Skip Navigation

Website Sections

News Releases

Scholar and Social Entrepreneur to Lead Environmental Law Center

March 18, 2013


Peter Glenshaw, Director of Communications, Vermont Law School
Office: 802-831-1318, cell: 603-738-8487, home: 603-795-4764,
 Find us on Facebook
 Follow us on Twitter

SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt.—A water law scholar who began her career by founding and leading a non-profit environmental law firm has been appointed as the new director of Vermont Law School’s Environmental Law Center (ELC). Melissa Scanlan is currently the Water Law and Policy Scholar at the University of Wisconsin Law School. She will assume leadership of the ELC in June 2013.

“Melissa Scanlan brings a robust background as a scholar, activist, and social entrepreneur,” said President and Dean Marc Mihaly. “I am incredibly excited about what she will do for the students and faculty of Vermont Law School as the new director of the ELC,” he said.

Scanlan received her JD degree and her MS degree in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management from the University of California at Berkeley. She received her BA in World Politics from the Catholic University of America.

After graduating from Berkeley in 1999, Scanlan received two prestigious fellowships: an Equal Justice Works Fellowship, which mobilizes the next generation of lawyers committed to equal justice, and an Echoing Green Fellowship, which supports emerging global social entrepreneurs with seed funding. Scanlan used these fellowships to launch Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA), the first non-profit environmental law center in Wisconsin. Under Scanlan’s leadership MEA grew into a thriving firm, with offices in two cities, providing legal and technical assistance to grassroots groups working for clean air, water, and government accountability.

After serving as MEA’s founder, executive director, and senior counsel, she was a lead consultant in the creation of the Center for Water Policy in 2011. The Center, which was launched with a $2.6M endowment, is an interdisciplinary water policy think tank within the new School of Freshwater Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Selected as a Wisconsin Super Lawyers Rising Star in 2006, 2007, and 2008, Scanlan has represented clients in high impact lawsuits and shaped public policy in areas ranging from the Great Lakes Compact and water supply issues to enforcement and implementation of the Clean Water Act. She currently serves on the Board of the Environmental Law Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin and the Sierra Club’s National Litigation Committee.

Scanlan’s scholarship focuses on the public trust doctrine, trans-boundary water agreements, the intersection of law and science, and empirical research about water management.

“I am thrilled to join Vermont Law School and the Environmental Law Center, which has been a leader in environmental scholarship and advocacy for more than 35 years,” Scanlan said. “Under the leadership of Marc Mihaly and John Echeverria, the ELC established leading centers on issues such as energy and the environment, agriculture and food systems, and environmental governance in China. I welcome the challenge to further the reach of the ELC and educate the next generation of environmental change makers.”

For the past two years, Professor John Echeverria has served as the Acting Director of the ELC. He will be returning to the VLS faculty following a sabbatical leave during the 2013–14 academic year.

“I am extraordinarily grateful for John’s service to the ELC for the past two years,” said Mihaly. “He has worked tirelessly to lead its operation while also continuing to teach, research, and publish. We look forward to welcoming him back after a well-deserved sabbatical.”


Vermont Law School, a private, independent institution, has been ranked by U.S. News as the #1 environmental law school in the nation for an unprecedented five consecutive years, and has been ranked #1 or #2 in the U.S. News rankings for environmental law every year since 1991. VLS offers a Juris Doctor curriculum that emphasizes public service; two Master’s Degrees (Master of Environmental Law and Policy, and Master of Energy Regulation and Law), and three post-JD degrees—LLM in American Legal Studies (for foreign-trained lawyers), LLM in Energy Law, and LLM in Environmental Law. The school features innovative experiential programs and is home to the Environmental Law Center, the South Royalton Legal Clinic, and the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic. For more information, visit

Bookmark and Share