Monday, March 31, 2014

Experiential Learning Pt. 3: Working with The Sustainability Consortium

This is the third in a series of three posts about experiential learning opportunities for LL.M. students.

Sonia Sylls
In our last two posts on experiential learning opportunities for our LL.M. students, we featured students’ work with Walmart’s Legal Division and Allen Olson.  This week, we are featuring the project that Sonia Sylls is working on with The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) in Fayetteville.

TSC is an organization with hubs in Arkansas, Arizona, China, and the Netherlands that consists of diverse global participants that work collaboratively to build a scientific foundation that drives innovation to improve consumer product sustainability.  Through multi-stakeholder collaboration, TSC’s mission is to design and implement credible, transparent and scalable science-based measurement and reporting systems accessible for all producers, retailers, and users of consumer products.  The organization partners with many large and well-known companies, including Walmart, L’Oreal, Hanes, PepsiCo, McDonalds, General Mills, Tyson, and many more.

TSC helps build knowledge around critical sustainability issues using two main tools.  The first is the Category Sustainability Profile (CSP).  CSPs are collections of the best knowledge about the sustainability of a particular product from cradle to grave.  They identify pieces of the supply chain where products can better incorporate sustainability principles. 

The second tool is TSC’s Key Performance Indicators (KPI).  KPIs are questions about brand products designed to help retailers understand the sustainability of the products.  TSC has developed questions for different categories of products that focus on environmental and social issues.

This semester, Sonia is working under the supervision of Dr. Christy Melhart Slay, TSC Research Manager.  She is currently tasked with a social sustainability research project pertaining to animal welfare standards.  Sonia works closely with TSC’s Social Sustainability Researcher, Matthew Lyon, to identify animal welfare standards from more than 45 national and international organizations and certifications pertaining to livestock, poultry, and eggs.  This research will assist member companies and stakeholders in improving their understanding of the types of animal welfare standards included in various organization and certification programs.

Through the externship, Sonia has been afforded the opportunity to interact with TSC’s international research team through weekly team meetings and has met with some of TSC’s local member organizations.  She has found that TSC’s externship offers excellent exposure to the variety of professional application the study of agricultural and food law provides.  Sonia is the first LL.M. student to extern with TSC and is excited to lay a foundation for future externship opportunities between TSC and the LL.M. program. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Public Radio Feature on LL.M. Program

Last week, Kyle Kellams, KUAF public radio News Director and Producer of the local radio show, Ozarks at Large, stopped by the Law School and interviewed Susan Schneider about the new distance option for the LL.M. Program.

The interview resulted in a feature story on the LL.M. Program which aired today on Ozarks at Large.  Here is a link to the podcast.  Our thanks to Kyle for his interest in our Program, the great questions he asked about our move to incorporate distance education, and the effective way that he told the story.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

LL.M. Program Announces Integrated Distance Option Beginning Fall 2014

We are proud to announce that we will be adding an innovative distance option to the LL.M. Program beginning fall 2014.

The Press Release was posted today on the University of Arkansas Newswire, Agricultural and Food Law Program Launches Distance Education Option.  This will be the first of a number of blog posts that describe the new option and what it means for the Program, our candidates, and our alumni.

Unlike most other distance LL.M. Programs, the Arkansas approach will provide full integration between enrolled face-to-face students and their online classmates. Core LL.M. classes will continue to be offered on campus. Distance students will be able to participate in real time through live video-conferencing. Classroom capture and carefully designed interactive exercises will be available when a conflict prevents a student from participating. Enrollment is limited to preserve the benefits of smaller classes.

For the new distance students, the LL.M. classroom will be wherever they are, allowing them to maintain their job and residence elsewhere.

“Typical distance programs use technology to present course material and to interact through online postings and email,” said School of Law Associate Dean Don Judges. “We use technology to also bring the classroom experience directly to distance students and to bring distance students directly into the classroom.”

In addition to courses delivered “live” with synchronous video conferencing, innovative hybrid courses and self-paced, guided online study courses will be offered. Course design is being completed with help from experienced distance learning professionals at the UA Global Campus.

“This program is an exciting opportunity for people who want to study agricultural and food law but cannot come to the Fayetteville campus to study,” said Javier Reyes, vice provost for distance learning. “The launch of the LL.M. program is the latest example of the university’s commitment to expanding educational opportunities and employing innovative teaching methods that combine Fayetteville’s academic quality and distance education’s flexibility. By providing more online programs, the university is responding to market demands and student needs.”

The popular LL.M. condensed-courses, taught by visiting experts over a period of several days will continue, with distance students encouraged to visit Fayetteville or to “conference in” to the class on their computers or tablets.

An expanded LL.M. curriculum of specialized agricultural and food law courses will be available, and the complete integration of the Program will allow students to enroll in any of the courses that are offered, maximizing the opportunities available to them.

LL.M. students attending classes on-campus in Fayetteville will benefit from the expanded curriculum and the experiential opportunities available in Northwest Arkansas.  These include participation in the Indigenous Food & Agriculture Initiative, the Food Recovery Project, and food and agriculture related externships. Graduate assistantships will generally be limited to students on campus. And, almost all of our alumni will agree that experiencing the charm of Fayetteville while getting to know your classmates is a special opportunity. Regardless, all of our students will benefit from the ability to interact with professors and students worldwide.

The Program allows students to enroll full time, completing the degree in just two semesters or part-time, with up to four years to finish.  The part time option is designed for attorneys who seek to develop specialized skills while also maintaining a busy practice.

“We are pleased to add a distance component so that lawyers throughout the global agriculture and food sectors can benefit from our unique curriculum and outstanding faculty,” said Stacy Leeds, dean of the School of Law.

For more information and to apply to the program, please visit the LL.M. program’s website.

Students Volunteer for the Pack Shack

Photo Credit: Convoy of Hope
Northwest Arkansas provides many opportunities for involvement and volunteering with local food groups.  Three of our current LL.M. students—Kathryn Smith, Erin Shirl, and Lauren Bernadett—volunteered their Friday afternoon to help pack over 25,000 healthy meals for NWA vs Hunger

NWA vs Hunger was organized by the Pack Shack, a group that provides food, hygiene items, and personal items to Northwest Arkansans in need.  The goal of NWA vs Hunger is to pack 500,000 healthy meals, collect 20,000 pounds of food drive items, and raise $5,000 for fresh produce. 

Our students volunteered on the assembly line and combined the ingredients in bagged meals.  Each bagged meal included dehydrated vegetables, dried soy and rice, and vitamin supplements.  The experience was fun and, of course, very rewarding.

Events such as this help provide needy individuals and families with direct access to food.  Our students realize that their careers can impact food policies and achieve long-term food access goals on both local and national scales, but direct access to food can provide more immediate support.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Univ. of Arkansas School of Law Continues Dramatic Rise in National Rankings

The U.S. News & World Report 2015 law school rankings are out. The University of Arkansas School of Law is ranked in the top tier of law schools for the sixth consecutive year, increasing 7 points over last year.  It is now tied for 61st place overall and 33rd among public law schools. It has moved up 47 places in the overall ranking since 2008, and 12 places in the public ranking since 2011.

“Our outstanding career placement and bar passage rates speak to the quality education our students receive,” said Stacy Leeds,  Dean of the School of Law. “Our national standing and low tuition reinforce our reputation as one of the best values in legal education.”

The U.S. News ranks law schools based on a peer assessment score, an assessment by lawyers and judges, the student/faculty ratio, bar exam passage rates, post-graduation employment rates, and other measures.

Two other graduate programs at the University of Arkansas showed impressive gains in the rankings in U.S. News and World Report’s 2015 edition of Best Graduate Schools.

The College of Education and Health Professions’ graduate education programs moved up nearly 50 places in the overall rankings; the Sam M. Walton College of Business M.B.A. program moved up 11 places in the rankings, but even more notable, it continued to lead the nation in the number of full-time Master of Business Administration graduates employed at graduation.

“This progress in the recognition of University of Arkansas graduate programs is very impressive, and truly a mark of the hard work that is being done on our campus,” said Chancellor G. David Gearhart. “Strong graduate school programs are one of the hallmarks of any great public research university, and these rankings are proof that we are steadily moving toward our goal, to be recognized as a Top 50 public research university.”

Achieving the Top 50 goal would mean that the University of Arkansas ranks among the top 8 percent of all public research universities in America.

"This is a testament to the entire university's commitment to graduate education," said Todd Shields, dean of the Graduate School and International Education. "Programs in three distinct areas are climbing at significant rates, which happens only through the hard work of many people. Deans Smith, Leeds and Jones should be very proud of the accomplishments shown here."

The full University of Arkansas Press release is available on UA Newswire.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Todd Heyman Publishes his LL.M. Final Article in Columbia Journal

Congratulations to 2013 LL.M. Program graduate, Todd Heyman, for the recent publication of his final LL.M. article in the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law.  Todd's article is titled, Why the Commercial Speech Doctrine Will Prove Toxic to the USDA National Organic Program.

In the article, Todd describes a situation where a farmer using organic practices is frustrated with the organic certification process and seeks elimination of the process as a violation of her commercial speech rights.  From this hypothetical, a very realistic scenario, Todd examines the value of the National Organic Program and then discusses the commercial speech doctrine as applied to that Program.  He warns that "valuable regulatory tools" such as the National Organic Program may well be "in jeopardy" under the heightened scrutiny suggested in the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision of Sorrell v. IMS Health, Inc.  The article is thought-provoking, well researched, and well written. We are proud of Todd's work and happy to have him as one of our alumni.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

LL.M. Students and Alumni Present at PIELC 2014

Last week, three of our current LL.M. candidates and an alumna served together on a panel at the 32nd annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) at the University of Oregon School of Law.  PIELC is one of the foremost environmental law conferences in the country and attracts thousands of lawyers, scientists, activists, and community members to share their ideas, experience, and expertise.

Kathryn Smith, Kelly Damewood, Lauren Bernadett, and Pamela Vesilind each presented on a separate topic for their panel, titled Food, Technology, and the Environment.  The presentations shared a common theme of discussing issues where these three fields collide.

Kathryn’s presentation addressed the environmental harms from agricultural runoff, current federal conservation programs, and agricultural conservation practices and new technologies that farmers can utilize to curb the negative environmental impacts.  Kelly discussed nanotechnology and emerging contaminants.  Lauren presented on genetically engineered (GE) salmon and the FDA’s evaluation and regulatory process for GE animals.  Pamela, currently a Visiting Assistant Professor with the University of Arkansas School of Law, addressed the development of in vitro meat and discussed whether it might solve any problems currently associated with industrialized livestock production.

The panel was staged in a large lecture hall at the law school and received an excellent turnout.  One audience member was Adam Soliman, who graduated from the LL.M. program with Pamela and has since started the Fisheries Law Centre, a non-profit focusing on fisheries law.  Adam presented at PIELC the day before on his work with community supported fisheries.  The conference was a wonderful opportunity for Adam and some of our current LL.M. students to meet.

The conference was an excellent networking opportunity for our students, as many attorneys from public interest groups that focus on food and agriculture issues, such as the Center for Food Safety and Food and Water Watch, were in attendance.  Additionally, the students took the panel as an opportunity to share information about the LL.M. program and our Food Recovery Project by making our new marketing materials available after the panel. 

We are very proud to support our students’ conference experiences, both financially and academically, as conferences are important networking opportunities and a great way to share ideas with and learn from other professionals.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Alumni News, Lauren Medoff

We continue to receive good news from our Alumni with new position announcements, this one from Lauren Medoff.

Congratulations to Lauren Medoff on her recent promotion to Senior Counsel with AdvoCare International, L.P. AdvoCare is a premier health and wellness direct-selling company that offers energy, weight-loss, nutrition, and sports performance products. Lauren reports that her work focuses on research and development to improve the AdvoCare product line, as well as lobbying for state and federal matters affecting both the direct-selling and supplement industry. In addition, Lauren trains distributors on policy and procedure, while also working on state and federal compliance issues.

Lauren was in the LL.M. class of 2011. She obtained her J.D. degree cum laude, from the University of Miami; her B.A. degree, cum laude from the University of Florida, with a major in Psychology; and her B.S. degree, University of Florida, cum laude with a degree in Criminology. Lauren served as a Federal Certified Legal Intern with the U.S. Attorney's office working on issues involving food safety and criminal liability.  She served as a Research Assistant to Professor Susan Schneider during her LL.M. studies.

Lauren's position with AdvoCare perfectly blends her interests in sports and nutrition, and as Lauren accurately states, this placement is "another win for the LL.M. family." Congratulations Lauren!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Why Study Agricultural & Food Law?

A new version of this slideshow, explaining why agricultural law and food law is a critical area of legal study -  and what a difference attorneys can make.  Visit our website for more information or to apply. A limited number of Graduate Assistantships will be available for our students in residence.  We anticipate final approval and a formal announcement regarding our distance program soon.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Harvard Food Safety Conference: LL.M. Connections

A timely conference on food safety was recently held at Harvard Law School.  New Directions for Food Safety: The Food Safety Modernization Act and Beyond was sponsored by the Petrie-Flom Center, the Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic (a division of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation), the new Harvard Food Law Lab, and the Harvard Food Law Society (with support from the Top University Strategic Alliance and the Dean's Office at Harvard Law School).

Peter Barton Hutt delivered the keynote address for the conference.  Professor Hutt is a senior counsel at the Washington, D.C. law firm Covington & Burling.  He has taught a food and drug law course at Harvard for over 20 years and has co-authored the Food and Drug Law casebook.  We were proud to have Professor Hutt teach a condensed courses in the LL.M. Program in 2012 and look forward to his return to Arkansas.

LL.M. Alumnus Michael Roberts was one of the presenters at the conference. Michael serves as the Director of the new Resnick Food Law and Policy Program at UCLA School of Law. His presentation topic was, The Regulation of Food Fraud Under FSMA: A Triggering of Obligations.  We are pleased to participate in a collaboration with The Resnick Center and the Drake University Agricultural Law Center on agricultural and food law issues.

Recent LL.M. Alumna Alli Condra (Class of 2012) also presented at the conference. Alli serves as a Clinical Fellow at the Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic (a division of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation).  This year, much of her work focused on the proposed food safety rules applicable to to farms and drafting extensive comments to those rules.  She addressed those rules in her presentation at the conference, FSMA and Farm Consolidation.

Another of the excellent speakers presenting at the conference was Denis Stearns, Professor in Practice from Seattle University School of Law.  Professor Stearns is a founding partner of Marler Clark, the Seattle-based law firm that is nationally recognized for their representation of victims of food borne illness.  Marler Clark has a close relationship with the LL.M. Program, sponsoring the Marler Clark Graduate Assistantship, and Professor Stearns has co-taught a condensed course in the LL.M. Program with Bill Marler.  Professor Stearns presented on Turning a Black Swan White: Questioning the Need for Regulation of Non-Industrial Agriculture.