Jeff Polubinski ’02

Geology

Associate at Gravel & Shea PC

“Geology was a great liberal arts degree because, while there is emphasis on analysis and writing, I also developed a body of knowledge that gave me a unique and marketable tool during my job search.”

What have been your key milestones since graduating from Middlebury? 

After graduating from Middlebury, I worked as an environmental geologist for an environmental consulting firm (Haley & Aldrich, Inc.) in Boston for nearly eight years, conducting environmental site assessments and developing strategies to remediate contaminated properties in the area. More and more I found I was drawn to the regulatory and legal part of the process, so I got a law degree from Vermont Law School (2010-13). I am now an associate attorney with Gravel and Shea, a Burlington law firm (2013-14), where I focus on real estate, land use, corporate law, and environmental law matters.  

I had originally intended to pursue environmental law, but in law school I found all of law fascinating and no longer wanted to narrow so exclusively. I watched my colleagues work in larger city firms where their work was highly specialized and instead I chose a smaller market where the work would be more diverse. I get to work with so many different people and areas of law, and I really like that.

How has the geology major influenced your life after graduation?

I’m constantly amazed at how my time on the 4th floor of Bicentennial Hall continues to influence my life. Even now as a lawyer I still keep and use many of my geology textbooks. From a recreational standpoint, I think about my Bedrock Geology of Vermont class with Ray Coish every time I ski or hike in the Green Mountains. I think about the process that created my surroundings every single day, and it adds a layer of interest and enjoyment when I travel.

How have the skills, knowledge or dispositions you learned as a geology major translated into your career?

Geology was a great liberal arts degree, because while there is emphasis on analysis and writing, I also developed a particular body of knowledge, and this gave me a unique and marketable tool during my job search. I was always more suited towards the liberal arts and a broadly focused career, yet I wanted to use my geology degree in my work. I have been able to do that because geology is an area that can be applied to other disciplines. The department’s focus on teaching and practicing more technical writing was incredibly useful for me, first as a consultant and now as a lawyer. My geology degree from a liberal arts college also developed my ability to maneuver in a variety of contexts. I am able to think, write and negotiate a process to problem-solve in any field and with any given combination of facts.

There is an environmental component to law practice in Vermont that does not exist in other states. Lots of what we do depends on soil, rocks, and groundwater, so my geology background has enabled me to contribute more as a first year associate than if I had majored in something more typical for attorneys. Geology brings something extremely tangible and a little more unique.

Also, the Geology Department’s focus on encouraging independent work—whether as part of my thesis, a J-term project with Jeff Munroe, or my summer work with Pat Manley—forced me to take responsibility for my research and think of my own creative solutions to problems.

Finally, what advice or suggestions do you have for current geology majors as they consider their post-Middlebury futures?

Talk to alumni! Also, to the extent you can, talk to anyone who practices in a field you may be interested in, and if possible, try to intern there. I’ve found that stepping into the shoes of someone in a certain profession, even for a short time, can be incredibly useful both in terms of determining what you what to do and, equally important, what you don’t want to do. Be sure to go to all the speakers CCI and the department bring to campus (EPA and the Vermont Geology Survey and others across the country). I didn’t know what geologists did, or that environmental consulting was an option; find out what else is out there.

Connect with Jeff on LinkedIn.

Learn More About the Geology Department at Middlebury

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