The world faces a daunting series of complex challenges. Overcoming these challenges requires bold action, creative thinking, and new approaches. Those attributes are at the heart of a forward-looking strategic plan designed by faculty and staff and adopted by the board of trustees. The plan will help the school achieve a sustainable economic model and ensure further growth in enrollment and institutional reputation by harnessing the momentum and intersectionality of environmentalism and justice reform to use law, policy, and leadership to make a difference.
Key Strategy No. 1 | Implementation Date: Effective July 1, 2022
Transforming VLS into a graduate institution — Vermont Law and Graduate School — that houses both a law school and graduate school
Becoming a graduate institution will provide the foundation needed for unhindered programmatic growth, raise the visibility of the master’s programs, strengthen the JD program, elevate the school’s world-renowned environmental program and first-of-its-kind restorative justice program, and appeal to a wider audience of prospective students and donors. Importantly, the new structure will allow Vermont Law and Graduate School to pursue increased enrollments and maintain the flexibility to more easily add programs and degrees in response to market conditions and enrollment trends.
Key Strategy No. 2 | Implementation Date: Effective July 1, 2022
Establishing a new president position to serve as the chief executive of the new structure
Bifurcating what has up to this point been a joint president/dean position will allow the president to have an enhanced focus on the higher-level strategies and external relationships that are important to the future of the school, and the strategic plan itself. Chief among their responsibilities will be securing transformational gifts and championing a comprehensive fundraising campaign. The plan also establishes separate dean positions for both the law and graduate schools.
Key Strategy No. 3 | Implementation Date: Fall 2023
Developing three new public policy master's degrees and enhancing existing ones
Changes to the school's master's degree offerings—including three new degrees focused on climate change, environmental justice, animal protection, and equity—will enhance the rigor of the school's master's programs, provide greater relevancy and value to today’s students, and respond to the world's most pressing needs. The new degrees are a Master of Climate and Environmental Policy (residential and online), an Executive Master of Environmental Policy (online only), and a Master of Animal Protection Policy (residential and online). These new degrees are public policy degrees and feature a robust set of core and environmental policy courses. This new curriculum, aspects of which will also be added to the existing Master of Energy Regulation and Law and Master of Food and Agriculture Law Policy degrees, will produce graduates with increased practical skills and enhanced career prospects. Additionally, look for exciting new programmatic news later this summer.
Key Strategy No. 4 | Implementation Date: Fall 2022
Launching an Online Hybrid JD program for working professionals
Beginning with its first class this fall, the new part-time Online Hybrid JD program will allow working professionals to earn a law degree while earning an income from anywhere in the country all while offering the same rigorous legal education as the residential JD. Delivered through a mixture of online classes and three brief, in-person residential sessions, the Online Hybrid JD will offer students the opportunity to specialize in environmental law, food and agriculture law, energy law, or restorative justice. Basing the program at the school’s Burlington facility leverages the city’s proximity to the largest legal and student communities in Vermont, as well as the convenience of being near ample amenities.
Planning for the future: 18 months and more than 700 stakeholders
The strategic plan summarized here is the result of an 18-month process that ultimately included more than 60 faculty and staff participating in working groups and committees. They solicited and received feedback from more than 700 alumni, students, prospective students, staff, faculty, and funders through surveys, town halls, focus groups, Q&A sessions, facilitated discussion groups, and more. This plan is the collective best work of an immensely talented and dedicated school community.
The largest donation in the school's history to support the new direction
The new strategic plan received overwhelmingly affirmative votes of confidence from the board of trustees, faculty, and staff, but those are not the only groups who are enthusiastic about it. A foundation that wishes to remain anonymous has committed to donating $8 million to the school over a three- year period, with the bulk of the funding directly supporting the plan’s initiatives as well as the school’s signature environmental programs. This transformative gift, the largest in the school's history, signals significant external support for the schools new direction and creates tremendous momentum for its implementation.
Vermont Law and Graduate School will capture the attention of an increasingly engaged citizenry seeking to improve the world—and prove that this is the place to obtain the skills to do so.