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environmental law

TU Law faculty member part of team awarded major NSF grant

The University of Tulsa College of Law’s Warigia Bowman is a widely published expert on public policy, infrastructure, water and energy. Bowman is, therefore, a natural fit for the team of 34 interdisciplinary researchers recently awarded a $20 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, administered by the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

The focus of this five-year award is the development and testing of science-based solutions for complex problems at the intersection of land use, water availability and infrastructure in Oklahoma. Bowman is a sub-principal investigator and the only member from TU. She is also the College of Law’s first recipient of an NSF grant.

Professor Warigia Bowman seated at a library table with a book and a laptop computer
Professor Warigia Bowman

“On behalf of the entire TU Law community, I commend Warigia Bowman for contributing to this vital research endeavor,” said Dean Lyn Entzeroth. “She brings valuable expertise in both public policy and groundwater, as well as an understanding of the regulatory issues facing both water and renewable energy to the grant team.”

At the intersection of science and society

“Professor Bowman has academic expertise concerning the interface between science and society, and practical background in stakeholder participation and engagement,” remarked Hank Jenkins-Smith, a co-lead researcher on the grant and a public policy professor at the University of Oklahoma. “Both of these will be at the heart of the EPSCoR project. We are very pleased that she has agreed to be a part of our research team.”

“This project is novel in both its design and vision,” explained Bowman. “It creates a social science-led, multidisciplinary collaboration among social, physical, biological, engineering and computational scientists that aims to provide socially sustainable solutions to emerging problems caused, in part, by changing weather patterns, gaps in sustainable energy infrastructure and declining water supplies.”

Wide-ranging goals

Joining Bowman on this NSF-funded project are researchers from Oklahoma State University, the University of Oklahoma, Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Langston University, East Central University and the Noble Research Institute. The group anticipates accomplishing several objectives:

  • Education and workplace development as well as the creation of a resilience model that can guide Oklahoma stakeholders
  • Broadening of participation in STEM by women, underrepresented minorities, persons with disabilities and first-generation college students
  • Enhanced STEM training for K-12 teachers as well as non-traditional STEM educators, including 4-H and Oklahoma museums
  • Enhancements in K-12 student STEM education, such as a Native American student STEM competition and teacher conference, and the creation of a Tinkerfest at the Science Museum of Oklahoma
  • Expansion of Oklahoma’s Citizen Science Network
  • Support for higher education faculty and students involved in STEM

Bowman’s participation on the grant will also contribute to her personal research agenda. In addition, it will support training of her graduate research assistants at TU Law on projects focusing on risks posed by declines in state groundwater storage. Bowman and her research assistants also plan to study threats and opportunities posed by renewable energy to Oklahoma communities.

Earning your JD at TU Law will bring you in contact with faculty members at the forefront of their fields, such as Warigia Bowman, who are both excellent teachers as well as scholars. Learn about this vibrant, welcoming community.

TU Law welcomes new faculty expert in Indian and health law

This summer, The University of Tulsa College of Law will welcome Aila Hoss as a new assistant professor of law. Hoss is currently a visiting assistant professor at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, where she leads courses on property, food and drug law, health policy and opioid epidemic policy. At TU Law, Hoss will focus her teaching on Indian law, legislation and property.

We wanted to get to know our new colleague better and introduce her to the TU community, so we conducted a short question-and-answer conversation with Hoss.

Indian law is an important element in your career. What drew you to this field?

I attended the University of Oregon School of Law, which has a nationally ranked environmental law program. While there, it became apparent to me that environmental issues resonated most with me when discussed in the context of population health. With this new awareness, I began to explore public health law as a potential career. I interned with a small obesity prevention nonprofit during my first summer of law school.

While working as an intern, I learned about health inequalities facing American Indian and Alaska Native populations. This led me to take classes in federal Indian law and tribal law. I was fortunate enough to be at a law school that offered these courses, but even more fortunate that tribal leaders, attorneys and judges from the area served as guest speakers.

What are some of the major projects you have worked on in Indian law?

Alongside tribal partners, I have served as a faculty member of a course focused on working effectively with tribal governments. This two-day course was available to state, federal and local agencies working on public health issues in Indian country. I have also developed a variety of resources on tribal emergency preparedness law to support tribes and their partners when navigating emerging issues, such as Zika, Ebola and natural disasters.

Professor Aila Hoss sitting on a bench in the summertimeWhat are you presently focusing on in this area?

I am currently collecting and analyzing state laws that support or require consultation or engagement with tribes. There are a variety of models to support tribal-state engagement but lots of opportunities for improvement. Analysis of state legal requirements may facilitate intergovernmental partnerships.

Thinking about Indian law broadly, what are some of the major currents today that warrant exploration by law students and professors?

Continued challenges to the Indian Child Welfare Act are something advocates, practitioners and scholars have been watching closely and need to continue to do. The law is essential for keeping connections between Indian children and their tribes, but these challenges are also a product of a larger movement to undermine tribal sovereignty and the unique status of tribes.

You also have expertise in health law. Would you tell us about some of your work in this area?

I practiced public health law as an attorney with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While with the CDC, I provided legal research support to tribal, state, and local governments as they sought to improve public health within their communities. For example, a jurisdiction might have high rates of vaccine-preventable diseases and would reach out to us to learn about how laws could improve vaccination rates in the case of health care workers or school vaccination requirements.

Law, however, can also be a barrier to public health. An example would be laws that criminalize substance use disorder. Sometimes, it is not always clear what the impacts of law are on health, which is why public health research is so important.

Are there any intersections between health and Indian law?

Absolutely! In fact, the tribal leaders who guest-lectured at my law school about their experiences promoting and protecting tribal sovereignty in their communities inspired my interest in the intersection of health law and Indian law.

Tribes pass and implement laws that impact public health. Federal laws also create complex jurisdictional structures between tribes, states, and the federal government. This necessitates additional research and scholarship on how these federal laws impact tribal health outcomes.

You come to us highly recommended as an instructor. What is your approach to teaching? Why do you enjoy it?

My goal as an instructor is to make law more accessible and approachable for my students. One way I do that is through storytelling. Every law has a few stories to tell, whether its purpose, passage or unintended consequences. Few things are more engaging and memorable than a good story, which is why stories are such good teaching tools.

I love teaching because I love to share my energy, time, and expertise with my students. I also enjoy getting to know my students, learning from them, and supporting them in their goals.

What are you looking forward to in Tulsa and at TU Law? What new opportunities do you envision?

It has been a real privilege to be able to work with tribes and tribal-serving organizations in different parts of the country, but it is a dream come true to be able to teach Indian law in Indian Country and to be at a law school with so many native students.

In addition to being a highly accomplished researcher and professor, would you give us a glimpse of Aila Hoss the person?

I’m an Iranian American, and my family moved around a lot when I was growing up. My folks live now in Atlanta, so that city feels most like home. Southern Indiana also has a special place in my heart because my husband grew up there on a small farm.

My husband is also a lawyer. He practices criminal defense and family law. We met during the first semester of our 1L year at the University of Oregon, and we supported one another throughout law school, the bar exam, and our legal careers. Today, we are the proud parents of a Shar-pei pup named Neville.

We’re both really thrilled to be moving to Tulsa. The warmer weather will be great, and we are looking forward to exploring new areas for hiking. I love to cook and share Persian food, so I’m excited by the prospect of a longer growing season and harvesting my own vegetables for the dishes I prepare.

TU Law student named Most Outstanding Scholar at Muscogee (Creek) Nation Scholars Forum

Early each summer, Oklahoma’s Muscogee (Creek) Nation holds a lively public gathering that features games, musical performances, arts and crafts displays, stompdancing, a parade and many other activities. For the second year in a row, the Muscogee Nation Festival included a Scholars Forum, which showcases various research projects being undertaken by tribal members pursuing advanced degrees.

One of the individuals selected to share her work at the June 2019 forum was University of Tulsa College of Law student Hannah Stidman. For the quality and impact of her work, Stidman received the Most Outstanding Scholar award.

“Hannah exemplifies commitment to building better communities,” said Lauren Donald, TU Law’s assistant dean for experiential learning. “She couples hard work in the classroom with meaningful opportunities outside of the classroom to expand her already impressive background in environmental and Native American issues. This award is a testament to Hannah’s high level of dedication and, no doubt, a preamble to a promising legal career.”

Environmental defense

Stidman’s poster presentation focused on the need for and benefits of creating the position of “legal head” of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s Office of Environmental Services. This department strives to ensure that “members may live confidently in a safe and healthy environment.”

As Stidman explained, the Office of Environmental Services manages a large volume of legal issues. Currently, however, there is no lawyer with specialized environmental law knowledge specifically assigned to the Office. Instead, such legal work is handled by the nation’s Office of the Attorney General. Creating the position of legal head would not only save time and resources, Stidman reasoned, but also help her tribe in the work of “preserving its sacred land and waters” in the context of emergent changes wrought by climate change.

Environmental law

The seeds of Stidman’s concern for environmental well-being were planted early during a childhood spent in a “really small town” within a rural part of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s territory. After graduating high school, Stidman completed – in just three years – a bachelor of science in business administration at Oklahoma State University, taking as many law-related courses as possible.

About to enter her second year at TU Law, Stidman remarked that “I am dedicated to learning as much as I can about environmental law. What’s interesting about this subject, and what I’m discovering more and more, is it’s so broad. I’m really interested in all the things that fall under that umbrella – for example, animal welfare as well as the quality of the water, air and land.”

This general interest in environmental law combined with Stidman’s desire to know what her tribe was doing about environmental sustainability and protection. Her first encounter with this arose as a result of an informational interview she conducted with Kevin Dellinger, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s attorney general, as part of her first-year Foundations of Legal Studies course at TU Law. Dellinger set off a “spark” for Stidman, which then, she explained, “led me to research the legal work done within the Office of Environmental Services. This formed the basis of my proposal for the creation of a legal head.”

Positive reception

During and since her participation at the Scholars Forum, Stidman has received a great deal of positive feedback on the merits of her proposal. Support has come from members of the Geospatial and Emergency Management departments all the way to the leader of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Principal Chief James Floyd. In fact, in recognition of her accomplishment, Chief Floyd presented Stidman with a luxurious, ceremonial Pendleton blanket emblazoned with the chief’s unique, personal iconography.


Are you interested in helping your community grow and flourish? If so, a career as a lawyer might be right for you. Discover the fascinating pathways available through the TU College of Law.

Lone Star externs: TU Law grads reflect on their final semester in Austin, TX

On Friday, May 3, University of Tulsa College of Law students Demi Allen and Mitchell Lovett took part in the college’s hooding ceremony, thereby officially transforming into TU Law alumni. During the final semester before they wrapped up law school and embarked on their careers, TU Law’s externship program enabled them to live and work in Texas’s vibrant capital, Austin.

Here, in Allen and Mitchell’s own words, are first-hand accounts of their experiences. They also generously shared with us two short videos they shot down south on the banks of the Colorado River.

Demi Allen — “never a dull moment”

“During my last semester at TU Law, I externed in Austin at the private family law firm Kirker | Davis, LLP. I have always wanted to pursue a career as a family law attorney, and I could not have found a better fit for myself. Within my first month, I was drafting settlement agreements and final decrees, helping to prepare attorneys for court hearings and sitting in on client meetings. There was never a dull moment while at Kirker | Davis, LLP.

“Over the course of my time with the firm, I formed friendships with my fellow colleagues and learned more than I could have ever hoped. Each partner, attorney, paralegal and operations team member jumped right in to help make me feel welcome and never shied away from my many, many questions. The more I learned about family law, specifically the divorce process, the more diverse my tasks became. During the close of my time as an extern, I was drafting everything from the welcome email sent to a client to the conclusion of representation letter and everything in between. I assisted with depositions, mediations and court appearances. No task was ‘too important’ or ‘too big’ for me to at least take an initial stab at, and the experiences taught me a lot.”


“The partners at Kirker | Davis, LLP, truly wanted me to learn how to become the best family law attorney I could, and their doors were always open. I cannot recommend them enough to anyone who is interested in family law. The firm is fast paced and full of brilliant attorneys who provide a welcoming and fun environment for attorneys and law students alike. I was given the freedom to work on any case I was interested in and pick up any task I wanted to learn more about.

“I absolutely loved my time in class at TU, but I never could have imagined the opportunities the externship program provided. I start full time as an associate attorney, pending licensure, with Kirker | Davis, LLP, this October and cannot wait to see what my future with the firm holds!”

Mitchell Lovett — “no better way to complete a legal education”

“Over the course of my last semester at TU Law, I opted to extern at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in Austin. My externship exceeded my learning expectations and helped me wrap up my legal education in a practical and worthwhile experience. I easily recommend the EDF to other students looking to work in environmental law.

“The work I did at the EDF was varied. I completed multiple long-form research projects that required drafting, cross-disciplinary teamwork, intense research and legal analysis. These projects revolved around how a toxic byproduct is affected by the constraints of water law, federal land management, endangered species and the oil and gas industry’s federal and state requirements. My larger projects taught me the importance of pace and taking one’s time when working on seemingly insurmountable tasks. After all, ‘Rome was not built in a day.'”


“Thankfully, I did much more than two projects. My supervisor allowed me the opportunity to entangle myself into any area that sparked my interest. I accompanied senior personnel to legislative meetings at the Texas capital, reviewed upcoming bills and I was lucky enough to attend a Groundwater Protection Council conference in Fort Worth.

“I also dove into administrative law and participated in administrative filings for multiple state agencies, which was an incredible experience. I learned how to pull the legally important language out of technical regulations and integrate technicalities into prose in order to persuade. Separately, I helped deconstruct technical regulations to develop base standards for future action, and that project is the bedrock for a regulatory framework. The EDF invested in me and at each step of the way. I felt included, which is worth more to a young professional than most realize. Ultimately, there is no better way to complete a legal education.”


Mitchell Lovett (JD '19) and Demi Allen (JD '19) in the TU Law library
Mitchell Lovett (JD ’19) and Demi Allen (JD ’19) in the TU College of Law’s Mabee Legal Information Center