5 Questions: ACE student finds calling in environmental law
Ben Cohen
Ben Cohen.
February 10, 2022

This week’s 5 Questions Friday features Benjamin Cohen, an agricultural and consumer economics student with a focus on food systems and public policy.

What year are you, and how did you choose your ACES major?

I am a senior studying Public Policy and Law in ACE. In high school, I took several law and politics courses and while I found the principles and theories interesting, I wanted to apply those ideas on a practical level. As humans, we are always buying and consuming goods and services and the agriculture industry is what keeps us all alive, so I knew that with those two combined, I would be able to apply those principles. Additionally, I was offered a research internship as a freshman that connected me with professors in ACES and the research interested me on the policy level.

What has been your favorite class at ACES?

My favorite class in ACES is ACE 306, Food Law. I never really thought about the intricate rules and laws that govern food safety, food trade, and the various international regulations that keep our food safe. In addition, this class gave me great insight in a field of law that we might not always find in court, such as rules set by the Food and Drug Administration, World Health Organization, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Lastly, I found myself intrigued by the vastness of the food system and how we consume foods without knowing what processes they went through, how they were grown or manufactured, and the various levels of inspections that they had to pass. And then again, it was just great to learn about one of my favorite things in the world: food.

What did you learn and like about your internship(s)?

I was privileged to participate in the Illinois In Washington program where I joined a cohort of students from various colleges across campus as an intern in Washington D.C.. I had the great honor of interning with Congressman Sean Casten and through that internship, I found my calling in environmental sustainability and law. I was able to attend congressional briefings and research legislation aimed at combating climate change, reducing pollution, and supporting communities hurt by development and the climate. While it was a very fast-paced environment, I learned a lot about how legislation is formed in Congress and how constituents connect with their representatives.

What advice about college do you have for high school students?

One piece of advice I would have for high school students is that it is very much okay for them to not be 100% sure about their career path or major that they want to pursue. It took me three years to figure out that I want to become an environmental lawyer, and looking back at my time in high school, I never ever thought of that as an option. College can open up so many opportunities and doors that you might never have thought might even be relevant, and they can forever change the course of your life and future endeavors.

Why should more students check out ACES?

Students should check out ACES because of the great community that will surround you, the resources available to every student, and a diverse set of classes that can always teach you something new while allowing you to connect with fellow students, amazing professors, and wonderful advisors. The College of ACES offered me research opportunities, career preparedness, and a kick start into a career in law. The advisors work endlessly to support every student and assist them in every way possible and go out of their way to provide internship, scholarship, and career opportunities. Lastly, with the flexibility of classes, I was able to take many classes outside of the College of ACES and learn about natural resources, economic principles, and even take fun sports/kinesiology classes to stay active during the week.