Protecting the environment with the EPA

Janelle Wendorf in the Class of December 2017 is the latest to be featured in a series of profiles on Elon Law students whose summer internships offer them new insights and knowledge into the legal profession.

In the years ahead, when you think about clean water and clean air, think about Janelle Wendorf.

A graduate of Heidelberg University, the Ohio native and Leadership Fellow is pursuing a law degree and a Master in Environmental Law and Policy offered through Vermont Law School in partnership with Elon Law. Her goal? A career in environmental litigation.

Wendorf wants to protect you from the effects of air and water pollution, and as part of the JD/MELP program offered through Elon Law, she is interning this summer with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in New York City where she assists the Office of Regional Counsel, Air Branch.

Wendorf – also active with the Moot Court program, the Environmental & Animal Law Society, and the Women’s Law Association – is the latest student to be featured in a series of summer employment profiles that showcase experiential learning opportunities for Elon Law students.

The following conversation has been lightly edited.

What inspired you to pursue a legal education and a career in law?

Studying law was inspired by my desire to help others. I particularly am interested in environmental law because I want to be able to aid in preserving the environment for generations to come, ensuring that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.

Tell me about the type of assignments you manage for the EPA and the way in which your work is helping others.

My work is focused around the compliance and enforcement actions brought by the EPA relating to the Clean Air Act. When a company emits pollutants or emissions, they must obtain a permit to ensure compliance with the Clean Air Act. The law helps to ensure emissions and pollutants are not released into the air at unsafe levels, thus preserving the air quality for people.  

What led you to this opportunity and how does it complement your practice area interests?

Working at the EPA has been a dream of mine since my interest in environmental law first began. As an environmental enforcement agency, the EPA strives to protect human health and the environment. I am humbled to be a part of this team, even temporarily, because I plan to also use my law and master’s degree to protect human health and the environment.

How did your Elon Law residency-in-practice with the the NC Sustainable Energy Association prepare you for your approach to the EPA internship?

While working at NCSEA, I gained a better understanding of energy law and administrative law. Particularly, I learned the process in which regulations in environmental law are administered. This learning experience was helpful to my work at the EPA because they must follow the same process to administer regulations.

What are you learning about yourself as a result of this experience with the EPA that wouldn’t have been possible in a classroom?

I’ve further solidified my desire to work in environmental law. The classroom settings at Elon and Vermont have introduced the environmental concerns and problems that built the foundation for my interest. However, observing and working with those problems firsthand at the EPA has further developed that existing desire to pursue environmental law.

Describe how the Office of Career & Student Development assisted you in securing summer employment.

OCSD was instrumental in helping me perfect a cover letter and resume that aided in securing my employment. Additionally, the staff encouraged and supported me to take this internship, even though it is in a new city and unpaid, because it was the best option to further my career.

What would you like to share with other students about this internship and the skills you’ve developed because of it?

I would encourage other students to pursue internships, even if they are unpaid, because they help build your resume and lead to career opportunities while teaching you important skills.

And don’t be scared of moving away and trying something new. Move to a new city where you know no one, try a new practice area, or take the unpaid internship while you can because soon enough we will all be working lawyers with stable jobs. Who knows? Maybe you’ll love the new city, or maybe you’ll develop a new passion for a practice area, or maybe your unpaid internship will turn into a full-time job offer with a really good paycheck. 


Visit the Office of Career & Student Development for more information on summer and full-time career opportunities.

Previous Summer Employment Profiles:

Aarin Miles (Class of December 2017) 
Brittany Hart (Class of December 2017)
Gabe Mirabelli (Class of December 2017)