Posted: December 1st, 2015 | By: Rachel Wallen
Wake Forest University School of Law and the University’s Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability (CEES) are partnering to offer a dual Juris Doctor and Master of Arts in Sustainability (JD/MASus) degree. Unlike most dual-degree offerings, students will be able to earn both degrees in three years.
Nick Griffin (JD/MASus ’16) is one of the first students to be admitted into the new program, which allows him to pursue studies of sustainability from the perspectives of law, business, economics, science and public policy.
Dean Suzanne Reynolds (JD ’77) says the dual degree will facilitate interdisciplinary learning, new perspectives and interaction among students and faculty in both the J.D. and M.A. in Sustainability degree programs, and provide students pathways for developing skills and acquiring competencies necessary for succeeding in professional roles where the law intersects with sustainability.
Dual-degree programs, particularly those established between professional and graduate schools, nurture faculty and student collaboration, in addition to strengthening students’ professional preparation to engage in a changing world, says Associate Dean of Law Graduate Programs Alan Palmiter.
“Students with this dual degree will gain an understanding of how law infuses the sustainability movement while cultivating valuable leadership skills,” Palmiter says. “Attorneys seeking to engage in a sustainability-related practice will benefit greatly from foundational knowledge gained from the master’s coursework focusing on energy, environmental and sustainability-related studies. This interdisciplinary exposure greatly enhances the capabilities and work horizons of such candidates.”
Graduate Research Professor in Sustainability and Program Director Daniel Fogel believes the new offering will prepare student participants for an infinite number of career possibilities.
“Sustainability taught from a multi-disciplinary perspective creates a depth of knowledge not available in many programs,” Fogel says. “The master’s courses are team taught by faculty within and outside Wake Forest University. These faculty members are joined by their commitment to sustainability education and research and come from various fields such as physics, humanities, business, law, communication, economics and biology.”
Griffin says that much of what he has been able to accomplish so far is due to the resources that Wake Forest Law offers to students and the willingness of the administration to create new opportunities.
“I can take my research further with the M.A. in Sustainability and I can supplement this research by taking classes from notables in the field such as Law Professor John Knox,” he explained. “All of the right pieces are there for students, you just need to put them together. Wake Forest can fill that connection gap.”
During the summer after his 2L year, Griffin worked with the Southern Environmental Law Center in Chapel Hill, N.C., where he could combine his two passions.
“I found that it was not enough to know the law behind an issue,” Griffin said. “Rather, my training in environmental economics, environmental science and sustainable organizational management helped me add value to the organization’s complex legal cases.”
The previous summer, after his 1L year, Griffin was awarded a PILO grant by Wake Forest Law, which he used to conduct a two-month project in Nepal that analyzed the intersection between sustainable water access and cultural heritage preservation. His focus was on an ancient stone spout water distribution network that still functions as a primary water source for 350,000 people in Kathmandu Valley.
After graduating from Wake Forest Law, Griffin plans to put both of his degrees to good use by returning to his home state of Washington and working in the intersection of law and sustainability.