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The Inner Circle / Summer 2016

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>> Teaching from the Hot Seat
>> USDA Loan Clarification
>> Mastering an Education
>> Member Profile: Caroline Fisher JD'04

 

Letter from the Chair of the Board of Trustees

Chris Dutton, Chair, VLS Board of Trustees

Dear Leaders' Circle and President's Society members,

While some of you may know me, I know many of you do not. I have served on the Vermont Law School Board of Trustees for 10 years, and have had the honor of serving as Chair of the Board for two years. 

As you are likely aware, President and Dean Marc Mihaly recently announced his retirement and will be stepping down from his presidency next July. I have worked with Marc closely over the years, and have truly enjoyed a fruitful relationship with a man devoted to the welfare of Vermont Law School. I look forward to continuing our partnership until the very day Marc departs from the dean’s office and returns to faculty status. I hope, and expect, that we will have opportunities to work together on behalf of the law school even after Marc’s tenure as dean.

Meanwhile, I want to report that the board has begun the process of selecting a successor to continue Marc’s important work. I have appointed a nine-member committee co-chaired by Trustee Brian Dunkiel ’96 and Professor Mark Latham. They are joined by four trustees, three of whom are alumni and one of whom is a student; two representatives from the faculty; and a representative from the staff, who is also an alumnus. 

The committee has already commenced its work. Soon we will finalize and publish a job description. In the fall, the committee will evaluate applications, and winnow the list of candidates. Finalists will meet with the committee in person, and with faculty, staff, students, and alumni, who will provide input to the committee. The committee will consider the input received from the community and make final recommendations to the Board of Trustees. The board will in turn interview the finalists and choose the law school’s next president and dean in the spring of 2017.

I have complete confidence that both Marc and the school’s new dean will work to ensure continuity in the important work of implementing our new strategic plan.

Should you have questions, suggestions, or advice, I welcome your email at trustee@vermontlaw.edu.

Very best,

Chris Dutton signature

Chris Dutton
Chairman of the Board
Vermont Law School Board of Trustees


Clarification on USDA Application
from the President and Dean
 

A few of you have contacted us with concerns over rumors you have heard about Vermont Law School's recent USDA Rural Development loan application. Let me assure you that our action represents a refinancing to reduce our debt service expenses and and thus permit us to invest in our strategic plan initiatives. The USDA application, for a $15 million loan to fund a land-lease transaction with VLS, if approved, would enable us to refinance our current bonded debt to significantly reduce our interest rate. To meet USDA guidelines, we created "VLS Campus Holdings LLC"—VLS is the only member—and held a public hearing to discuss our proposal July 28, advertised in local papers for several weeks.

Our USDA loan application is in no way connected to David Hall or the NewVista Foundation, nor does the VLS administration have plans to work with Mr. Hall. As a courtesy, I met with Mr. Hall a few months ago. I explained that while individual members of the VLS community are free to take positions on his project, VLS remains neutral. I also told Mr. Hall that VLS would not sell property to him, and we have not.

Thank you for this opportunity to address the false rumors. As always, please do not hesitate to contact me with questions about the USDA application or any other issue concerning Vermont Law School.

Warmly,
Marc Mihaly,
President and Dean


Teaching from the hot Seat: Jennifer Taub
 

Inner Circle, Jennifer TaubVermont Law School professor Jennifer Taub wasn’t sure what to expect from her first time testifying at a congressional subcommittee hearing in May.

But she didn’t think she’d feel like a law student again. And she didn’t anticipate that the experience would impact her teaching style. 

There was only a week to review the hearing issues, prepare a five-minute opening statement and anticipate questions. On the big day, Taub had to stay composed while waiting for the hearing that started more than an hour late. And once underway, she had to make her points on the spot and quickly.

In a room with bright, hot lights. On camera.  

The hearing was certainly not as grueling as Hillary Clinton’s grilling before the House Select Committee on Benghazi last year. But it was akin to two hours of cold-calling—questioning students on the spot and expecting quick replies—in a VLS class. This time, Taub was on the other side of the questions.

“I realized what it felt to be in the hot seat, which I hadn’t felt since I was a law student myself,” she says. “When you’re the one asking questions, you forget what it’s like to be on the other side.”

Taub was the sole witness Democrats invited to discuss three Republican measures before a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services. The proposals dealt with capital formation, transparency and regulatory accountability.

A VLS professor since 2011, Taub teaches courses on contracts, corporations, securities regulation and white-collar crime. 

A YouTube video clip of the hearing shows a poised Taub articulately fielding questions.

“I thought these were bad proposals, and my job was to explain why,” says Taub, whose final preparation for the hearing was to blast songs from the Broadway musical “Hamilton” in her hotel room. After the hearing, a subcommittee member congratulated her “assertive but polite” testimony.

“I thought it was really energizing. You have to think strategically,” says Taub, who was cut off once by a subcommittee member in her replies.

Since the hearing, she has thought strategically about taking a different approach to teaching.

“It will help me provide guidance to students about how to maintain dignity and professionalism even if you’re in the hot seat. I already do this, but I’m going to emphasize it more,” she says.

“I’m also going to give students a lot more time to answer questions,” Taub says. “I’m going to give them space instead of cutting them off, so they can formulate what they want to say.”

The hearing was informative in another way, too. “I didn’t expect to learn something about how I teach and approach the classroom. I’m glad to learn those lessons because I like to think that what professors do for research and service helps improve our teaching,” she says.

In June, Taub testified again, at a hearing on bank capital liquidity before a Senate banking committee.Then, one of the senators who questioned her was Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, one of Taub’s professors at Harvard Law School.

“I felt nervous because I remembered being her student. That added to the pressure,” Taub says. “There is my professor calling on me again… It’s still scary to be asked questions by her.” 

Politics is not new to Taub, a registered Democrat. Her mother, a Republican, was a Michigan state representative and is now a county commissioner.

“Even though she’s a staunch Republican,” Taub says, “she wanted everyone at the hearings to be nice to me.”

Photo caption: Professor Jennifer Taub shakes hands with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, before the Senate Banking Committee in a hearing on bank liquidity and capital requirements , June 2016. Photo credit: Jay Mallin.


Mastering an Education

VLS Master's programsTo see the impact that students and alumni of the Vermont Law School master’s programs make, you’ll have to look broadly—in the United States and globally.

Students work in the community to help start farmers’ markets, develop solar-array plans, organize river cleanups and promote recycling, among other projects. Alumni develop policy issues in government agencies or for state legislatures, take marketing and communications positions, pursue employment with nonprofits and consulting firms, and become entrepreneurs.

“The goal is to create a generation of leaders who graduate with the tools to change the world. The outcomes are measured looking across the world at what our alumni are doing,” Vice Dean of Faculty David Mears says. “The differences they’re making are impressive.”

The Master of Environmental Law and Policy (MELP), Master of Energy Regulation and Law (MERL) and The Master of Food and Agriculture Law and Policy (MFALP) programs focus on an interdisciplinary curriculum. Courses cover topics from agriculture and animal rights to economics, climate, energy—and much more.

The students reflect a range of backgrounds just as wide, from fields as varied as sociology, journalism, science, engineering, political science and aviation.

The diversity of people and courses makes for an education that transforms students and communities worldwide, a key part of the VLS mission.

A recent Environmental Law course that Mears taught had upper-level and new law students with master’s students. “Everyone brought a different perspective,” he says. “The classroom discussion and debate are a rich part of law school. Having master’s students really enhances that.”

MELP, offered since 1979 includes training in science, economics and public advocacy. MELP, originally called the Master of Studies in Law, was renamed in 1996 as Master of Studies in Environmental Law. The program became MELP in 2008 to reflect its evolution.

MERL, launched in 2013, covers energy use, production and transmission. MFALP, launched in 2015, focuses on creating and supporting sustainable food and agriculture systems.

“These programs explore some of the most cutting-edge and foundational issues society deals with,” Mears says. “They require students to understand a broad array of disciplines…When they graduate, they can work with that broader perspective, grounded in an understanding of how the legal system works with those problems.”

The master’s programs also promote a culture of top-notch scholarship by drawing thought leaders as faculty, guest lecturers and conference presenters.

And the courses are so varied and topical that Mears envies the students. “I kind of want to go back to school myself just to take the classes,” he says.


Member Profile: Caroline Fisher JD'04


Caroline Fisher and FamilyWhen Caroline Fisher came to Vermont Law School in September of 2001, she wasn’t sure that she wanted to practice law. A graduate of the class of 2004, Caroline successfully passed the Massachusetts Bar but found that she was drawn to policy work in the political arena.

She landed a position as general counsel and health care policy advisor for Senator Richard Moore in the Massachusetts Senate, and parlayed that into the role of health care policy advisor to Speaker Robert DeLeo, Massachusetts House of Representatives. For the past four years, Caroline has served as Director of Government Affairs for the New England region for Otsuka America Pharmaceuticals. 

Caroline describes herself as passionate and committed to Vermont Law School. “I have always had a great sense of loyalty to VLS, and that’s where I want to put my resources—both my time and my money.”

Caroline served as Vice President for the Boston Regional Group, and as the Boston Regional Representative on the VLSAA Board. She has served as an At-large Director on the VLSAA since 2014 and is Co-Chair of the Regional Groups Committee. “My volunteer work and my support of the school at the Leaders’ Circle level demonstrate my continued commitment to preserve and increase the value of my own degree, and I feel really good about that.”

Last Fall Caroline enthusiastically took on the role of seeking gifts in support of VLS from her classmates. While most find this task to be somewhat daunting, she says “the experience was awesome.  It was eye- opening to learn about how many of my classmates had not given to the school since graduation 12 years ago.  But it was wonderful to be able to educate people on what the school is doing and why it’s important that they support their alma mater. It felt like a new way for me to advocate on behalf of the school and I loved doing it.”  

Now living in Brooklyn, Caroline has to two boys, Teo and Tommy and her wife Heather (a poet) is a professor of writing at Hunter College in New York City.

Caroline’s commitment to Vermont Law School comes with a personal mission: “I would like to leave a legacy of having built greater and stronger connections with the alumni in the hope that others will feel equally inspired to ‘give back’ to this unique school. I am committed to that.”

 

 

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Welcome New Members

The Leaders' Circle continues to grow!

The following people have joined or renewed their membership in the Leaders' Circle since the spring of 2016:

  • Nicole Alt and Christopher A. Thompson JD'98
  • Robert R. Brunelli JD'90
  • Peter S. Gould JD'02/MSEL'99
  • Amy M. Davenport
  • Thomas F. Leary JD/MSEL'98
  • Beth McCormack
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