VLS changes its name, becomes an institution of higher learning and receives an $8 million donation

VLS president Glenn Berger, graduate school dean Jennifer Rushlow and law school dean Beth McCormack with the school’s new branding in Burlington on Tuesday. VBM pictures.

As part of major restructuring and expansion-focused growth plan at Burlington, donation is largest in school history

Vermont Business Magazine Vermont Law School announced today that it will become Vermont Law and Graduate School (VLGS) on July 1. It will add three master’s programs and expand to Burlington. This is part of a major long-term restructuring and growth plan that will see the school double its public benefit mission and transition to a graduate institution housing two schools – law and graduate. The new vision is reinforced by an anonymous donation of $8 million to the school.

The creation of a new graduate school on par with the existing law school and the resulting name change are part of a new strategic plan developed by faculty and staff and approved by the Board of Directors. administration, and reflects students’ growing interest in interdisciplinary approaches to social justice and a full commitment to law and public policy.

The strategic plan builds on the schools’ recognized strengths in environmental law and policy and justice reform.

“Nearly two years ago, we began a process to chart the future of the school with input from hundreds of faculty, staff, administrators, students and the community,” said Glenn Berger JD’78, chairman of the school board. “We are thrilled to announce today a bold vision for Vermont Law and Graduate School, with a new name and structure that will elevate our cutting-edge graduate program, increase enrollment and reinforce our commitment to change. social.”

Berger said the process began in November 2019 and was undeterred by the pandemic as plans moved forward remotely as needed.

The donation came after the restructuring process began, Berger.

On the day VLGS announced its new debut, the school also revealed the biggest gift in its nearly 50-year history.

An anonymous donor has pledged to give $8 million to the school over a three-year period, with the funding directly supporting the plan’s initiatives as well as the school’s signature environmental programs.

“This transformative gift signals tremendous support for the school’s new leadership and creates tremendous momentum for the implementation of the strategic plan,” said Berger.

The plan also includes changes to the school’s master’s degree offerings, including three new degrees, which will improve the rigor of the school’s master’s degree programs, provide greater relevance and value to today’s students, and meet to the world’s most urgent needs.

The new degrees, a Masters in Climate and Environmental Policy (residential and online), an Executive Masters in Environmental Policy (online only) and a Masters in Animal Welfare Policy (residential and online), are policy degrees that feature a robust set of core courses and environmental policy.

Restorative and hybrid justice programs will be expanded in Burlington, which will include a new residential component.

Vermont Law’s headquarters will remain in South Royalton.

VLS has had its ups and downs financially, with staff and finances. But acting dean Beth McCormack said the school had posted three consecutive budget surpluses.

She said law schools across the country have been troubled by a drop in law school enrollment, as has VLS.

McCormack said they currently have about 450 residential students and 150 distance students. She said they hoped to add another 100 students with this expansion.

McCormack said these new programs will help attract more students and therefore generate more revenue. Also, there will be no increase in tuition fees for the coming year.

The name change will become official on July 1, while the new university courses will begin in September 2023.

VLS press conference Tuesday morning in Burlington.

Further announcements regarding the school’s environmental degrees and programs are expected in August 2022.

The structural and programmatic changes announced today are in addition to two major elements of the strategic plan announced earlier this year: the creation of a stand-alone president position and the launch of the part-time online hybrid JD program.

The bifurcation of what has until now been a Joint President/Dean position will allow the President to focus more on higher-level strategies and external relationships that are important to the future of the school, while the new Part-time online hybrid JD will allow working professionals to earn a law degree from anywhere in the country.

Vermont Law School and Vermont Graduate School will each have their own respective deans.

“The expanded programming will respond to the growing base of non-traditional students and students seeking online opportunities, and reflects a refined view of how best to prepare students for success,” said Rodney Smolla, higher education official and professor, advocate, scholar, and author who, in April, was chosen by the Board of Directors to be the first president of VLGS, effective July 1. “The social justice challenges facing the world today are complex and require an ever-changing set of tools and skills to address them. Law degrees, masters, certificates and specialized training: they all have a role to play.

The strategic plan is the result of an 18-month process that ultimately included over 60 faculty and staff participating in working groups and committees. They solicited and received feedback from over 700 alumni, students, prospective students, staff, faculty, and funders through surveys, town halls, focus groups, question and answer sessions- replies, moderated discussion groups and more. This plan is the collective best work of an immensely talented and dedicated school community.

“Faced with a decision about the direction of our institution, the Vermont Law and Graduate School community has overwhelmingly chosen to embark on a future as a public interest institution of social change,” Smolla said. “This is a bold new direction that responds to the growing interest of students who want to make the world a better place.”

In April, the board announced the hiring of Smolla as the first president of VLGS, extended Beth McCormack’s tenure as acting dean of law school, and named Jennifer Rushlow acting dean of new doctoral school.

The two will serve in these roles throughout the 22/23 academic year while national searches are conducted. Dean Rushlow will also continue to lead the Environmental Law Center.

Deans Jennifer Rushlow, left, and Beth McCormack.

About Vermont Law School

Vermont Law School, a private, independent institution, is home to the nation’s premier environmental law program. VLS offers a juris doctor course that emphasizes public service; four master’s degrees – Master of Environmental Law and Policy, Master of Energy Regulation and Law, Master of Food and Agriculture Law and Policy, and Master of Arts in Restorative Justice; and four post-JD degrees – LLM in American Legal Studies (for foreign-trained lawyers), LLM in Energy Law, LLM in Environmental Law, and an LLM in Food and Environmental Law. ‘agriculture. The school offers innovative experiential programs and is home to the Environmental Law Center, South Royalton Legal Clinic, Environmental Advocacy Clinic, Energy Clinic, Food and Health Clinic. agriculture, the environmental justice clinic and the center for justice reform. For more information, visit vermontlaw.edu, find us on Facebook, and follow VLS on Twitter and Instagram.

SOUTH ROYALTON AND BURLINGTON (June 21, 2022) Vermont School of Law

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