UI College of Law launches new environmental initiative after receiving $5 million donation

The Hubbell Environmental Law Initiative, or HELI, will promote academic and professional development, partnerships, and engagement opportunities for students interested in environmental law.


Lilly Stence

James McCalley speaks during Panel 3 for the Hubbell Environmental Law Inititative at the University of Iowa College of Law in Iowa City on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022.

Sydney Libert, News Reporter

The University of Iowa College of Law created an initiative for students to learn about environmental law through mentorship and public discussions on hot-button issues. 

College of Law class of 1976 alumni Charlotte and Fred Hubbell gifted the college $5 million in November 2021 to establish the Hubbell Environmental Law Initiative. The commitment is the largest in the college’s history.

The initiative hosted a three-part panel on Oct. 11 surrounding the discourse of solar energy practices and policies. The event featured speakers from the Iowa municipal and state government, environmental organizations, sustainable energy companies, and university professors.

UI College of Law dean Kevin Washburn said at the event that the initiative seeks to contribute to actionable solutions to environmental problems by strengthening the environmental law bar and bringing people together.

“The initiative will be a critical resource for today’s students who are tomorrow’s lawyers,” Washburn said. “Providing opportunities for students to gain experience is an important part of this endeavor.”

City of Iowa City climate action coordinator Sarah Gardner said it is important to recognize legal issues regarding the environmental as a bundle of challenges. 

“There are financial challenges, cultural challenges, even engineering challenges, and it’s on all of us to think about how we can be working through all of those things to get the solar future we want,” Gardner said.

The initiative will hold its second and final event of the semester on Nov. 7, a virtual and in-person panel at the Boyd Law Building focusing on carbon pipelines across the state of Iowa. 

The initiative will host panel discussions and plans to bring speakers and practitioners throughout the academic year.

In the future, the initiative’s program Director Blake Rupe said she wants to grow the program to be an academic and networking resource for students.

“There are a lot of opportunities that are not shared or available to a lot of different people, but I think having these networks and mentorship as we go forward will help strengthen the state and the college here itself,” Rupe said.

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The initiative will also provide financial support for environmental law students in fall 2022 who have Hubbell Environmental Law scholarships. The students will receive $5,000 grants for unpaid summer environmental law internships at government agencies or nonprofits.

Students will also be able to have access to networking opportunities, such as speaking to UI Law alumni who will serve as mentors, advisors, and speakers to support their professional development and engage with others who work within environmental law fields.

While events and programs may refer to current policies and issues relating to the environment, Rupe said participants are not required to know much about the background of issues to interact with and attend the initiative’s events.

“There are a lot of opportunities to get to the law school … there’s a bridge to the law school through engineering, through math basically any STEM field,” Rupe said. “We need a lot of different minds to study and solve these problems.”