Sarah (Hammitt) Colasurdo ’00
Senior Climate Resilience Specialist, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Education: Princeton University, geoscience; MIT, master’s in city planning and environmental planning
What I’m Doing Now: I look at all of the Port Authority’s facilities — airports, bridges, and tunnels; the PATH system; and ports, as well as the World Trade Center — and seek opportunities to make them more resilient, to better anticipate, absorb, withstand, or recover from the types of physical risks we expect to worsen from climate change, such as the rise in sea level, storm surges, extreme rainfall, and extreme heat here in the Northeast. Most of my time is spent consulting engineers and operators, reviewing drawings and reports, commissioning studies, and going into the field to scope out a project site or see the results of a project on completion. I’m the second person to hold this job; six or seven years ago it didn’t even exist.
How KPS Helped Me Get Here: The general expectation at Kent Place is that students be accountable. There was an immediate level of mutual trust, and coming from my previous school, that was a revelation. When I arrived as a freshman, I felt like all of a sudden the training wheels were off and I was allowed to flourish. For me, that newfound sense of accountability led to self-reliance, self-assurance, and confidence to explore my own areas of interest, even areas that were relatively nascent (and sometimes unpopular), like climate change.
How I’ve Been Challenged: Being a student at KPS was the first time I encountered really challenging questions around diversity and inclusivity, and my role in being complicit in harmful systems. A key pillar of sustainability and resilience is equity, and having encountered these topics early in my education prepared me for tackling them in the real world. KPS didn't tell me what was right and wrong in every situation, but it gave me a moral compass to navigate these topics and to always try to think about others in my community, in my work, and in my life.
Advice for My KPS Sisters: Go into STEM and bring your humanity to the practice. Throughout the worlds of design, programming, finance, and other fields that shape our physical and virtual worlds, women are seriously underrepresented, to everyone's detriment. Bring your unique perspective, your priorities, who you are, and, critically, the awareness, compassion, and spirit of inclusivity you gain at KPS, to create something better for everybody.