- FIle: Ben Deflorio
- Vermont Law School
Vermont Law School is pivoting to become a graduate institution as part of a plan to increase enrollment and broaden its interdisciplinary offerings.
The school — which is changing its name to Vermont Law & Graduate School — has produced a stream of lawyers who have shaped policy and the landscape in Vermont. But it has struggled in the past decade with declining enrollment. The class of 2021 was made up of 174 students, and the class of 2020 had only 134.
In 2018, school took the controversial step of revoking tenure for 75 percent of its faculty as part of restructuring efforts.
Now, the school is using an anonymous $8 million donation, the largest gift in the school’s nearly 50-year history, to support both new initiatives and the school’s signature environmental programs.
The school will offer three new degrees: A master's in climate and environmental policy and a master's in animal protection policy will be offered to both residential and online students; an executive master's in environmental policy will be online only.
The administration solicited input from more than 60 faculty, staff and alumni to shape the strategic plan, ultimately deciding to favor robust environmental policy programs and hybrid learning options.
“This reflects a growing interest from students in modern, progressive, cross-disciplinary approaches to their education, and it builds on our recognized strength in environmental law and policy, and justice reform,” said Jenny Rushlow, interim graduate school dean, at a press conference Tuesday.
Rushlow said the school, based in bucolic, rural South Royalton, plans to bolster its presence in Burlington. The Queen City will host its hybrid JD program, immigration clinic, admissions office and national center on restorative justice.
The school will hire three to four new faculty members and plans to increase enrollment by 100 students over the next several years.
School officials hope a rigorous grad program will help the Vermont Law & Grad School keep up with a changing market, and to eventually expand to offer more degrees.