Master of Environmental Management student Cole Gainer
Master of Environmental Management student Cole Gainer
25 February 2011

A UQ postgraduate has swapped St Lucia for New York after starting a coveted internship with the United Nations.

Final semester Master of Environmental Management student Cole Gainer is finishing his studies while working in the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Development (DESA).

Mr Gainer, originally from New Orleans, said his time at UQ had been a great preparation for the internship.

“My environmental problem solving course did a fantastic job because the reports I am working on mirror the assignments we completed in class,” he said.

Mr Gainer is currently working on projects which look at climate change and managing water scarcity and drought in post-conflict countries. One event he is particularly excited about is the upcoming UN conference on sustainable development, Rio+20, to be held next year in Brazil.

“I’ve started helping with the identification of potential donors and I’m really looking forward to following the whole process of a project this scale,” he said.

Mr Cole’s journey to the headquarters of international diplomacy began after taking an elective course in environmental studies as an undergraduate, coupled with personal experiences with climate change.

“The class made me realise that the future of the planet was ultimately going to be way more important than most other professions I had been preparing for,” he said.

After mastering evacuation tactics through five seasons of New Orleans hurricanes, Mr Gainer sought refuge in Seattle to work for an environmental consulting firm, only to encounter more rain. On a 2010 trip through South America he was one of hundreds of tourists stranded at Machu Picchu by mudslides and made headlines by being the first person to make the 10-hour hike out of the jungle.

Deciding he needed a change of scenery and weather, Mr Gainer thought the environmental management program at UQ seemed like the perfect fit. It proved to be a wise move, with his studies in Brisbane preparing him well for life in New York.

“My international regulatory frameworks class was like a UN internship crash course. It introduced me to a majority of the treaties, conventions, and concepts that are hands down what every environmental management graduate should know,” Mr Gainer said.

The internship will also provide valuable opportunities to travel.

“I will hopefully be going to Liberia in the next couple of months for a training workshop that I am helping develop within a sustainable development principles project,” he said.

Following the internship Mr Gainer would like to stay in New York City and seek a permanent position in the field.

Further information about programs offered by the School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management is available on their website.

Media: Mr Gainer ( or Allison Rock at UQ Communications (07 3365 2619,