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Alumni Awards of Distinction

The VLSAA Distinguished Alumni Award

Dr. Marilyn Bartlett JD'91, 2017 Award Recipient

Dr. Marilyn Bartlett JD'91The Vermont Law School Alumni Association awarded the seventh VLSAA Distinguished Alumni Award to Dr. Marilyn Bartlett JD'91. The VLSAA Distinguished Alumni Award was established by the Board of Directors of the Vermont Law School Alumni Association in March 2011. The award shall be given "to that alumnus/a who exemplifies and enhances the VLS core values of community, diversity, service, ethics, and justice, and who enhances the reputation of Vermont Law School in the greater community."

The inaugural award in 2011 was presented to J. Scott Cameron JD'80, in recognition of his many years of service to VLS and his significant contributions to the legal community. In 2012, the award was presented to Wynona Ward JD'98, in recognition of her role as founder of Have Justice Will Travel, a model program directed at bringing an end to the generational cycle of abuse for women and children in rural communities. In 2013 the recipient was Professor Linda Smiddy JD'79, the first alumna to become tenured faculty at Vermont Law, in recognition of her contributions to scholarship and the legal profession. The 2014 award was presented to David Mears JD'91, who was recognized for his steadfast advocacy, leadership and service. The 2015 award was presented to The Honorable Justice Harold "Duke" Eaton JD'80, for his exemplary leadership over 35 years in a public service legal career. Gabor Rona JD'78 received the sixth distinguished alumni award in 2016 for his distinguished work in the field of international human rights.

Dr. Bartlett began teaching ESOL in a Montessori kindergarten in Germany in 1970, and thereafter, taught first grade in Massachusetts. She received her first academic appointment as an assistant professor at Long Island University in Educational Leadership in 1980 while she was completing her Ph.D. in Organizational and Administrative Studies at NYU. Dr. Bartlett later became an assistant superintendent of schools in Vermont before attending Vermont Law School. She then practiced law in Manhattan as a law clerk before returning to academia in 1994 when she became an associate professor at Dowling College. She co-authored Dowling College’s inaugural doctoral program in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, approved by the State of New York in 1997. In 1999, she joined New York Institute of Technology as Associate Dean of Graduate Education. In 2004, Dr. Bartlett joined the University of South Florida and in 2008 she was appointed Dean of the College of Education and Human Performance at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK) and from which she recently retired as a Professor of Educational Leadership. Dr. Bartlett spends her summers training Special Education Advocates at the William and Mary College of Law, Institute for Special Education Advocacy. She herself is an Advocate for students across the United States.

Dr. Bartlett is an active member of the national AHEAD (Association of Higher Education and Disabilities), the Texas AHEAD, and of the Educational Law Association. She has been a Zontian for twenty-one years since 1995. Zonta is a service organization for professional women whose mission is “to improve the status of women worldwide.”  And, she has been a Rotarian since 2008 and received a Paul Harris award in 2014.

Dr. Bartlett is well published and presents nationally and internationally on topics in educational law including the IDEA, ADA-AA of 2008, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974 as well as bullying in the schools, The McKinney-Vento Act, the education of homeless children, and the rights of LGBTQ students. As the plaintiff in Bartlett v New York Board of Law Examiners (2001), Dr. Bartlett enjoys tell her story about her battle to win her rights to accommodations under the ADA. She has three fur-babies: “Charlie,” a Pomeranian, Clancy, an Irish Terrier, and “Lady Scotia,” a Scottish Collie who is Marilyn’s service animal. She is an avid sailor, a folk art painter, and enjoys traveling. 


Social Justice Scholars Alumni Award

Alexandra Goncalves-Pena JD/MSEL’06

Alexandra Goncalves-PenaThe Social Justice Mission Scholars announced on Friday, March 31, 2017 that Alexandra Goncalves-Pena JD/MSEL’06 was chosen to receive the second Social Justice Scholars Alumni Award. The award, sponsored by the Social Justice Scholars, was created to honor a Vermont Law School alumnus/a who has demonstrated a deep and abiding commitment to causes of social justice. Alexandra has demonstrated that commitment—and then some!

Alexandra works as Supervising Attorney at the Immigrant Rights Program of the American Friends Service Committee in Newark, New Jersey. She represents indigent and low-income immigrants and non-citizens facing removal before the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) and seeking benefits before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Since January, she has put in countless hours at the Newark International Airport as a coordinator, organizer, and volunteer lawyer for immigrants and refugees who were detained by Customs and Border Protection as a result of President Trump’s Muslim and Refugee travel ban.

Previous positions Alexandra held include providing legal representation to detained and non detained asylum seekers in removal proceedings, crisis counseling to juvenile crime victims and survivors of domestic violence, supervision and training to law students on preparation of client applications to USCIS and EOIR, screening and identifying detained survivors of torture at the Delaney Hall Detention Center, and conducting “Know Your Rights” presentations to affected community members.

Alexandra holds a JD and Master's degree from Vermont Law School. As a student, she was an Equal Justice Fellow, an Albert Schweitzer Fellow and a Jonathan B. Chase Fellow and she served as a law clerk for the South Royalton Legal Clinic.

Please join us in congratulating Alexandra on this tremendous accomplishment! She will be in Vermont to receive the award during Homecoming Weekend, June 23-24, 2017. The Social Justice Scholars will sponsor a round table discussion with Alexandra and the other well deserving award nominees on Friday, June 23, 4:00-5:00 PM, in the Cornell Library at Vermont Law School, followed by an awards ceremony at 5:00 PM in Yates Hall. We hope to see you there!

This award is sponsored by the Social Justice Mission Scholars at Vermont Law School.

This award is sponsored by the Social Justice Scholars at Vermont Law School. The Scholars are a select group of VLS students chosen through a competitive application process based on their demonstrated commitment to creating a more just society. They carry forward Vermont Law School’s tradition of leadership on social justice issues. To this end, they created the award to honor a Vermont Law School alumnus/a who has demonstrated a deep and abiding commitment to causes of social justice.

Award Criteria

  1. Must be a Vermont Law School alumnus/a. All alumni are eligible.
  2. Must demonstrate tireless commitment and achievement of meaningful impacts in the promotion of a just society. Examples of this commitment include:
    1. Challenging injustice and valuing diversity
    2. Championing the concept that everyone has the inalienable right to be treated equally under the law, regardless of race, gender, religion, age sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, family status, or incarceration
    3. Defending the dignity and justice of all animals
    4. Organizing community initiatives related to social justice
    5. Working for greater access to justice and law reform.
  3. Must have a demonstrated interest in mentoring law students or graduates interested in advancing social justice.

Nomination Guidelines

  1. Alumni who have been nominated previously may be re-nominated during any cycle with no restrictions.
  2. Nominations are due by the end of the day on March 17, 2017.
  3. Nominations must be sent by email to
  4. Nominations must include the following:
      • Nominating statement in Microsoft Word (or PDF) of no more than three double-spaced pages in length, including:
        • Name of nominee
        • Current job title and location of nominee
        • Year of graduation from VLS of nominee (if known)
        • Explanation of how the nominee meets the criteria for this award
        • Details on relationship between nominee and nominator.
      • Resume/CV of nominee.
      • Letters from others in support of the nomination can be included but are not required.

Award Selection Process

  1. VLS Social Justice Scholars and Faculty Advisors will review all nominations and select the award winner based on fit of submission to award criteria.
  2. The award winner and nominator will be notified by the Social Justice Scholars' chair or faculty advisor by email by April 1. Details on the award reception during the Homecoming Weekend will be provided.
  3. The Social Justice Scholars' chair or faculty advisor will notify all nominees of their nomination and invite them to attend the homecoming event following the selection of the award winner.
  4. The award will be presented at a reception during Homecoming Weekend (June 23-24, 2017).
  5. The award winner is expected to attend the reception and provide a brief acknowledgement speech.
  6. All nominees are encouraged to attend the award reception.
  7. The award winner (and all nominees) are encouraged to network with VLS Social Justice Scholars during Homecoming Weekend to discuss ways to advance social justice and mentor students interested in same.

For any questions regarding this award or the nomination process, please contact

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