Environmental Mission Scholars

The Environmental Mission Scholarship supports students who come to VLS with a cause, and who want to use the power of the law to make a difference in their communities and the world. Mission Scholarships are available to students pursuing careers in public service, environmental stewardship, global advocacy, and innovation—the core values of the Vermont Law School education. The scholarships aim to provide not only financial support to students, but to offer mentoring and research opportunities in the student's chosen field. Below are profiles of current scholars.

2018 Environmental Mission Scholars

Suhasini Ghosh, JD'21

 

Undergraduate: Amherst College, B.A. Environmental Studies 

Hometown: Gaithersburg, MD

Professional Mission: My mission at Vermont Law is to learn how to best approach environmentally directed policies that can lead to lasting and successful repercussions in our society. I hope to better understand how environmental protection can be the vertex where law and social justice issues meet. I want to be a part of the solution in preventing marginalized communities from disproportionally bearing the brunt of environmental degradation. 

At VLS: Environmental Law Society, Environmental Justice Law Society 

What environmental experience did you have before coming to Vermont Law School?

Prior to law school, I had various environmental internships and experiences. In the summer of 2014, I interned at the EPA headquarters in the Office of Multimedia. In my junior year of college, I created and led the Amherst Green Athletics Committee and also pursued an internship with my college's Office of Environmental Sustainability. After graduation, I worked at the same Sustainability Office as a Graduate Fellow. Additionally, I became one of the founding members of inourhands.love, a nonprofit organization devoted to providing equitable access to renewable energy and creating jobs and income in struggling communities. 

Why did you choose Vermont Law School?

When looking at schools, Vermont Law's remarkable commitment towards environmental sustainability impressed me. The combination of a tight-knit community, plethora of opportunities and immense offerings of environmental courses stood out to me. I knew that VLS would enable me to further expand my enthusiasm for sustaining and creating environmental change. 

lauren Wustenberg, JD/MFALP'21

LaurenWustenberg

Undergraduate: Northwestern University, B.A. Environmental Science, Minor in Environmental Policy & Culture, Certificate in Energy & Sustainability.

Graduate: McGill University, M.A. Geography with a focus on Development Studies

Hometown: Farmington, Minnesota

Professional Mission: I want to bridge scientific research, policy, and law to achieve a two-fold mission: 1) to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of American agricultural livelihoods and 2) to address the global livelihoods impacts of American consumer appetites.

At VLS: I am on the Executive Board of the Food & Agricultural Law Society (FALS) as a 1L Senator. Additionally, I am a member of the Latinx (& Caribbean) Law Student Association (LALSA), Environmental Justice Law Society (EJLS) and the Racial Equity in the Food System Working Group.

What Environmental experience did you have before coming to Vermont Law School?

I grew up on a hobby farm in Minnesota and developed a love of exploring the natural world, gardening, and animal husbandry during that time. Early exposure to the process of local rural development decisions peaked my interest in how economic trends, land use changes, and changing livelihoods are connected to economic and environmental sustainability. As I sought to understand the changes I witnessed in my own neighborhood, I became interested in how agriculture, local environments, and the history of economic development interconnect throughout the world. Most recently, these questions took me to McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, to complete my Master’s in geography. For my thesis, I researched how a 1989 river capture event in the Peruvian Amazon affected agricultural livelihoods, wellbeing, and development trajectories of nine communities in the Tahuayo River Basin of Loreto, Peru. My research involved working with 30 years of household survey data, topographical transects, soil and water samples, oblique aerial photographs, and satellite data, not to mention the focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews I collected with long-term residents of the study region during my three-month field season in 2016. This project was an eye-opening experience in the complexity of untangling the social, economic, and ecological roots of development outcomes. During this project, I realized that the historical sources of contemporary barriers to sustainable economic development in the Amazon mostly stemmed from a history of extractive “boom-and-bust” cycles driven by Western (especially American) appetites for forest products, including rubber, vegetable ivory, timber, palm oil, cacao, coca, coffee, and more. As I looked back at the agricultural context I grew up in, I started to see more keenly how the history of racial, economic, and environmental injustice continues to shape our food and agricultural system today. What’s more, I began to see how every item in my home and on my plate connects my choices to the daily experiences of other people around the world.  

Why did you choose Vermont Law School?

I chose VLS because of its community and its opportunity to work with cutting-edge programs and initiatives. The school is filled with passionate, mission-driven students, faculty, and staff who support one another. VLS also offers unique opportunities to specialize within environmental and agricultural law and policy through course work, access to practitioners, and through applied work with the Food & Agriculture Clinic and the Center for Agriculture & Food Systems.

What are your career goals? What is your dream job?

I have big, idealistic dreams of creating a more just system for equitably distributing healthy food that is sustainably produced in a way that protects our environment and reduces our impact on lives, livelihoods, and environments around the world. This is balanced with a realistic understanding that the issues that interest me are complex and interwoven with other social and environmental justice issues. I don’t have a specific job title in mind, but I know that VLS’s career services, research programs, and networking opportunities will help me find the place I can be of service in making a better, more equitable, more sustainable world. I sincerely believe that such a world starts with understanding what we put on our forks and how it got there.

2017 Environmental Mission Scholars

Emma Akrawi, AJD'19

 

Undergraduate: Yale College, B.A. Political Science

 

Hometown: Stuart, FL

 

Professional Mission: To support people working to mitigate climate change through sustainable energy, land use, and agricultural practices. 

 

At VLS: Research assistant with the Environmental Tax Policy Institute, researching a variety of topics from carbon taxes to the digital economy. 

 

What environmental experience did you have before coming to Vermont Law School?

My love for the environment began at an early age while classifying coastal organisms in environmental studies camp in South Florida. In college, my interest in the intersection of people and the environment led me to study political science, focusing in environmental policy. As a Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies Masters student, I had the opportunity to further develop my academic passion in climate change and land use, and I founded a perennial teaching garden that has grown each semester since. Before coming to law school, I returned to environmental education on the teaching side, working in New England as an environmental educator for coastal nonprofits and a farm. 

 

Why did you choose VLS? The tight mission-oriented community, accelerated JD program, and vibrant Vermont small farm scene drew me to VLS. 

 

Marisa Heiling, JD/MELP '20

 

Undergraduate:  Butler University; BA Political Science and BS Biology

 

Hometown: Wyoming, MN

 

Professional Mission: Work and continue to learn about practicable means to maintain the precious land and natural resources that our country possesses and to hold all parties accountable for actions impacting those resources.

 

At VLS: Staff Editor, VJEL; Public Relations Chair, Environmental Justice Law Society; TA, Legal Research; Library Desk Assistant

 

What environmental experience did you have before coming to Vermont Law School? Prior to law school I interned for Sustainable Indiana 2016 where I wrote articles about sustainable innovations in the local community and environmental activism. During undergrad I was a part of student government on the Green Operations committee that worked with administration to make campus more sustainable. I worked with a professor in the biology department at Butler to do invasive irradiation and biodiversity education. I held an internship at EPA headquarters in the Office of the Administrator in 2016 working on state and local government relations. I also interned at the National Audubon Society with the Climate Research and Outreach team doing research on native plants for birds and pollinator friendly solar projects. 

 

Why did you choose Vermont Law School? I picked Vermont Law School because it has the strongest environmental reputation. Additionally, the stellar community that this small school in Vermont has to offer is incredibly unique and unparalleled. 

 

What are your career goals? What is your dream job? My dream job would be any job that allows me to utilize my science and policy backgrounds. I am particularly interested in land use and resource management policy and enforcement. 

 

Gordon Merrick, JD/MFALP'20

Undergraduate: University of Maine, Political Science with a concentration in Legal Studies

 

Hometown: Arundel, ME (if you’ve never read the Kenneth Roberts book by the same name, really interesting account of the revolutionary war in my home town!)

 

Professional Mission: My mission here at Vermont Law School is to gain the knowledge, skills, and relationships that will allow me to play my part in creating food and energy systems that not only benefit society, but also the environments we live in.

 

At VLS: I am the Co-Chair of both the Food and Agriculture Law Society and the Campus Greening Committee, as well as the PR 

coordinator for Environmental Law Society.

 

What environmental experience did you have before coming to Vermont Law School?

Before law school I worked as a political organizer for NextGen Climate, a Farmer on polycultural operations, a line cook in a restaurant using food I grew, and a distribution specialist for a local food hub startup.  These experiences gave me a well-rounded view of the environment as a resource that we need to operate in conjunction with, not in control of.

Why did you choose Vermont Law School?

I chose VLS because this is where the next leaders of the environmental law movement come from.  The programs and initiatives are cutting-edge in their design and mission.  That is why we are working hand-in-hand with schools like Harvard, Yale, and other top-tier law schools.  We are able to use them as a resource, and vice versa.  

What are your career goals? What is your dream job?

Well, that’s a loaded question isn’t it!  Like most law students, I have about 17 dream jobs currently mulling around in my head, from working at a private firm to be a conscientious actor in a corporate field, working as a legislative counsel for legislators either at the federal or state level, to helping developing nations develop in a way that doesn’t harm the environment like western-development has.  The best part about being here at VLS is all of these are viable and real options for us.  

 

2016 ENVIRONMENTAL MISSION SCHOLARS

​​​​BEN CIVILETTI, JD'19

Hometown: Durham, ME

​Professional Mission: To move Vermont and the world closer to a sustainable energy future.

What environmental experience did you have before coming to Vermont Law School?​

I completed my B.S. in Wildlife Biology, and began to explore environmental policy through coursework along the way. I focused on climate and energy issues after college, and worked as an AmeriCorps member for the Vermont Natural Resources Council, coordinating the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network. In that role, I collaborated with statewide organizations and local groups across Vermont to implement renewable energy systems and energy efficient solutions for communities.

Why did you choose Vermont Law School?

In my AmeriCorps position, I consistently ran into the work of the VLS Environmental Law Center. I met inspiring alumni, found helpful research, and saw the effects of student advocacy in state policy discussions. In particular, the innovative projects of the Energy Clinic motivated me to learn more about VLS programs. Once I discovered the opportunities on and off campus, I knew VLS was the school for me.​

What are your career goals? What is your dream job?

I hope to move energy policy forward in ways that support our environment and economy. I believe that the transition to clean energy is imperative for the health of our planet and its inhabitants, and that a strong economic future requires decoupling from fossil fuels. My dream job might be an energy policy director for an agency, advocacy group or a progressive utility – or perhaps something I haven’t discovered yet!

KATHERINE KLAUS JD'19

Hometown: Aurora, IL

​Professional Mission: To change the trajectory of society towards a more equitable, more sustainable future.

What environmental experience did you have before coming to Vermont Law School?​

My undergraduate career was centered on sustainability. I majored in environmental science and took classes ranging from environmental law to organic chemistry. I also wrote and edited articles for a student-run environmental magazine, providing news on local issues to the community. Additionally, I had several research-based internships and worked as the Sustainability Coordinator for a non-profit organization.

Why did you choose Vermont Law School?

I chose VLS for our strong environmental law program, tight-knit community, and unique access to local government.

What are your career goals? What is your dream job?

I intend to protect water resources from contamination and depletion. My dream job would merge water law with environmental justice. After working in the field, I hope to transition to academics and become a law professor.​

NICO LUSTIG, JD MFALP'19 SOCIAL JUSTICE MISSION SCHOLAR

Hometown: Shelburne Falls, MA

​Professional Mission: To create and support healthy communities where citizens have the tools and resources to develop thriving local economies with access to good jobs, sustainable homes, and nourishing food.

At VLS: 

  • 2017-2019–Media Director and Research Assistant for the Center of Agriculture and Food Systems
  • 2017-2019–Co-Chair of the Food and Agriculture Law Society
  • 2018-2019–3L Senator of the Business Law Society
  • 2016-2019–SBA Student Representative of the Faculty Hiring Committee
  • 2018-2019–SBA Student Representative of the Curriculum Committee
  • 2017-2018–Staff Editor of the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law
  • 2018-2019–Environmental Justice Editor of the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law
  • 2018–Dean’s Fellow
  • 2016-2018–Project coordinator for the Vermont Law School Campus Smoke and Tobacco Free Initiative

Other Projects: 

2017-2018–Schweitzer Fellow

2018—Editor and Research Assistant for the Legislative Guide to Benefit Corporations.

What environmental experience did you have before coming to Vermont Law School?​​

Before starting at Vermont Law School in August 2016, I worked as the Food Business Development Specialist at the Franklin County Community Development Corporation, FCCDC, in Western Massachusetts.  In this role, I helped many New England farmers and start-up entrepreneurs develop and grow sustainable food businesses. I participated as a working group leader for the State of Massachusetts' Local Food Action Plan; Co-chaired the Franklin County Food Council; and coordinated the New England Food Processors Community of Practice through the Farm to Institution New England (FINE) network.  For 12 years before working for the FCCDC, I managed two regional Natural Foods Cooperative Markets – The Blue Hill Food Co-op in Maine and The Franklin Community Co-operative in Western Massachusetts.

In the early aughts, I studied abroad in Khon Kaen, Thailand for two years researching the effect of development and globalization on the environment and agricultural communities. While in Thailand, I studied with farmers who were who were creating alternative business models and currencies to restructure the economy of their local community. As a method of amplifying the voice of these farmers, I worked with fellow students to found the Educational Network for Global and Grassroots Exchange (ENGAGE) a robust non-profit that is still thriving today.

Why did you choose Vermont Law School?

I chose to attend law school to strengthen skills for my mission to create and support healthy communities where citizens have the tools and resources to develop thriving local economies with access to good jobs, sustainable homes, and nourishing food. In addition to being a student and Social Justice Mission Scholar, I am on the Board of Directors for Red Tomato, an ambitious New England non-profit that works to deliver fresh, great tasting produce while cultivating a more sustainable, ethical food system.

What are your career goals? What is your dream job?

To work with green entrepreneurs to help build cooperatives, social enterprise, and local sustainable economies.

MARGARET SHUGART, JD MFALP'19

Hometown: Austin, TX

​Professional Mission: To use the power of law to affect change in causes I hold dearly, specifically environmental protection and sustainable food systems. I would like to feel my efforts have the potential to make a meaningful difference.

What environmental experience did you have before coming to Vermont Law School?​

As an undergraduate, I participated in a study abroad program in Madagascar where I studied the World Wildlife Fund and its use of religion in its conservation strategies. That experience inspired a deep interest in sustainability on an international scope. For my Masters thesis, I studied the return to organic and traditional rice farming in Bali, conducting ethnographic research in Indonesia looking at how different modes of agriculture affect diet and, even as I surprise to myself, became an advocate for insect eating as a sensible protein resource for the planet. Then, at home, I have become passionately involved in a fight against a high-pressure gas pipeline going through my parent's town in the pristine region of Big Bend Texas. I now serve on the executive board of the Big Bend Conservation Alliance and am committed to helping the region protect its precious culture and resources.​

Why did you choose Vermont Law School?

I was hooked from the moment I picked up the promotional materials at a law school fair. Every word in the VLS doctrine spoke to why I wanted to attend law school and what I hoped to do with the degree. Words like Power, Advocacy, Public Service, Impact, Strong Moral Code, Community, and David vs Goliath jumped from the page. I cannot remember how many times I read those catalogs and am very happy to see after arriving that those intentions are manifested genuinely at the school. Also the specificity of the curriculum for environmental focus, and a chance to specifically work with food and agricultural law made for an easy decision to attend.

What are your career goals? What is your dream job?

I am leaving this category open to change with exposure to different classes and ideas, but right now I would like to work in a job that incorporates travel and that considers cultural diversity and global perspectives for food and agriculture.

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