Harrison Gerson

Student Researcher, Columbia University
  • People
  • United States of America

About Harrison Gerson

My Laidlaw experience focuses on reframing the tourism industry to center the environment. In my first year, I developed a map of NYC's ecotourism, focused on environmental justice, circularity, and emissions reduction. In my second year in Santiago, Chile, I have collaborated with FEDETUR, the federation of tourism enterprises of Chile, to develop materials for tourism businesses to reduce their carbon footprint.

I am a/an:

Undergraduate Leadership & Research Scholar

University

Columbia University

Laidlaw Cohort Year

2022

Research Topic

Climate Studies Ecology Regional & Area Studies Society & Culture

Area of Expertise

Business and Management Diversity and Inclusion Economics Entrepreneurship Environment Languages Leadership Politics Science Social Sciences

I am from:

United States of America

I speak:

English French German Spanish

I am open to participating in mentoring/buddy programmes

Yes

Influencer Of

Topics

Channels contributed to:

Social Sciences Scholars' Stories Research

Rooms participated in:

Columbia University

Recent Conversations

Recent Comments

Nov 16, 2023

Congratulations, @Mrinalini Sisodia Wadhwa !

Aug 14, 2023
Replying to Noah J Bergam

Week 6:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/15UpWR1YE2xhS_dku_z0IhaabmJvZYOmbgD_i4QCP9H4/edit

Thanks for sharing, Noah! Your glaciology jokes rock!

Aug 11, 2023
Replying to Harrison Gerson

My experience has greatly expanded my knowledge of how tourism organizations think and how they are beginning to respond to the climate crisis. I feel much more adept at sharing information related to climate and tourism. I have also learned how to better express myself in Spanish in the fields that interest me.

My supervisor Gabriel has helped shape my project. He has given me more confidence to express my more environmentalist lens within the tourism industry here in Chile. He has provided me with confidence to ask more direct, sensitive questions to tourism businesses about their sustainability practices. Generally, the tourism industry still has a long way to go to find ways to make sustainability profitable, largely due to the large carbon footprint associated with air (and cruise) travel. Many organizations who are beginning to count their emissions and become “carbon neutral” still do not include the airfare of visitors coming to their properties and programs. Asking direct questions about this sensitive subject for them was something I was unsure about, given my representation with the Federation of Tourism Enterprises. However, I feel more comfortable approaching these themes (respectfully, of course).

Week 5 in Santiago :)

Aug 11, 2023

My experience has greatly expanded my knowledge of how tourism organizations think and how they are beginning to respond to the climate crisis. I feel much more adept at sharing information related to climate and tourism. I have also learned how to better express myself in Spanish in the fields that interest me.

My supervisor Gabriel has helped shape my project. He has given me more confidence to express my more environmentalist lens within the tourism industry here in Chile. He has provided me with confidence to ask more direct, sensitive questions to tourism businesses about their sustainability practices. Generally, the tourism industry still has a long way to go to find ways to make sustainability profitable, largely due to the large carbon footprint associated with air (and cruise) travel. Many organizations who are beginning to count their emissions and become “carbon neutral” still do not include the airfare of visitors coming to their properties and programs. Asking direct questions about this sensitive subject for them was something I was unsure about, given my representation with the Federation of Tourism Enterprises. However, I feel more comfortable approaching these themes (respectfully, of course).

Aug 08, 2023
Replying to Sylvi Stein

Week Five:
What new skills and/or knowledge have you gained from your summer experience? Have you met anyone who has been instrumental in shaping/helping you conduct your project? Briefly, how has this person impacted you? What have you learned about leadership from this individual, and how might it influence your actions, work, and self in the future?

On the practical side, I have learned to work with a lot of different programs in new ways (including but not limited to Polaris, a library site; Raiser's Edge, a finance site; Adobe InDesign; YouTube; Instagram; and Blackbaud, a general organization site). I have also learned a lot about how a real nonprofit functions - it requires a lot of intercommunication to make sure things don't get done twice or not done at all. I have been working a lot with the head of Events, who is not technically my boss but who has been offering me a lot of advice on getting work done (do it early in case you make mistakes and have to go back!), on working in a library (the patrons come first, as do the donors) and on life in Paris in general (don't take the train after 11pm because they don't come as frequently).  I think that her advice has taught me that leadership is very site-specific, and it can't really be taught; you just have to absorb knowledge from others and be willing to pass it on. There is no such thing as "general leadership skills" except being polite, patient, and a clear speaker.

Thanks for sharing, Sylvie! This sounds like a great mentorship opportunity and ability to learn while contribute!

Aug 03, 2023
Replying to Harrison Gerson

Week Three: What does a typical day look like this summer?

I am living with a lovely host from Santiago and a housemate from Bolivia working here. Both present different perspectives and histories of the land (which are also quite different from that of my coworkers), and it is lovely to spend time with them. I always start with a healthy breakfast, which in Chile, always includes manjar (Chilean dulce de leche). I walk about five minutes from my host’s home to my office. I work in the World Trade Center South (a name based on NY, which I suppose has not aged well), which is in the business district of Santiago, located right across the street from the largest mall and tallest building in all of South America. During the day, I work on connecting with tourism companies through Chile to speak about their sustainability initiatives, usually through Google Meets, as well as writing a guide for my organization in relation to sustainability. Everything is in Spanish, évéñ my kéybóárd! Today, I am connecting with Transforma Turismo, a governmental group seeking to innovate Chilean tourism. I usually take lunch from a café nearby, which there are many. I can also walk around the parks nearby along the Mapocho River and/or spend time at the mall. Restaurant and grocery prices are quite comparable to New York, as the country has a (quite impressive) program of keeping food local. They portmanteau this neighborhood Sanhattan for a reason. I work 9-5ish Monday to Friday, with the option of working from home if I want to for two days a week, though I usually enjoy spending time at the office. In the evenings, I might head to a museum (although I have to be more situationally aware in this section of the city), spend time with my host, taking las once, an evening tea time, head to a restaurant or event with my housemate, or have a nice dinner out with a fellow Columbia friend. My pace feels more relaxed in Chile, which allows me to work productively and feel rested for the upcoming academic year.

Here is a photo from my walk during lunch in the monument park: https://photos.app.goo.gl/zV84rer2RocV3mSm6

Hi! Thanks! My favorite lunch spot (since lunch is the big meal here) is this little open air square about 5 minutes from my office. The restuarants there all include a drink and (at least) one side, and it is a nice place to get a filling, tasty meal. There is Chilean, Japanese, Indian, and more options to eat. My favorite food to try there has been the milanesa de pollo (breaded chicken cutlet), which always comes with a lovely soup.

Working in Spanish is really nice. I keep a notebook of words that I learn (many chilenismos, or Chilean words that do not exist in other Spanish dialects). I feel really good about challenging myself to work in a non-native language.

Aug 03, 2023

Week Four:
What challenges and/or difficulties have you encountered and how did you go about resolving them? Speak to a specific challenge you have encountered and some of the ways that you tackled the problem.

Understanding the impact of my work challenges me. The more I learn about the tourism industry and environmental opportunities, the more convoluted my understanding becomes. I have developed a guide for my organization on my perspective of how and why to manage one’s carbon footprint within the tourism industry, and I want to start using my knowledge to ensure that tourism businesses make ethical, sustainable choices. To grow my impact and make the most of my time here, I have tackled this challenge by reaching out to my coworkers and asking for advice. At times, it may be hard to reach out, but I have realized that this open communication is very helpful, and my voice has value. I also am resolving this challenge by reaching out to more tourism enterprises to learn more about what they need the most guidance with. Providing a platform to speak about sustainability within tourism is relatively new (from a carbon footprint perspective), so these conversations promote impact. The conversations help the organizations question their current processes and, in time, should promote positive sustainable choices.