Partner Profiles

Kleinman Center for Energy Policy Deputy Director, Cory Colijn

headshot of professor Cory Colijn
May 11, 2017

Kleinman Center for Energy Policy Deputy Director, Cory Colijn

Cory Colijn joined the Kleinman Center team from Penn's Professional Programs in Earth and Environmental Science, where she served as the Administrative Director. Prior to coming to Penn, she worked for several Philadelphia-based nonprofits, focusing on the ecological restoration of Philadelphia's extensive park system. Cory holds a Master of Science in Applied Geoscience and a B.A. in Earth and Environmental Science, both from Penn.

The Kleinman Center was established in 2014. How have you seen it develop as a part of Penn's overall environmental sustainability initiatives?

I really think of this as beginning in 2009 with President Gutmann's signing of the Presidents' Climate Commitment and then extending to our own campus climate action plans -- we have a rich history of defining environmental sustainability in higher education.

But before the Kleinman Center there wasn't a home for the energy policy aspects of Penn's broader commitment to sustainability. For example, there was so much organized, formally, around energy in the sciences, but there wasn't a go-to place for the policy aspect of this work.

But there was certainly interest. There were students organizing clubs, faculty in Wharton, Law, SAS and Design working on projects directly related to energy policy, research grants coming into the University - there was interest. With the generous gift from Scott and Wendy Kleinman, School of Design and our Center became the home.

Are there opportunities for all students at Penn - no matter their course of study - to become involved with the Kleinman Center?

Yes! Absolutely! We've created our own student-center initiatives and also sponsor student opportunities that exist and are housed elsewhere on campus. We've had really excellent success at engaging students from multiple schools (and even more programs), in part because we've designed our student initiatives with flexibility in mind. As long as a student has a curiosity about energy policy, they're pretty much guaranteed to find something at the Kleinman Center.

For example, at KCEP, we fund student internships in two ways: 1) We cultivate relationships with NGOs and government agencies, who post positions with us that are guaranteed to go to a selected Penn student. (The selected finalist is then funded by the Center.) 2) We allow students who are offered unpaid internships in positions related to energy policy to apply to our competitive grants program for summer funding.

That student grants program also extends beyond funding summer internships. Students can apply for funding 4 times a year to cover opportunities that range from attending a conference, covering the costs of materials for a research project, organizing a club/group trip, bringing a speaker to campus, etc. Creativity is really the only limit on what we can make happen!

And, new last year, we've launched a certificate program for graduate students, with a core group of classes offered through the Kleinman Center that both undergraduates and graduate students can take, including our popular Introduction to Energy Management and Policy, taught every fall.

What do you learn from the students you encounter in programs there?

They're always hungry for more! Our undergraduates, professional students, and graduate students, all share a common interest in understanding how they can apply their Penn education post-graduation. They don't just want a superficial understanding of the issues, they want a deep understanding, they want to know how they can make the biggest impact when they leave Penn. We try to create opportunities for this type of learning through our events, conferences, visitors programs - bringing people from the outside to Penn to share their understanding and their knowledge of the big picture issues.

At the Center, we're constantly learning and responding to student ideas. The vast majority of student programming we support today was originally conceived from conversations and requests from the students themselves. From new courses, to our grants program, to our research assistant positions, those ideas all came from our student community. 

In the very short term, over the next few months, we're launching the first in our series of signature research projects. In the past, we've provided seed funding for both faculty and student research, and we'll continue doing that over the coming years. But these signature projects are a little different; they're research questions designed by the Center and refined with input by Penn faculty, fellows, and visiting scholars. These multi-year projects, like Optimal Pathways to Regional Energy Transition (defined here), are taking the Center's research agenda to the next phase.