Melissa Scanlan

Melissa Scanlan

  • Professor, School of Freshwater Sciences
  • Lynde B. Uihlein Endowed Chair
  • Director, Center for Water Policy

Melissa K. Scanlan is the Lynde B. Uihlein Endowed Chair in Water Policy, Professor, and the Director of the Center for Water Policy at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences. Previously, she was a Visiting Professor at Boston College Law School, and a Professor at Vermont Law School. She served as Associate Dean of the Environmental Law Program and Director of the Environmental Law Center at Vermont Law School, which consistently earned the U.S. News & World Report top ranking in environmental law under her leadership.  She directed the Colloquium on Environmental Scholarship, a robust international forum for scholars to give and receive feedback on works in progress.

The U.S. State Department awarded her a Fulbright Senior Scholar position in Spain in 2019 to pursue research about Spanish cooperatives that are sustainability leaders. As a result, she wrote Prosperity in the Fossil-Free Economy: Cooperatives and the Design of Sustainable Businesses (Yale University Press, 2021), a book in which she compares Spanish and U.S. cooperatives to reveal insights about legal design for the triple bottom line. She has written and edited books, book chapters, and law review articles, on a wide variety of water and new economy law topics.  State Supreme Court opinions have cited her law review articles and conservation groups have republished them in shorter forms.

Scanlan is the founder of a variety of enterprises in the social economy. Infused with clear vision and longevity, she raised millions of dollars to capitalize these enterprises and designed their governance documents, establishing the mission, purpose, and day to day direction. She brings a deep understanding of starting and stewarding enterprises to her research, teaching, and service.  She was the co-lead consultant in launching the Center for Water Policy in 2011, which she started directing in 2021. She co-founded Washington Heights Community Garden in Milwaukee. Immediately following law school, she received a competitive Equal Justice Works Fellowship (formerly NAPIL) and an Echoing Green Fellowship to found and direct Midwest Environmental Advocates, Wisconsin's first non-profit environmental law center.

Prior to becoming a law professor, she represented non-profit, community groups and tribal government clients in high impact lawsuits, and shaped public policy in areas ranging from the Great Lakes Compact and water supply issues to enforcement and implementation of the Clean Water Act and the public trust doctrine. During that time, her peers selected her as a Wisconsin Super Lawyers' Rising Star (2006, 2007 and 2008).

Professor Scanlan brings an interdisciplinary approach to her work. She holds a Juris Doctorate and Master of Science in Environmental Science, Policy and Management from the University of California, Berkeley, where she graduated with special distinction in water law. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in World Politics from the Catholic University of America, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa.

In her free time, she loves kayaking, keeping honeybees, and walking coastal trails.  To access her publications, go to SSRN.