NCCU Law Students Awarded 2011 EPA Fellowships

Posted on Friday, July 8, 2011

Five North Carolina Central University School of Law students have been awarded prestigious EPA Fellowships for 2011. The EPA Fellowship program is a collaborative effort among North Carolina Central University School of Law (NCCU), the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Vermont Law School (VLS).

NCCU Law Students at Vermont Law School. Front row, left to right: VLS Dean Jeff Shields, Ayiesha Dobson, Samantha Russ, Nicholas Ortolano, Jordan Ford. Back row: Joshua Byrd, VLS Dean of Students Shirley Jefferson, NCCU Professor Kevin Foy

Now in its second year, the Fellowship program (valued at $18,000 per Fellow) offers the opportunity for NCCU law students to work in paid positions at the EPA during the summer, and also to attend classes and seminars at VLS. The EPA has a large facility near NCCU’s campus in Durham, North Carolina, where it conducts research and rulemaking for the Clean Air Act, and the facility’s director, Ben Scaggs, has provided instrumental support to the Fellowship program. The EPA Fellows, however, are posted at the agency’s Office of General Counsel in Washington, D.C., and the Office of Regional Counsel in Boston, Massachusetts.

VLS offers the nation’s premiere environmental law curriculum. Combining the two provides EPA Fellows with a unique summer experience that gives them a chance to work with practicing attorneys on a wide range of issues, while also helping them build a strong academic foundation. This summer the EPA’s Boston office also sponsored an intensive two-day career opportunities workshop and field trips to visit Brownfield sites, LEED certified buildings, and the Deer Island sewage treatment facility – which cleaned up Boston Harbor as the result of a decade-long EPA effort.

The EPA Fellows are:

Joshua Byrd

Joshua is a second-year law student from Atlanta. His childhood experiences with poverty, violence, and the untimely death of several of his peers stimulated his interest in understanding crime. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Georgia State University and a master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati. Joshua and his wife have two young children.

After working with hazardous materials in the Marine Corps and managing hazardous waste programs as an Environmental Protection Specialist for the Department of the Navy, Joshua’s interests shifted from street crimes to environmental crimes. He plans to continue focusing on environmental crimes after graduating from law school.

As an EPA Fellow, Joshua is working at EPA’s Boston Office of Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. His research assignments deal with environmental justice issues, waste disposal at Superfund sites, and the EPA’s role in regulating biotechnology and nanotechnology. At VLS he studied the myriad options and obstacles, including technological and political, for renewable energy.

Ayiesha Vinson-Dobson

Ayiesha is a third-year law student. She has an undergraduate degree in political science from North Carolina State University, where she graduated cum laude. This summer she is working on a variety of assignments at EPA’s Washington, D.C., headquarters in the Office of General Counsel. These assignments include issues dealing with the Emoluments Clause and the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act and how the Office of Legal Counsel and federal courts have interpreted the Clause and the Act. She has also researched issues regarding the Brownfield Amendments. Ayiesha drafted a memo analyzing the Supreme Court’s Stanford v. Roche decision regarding intellectual property and patent law. She also wrote a case summary for the Cross-Cutting Issues Law Office newsletter regarding the Auer deference standard.

At VLS, Ayiesha studied environmental justice and sustainable development with Professor Barry Hill. She says that the Fellowship has provided her with “invaluable hands-on experience,” and her colleagues expect her work to “meet the same standards as other practicing attorneys at the agency.”

Jordan Ford

Jordan is a third-year law student. Currently vice-president of the law school’s Environmental Law Society, he is originally from Tabor City, North Carolina, but has spent the past six years in Raleigh. Jordan graduated magna cum laude from North Carolina State University with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and a minor in political science. He is stationed at the EPA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC) in Washington, D.C. Jordan has worked with a variety of different offices in OGC, including the Civil Rights and Finance Law Office and the Cross-Cutting Issues Law Office. During the summer session at Vermont Law School, he studied with Professor Barry Hill in a course on environmental law and sustainable development. He is writing an article on the environmental justice aspects of locating and operating Confined Animal Feeding Operations.

Nicholas Ortolano

Nick is a second-year law student. His mother is from South Korea and his father served for twenty years in the United States Marine Corps. Nick was born in California and lived in Japan for five years, but is now a native of North Carolina, where he and his wife plan to continue living after he graduates from law school. He received his bachelor’s degree in journalism and public relations from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This summer Nick is working at the EPA’s Boston office in the Criminal Enforcement division of the Office of Environmental Stewardship, focusing on the more egregious violations of environmental and other federal laws. His academic work at VLS is centered on renewable energy law and policy.

Samantha R. Russ

Samantha is a second-year law student. She was born in Germany but raised in North Carolina, where her father was based as a member of the U.S. Military. She is a summa cum laude graduate of North Carolina Central University, which she attended on a merit scholarship, receiving her bachelor’s degree in political science. She worked this summer at the Boston Office of the Regional Administrator on issues regarding community involvement in decisions affecting the environment. She also worked with the Regional Counsel’s office on a matter involving a Rhode Island Indian Tribe. The issue addressed the intersection of federal and state law as it applies to Indian tribes, specifically looking at matters of concurrent jurisdiction.

At VLS, Samantha studied with Professor David Wirth investigating matters of international trade and the environment.