Erin Brennan ’15
2021 Rising Star Alumni Award
Young alumna Erin (Bennett) Brennan ’15, attorney at law, is a dynamo whose impressive accomplishments as a leader and advocate are making positive impacts in the Vermont community. An attorney for the state’s Department of Public Service, Brennan represents the public interest on behalf of the state of Vermont in complex energy law matters. She litigates cases against various public utilities to ensure just and reasonable rates for residents and help improve the clean energy and climate sectors.
In an effort to assist the country with its overall carbon-reduction goals, Brennan is directly involved in the permitting of renewable energy power plants in Vermont. Recently, she advocated for lower electric vehicle charging rates to help encourage electric vehicle adoption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions stemming from the transportation sector. Furthermore, Brennan also helped draft and present legislation relating to energy policy, which included the regulation of safe electric battery storage for electricity generated by renewables.
Brennan’s professional efforts are underwritten by her desire to promote clean, safe, reliable, and affordable energy. As a summer law clerk at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Philadelphia while in law school, her contributions helped bring a large polluter to justice. Currently, Brennan is engaged in discussions to an electric bill payment assistance program for low-income Vermonters.
A student-athlete while at Ursinus, Brennan played women’s varsity soccer and earned a bachelor of science in physics with a minor in Spanish. Presently serving as a member of the college’s Alumni Council, she credits her liberal arts education for not only providing her with a breadth of knowledge spanning multiple disciplines, but also teaching her how to think critically and ask “why?” Conducting atomic physics research with Dr. Tom Carroll, professor of physics, and presenting her findings at the conclusion of her Summer Fellows experience, as well as at multiple national conferences, are among her proudest Bear memories.
As an energy law and policy student at Vermont Law School, she continued to question boundaries and barriers, specifically those related to clean energy, eventually earning a juris doctor in 2018. Recognized as a talented writer, she served in a peer-elected senior management position on the school’s Vermont Law Review and was asked by law school faculty to teach legal writing to first-year law students. She also found time to author and publish an article on near-earth asteroid mining as well as contribute a textbook chapter regarding solar energy.
Since graduation, Brennan has put her education to work advocating for affordable clean energy. Always striving to progress in her vocation, she is currently studying energy policy and climate at Johns Hopkins University. She is expected to graduate with a master of science in December 2021.
How is winning an Ursinus Alumni Award significant for you personally and professionally?
Winning an Ursinus Alumni Award, if anything, is a reminder to keep advocating for clean, safe, reliable, and affordable energy for all. The work is far from finished, but this award reminds me that advancement in this sector is underway. When I feel progress has slowed, this award will not only serve as a reminder of the significant strides already made, but a sign to keep pushing forward.
How did Ursinus College instill a desire to serve your communities?
Ursinus College not only provided me with an abundance of knowledge spanning multiple disciplines, but it forced me to think critically about almost every situation and circumstance in life. Specifically, Ursinus forced me to ask “why?” I took this question to law school and, through the law, continued to question boundaries and barriers, specifically those related to clean energy and the benefits stemming therefrom. This question of “why” regarding these barriers fuels my current legal practice. Because of Ursinus, I am a public advocate for Vermont communities, advocating for clean, accessible, and affordable energy, and more.
Why has giving back to Ursinus been important to you?
Giving back to Ursinus has been crucial to my limited time as an almuna. Ursinus afforded me the opportunity to attend law school and, subsequently, use my legal skills to serve my community. It is only appropriate that I return the favor!
What was your proudest UC moment?
My proudest UC moment(s) included conducting atomic physics research and presenting my findings at multiple conferences throughout the country. Despite the various conferences at which I presented, sharing my work at the conclusion of my Summer Fellows experience will always be my favorite.
What advice do you have for students and fellow young alumni on how to persevere in a challenging job market and economy?
This can seem daunting given the current virtual climate in which we live, but do not be afraid to put yourself out there and make connections. Send a simple introductory email to a hiring manager at a company of interest. Connect with those working in your intended area of expertise through professional platforms such as LinkedIn. Even if an organization does not appear to be hiring, reach out – you may be surprised by the outcome!