city from Iran, Master of Architecture graduate Yasaman Mahmood Kalayeh, remembers feeling some culture shock. Things quickly looked up once he felt the friendly atmosphere on campus and interacted with helpful teachers. “As a student without family or friends around, it was very important for me to feel welcomed and not to feel like an outsider. The faculty, staffers, and students definitely made this place feel like home for me,” he shares.

Coming from a program that has a focus on design excellence and sustainability, Kalayeh was able to land an internship at Stantec, a leading architecture firm in the city. Today, Kalayeh can still be found perfecting his skills at Stantec, no longer as an intern, but as an architectural designer.

Outcomes like these are common for Jefferson graduates. A contributing factor? The university’s strategic partnerships with major corporations, local communities, and non-profit organisations. These connections create opportunities for students to gain professional experiences long before entering the workforce within the US and around the world. Kalayeh confirms this: “Firms have really good experiences with Jefferson alumni and they usually talk highly about them which makes it easier to find a job after graduation.”

At the College of Architecture and the Built Environment, there’s a programme that drives sustainable change ready and waiting for any aspiration. The college is home to a suite of postgraduate programmes such as the Master of Urban Design – Future Cities, the MS in Construction Management, MS in Architecture (Design Research), MS in Real Estate Development, MS in Historic Preservationor the MS in Interior Architecture. Click here to take your pick.

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