Making the Most of Policy
Nick Ravotti was accustomed to moving around frequently during his youth, spending most of his time in Athens, Ga. and, by the time he turned eighteen, Brooklyn, N.Y. What caught him by surprise was the allure of a rural setting that, despite its small size, opened up big opportunities for the aspiring law student.
“It’s funny,” Nick says. “But I kind of stumbled upon GMC accidentally.” He had already decided it was time to go back to college, after after deciding not to pursue his degree in psychology and art therapy at the well-regarded New School University in NYC. “Three years into my degree, I realized that this was the worst possible avenue for me personally,” he says. As hard as it was then, Nick trusted his gut and left the New School and revaluated his priorities.
“There came I point where I had to admit to myself that the intersections I’ve had with the natural world have always been, and still are, defining to who I am as a person.” During this transitional period, Nick had done some work with the Sierra Club and did a fair deal of legislative tracking, effectively cementing his interest in policy.
“I realized that I really wanted to study something in the environmental field and that my options would be limited in New York,” he says. Ironically, Nick had plans to attend college at Alaska Pacific, one of GMC’s eco-league partners, but realized that he wouldn’t need to travel so far away from his home state’s border to find an institution that was passionate about environmental policy.
After making his roundabout way to Poultney, Nick began to appreciate the close-knit relationships that GMC has between its faculty and the student body. “Coming from a larger school, I can tell you that it’s the most undervalued asset that the school has,” he says.
Nick had also found a sense of academic rigor that he hadn’t seen anywhere else—that was rooted not only in a cohesive class curriculum, but also service learning. Nick played a large role in constructing the greenhouses on the farm, which was something he had never done before. Although somewhat stressful, Nick said the project was worth it, not only because of the valuable research the Vermont area will benefit from, but also because it drastically extends our community’s growing season.
He also plugged himself into the Pre-Law program, where he found GMC’s approach to be very compelling. “We were actually thinking critically about law and taking the time to discuss, whereas in law school you’re pretty much just learning the law without making time to question it,” Nick says. He’s also enjoyed the many conferences that the club has attended over the years.
All of Nick’s work paid off considerably, as he was last year’s recipient of the esteemed Udall Award, named after brothers Stewart and Morris Udall— congressmen who championed environmental causes during their tenure. By receiving the award, Nick has been welcomed into a network of like-minded students all over the country, whose academic interests all focus on conservation and other environmental efforts. “They flew all of the scholars over to Arizona to hang out and get to know each other… it was great fun,” he says. “It was extraordinarily humbling to receive the award and be a part of a group of people that I found so fascinating.”
Nick is confident that his experiences at GMC will give him an edge as he considers his future plans: going through bar exams, attending law school, and gaining crucial experience inside the courtroom. He says his dream job would be to work with a group like Earth Justice, a law firm that has supported the Sierra Club many times.
“It’s very interesting to me, and maybe this what keeps me going about environmental advocacy, that I could end up making changes in the natural world through the human systems we’ve created. That’s a really great opportunity.”
By Chad Skiles ‘12