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Emily McCoy '14

Raised in Iowa City, Emily attended Cornell College after graduating from high school and later attended an Iowa community college. Casting about for a greater intellectual challenge, she came across an issue of Transitions magazine which included a feature on Green Mountain College.

“I was in the ‘looking for another college’ frame of mind and I was struck by how students described their experience at GMC,” she said. “One student said ‘You can’t avoid getting involved—there’s always something that pulls you in.’ I was attracted by that.”

Emily was gravitating towards sustainable agriculture as a major, and worked as an intern at a local organic farm the summer before her first semester at GMC. At the end of the experience, her supervisor told her that her real strengths were in research and policy.

Emily took that as a green light to enroll at GMC as an environmental studies major concentrating in policy, and joining the College’s pre-law program. Thoughtful and articulate by nature, Emily’s intellectual journey at GMC has convinced her that policymaking could be immensely improved when coupled with a stronger understanding of science. She’s dedicated to bridging that gap.

A paper she wrote for her animal rights class on a controversial 2010 Supreme Court ruling so impressed her professor and advisor prof. Sam Edwards that he encouraged her to submit the paper to the Animals and Society Institute and Wesleyan Animal Studies undergraduate ASI-WAS prize competition.

She wrote about the United States v Stevens case in which film producer Robert Stevens, indicted for selling videos that portrayed dogfighting, was covered by first-amendment rights of free speech, however morally objectionable his actions were. While the case was widely seen as a free-speech ruling, Emily saw a more troubling precedent being set.

“The courts are deliberately passing up on the chance to declare animal protection a compelling government interest, creating a dangerous potential,” she wrote. “The standard for deciding whether or not a targeted law is narrowly tailored enough . . . has always been that the law shall abridge ‘no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and [that the targeted speech] are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.’ If dog fighting videos are considered to be of higher social value than protecting animals from cruelty, something is very wrong with the way that United States courts interpret the country’s priorities, and there is no telling what kind of unjust rulings this precedent could lead to.”

At GMC, Emily has developed an interest in animal rights and the law, and is a member of the College’s Animal Studies Club. For her service-learning project in her animal law class she helped draft the proposal for the College’s food purchasing policy. A talented vocalist, Emily also finds time to sing in the choir and Cantorion, the College's chamber vocal ensemble.

Looking ahead, Emily plans on applying to law school—she initially had her sights set firmly on Vermont Law School, but she is considering additional options including Lewis and Clark in Portland, Ore. “From everything I’ve learned, Portland seems like a big west coast version of Iowa City,” she says. “I could feel at home there.”

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