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VLS Board Fellows

In my experience, students who come to Vermont Law School want to “change the world.” They plan to use their legal skills to protect the environment, prevent domestic violence, defend human rights, promote the arts, educate youth, reform the criminal justice system, and pursue any number of other strategies to improve life in the United States and around the world. Fortunately, VLS students need not wait for graduation to begin making these changes. Among the many opportunities at VLS is the chance to become a Board Fellow—a non-voting member of the board of directors of a local nonprofit organization.

VLS students serve as Board Fellows in a variety of non-profits – including at a nature center, farmer’s market, therapeutic riding center, day care, homeless shelter, and a design school. They also work with organizations devoted to educating adults of differing learning abilities, maintaining river health, providing community resources for the local economy, bringing health care to the local schools, and keeping children out of the foster system.

Board Fellows attend meetings and work on a project the organization is undertaking. For example, Jared Carpenter ’14 helped write a strategic plan for North Branch Nature Center, and Norika Kida ’13 and Jared Bianchi ’13 were instrumental in recruiting a local attorney with expertise in Special Education Law (Tyler St. Cyr ’12) to the board of Global Campuses.

Altogether, 20 VLS students serve with 14 nonprofit partners. These students gain direct experience in nonprofit governance and management, along with the knowledge they are helping an organization and its community. In return, the nonprofits benefit from the students’ energy, insight and fresh ideas.  One board member from two of the participating nonprofits recently told me, “It goes without saying that I am a big fan of the board fellows program. I know from experience that the two organizations I am involved with have benefited greatly.” Another wrote into the online newspaper, Vermont Digger, “I can attest to the strong value of this program. Our two Board fellows over this past year were extremely helpful, a welcome addition to a small, grassroots organization looking to make a difference.” The Board Fellows program is a perfect example of VLS students living up to the school’s motto—“serving the community and the world.”

Betsy Schmidt
Associate Professor of Law

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