Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Opportunities Beyond the Law School

The Graduate Program in Agricultural Law offers 24 credits of specialized courses in the law of food and agriculture. And, in addition to these special courses, LL.M. candidates have the opportunity to take up to six credits of graduate level courses that are related to their agricultural law studies but that are outside of our usual curriculum. This opens the doors of the full University of Arkansas campus to our students - with graduate courses in business, agricultural economics, rural sociology, and other relevant subjects. One of our candidates this past year, K.C. Tucker took advantage of this opportunity and took a new course in the MBA program through the new Center for Sustainability. I asked K.C. to describe her experience for us -

A View from the Other Side of Campus

After reading about the University of Arkansas’ Sustainability Initiative and the Applied Sustainability Center, I ventured beyond the walls of the law school to take a course at the Sam M. Walton College of Business on sustainability taught by Professor Terry K. Tremwel. Like sustainable agriculture, sustainable businesses "meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." They are guided by the triple-play definition of sustainability - balancing environmental protection with economic growth and social development.

The sustainability course offered amazing opportunities to meet with some of the nation’s leading sustainable businesspeople. Each class was structured with a guest speaker for the first half of class, followed by a lecture and class discussion on a relevant sustainability topic.

For example, one snowy evening in January we were visited by Gary Whicker, Senior Vice President of Engineering Services for JB Hunt Transport Services, Inc. Mr. Whicker explained to the class that business and sustainability needed to be synonymous; “no one would go into a business expecting it to fail.” Mr. Whicker further discussed how the current environmental crisis is actually a business opportunity, and then he outlined steps that JB Hunt is taking to make sustainability part of their business strategy. The second half of the class dovetailed nicely with a discussion led by Professor Tremwel on population growth and how it relates to the exponential need for energy resources.

Throughout the semester, we were fortunate enough to learn about corporate sustainability plans from executives of Wal-Mart, Unilever, Proctor & Gamble and CHEP while also hearing guest professors discuss topics such as: ecological economics (Dr. Robert Costanza); purchasing power parity (Dr. Andrew Horowitz); how sustainability relates to firm performance (Dr. Jon Johnson); competitive and prosocial behavior (Dr. David Schroeder); how markets work (Dr. David Gay), global standards for environmental audits (Dr. Gary Peters) and metrics for addressing externalities (Dr. Jennie Popp).

The course work was engaging as well as manageable. Professor Tremwel welcomed me and was always available for any help I needed beyond the classroom. The milestone academic projects of the course were a Personal Sustainability Plan (PSP) and a research project. The PSP gave us an opportunity to reflect upon the sustainability of the choices we make in our everyday lives and challenged us to think differently about some of these choices. My PSP included some lifestyle changes such as walking to the grocery store instead of driving and starting my own vegetable and herb garden. The research project was an excellent exercise in framing research, evaluating academic and scientific sources, and honing writing skills. Overall, the class was a great success and I highly recommend it to future LL.M.’ers!

K.C. is an associate attorney at the Bassett Law Firm LLP with a practice focused on food and agriculture. Pictured right, is her dog Olive, suited up for a walk to the grocery store!

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