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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

Eight students sat on a mixed level seating area discussing their work

18 January 2024 – Christa Avampato is Founder of Double or Nothing Media and a student on the Master of Studies (MSt) in Sustainability Leadership. Christa shares her experience of the programme and details what an average day looks like during one of her residential workshops in Cambridge, UK.

My day begins with… a walk or the gym with some of my friends. I’m a part of Fitzwilliam College, and breakfast at ‘Fitz’ in the Buttery is one of my favourite parts of the workshop weeks together. It’s a relaxed way to ease into the day and has helped us get to know one another well. We then walk to class together, which is another chance for casual conversations and lots of laughter.

The workshop starts with… meeting up with our friends from other colleges. We’re usually all together as a cohort for this part of the day. Our course directors announce the agenda for the day, as well as the choice of afternoon parallel sessions that we can select based upon our interests.

We start off with a student soundbite, a session that features a member of our cohort talking about their work or research. This is a chance for us all to learn more about their interests, perspectives, and passions. Every member of our cohort has a unique story and set of experiences, and they make this experience so special.

The first morning speaker session typically features a single speaker who is an expert in their field. Sir David King presents his biomimicry projects (which I love since I’m a biomimicry scientist and a product developer). After our morning break, we have two panel discussions — these have included sessions on climate communications, climate finance, and governance.

Between sessions we… get a mid-morning coffee and tea break which is another opportunity for chatting and socialising. We share our perspectives on what we learned in the morning sessions, discuss how our assignments and dissertation are going, and catch up on what’s happening in our lives and work outside of Cambridge. Again, this is a highlight. For me, the people in this cohort are the very best part of the course. Though we’re only altogether for a short amount of time in Cambridge, we’ve become close friends. I feel fortunate to be with them on this journey.

After lunch we… have interactive sessions. These can involve working together in groups to discuss a topic in-depth, having on-site visits to learn about sustainability research happening at Cambridge, or exploring practical subject areas like design, marketing, storytelling, technological innovation, and policy implementation.

Once sessions finish… our social reps do a fantastic job of setting up different events for us, so many of our evenings are booked with fun activities to spend time together. We always have one or two formal dinners together at different colleges. On a free evening, we head into town for dinner and then to the pubs for drinks. While we don’t sleep much during our workshop weeks, we always have fun, and we make the most of these weeks together. They’re so enjoyable that we wish we had more of them!

After a day of learning… I am full of questions, ideas, and inspiration. Sometimes, the days are quite emotional. While we are hopeful that we can create positive change in the world, we are also painfully aware that the challenges of climate change are massive and daunting. They can at times feel overwhelming.

These workshop weeks also provide an academic sanctuary — a chance to be reflective, intensely curious, vulnerable, and open to new ideas and possibilities. In a session about leadership, Dr. Louise Drake asks us to reflect on CISL's ‘Leadership for a Sustainable Future Framework’ principles: connected, collaborative, creative, and courageous. Our task is to consider how we might progress our careers in one of these areas. I choose courageous, which is an emotional reflection for me. Questions that I ask myself include: How might I be more courageous in my career choices and actions?; What is the most impactful way to use my time and talents?; Am I taking enough chances?; How do I ensure I don't regret how I spend my time?

After this reflection, some of my friends in the cohort help me see that my many interests and desire to connect and rally people through storytelling, joy, and hope is my superpower. My cohort friends and Lou help me reframe what I thought was a distraction into a focus, and I'm immensely grateful for their wisdom.

I came into this program with high expectations. Every one of those expectations has been exceeded, mostly because of the incredible friends in this cohort. While our time together at Cambridge is nearly done, I know we’ll be moving forward together in the world with a shared purpose and passion to protect and regenerate this beautiful planet we all share. Their presence in this world gives me hope and they inspire me to be the best version of me I can be. What a gift. I’m the luckiest person to count myself among them.    

I am inspired to… be part of making New York City, where I live, become one of the most sustainable cities in the world.

I’ve considered putting my passion for sustainability into policy in some way. I would also love to join the team at The New York Climate Exchange (“The Exchange”). It is a non-profit organisation and partnership network based at Governor's Island in New York Harbor. It is comprised of leading universities, businesses, and community groups collaborating to accelerate climate change solutions for New York City and beyond. Its mission is to confront urgent climate impacts and issues of environmental injustice, breaking down silos through an innovative, scalable, and sustainable model that will rapidly develop new urban climate solutions.

The Master of Studies (MSt) in Sustainability Leadership is a full Master’s degree, delivered part time for working professionals. There are two routes that can be taken to achieve the Master’s, which are continuous or flexible.

Applications for the 2024 intake close 31 January 2024. Find out more, download the brochure and apply here.

About the Author

Christa Avampato is Founder of Double or Nothing Media and a student on the Master of Studies (MSt) in Sustainability Leadership.


The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL, the University of Cambridge, or any of its individual business partners or clients.


Zoe Kalus, Head of Media  

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