Vermont Law School Launches New Institute to Promote Place-Based Experiential Learning

“Field studies give students the chance to see the complexity of environmental issues on the ground, to hear from the communities most affected, and to understand the urgency of the challenges ahead.” – Jennifer Rushlow, Director of the Center for Environmental Law and Associate Dean

The Center for Environmental Law at Vermont Law School announced the launch of the Tuholske Institute for Environmental Field Studies, a program that aims to better prepare law students to advance environmental protection and justice through experiential education opportunities on site.

The institute will oversee Vermont Law School’s environmental course offerings around the world. It will ensure that these courses enhance students’ cultural competence and their understanding of racial and socio-economic disparities in environmental benefits and harms; diversify their learning experience by being exposed to different landscapes and the communities that depend on them; and provide training for collaborative and practical knowledge of natural resources. The institute will also advance scholarship, dialogue and best practices related to the role of field curriculum in law schools, promoting place-based education in institutions.

“At Vermont Law School, we are committed to training the next generation of leaders in environmental law and policy, and hands-on experience is at the heart of our students’ education,” said Jennifer Rushlow, Director of Environmental Law Center and Associate Dean. “Field studies give students the chance to see the complexity of environmental issues on the ground, to hear from the communities most affected, and to understand the urgency of the challenges ahead. We are delighted to create the Tuholske Institute and to reinforce these experiences for our students. ”

The institute honors Professor Jack Tuholske of Vermont Law School. An innovator in place-based legal education, Tuholske created a field course at Vermont Law School in 2002 that took students on a two-week hiking trip into the Montana wilderness to learn law. public lands. In addition to serving at Vermont Law School for 20 years, Tuholske was a leading public interest lawyer with over 50 published cases to his name, most of them victories. It has set precedents under numerous federal and state laws.

“Jack inspired a whole generation of environmental attorneys and his brilliance in the courtroom left a protective legacy for the wild lands he loved,” said Pat Parenteau, professor and founding director of the institute. “This program is dedicated to his vision of experiential learning anchored in nature.”

The Tuholske, MT course served as an early model for Vermont Law School to expand its field offerings and leadership in experiential environmental education. The school’s Environmental Law Center now offers courses in Utah, Cuba, Southeast Asia, the United Nations Climate Change Conference and more, in addition to the original course. from Montana, now taught by former student Chelsea Colwyn, lawyer for the Confederate Salish and Kootenai tribes. .

Colwyn remembers being surprised when she first learned that there was a field course at a law school, until she enrolled in the Tuholske, MT class. “After taking the course and teaching it for almost a decade, I can confidently say that there should be a lot more field courses for law students,” she said. “The more law and political students can understand and see the real-world impacts of laws, the closer we, as a society, can come to aligning the intent of those laws with their real effects.

For more information about the institute, visit

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Nancy I. Romero