February 5, 2021
Dear friends of Vermont Law School:
My name is Beth McCormack and late last month I was honored to be named Vermont Law School’s interim president and dean – the first woman to serve in this role. While I’ve met many of you during my decade as a professor and administrator at VLS, I would like to introduce myself to those of you who I haven’t met, as well as share a few thoughts about the future of our school.
I joined the VLS faculty in 2011 and have been the vice dean for students since 2017. In that position I have been responsible for all of our students – JD, Master’s and online students – and have supervised Academic Success, the Registrar’s Office, Career Services and Mental Health Services. I've worked collaboratively with Shirley Jefferson JD’86, the associate dean of student affairs and diversity (stay tuned for new measures in this area), and most recently, I have led the school’s response to the COVID pandemic. In addition to teaching Civil Procedure, I coach VLS’s National Moot Court team and have been deeply involved in our Appellate Advocacy Program. I previously served as deputy vice dean for academic affairs, assistant director of the legal writing program, and assistant director of the academic success program. Prior to joining the VLS faculty, I was a litigator at a Boston law firm for 10 years.
As many of you know, institutions of higher education face a challenging environment today, VLS included. However, I am very optimistic about the future of VLS, especially considering:
Strategic Planning – The board of trustees, with input from a wide array of faculty, staff, and partners, is undertaking a comprehensive strategic planning process that is exploring several exciting opportunities to enhance our educational offerings and achieve a long term, financially sustainable model for the school. The strategic plan is expected to be finalized in the coming months and I am excited to get to work on it.
Financial Foundation – Under Dean Thomas McHenry’s leadership, we are on track to post three-consecutive years of budget surpluses, even while investing in new programs and dealing with the financial ramifications of an unprecedented pandemic. I will continue to work with the administration and the board of trustees to improve VLS’s long-term financial health.
Innovative Programs – VLS continues to have the best environmental law school in the country. Recent initiatives such as the Environmental Justice Clinic have strengthened experiential opportunities for our students. And importantly, we’ve leveraged our institutional strengths to launch new, cutting-edge initiatives that set us apart from our competitors. A great example is our restorative justice program, which earlier this week received a second $3 million U.S. Department of Justice grant to fund the National Center on Restorative Justice. Since 2018 the program has seen a nearly 70-percent increase in enrollment.
But to me the biggest cause for optimism is the sheer volume of talent and passion that exists in our students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, and volunteer leadership. I am also inspired by the resiliency and creativity I have witnessed in our community as VLS has responded to the countless challenges presented by the pandemic. I am honored to work with our community as interim dean and president over the next 18 months, and proud to be the first of many women to do so.
I hope that you will join us as we embark on the “New VLS.” Our mission is too important, our impact on the world too great, for us not to be successful.
Interim Dean and President
Vermont Law School