News Archive

Jeffrey Sachs Extends Term as Director of Earth Institute

2011-04-28

The Earth Institute, Columbia University announced that Professor Jeffrey Sachs has agreed to extend his term as its director. Since his tenure began in 2002, Sachs has led the Earth Institute to become a leading scientific authority on sustainable development while simultaneously expanding its reach worldwide. Through his guidance, the Earth Institute and its scientists and researchers have consistently been at the forefront of efforts to help solve some the greatest challenges our world faces today in climate change, global poverty, energy, health, food and water security, natural hazards and economic crises.

Professor Sachs has also forged an increasingly prominent role for academic leaders in policy and program work throughout the world including on large-scale poverty eradication projects, in science and technology-based solutions for sustainable development, and through the creation of a global community of sustainable development thought leaders and practitioners in academia.

Recognized worldwide as a leading figure on sustainable development and economics, Sachs’ advisement is sought out by global leaders, governments, and the United Nations. Sachs leads a team of experts counseling the Nigerian government on their development strategy, and advises a number of other governments including Timor Leste, Haiti, China, Mali, Kenya and Ethiopia. Sachs is uniquely positioned on the world stage to lead the research, teaching and policy advocacy work of the Earth Institute.

During Sachs’ tenure, the Earth Institute has significantly grown its programs both at home and abroad—increasing the number of major research units from six to fifteen, adding seven academic programs, and more than tripling the membership of the Earth Institute faculty to nearly 40 experts. Examples of new and expanded initiatives include:

- Sustainable development education programs, including an undergraduate major in sustainable development; master’s level programs in sustainability management, climate and society and development practice; and a Ph.D. in Sustainable Development.

- Interdisciplinary research centers focusing on climate, water and energy, as well as a center to integrate work in public health and economic development.

- The Millennium Villages project (MVP) in Africa, an interdisciplinary practical research project demonstrating that the Millennium Development Goals can be achieved with an integrated package of scientifically proven development interventions.

- Millennium Development Goal research centers in Kenya, Mali and Ethiopia to provide national-level policy support and advisory services to scale up MDG-related interventions to the district and national level.

- A post-doctoral fellowship program to help scholars build a deeper foundation in their core discipline while gaining cross-disciplinary expertise to address critical issues related to sustainable development.

- Meetings and events with global participation, such as the biennial State of the Planet conference, which brings together the world's most influential and innovative thinkers and leaders in a wide range of fields to a global audience to discuss -critical issues facing the world.

- Providing important advisement to establish the Columbia University Global Centers in Jordan, India and China, and providing ongoing leadership for implementation research and advocacy projects being conducted at each. 

"Since its founding, the Earth Institute has been a dynamic center of engagement for Columbia University's interdisciplinary research on a wide range of environmental and economic challenges facing our increasingly global society," said President Lee Bollinger.  "Under Jeff's continued leadership as the Institute's director, Columbia will remain a pioneer in translating scientific discovery into practical solutions on issues as diverse as climate change and sustainable development, ecological threats and natural disasters, clean energy and clean water, poverty and urbanization. This is an essential part of the public service mission of a great research university."

The Earth Institute also announced the extension of its fundraising Capital Campaign from $200 million to $300 million. Under the leadership of Jeff Sachs, the Earth Institute has fostered remarkable philanthropic partnerships; garnering nearly $19M more in private support per year than before he began leading the Earth Institute. Transformative gifts and grants include:

- $28M from the Lenfest Foundation and H.F. (Gerry) and Marguerite Lenfest to support programming and endowment for climate change research, sustainable development and poverty reduction.

- $20M from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop science- and policy-based solutions to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

- $18M from the Gary C. Comer and the Comer Science and Education Foundation to construct a new building to allow the Observatory’s world-class scientists to conduct ground-breaking research to address the most pressing questions about the Earth and its environment.

- More than $15M in gifts from Sue and Bill Gross to bolster the work of the Millennium Villages project.

- $6M from the PepsiCo Foundation to improve water sustainability and livelihood outcomes in India, China, Africa and Brazil.

Private sector engagement is increasingly important to the Earth Institute’s efforts towards creating the most effective collaborations in the search for solutions to address global sustainability challenges. These collaborations include a partnership with the Aditya Birla Group to launch a new Global Center in India, which serves as one of several University hubs for scholarship and research around the world. In the MVP sites in Africa, JM Eagle has supported applied research and installed a new water infrastructure system, and Ericsson helped to connect all 14 African MVP sites with mobile technology, among other critical projects. With Professor Sachs’ leadership, the Earth Institute has also created engagement opportunities to help corporations take advantage of the latest information, tools and networks in the field to help advance shared sustainable development objectives.

This announcement comes as the Earth Institute expands its $200 million fundraising campaign to raise an additional $100 million by December 2013, having met the original campaign goal nearly one year ahead of schedule. The Earth Institute fundraising effort is part of the larger Columbia University campaign, which aims to raise $5 billion for University initiatives, including financial aid, faculty and facilities by the same date. Among the Earth Institute’s top campaign priorities are: endowment for faculty, research and student financial aid, to secure the stable future of the Earth Institute and continuation of its pioneering work; support for facilities to remain on the cutting-edge of research; and current use funding to address today’s most pressing challenges.

Momentum to meet the Institute’s expanded campaign goal is propelled by a recent $10 million gift from Sue and Bill Gross to support the Millennium Villages project. The gift will allow Professor Sachs and his team to conduct strategic research to help sub-Saharan Africa meet the MDGs. “The work of the Millennium Villages project in sub-Saharan Africa is inspiring, especially in mobile health technology,” said Sue and Bill Gross. “We are thrilled that our gift is helping kick off the expansion of the Earth Institute’s campaign and know that with Jeff’s commitment, this will continue to be a good investment for humanity.”

The expanded $300 million campaign will enrich the Earth Institute’s research and education initiatives and programs that are achieving sustainable development, ensuring the wellbeing of humanity and the planet for generations to come.