The University of Vermont's Rubenstein School for Environment and Natural Resources and Vermont Law School have announced that they will offer a dual master's degree program beginning in the fall of 2004 that combines the study of environmental science and environmental law.

The new program will allow graduate students to earn both a Master of Science (M.S.--Natural Resource) from the Rubenstein School and a Master of Studies in Environmental Law (M.S.E.L.) from Vermont Law School. Students may take courses at both schools and share credits between the two programs.

The M.S.E.L. and the M.S. degrees, if pursued separately, both require 30 credits. Because of curriculum sharing, students in the dual master's program may earn both degrees with a total of 42 credits.

The dual-degree program is a natural at a time when environmental and legal issues are becoming increasingly intertwined, said Don DeHayes, dean of the Rubenstein School.

"The world we live in doesn't correspond to the neat disciplines we teach in school," he said. "That's especially true in the environmental area, where the issues are continually evolving and growing in complexity. Professionals who have an understanding of the science and the law will be very much in demand."

Professor Karin Sheldon, associate dean for Vermont Law School's Environmental Program and director of the Environmental Law Center, agreed. "Today's environmental professionals face an array of challenges. Vermont Law School's M.S.E.L. program is interdisciplinary, offering courses in environmental law, science, policy, and ethics. The program will be further strengthened by the addition of the Rubenstein School's considerable natural resource expertise."

Administrators said that the dual-degree program could be the first step in a growing partnership between the two schools.

"This is a natural alliance between two of the nation's premier environmental institutions, which also both happen to be located in Vermont," said DeHayes.

VLS president and Dean L. Kinvin Wroth added, "Vermont Law School's well-deserved national reputation for environmental excellence will continue to grow as we build upon this promising new collaboration."

The Rubenstein School, founded as the School of Natural Resources in 1973, is considered to have one of the top environmental and natural resource programs in the country. The National Research Council praised it for its "creative approaches to disciplinary integration at the undergraduate level" and for development of "core and capstone courses that blend biological and social sciences." The school's master's degree programs are among the most selective in the country, with 180 students applying last year for 36 positions in the 2003 class.

Vermont Law School, located in South Royalton, Vt., is one of only a few independent, private law schools in the United States and is the only law school in Vermont. VLS offers a traditional juris doctor curriculum that emphasizes the public-serving role of lawyers, the M.S.E.L. degree for lawyers and non-lawyers alike, and a post-J.D. degree, the LL.M. in Environmental Law. Through its Environmental Law Center, VLS offers the nation's most comprehensive curriculum of environmental law courses, and its environmental law program is regularly ranked as the best in the nation in the U.S. News and World Report annual survey of legal educators in the field.

In 2002, the Environmental Law Center received the American Bar Association Award for Distinguished Achievement in Environmental Law and Policy, in recognition of the center's "...significant leadership in improving the substance, process or understanding of environmental protection and sustainable development."


Jeffrey Wakefield