“I’m excited to switch back to law school after being entrenched in public policy. It involves a different kind of writing and other kinds of rigors and routines,” says Jacob Fishman, the first student on track to complete the new, joint Masters of Science in Law and Public Policy (JD-MS) program.
Fishman had known for a long time that he wanted to go to law school. “I’m a child of divorce and that prompted me to want to practice family law,” he says.
But as an undergrad at James Madison University, he realized how emotionally taxing it would be to practice family law. At the same time, his sociology professor recommended he read Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, about how eating choices impact health, the environment, politics and the economy.
“It completely changed my life,” he says. “It opened my eyes to the way I look at food and nutrition and the state of the U.S. food system,” he says.
Fishman was still attracted to practicing law and liked the idea of channeling his passion to create change around food systems. So when he learned about the JD-MS program, it was a clear fit. He has studied food systems in depth during a course devoted to the topic and has worked closely with professor Christopher Bosso on a case study examining the use of nanotechnology in food production.
“We looked at the pros and cons of using technology involving these incredibly small particles and materials,” he says. “We examined the policy angles and considered the topic ethically, legally and morally. For example, like GMOs, they’re used in food and packaging without labeling requirements and there aren’t any long-term studies on how they could affect people’s health.”
His Public Policy capstone project also dovetailed with his passion for this kind of work. For Greenovate Boston, a project out of Mayor Thomas Menino’s department, his group researched the idea of placing food waste disposers throughout city. They looked at the proposition from every angle: potential tax incentives; the feasibility of installing disposals; building codes; what would make them desirable for residents and landlords; cost savings for the city.
Looking ahead to after law school graduation next year, Fishman sees many potential career possibilities. “Eating is such an intimate activity—what you eat actually becomes you,” he says. “And when people think something is healthy and it’s the opposite—or there’s no way to tell what’s really in food or where it’s made—seems wrong. Food is such an integral part of everyone’s day-to-day lives and so connected to their health. I am happy to play a role in it.”