Lisa Campion, MSEL 2008/JD 2011
To bring about effective environmental policies, you need an understanding of science, economics, policy, and the law.”
BS in Environmental Science and Management and BS in Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University at East Lansing
At age 16, Lisa Campion found herself sitting beside Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm at a conference table, explaining with a clear mind and pounding heart why it made sense to give college students tuition credits for community service. It was the outcome of a Michigan 4-H Youth Conservation Council project that included research and legislative lobbying and, even though the bill got bogged down in the House, she recalls: “It showed me that I could make a difference; that you can do something about things and shouldn’t let anything get in the way.”
That’s the philosophy Lisa has followed since, with a focus on the environment that has its origins in a love of nature acquired on childhood fishing and hunting trips with her father. She mapped out her educational path by doing research and talking with experts: “To bring about effective environmental policies, you need an understanding of science, economics, policy, and the law,” she says.
For the hard science of the equation, at 17 Lisa enrolled at Michigan State University at East Lansing, graduating three years later with two separate BS degrees, in environmental science and management and in fisheries and wildlife. She polished off two minors, environmental economics and policy and science, technology and environmental public policy, while also serving as president of Sigma Alpha, a professional agricultural sorority, as a student senator, and as a member of state, national and international 4-H councils.
At 18, she learned of Vermont Law School from a friend, went to its website, and decided immediately that it was the program for her. On a visit, she liked its rural setting and small size: “I felt that it would make me focus on things I wanted to do—studies, student clubs—instead of worrying about where to go out to eat dinner that night or how long it would take me to get back to my apartment. I would get to know everyone, and it would feel like home.”
In 2007, at age 20, Lisa started the VLS Master of Environmental Law and Policy program, and the next year she enrolled in the JD program. Such offerings as Extinction and Climate Change, Ocean and Coastal Law, and Clean Water Act “have pushed me out of the box and into the future,” she says. They’ve deepened her professional focus on international Antarctica and Arctic policies and treaties—a passion she acquired during an undergraduate study abroad program when she saw ancient glaciers breaking up before her eyes in Antarctica and listened to worried Argentina coastal dwellers talk about their disappearing drinking water. In the summer of 2009, she interned at Trustees for Alaska, a nonprofit environmental litigation firm in Anchorage.
At VLS, she jumped into clubs the first year by codirecting the VLS Solutions Conference, in which each student group brings a speaker. And she received a Schweitzer Fellowship to start a statewide 4-H program for 13- to 19-year-old Vermonters, who will pick an environmental issue, map out solutions, and work with the governor and legislature to enact them—the same program that so inspired her. In her spare minutes, she is fond of the outdoors—snowboarding, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, boating, scuba-diving, and four-wheeling.
She accomplishes her fast-forward life, she says, by careful scheduling. As for her drive, she says, “It just seems to be who I am. It makes you happy knowing that you’re making a difference.” Her parents, who live in metro Detroit, are fully supportive. “They always tell me, ‘Do the best you can—you’re going to make us proud either way.’”
Back at VLS, she’s been appointed as a Student Ambassador, and she tells prospective students: “Everyone here knows you by name and people are always saying hello with a smiling face. There is always someone there to help you with what you’re going through—that is unique.”