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UVM Is: Jody Prescott Encouraging Students to Embrace Opportunity

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Jody Prescott’s day job is working for Immigration and Customs Enforcement as an environmental attorney. The retired U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps officer is also a part-time instructor at UVM, teaching courses in environmental law and cybersecurity.

Prescott, UVM ’83, shares thoughts on what he enjoys most about working with students.

What do you enjoy most about teaching at UVM?

It means a lot to me to be teaching where I went to school and where I met my wife, Brenda. Our children went to UVM as well.

How do UVM students inspire you?

What I really like about my job at UVM is seeing students engage in a very meaningful way. I am inspired by their energy and their willingness to question what they hear and see going on around them. I treat the people in my classes not so much as students, but as young associates.

I’m used to students checking the things I say in class on their smartphones and laptops in real time—I am not always right and I don’t expect to be. I’m not an academic, but I do have life experiences and perspectives that are a bit different than what one ordinarily finds here. I am inspired that my students are open to assessing them.

How do UVM students make you hopeful for the future?

The very high level of engagement and understanding that I see in them with important issues such as climate change and cybersecurity makes me hopeful. Importantly, I see this engagement and understanding being coupled with pragmatism and a willingness to invest in the hard work necessary to accomplish tangible results in these areas.

What kind of opportunities do students have to address environmental issues and climate change?

Today’s students have opportunities to get involved in many different ways with these important issues—opportunities that frankly didn’t exist when I was an undergrad. However, I am not so concerned with them addressing these issues today as students as I am with helping them grow the skills and realistic and inquiring perspectives that they could use to greater effect in the future.

If you could share one piece of advice to students about their future, what would it be?

In my own experience, there is rarely a straight path forward to where you think you want to end up. That said, you need a plan, and you need to revisit it often. Plans only work out part of the time, but if you keep them flexible, and you work with the realities that life hands you, you can develop skills and capabilities that will be there when opportunities arise.

-Our “UVM Is” series celebrates University faculty, educators, and the campus community.

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