Sarah Brylinsky '09, M.S. '15

Roy H. Park School of Communications | Communication Management and Design | M.S. Communications Innovation

When Sarah Brylinsky started her freshman year at IC, she’d never heard of sustainability. Now, as the living laboratory manager at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sarah’s role on campus is to make sure students and faculty understand sustainability and have the tools and resources they need to incorporate sustainability into their courses and campus life.
“Where I am right now is a natural progression that started my freshman year when I took a first-year seminar called Introduction to Sustainability,” Sarah said. “The seminar showed how people, profits, and the planet interlock. I saw how I could be involved in social and civic justice and feel empowered. I had a path forward.”

Applying lessons learned in the classroom, Sarah introduced sustainability practices in Ithaca’s residence halls, developed a campus-wide student climate movement, and co-organized a NATO advanced research workshop on the role of environmental security in higher education. Her efforts earned her the 2008 Student Sustainability Leadership Award, a national honor given annually by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
Sarah received the award the same year she graduated from IC with a bachelor’s in communication management and design. She had four job offers: “Four universities were looking for a full-time sustainability coordinator. Their offers were clearly based on the sustainability projects I’d done at IC.”
After launching a successful career leading sustainability initiatives in higher education, Sarah decided it was vital for her to continue her own education. First considering graduate programs in climate and environmental science, she discovered a program at Ithaca that more closely fit her goals—the master of science in communications innovation.
“I started my career not because I wanted to be a climate scientist but because I wanted to communicate in new ways. I want to make sure students in this country graduate with an understanding of sustainability as a fundamental part of their education. So what better way for me to launch my career into the next phase than to think about how to communicate in new and innovative ways within my field.”
Thanks to a curriculum that includes media economics, systems modeling, and ethical issues; thanks also to an online format and special topics seminars that accommodate the demands of home and work life; and thanks to the Art Moore ’66 Scholarship, awarded to students whose costs are not fully covered by their employers, the communications innovation master’s degree gave Sarah a platform to collaborate closely with other forward-thinking communications executives. The program’s think-tank model is helping her advance her long-term mission.
“The communications innovation M.S. blends successful communications strategy with fresh thinking. Working with colleagues in disparate fields such as international relations, e-media, and digital production is helping me transform higher education as a means of creating a sustainable society.”