Bensinger sets path to study at Harvard Law

Published 9:44 pm Thursday, June 5, 2014

Olivia Bensinger’s passion for the law and protecting the environment will merge as she heads to Harvard Law School in September. Messenger photo/Jaine Treadwell

Olivia Bensinger’s passion for the law and protecting the environment will merge as she heads to Harvard Law School in September.
Messenger photo/Jaine Treadwell

The waters of the Black Warrior River turned the tide of Olivia Bensinger’s life.
Bensinger was a student at the University of Alabama when she became involved in a grassroots effort to stop the proposed Shepherd Bend Mine from polluting a major drinking water supply for the greater Birmingham area.
“The University owned the mineral rights and the grassroots efforts stopped the university from selling those rights – for now,” Bensinger said. “I realized that a grassroots effort can have a great impact but much of the time, an issue ends up in the hands of attorneys.”
Her involvement in the Black Warrior River reinforced Bensinger’s course of study.
“I was in the University of Alabama’s New College, which allows students to create their own major. I chose ecological economics.
“My objectives for my depth study were to find a better understanding of how the environment relates to the economic world,” she said. “I also had a major in Spanish and a minor in American Studies.”
Bensinger, a 2009 graduate of Charles Henderson High School, also studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain in an effort to gain an understanding of Latin America and “have fun.”
Bensinger’s studies at the University of Alabama, her travels abroad and her “moral” obligation to the environment set her on a career course.
“My plans were to attend law school and concentrate on Environmental Law,” she said.
In the summer of 2013, Bensinger was one of 20 students in the nation to take part in the Trails program on the Harvard University campus.
Trails is a five-week program and the students attend lectures and receive instruction that helps prepare them for LSAT, which is the standardized law school test.
On Sept. 1, Bensinger will enter Harvard Law School and begin a three-year pursuit of becoming a Harvard lawyer.
“Attending Trails helped me get the score I needed to get in Harvard Law School,” Bensinger said. “Eight in our class applied and all eight were accepted. That was the first time that has happened – that everyone enrolled in Trails and applied was accepted.”
Bensinger is at home in Troy for the summer and working at the Troy Public Library.
“I’m relaxing and enjoying the summer,” she said.
Looking forward, Bensinger said she is “a little nervous about law school”
“But I know people there and I’m familiar with the area. Law school will be exciting  – and a lot of hard work,” she said. “There’s no way to prepare because the first year is set in stone and in-coming knowledge is not a benefit. The second and third years, you do more of what your interest is.”
Bensinger’s interest is in environmental law but exactly what area, she doesn’t know.
“I don’t have a clue,” she said, laughing. “But I’ll figure it out in three years.”
Bensinger said climate change is her broad area of interest.
“We do have a moral responsibility to our planet,” she said. “We should place importance on developing vs. growing. There are no more John Muirs. Things are more human centered.
“My generation is the first generation that will not live as long as our parents because of the adverse affects of what we are doing to the environment.”
All of that figured into the equation, Bensinger said her interest as an attorney might be in public interest or government or, perhaps, with a private firm.
“Right now, I think I would rather be out in the communities, talking to people and effecting cases but I would like to be in the courtroom trying a case – at least one time.”
But whatever course her career takes, Bensinger said she will not be motivated by money, rather by cause.
“I want to be on the side of the people and out there fighting for them,” she said.

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