M.S.L.S. Graduates Address Systemic Inequities and Propose Sustainable Solutions

Two 2023 grads of the Master of Science in Legal Studies program, Eufard Cooper and Uriah Nalikak, were attracted to Cornell Law for different reasons. Cooper, M.S.L.S. ’23, who has built a career in finance, has been using his work at CES Utility Solutions to advise utilities and green energy developers. Uriah Nalikak, M.S.L.S. ’23, who was raised in Alaska, has dedicated his career to improving the well-being of Native Alaskans.

Together, they are fulfilling “the premise of our law school, which is to inform and nurture a group of astute, broad-minded, and ethically grounded business leaders in the finest sense,” said Diogo Magalhães, academic director of the M.S.L.S. program, talking at graduation on August 12. “Your capstone projects clearly demonstrate that you have both mastered the skills we taught you and that you have used them to address systemic inequities, corporate sustainability challenges, and other important societal problems we face today.”

For Nalikak, the knowledge acquired will advance efforts to set up a system of food banks to ensure Native communities have access to necessary resources. The key to building a successful food distribution system, he says, is to continuously engage the Native communities, understand their tastes and traditions, provide options for diverse and healthy foods, practice safety in food handling, storage, and distribution, and raise awareness for all those impacted.

Though he focused his capstone on the Utqiaqvik community on the northernmost coast of Alaska, Nalikak believes the lessons learned are universal: “There are food deserts throughout the lower 48 where people don’t have access to the right foods,” he says. “Just telling them what they need is not the right approach. Asking them and respecting their values while setting up a distribution system responsive to their needs and supported by the regulations and policies in place can both nourish and empower people.”

Similarly, providing access to affordable energy in outlying communities requires systems and programs “to meet people where they are,” says Cooper, who did his capstone project on “The Road to Energy Equity.” As CEO of CES Utility Solutions, Cooper helps clients in utilities and green energy development manage risk and improve asset safety and performance. “The idea of the capstone is to identify opportunities in green energy to allow underserved communities access to equitable solutions,” he says. “Much of today’s push for green energy is policybased. Political layers get in the way. Any equitable system also needs to engage the community, not talk down to them or simply offer discounts. The community should have an ownership stake of some kind in a truly equitable system.”

Now, with degree in hand, and inspired by Magalhães’ words at graduation, Cooper and Nalikak are prepared to “fulfill the promise and the expectation of this program and apply what you have learned to make positive changes in society.”