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Albany Law School selects next president

Professor Cinnamon Piñon Carlarne
Photo provided
Professor Cinnamon Piñon Carlarne

Albany Law School has named its next president.

On July 1st, Professor Cinnamon Piñon Carlarne will take over as Albany’s 19th president and dean after a national search. She will replace Alicia Ouellette, who is stepping down after nine years.

A leading international expert in environmental and climate change law policy, Carlarne is coming to New York from Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, where she is currently Associate Dean for Faculty and Intellectual Life.

Albany Law School is the oldest independent law school in the country and it has a long history and a reputation of being a very innovative law school that's committed to progressive experienced legal education, but it's also very committed to diversity and inclusion and really educating the next generation of lawyers and leaders in a way that prepares them for the really very complex challenges of our time. And so I've known about Albany Law School since I entered academia and so when the opportunity arose, I was, of course, very excited. And I will also say it's an incredibly warm and collegial community filled with outstanding field leading scholars as well.

So I understand that you're an expert on environmental and climate law. And here in New York state, the state just released its sort of roadmap, they call it a scoping plan to help meet it's ambitious, clean energy goals. So I wanted to ask you about how important it is to educate the next generation of lawyers on climate policy?

Oh, absolutely. So this is one of the many things that I'm very passionate about. That climate change is a challenge that really ripples across society in a variety of ways. it implicates everything from the air we breathe, the water we drink, just to the kind of the health and well-being of the populace as a whole. And so I think that education around climate change, and the possibilities of using and really drawing upon the rule of law in the context of climate change, to ensure a safer and better future for everyone is incredibly important. And of course, it's really exciting to be moving to a state such as New York, which has been very progressive in the climate change context. And both New York City and New York State are really leaders in thinking about climate change from both a mitigation and adaptation perspective. And so that's an exciting part of joining the New York community. And there's already folks at Albany Law School who are really thinking about these issues and working on these issues and so it's a terrific opportunity to join an engaged community that's thinking progressively in this space.

So in other words, there are things that happen in New York State with policy climate as an example, that set examples that other states pick up down the line. So it must be really important then, to get it right in New York?

That's right. So what you see and in the context of environmental law, and climate change, is the importance really, of leadership and state serving as the laboratories of democracy and the kind of the process of iterative learning and when you think about leaders in the space of their states, like New York, Massachusetts, and California, and so it's absolutely important that these states are really thinking deeply and collectively about how to address these challenges. Now, whether or not you get it right from the beginning, of course, with the rule of law, it's always an iterative learning process. But it is really, really important at this stage when we're thinking about climate change law and policy, in particular, to have a very engaged process when we're thinking about building the rule of law and a process that hears the voices of everyone that's involved, because what you see in the climate change context is it affects everyone. Of course, it affects particular communities, disproportionately. And one of the things that New York is doing and it's really thinking hard about doing is how to make sure that the law and policymaking processes very inclusive and iterative in ways that really do set a great example for other states and other communities.

Albany laws Immigration Law Clinic in upstate New York made headlines during the Trump years when migrants from the southern border were housed at the Albany County Jail. The Law Clinic provided legal services and it also received an army of volunteers from across the area for translation help. Now fast forward a few years later, you have Republican governors in southern states sending migrants to New York and other liberal states. So what do you see as the importance of the Immigration Law Clinic and would you want to see possibly an expansion or bolstering of the Law Clinic?

So I think that the Immigration Law Clinic is exceptional and is one of the things that I was very impressed with when I started to learn more about Albany Law School and I will say at Ohio State, we just started our immigration law clinic about a year ago, and we've done a lot of learning from other schools that have had an Immigration Law Clinic longer and have been doing this kind of work. And Albany Law School is definitely one of those clinics. And I think our immigration challenges and the challenges around that kind of the federalism questions that are arising, as you say, between the some of the northern states and the southern states, are not likely to get better in the near future. And so these clinics play incredibly important roles. And, you know, the lives of people, the everyday lives of people. And so I would love to see this, the continuing commitment to this clinic, and love to make sure that this clinic is able to do the work that they have been doing that they feel supported, and they feel like they have the resources that they need to continue to do the excellent work they've been doing for many years now, and really just created a model for other clinics nationwide.

Going back to our earlier discussion on environmental law and climate change, and tying in with immigration law. I've thought about climate refugees, and soon there will be a time there already is a time now where people are leaving their homes to come to places where it's cooler to escape a changing climate. How do you see this problem? And how do we need to prepare for it?

Climate migration is actually a very serious issue. And it's one that we're already encountering, both domestically and internationally. And so what you're starting to see is in the parts of the world that are kind of the earliest and worst hit by climate change, folks are being displaced. And of course, climate change intersects with other kinds of threats to stability, economic, political. And so we're starting to see the increased patterns of immigration internationally that can be attributed to climate change. But also domestically, what we're starting to see are increased patterns of domestic movement as a result of climate change. And in particular, some of the communities that are being hardest hit earliest on are indigenous communities, and communities of color. And so climate migration is a very serious issue. And so what you're starting to see is that there are different types of communities that are affected by this, the communities where you're seeing climate crises, whether it's fire, sea level rise, and then you're seeing the communities to which these climate migrants are moving. And then of course, you're also starting to see communities that are trying to make themselves home to climate migrants. And so there's kind of trying to imagine themselves as climate havens. And so this is a challenge that really, again, folks at Albany Law Schools and thinking about these issues and writing about these issues, really at the intersection of climate law and immigration law. And so it's incredibly exciting to be joining a community that's thinking about one of the issues that we're going to be thinking about and dealing with in the coming decades.

Currently, it appears to me that private colleges and universities are struggling a bit as especially schools that have a tuition based model. Not too far away from here, where I'm speaking to you from Albany, in Cazenovia, New York, Caz College, a private liberal arts school will be closing at the end of the spring semester. Are there other similar fiscal challenges that are facing law schools and private institutions like Albany Law?

Absolutely. I mean, one of the challenges that law schools across the country, both public and private, are facing, it's just thinking about the cost of education and the barriers that that creates for making legal education truly accessible to a very diverse and broad range of students. And so this is a challenge that many, many law schools are thinking about, including Albany Law School, and Albany Law School has actually been doing very, very innovative thinking in this context, thinking about how to ensure that even as the cost of legal education goes up, that it doesn't create barriers to having a truly kind of diverse and inclusive community. And so one of the ways that they're thinking about doing that is, of course, also thinking about fundraising, that helps with scholarships, as many schools are, but also thinking about how to diversify the curriculum, to create new ways that students can both access legal education through masters courses through online learning. And then also just doing lots and lots of hard work to make sure that the students have the support they need so that they don't have excess debt when they graduate. And so this is definitely a challenge that all of legal education is facing. Private schools in particular, as you suggest, but it's also one where there's lots of innovative thinking and learning taking place. And Albany Law School is actually at the forefront of that, and thinking about how to diversify the curriculum to make sure that legal education remains accessible, not just for the elite, but for many different kinds of students who want to be a part of thinking about the role that the rule of law plays in society.

And along those lines, part of that I understand and attracting students is outreach and so how could you approach students get people interested in pursuing a career in law? Does that start at the high school level? Does it start when someone is looking for colleges, where does that actually start?

Yeah, I think it starts at all of those places. I actually think that it's really, really important to be creative and thinking about how to reach different audiences. And one of the ways to do that is, as you suggest, to create different kinds of pipelines. And so there are more programs. And I know this is something that Albany Law School is thinking about and working on to create pipelines. We're even beginning in the high school years, he'd have summer programs where you bring in students from all different areas to come in and have a little bit of access to learning about what the law is how the law operates, why the rule of law is so important, and why it's so important that we have diverse voices that are working in this space. And so creating kind of these high school pipeline programs, and then doing outreach in colleges is really important as well. And I know, for example, a number of Albany Law School faculty already do that. They go and speak to college classes, they tell them about what law school really is, because of course, from the outside. And it's hard to really kind of appreciate what happens in the law school context, and how important it is to actually have a very diverse and inclusive group of folks that are learning about the law, and then going out into the world and making informed decisions with respect to the rule of law. So I do think that it's important to do outreach at every level and in lots of different contexts. And this is something that Albany Law School has really been working on and being very creative about. And I'm really excited to join those efforts.

Is there anything else that you're particularly excited about jumping into when you make the trek from Ohio to Albany in the summer?

Yeah, I mean, there's a few things about Albany Law School that are just really exciting to me. The first is it's a vibrant law school that's in the capitol, and has all these amazing connections to the Capitol Region. And it has a real, it's very invested in the local and regional community. And you can see that kind of through the decade's worth of alumni who are working in the Capital Region, and are really committed to making sure that the rule of law remains a really powerful force for good in the world. And so that's really exciting. And also, it's just a community that is just in a very dynamic moment. They've been thinking and being really creative about lots of the challenges that you mentioned, legal education as a whole is facing, how to keep legal education affordable, how to make sure that we're including a variety of voices and perspectives within the legal community. You know, how to address some of the greatest challenges of our time, as you mentioned, Albany Law School is already a leader in thinking about questions of immigration, thinking about questions of kind of governmental operations, thinking about health, cybersecurity, and of course, environment and climate change. We're starting to build just kind of adaptive expertise. And folks who are really out there working in the community. And so that vibrancy, that commitment to really making a difference in the world is what really excites me about Albany Law School. It really is a community that is engaged and really thinking about educating the next generation of lawyers and leaders and doing so in a way that's attentive to kind of the greatest challenges of our time.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.