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Regional Alumni Groups

Across the country and around the globe, VLS alumni make a difference wherever they are. We invite you to connect with fellow Swans in key regions. Learn more by clicking on a location below.

Alumni Highlights

Cindy Argentine

Cindy Argentine Headshot

“It has been quite some time since I worked in the legal field, but I don’t think you ever lose what you learn,” noted Cindy Argentine MSL’91. Now a creative nonfiction author for children and teens, Cindy draws upon many of the skills she learned as a student at Vermont Law School.

As a child, she never dreamed of attending law school, but her passions and life experiences guided her to VLS. Cindy grew up close to the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia—a place where she could explore her surroundings while experiencing changing tides and seasons. It was here that she developed a deep appreciation for nature.

When the time arrived to attend college, Cindy chose William & Mary, where she combined her interests via a double major in English and environmental science. She then landed a job with the Chesapeake Research Consortium (CRC), an environmental nonprofit. While working at CRC, Cindy realized the extent to which outcomes were driven by the legal framework.

“Law can be a great mechanism for bringing about positive change, especially in the environmental field, and that intrigued me,” Cindy shared. She discovered VLS while researching environmentally focused institutions, and she and her now husband, Mark, moved to New England where they could both pursue graduate degrees.

Although it was a new part of the country, Cindy quickly settled into life in Vermont, immersing herself in the coursework and establishing new hobbies like cross country skiing. Beginning with her initial class in environmental law, which was taught by Professor David Firestone, Cindy thoroughly enjoyed her VLS experience, and she developed a fondness for legal writing.

“I loved the process of legal writing—researching a detailed case, working through the logic, and finding points to best support the argument,” Cindy recalled. During her stint as a student, she also authored the “Vermont Act 250 Handbook: A Guide to State and Regional Land Use Regulation,” which has served as a valuable tool for individuals looking to better understand the state’s innovative land use law.

After earning her MSL, Cindy went on to work in environmental consulting, providing regulatory advice and helping companies with compliance issues. She decided to shift gears, however, once her three children were born, and her creative instincts led her to writing.

Cindy began her children’s writing career by working for magazines, and she has published articles on a variety of STEAM-related topics for kids from ages four to 18. This work led to an interest in books, and in 2019, she published “STEAM Jobs in Cybersecurity,” which explains the importance of cybersecurity to kids in grades four through eight.

Her latest book, “Night Becomes Day: Changes in Nature,” was released on October 5, 2021. Hoping to create wonder and appreciation for the environment, Cindy invites readers to explore the extraordinary power of nature through vibrant language and stunning, full-page photographs. Aimed at children in pre-kindergarten through third grade, this project was inspired by the many transformations that take place all around us. The story highlights various settings, such as beaches, canyons, and glaciers, just to name a few, and the contrasting types of change—fast and slow, hot and cold, ancient and new—that occur.

“All of our experiences shape who we are, and VLS definitely impacted me and where I am today,” Cindy affirms. From thinking clearly and logically, to presenting ideas in an organized fashion, to carrying readers to an idea or end point, she credits VLS with helping her master these important competencies.

Keep an eye out for future projects from Cindy, who has additional books in different stages of the publication process. In the meantime, you can learn more by visiting CynthiaArgentine.com.

Photo credit: Christie Turnbull


Friday, October 8, 2021 12:00:00 PM

Arturo Brandt

Arturo Brandt Headshot

Arturo Brandt LLM’03 has spent his career working on climate matters in locales all over the world, ranging from the United Kingdom and Germany, to the United States and his home country of Chile. Serving as a senior broker for Latin American Environmental Markets with Tradition Green (part of Tradition, one of the world’s largest brokerage firms). He’s a brokerage service provider within the environmental markets advisory and financial services, and he is senior counsel at Grupo Vial Serrano, a leading Chilean law firm.

Through this work, he’s been steeped in pushing for climate justice, as well as for laws that benefit people living in poverty. In 2020, Brandt was lobbying in Chile in favor of a proposed law that would allow consumers to be able to choose their energy service provider (customers have historically been assigned a provider). Brandt is advising an Argentine energy trader setting up service in Chile with the aim of giving residents more choices. He points out that energy costs are regressive—the poorer you are, the more of a percentage of your income goes to your electricity bill.

“If that law goes through, at the end of the day, people will be able to have cheaper electricity bills,” Brandt said. “In a country where you have 15 percent of people under the poverty level, it’s important to promote bills that promote competition.”

Households can also choose services that support energy efficiency and renewable energy, he said, adding that competition can lead to better energy services, better customer service, and more flexible rates.

Brandt credits VLS for introducing him to the idea of climate change, and teaching him how to quickly find resources and expert information to support his arguments, whether that’s for a court case or a conference. VLS also taught him to be more precise in his arguments, and that’s paid dividends over the course of his legal career. “Right now I cannot say I know everything about environmental law and climate change, but I know who knows, and where to find the information. That saves you a lot of time,” Brandt said.

Part of what drives Brandt in his work is his passion for equal access to resources. The wealth gap is even more pronounced in some Latin American countries than it is in the U.S., he said, and it’s troubling that some people have access to fundamentals like education and health care, while others don’t. Something as seemingly simple as lower energy costs can go a long way in helping people from disadvantaged backgrounds be more prosperous.

“I am deeply committed to justice, not just my job on environmental matters, but in my daily life,” he said. “Something that really moves me is that everybody has the same equal playing field.”

Article written by Sky Barsch. Photo courtesy of Arturo Brandt.


Tuesday, September 14, 2021 10:00:00 AM

Madhavi Venkatesan

Madhavi Venkatesan

Madhavi Venkatesan MELP’16 is passionate about reducing our negative impact on the environment. Over the course of her career, she’s worked at large organizations, but felt there was too much bureaucracy; it was taking too long to see change.

“I really want to start making things happen,” she said. And so she did. Armed with a MELP degree from VLS, Venkatesan founded a not-for-profit organization, Sustainable Practices, which has done meaningful work reducing single-use plastic in her home community of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, making the popular Wellfleet OysterFest a plastic-free event in 2019.

How does one go from working for organizations to founding their own impact-driving nonprofit? In Venkatesan’s case, methodically, with a small staff, and by finding mission-aligned volunteers.

Sustainable Practices incorporated in 2016, and Venkatesan funded the startup by showing environmental justice films and charging a small fee as a fundraiser. One of those films would have a lasting impact on her and the trajectory of Sustainable Practices. “Divide in Concord” is a documentary about an effort in Concord, Mass., to ban small, single-serve bottles of water. Sustainable Practices showed the film in 2018.

“That movie was moving to me,” Venkatesan said. “I recognized the limitations too. One town of 7,000 doesn’t make a significant enough impact.” She thought, why not do this on Cape Cod, which is comprised of 15 towns?

Venkatesan got to work on a plan to incrementally reduce single-use plastic bottles on the Cape. Through Sustainable Practices, she and a group of volunteer members started with the municipalities—proposing a bylaw prohibiting municipal governments from purchasing single-use plastic bottled beverages and eliminating the sale of beverages in single-use plastic containers on town property. That policy is now in place in 13 of the 15 towns on Cape Cod.

Next up was banning the commercial sale of single-use, non-flavored, non-carbonated plastic bottled water of less than a gallon in size. This has passed in seven towns on the Cape since September 2020—and Venkatesan says there’s support for more, though some towns have put the matter on hold while dealing with COVID. She and her organization are optimistic that municipal and commercial bans will be adopted across the Cape this year.

Venkatesan’s efforts show that it’s possible to make a direct difference without relying on people in power to initiate.

As she puts it: “If we know something is wrong, why should we wait until the state tells us to do it?” Venkatesan said her fellow classmates at VLS were similarly passionate and dedicated to making real change. Being surrounded by a supportive group of like-minded individuals allowed Venkatesan to thrive, and she continues to stay in touch with her classmates as they cheer one another on.

“At the grassroots level,” Venkatesan said, “let’s go ahead and make the changes we need to make.”

Article written by Sky Barsch. Photo courtesy of Madhavi Venkatesan.


Tuesday, August 17, 2021 10:00:00 AM

Renee Smith

Renee Smith Headshot

Through her work as state policy manager for the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, Renee Smith MFALP’17 advocates for programs and policies that reduce maternal mortality among Black women, an outcome that affects them at three-to-four times the rate of white women.

The Atlanta-based alliance serves as an umbrella organization for groups supporting pregnant and birthing Black people around the country. There is a history of experimentation on and exploitation of Black pregnant women in the United States. For example, the man considered the “father of gynecology” purportedly performed unimaginable surgical experiments on enslaved Black women without the use of anesthesia.

Smith’s work is changing the way Black mothers are treated, and it includes reviewing bills on the state and federal level, talking with doulas and midwives, analyzing data, writing letters of support, weighing in on policy, and other efforts that support holistic maternal health care.

In her role, Smith provides support in public policy, research, analysis, and engages in health systems, particularly with hospitals, midwives, and doulas, to build a shared language and perspective around maternal health equity to eliminate Black maternal mortality.

“Fighting for justice is important to me because it’s embedded in my DNA. I grew up in the South as a Black woman, so injustice is one of the things I’ve known,” said Smith, whose family is of Haitian and Puerto Rican heritage. “To me, justice is a choice. I’ve seen a lot of injustice and it looks like people didn’t have a choice.” Smith said around half of maternal deaths in Georgia are preventable.

“There are a lot of public examples just in 2020 of women who have died during childbirth,” Smith said. “The fact that so much of this is preventable is the biggest issue.”

Georgia has a maternal mortality review committee, which is tasked with collecting data and reviewing all pregnancy-related and -associated deaths. Because of this, there is now more awareness that conditions such as hypertension and diabetes—which have historically more heavily impacted Black communities—are further causing devastation during pregnancy and postpartum periods.

“It’s not just these nine months of gestation and then a year of postpartum, it’s really the whole lifespan of a Black woman,” Smith said. “And how during the time of pregnancy, it’s a very critical time for health, and why more attention should be put on that time.”

Smith, who has also worked in agriculture and food policy in Georgia, California, and India, said her MFALP degree helped her prepare for a social justice career.

“I love that they had systems for people to study policy without being an attorney,” she said. “I really like that middle space of being an advocate and having the knowledge of the law.”

Article written by Sky Barsch. Photo courtesy of Renee Smith.


Thursday, July 22, 2021 10:00:00 AM

Students at Commencement

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