HLS Alumna Grace Nosek J.D. ’14 was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to conduct research. She is one of 22 students from across Harvard University to receive the prestigious grant.
As a student at Harvard Law School, Grace participated in the Clinical and Pro Bono Programs. Taking pride in her achievement, we reached out and asked her to tell us about her work with the Fulbright Fellowship and her time at the law school. Please read the interview below.
OCP: Why did you choose to study law and what sparked your interest in the Fulbright Scholarship?
GN: As a child, I was mesmerized by the color of a spring afternoon and the iridescence of a twilit forest. This love of the natural world led me to study environmental issues throughout my academic career. I also cared deeply about the connection between social justice and environmental issues. Watching one’s crops wither and die, not having clean air to breathe or clean water to drink—these realities represent a uniquely oppressive kind of helplessness. Wanting to both protect the natural world and empower citizens with a voice in government decision-making, I decided to study law.
Many of the most intractable environmental issues of our time require international cooperation; they also present opportunities for countries to learn from one another. Thus the Fulbright fellowship seemed like a perfect opportunity to continue working on the issues that brought me to law school.
OCP: How did your time at Harvard Law School influence your decision to pursue a Fulbright Scholarship?
GN: My time at the Food Law and Policy Clinic showed me how much I loved working on policy research. I also found myself returning to a theme that emerged throughout my classes, and especially during my experiences with the Clinical and Pro Bono Program, which was the inextricable connection between all social justice issues. I wanted to continue exploring those connections, taking a holistic vision of environmental and environmental justice issues. There are few better ways to force yourself to gain new perspective on issues than to explore them through the lens of another country’s legal regime. It has been incredibly intellectually engaging to begin that process as I settle into my fellowship in Victoria, BC.
OCP: What did you find most challenging about your experience in the Clinical and Pro Bono Programs?
GN: The clinical programs push you from theory to practice—they give you a lot of responsibility, which is very different from the insulated world of the classroom. I was challenged by but also reveled in that responsibility. While at the Food Law and Policy Clinic, I honed my research and interviewing skills as a co-author of a comprehensive policy report on food waste in America, produced in partnership between the Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The report required that I reach out to a diverse set of stakeholders, including scientists, industry representatives, government actors at the state and national levels, and non-profit advocates. I felt pushed but also supported, which for me is the sweet spot for personal and academic growth.
It was nothing short of thrilling to dive into my work, knowing that all my hours tracking down various data about food date labels would make a tangible difference in American food policy. The clinics also provided a space for less conventional avenues of learning and advocacy that I really appreciated. When I approached my supervisor at the Food Law and Policy Clinic, Emily Broad Leib, about making a short film to raise awareness on food waste, she was incredibly encouraging. Experimenting with creative advocacy and film (a medium I had never before worked with) was one of the most meaningful experiences I had at HLS. (You can see the results of this experimentation here.)
My experience with the Clinical and Pro Bono Program taught me to be open and creative and to roll with unexpected challenges. These skills have been invaluable as I’ve explored new legal regimes during my Fulbright fellowship.
OCP: What can you tell us about the work you’ll be doing as a Fulbright Scholar?
GN: I’ll be conducting a comparative study into how governments in Canada and America can ensure citizen participation in energy infrastructure decisions. Supervised by Chris Tollefson, professor at the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre, my research project will include a comprehensive review of the legal and regulatory regimes surrounding pipeline approval.