Last week, University administrators formalized an articulation agreement between Vermont Law School and Wesleyan University after months of negotiation. The agreement stipulates that students graduating from the College of the Environment (COE) who meet certain requirements will be guaranteed admission to the law school’s Juris Doctor (JD), Master in Environmental Law and Policy (MELP), Master in Energy Regulation and Law (MERL), or joint JD/Masters degree programs.
“It’s fabulous,” Director of the COE and Chair of the Environmental Studies Program Barry Chernoff said. “It’s outstanding. It’s great…It’s an outstanding thing because it offers possibilities for the students who graduate within the Environmental Studies linked major through the COE to have access to what I consider to be the premier environmental law school in the country.”
On Wednesday, April 3, President Michael Roth signed the articulation agreement. In an article for The Wesleyan Connection by Editor and New Media Writer Lauren Rubenstein, Roth expressed enthusiasm for the new partnership.
“The COE was conceived of as a place where scholars can think about translating their research into action in the public sphere,” Roth said. “Vermont Law School offers superb programs in environmental law and policy. Earning a JD or master’s degree there certainly will empower our graduates to make an even greater difference in the world.”
After hearing that Middlebury College had partnered with Vermont Law last year, Roth, Chernoff, and Vice President for Institutional Partnerships and Chief Diversity Officer Sonia Mañjon began negotiations with representatives from the law school.
“When we saw that [Middlebury] was entering into a new agreement to form a partnership with Vermont Law School, we began to really explore our own students’ needs here,” Mañjon said. “And what we found out is that many of our students are looking at Vermont Law School for the environmental law program that they have, and it just made sense to start a conversation of ‘Would it make sense to have an agreement with them so that there is a direct avenue for students here that want to go into environmental law?’”
Mañjon and Chernoff worked directly with Vice Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law at Vermont Law School Mark Latham to orchestrate the agreement. The agreement sets several standards for guaranteed admission to the JD program, including a 3.2 University Grade Point Average, a score of 150 or higher on the Law School Admission Test, and good academic standing, with similar standards for the Masters programs. The opportunity will be applicable to COE students within four years after their graduation from the University. The application fee will be waived.
“Wesleyan students are wonderfully famous for taking a year and doing something really interesting before really settling down and perhaps going back to a professional school,” Chernoff said. “So this offers the Wesleyan students a couple of years. They may not be sure right when they graduate, they may want to work in some other areas, but if they come back to it within four years this opportunity is still available for them.”
Chernoff estimated that 20 to 25 percent of COE graduates and Environmental Studies Certificate recipients have continued on to law school after graduation during his tenure at the University. He added that many of these graduates matriculate at Vermont Law.
“As far as I know, there hasn’t been a problem with Wesleyan students getting into [professional schools], but having something like this is a nice little comfort thing, and I think it’s good for both institutions,” Chernoff said. “We also may do some programs with Vermont Law in the future here—maybe bring down some of their faculty to teach a course or something like that. So it’s not just the articulation, but we did talk about finding some ways to do some joint programs from time to time, so I think that would be really good for our students as well.”
Evan Weber ’13, a senior COE major, noted that this partnership helps to broaden his avenues for post-graduation plans.
“I am not currently planning to go to Vermont Law, but I definitely have considered law school and environmental law particularly in my future, so having this opportunity available to me is great,” Weber said.
COE major Maeve Russell ’14 wrote an email to The Argus noting the advantage of the four-year extension if she decides to study law, despite the fact she is not currently planning to apply.
“In all honesty [the partnership is] not going to affect my immediate future plans, as I fully intend to take one or two years off after school to do a program like the Peace Corps or volunteer through another non-profit or NGO based in a developing nation,” Russell wrote. “However, should I come back and have a strong urge to study law, then I will most definitely apply to Vermont.”
Chernoff noted that he hopes this agreement will help draw students to the COE major and the University.
“I also think that this would be a really good admissions tool for getting really top-motivated students to come here,” Chernoff said. “Our mission at the College of the Environment is to change the world, and I think we’re going to do that one citizen at a time.”
Weber stated that he doesn’t expect a large change in the composition of the major in response to the articulation agreement.
“I think the major is pretty popular already, and it already has a lot of saturation in the Social Sciences departments, so I doubt that it would really affect draw that much more,” he said.
Chernoff stressed that he hopes to foster more partnerships between the COE and other schools in areas such as public health, sustainability, sustainable design, and environmental management.
“I want to look to see if we can make this the beginning of opening up some pipelines for our students, that they can come here and know that they can get into a good professional school and they can fulfill their dreams for working on the environment,” Chernoff said.