Carly Pusateri ’19, a history and political studies graduate from West Boylston, Mass., earned the distinction of being the first Colby-Sawyer student to complete the college’s dual bachelor’s and law degree program, earning a B.A. in history and political studies from Colby-Sawyer and her Master of Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School (VLS).
Passionate about the environment since childhood, Pusateri entered Colby-Sawyer as an environmental studies major but decided during her sophomore year to focus on how politics affect environmental policy. From there, she switched her major to history and political studies and was encouraged by School of Business & Social Sciences Professor Eric Boyer to consider the dual-degree option.
“I was telling a friend that I switched to history and political studies, and Professor Boyer was walking behind us,” Pusateri said. “He pardoned himself and asked if I knew about the VLS agreement and even offered to be my advisor.”
The college’s articulation agreement with VLS allows qualified students to complete a bachelor’s degree and Juris Doctor in as few as five years, or a bachelor’s and master’s degree in four. Interested students must apply to the dual-degree program by the end of their sophomore year, and those pursuing the J.D. option must take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) by February of their junior year. Master’s students are not required to take a standardized test.
For Pusateri, the specialized master’s program seemed like the perfect way to focus on her commitment to fight climate change. “Pursuing a career in this field has never been an ‘if’ for me, only a ‘when,’ ” Pusateri said. “When I was only 12 years old, I was handed a big red button that said ‘DO NOT PUSH’ when I was told I couldn’t do a project on global warming because it was ‘too controversial.’ Luckily, I had a seventh grade science teacher who told me to push that button. It’s been 10 years since, and my drive and passion for the environment has never wavered. Goals and dreams are ever-evolving, but one thing has always remained the same for me: the environment needs help — my help — and I will stop at nothing to achieve as much as I can in this field.”
Pusateri’s junior year experience as an environmental policy intern with Northeast-Midwest Institute in Washington, D.C. solidified her decision to focus on legislative advocacy for nonprofits, rather than becoming a lawyer. Boyer’s continued support helped guide her toward making a well-informed decision.
“The study of, and practice of, the law is not always what students believe it will be, so it is vitally important for an advisor to get a prospective law student some practical experience while they are an undergraduate,” Boyer explained. “If the internship solidifies an interest in the law, that is excellent; it’s even better when this experience reveals that the law is not the student’s passion, as this experience is the beginning of a larger conversation about how the student can do the work they love on a path different from law school. This is why the internship requirement for all Colby-Sawyer students is so important.”
With her degrees in hand and a passion that has never wavered, Pusateri plans to return to D.C. to pursue a career in nonprofit advocacy that makes a lasting impression.
“I hope to always make a positive impact on my surroundings,” Pusateri said. “I hope to bring an open conversation to the table on these pertinent issues that can seem divisive in our politically polarized communities. I hope to give a voice to those who don’t have a privileged platform and leave the world a better place than what it was when I started on this path.”