From Dec. 7 to Dec. 18, 2009, global leaders gathered in Copenhagen, Denmark, for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, hoping to reach a collective agreement on curbing the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and the accompanying climate change. The whole world was watching. And PhD in Public Policy and Administration student Steven Shultz was there.
“It was definitely unlike any conference I’ve attended before,” says Shultz. “There was a feeling that much of the world was converging upon Copenhagen. It was the largest U.N. conference in terms of the number of world leaders under one roof ever, and certainly the largest in history related to climate issues.”
Shultz, who works on sustainability communications and projects as deputy director of public and community relations for San Diego International Airport and volunteers as communications chair for the San Diego Regional Sustainability Partnership, was nominated by the University of San Diego at California’s Sustainability Solutions Institute to attend the U.N. Climate Change Conference.
“Once I found out the good news, I told Walden, and my professors and everyone else who found out about it were very supportive and encouraging of me being able to attend the conference.”
As a Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) observer at the conference, Shultz witnessed proceedings of international negotiators, participated in NGO discussions and contributed to policy recommendations that were shared with national delegations.
Coincidentally, Shultz’s first Walden class of the quarter, Elements of Livable and Sustainable Communities with Dr. Anthony Leisner, overlapped with the beginning of the conference. Through Walden course chatrooms, as well as his blog, Journey to Copenhagen, Shultz gave his classmates in the Local Government Management for Sustainable Communities specialization a front seat to the Copenhagen proceedings. Over the fortnight of the U.N. Climate Change Conference, events in Copenhagen shaped some Walden course discussions, and Shultz offered a global perspective on steps that need to be taken to build more sustainable societies.
“The blog allowed me to present the numerous emotions, feelings and events that I witnessed and experienced,” says Shultz, who posted photos and videos of conference speakers, protest footage and one-on-one interviews that he conducted.
“I didn’t want to make it just a policy blog. I also wanted to portray what I know about Denmark and feature Danish society in some of the intimate ways that I could as well,” says Shultz, who spent a year living in Denmark as an exchange student before beginning his associate’s degree studies at Copper Mountain College in Joshua Tree, Calif.
Throughout the conference, Shultz was excited to let attendees know about the opportunities that Walden has for graduate students interested in sustainability. “There aren’t too many PhD programs in sustainability, and to my knowledge there is no other online PhD program in sustainability other than at Walden. The uniqueness of that, the sustainable features of online learning, and the fact that I have classmates and instructors from all over the world at my fingertips, really stood out to me, and I shared that with people in Copenhagen.”
Steve Shultz received a $5,000 Commitment to Social Change Scholarship from Walden for his achievements and future goals for sustainability. Read more about the Commitment to Social Change Scholarship recipients.