When WFU alumna Shelby Buso (’02) started her undergraduate career at Wake Forest University, she assumed she was embarking on a path to veterinary medicine. However, after earning a degree in anthropology, minors in environmental studies and Spanish, and a Juris Doctor and Masters of Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School, Buso found herself on an alternative professional path. Now, as the Assistant Director of Transportation & Sustainability at Midtown Alliance – a nonprofit membership organization that has been the driving force behind the revitalization of Midtown Atlanta since 1978 – Buso works to cultivate sustainability in an urban context, working more with policy than animals.
Buso’s initial pull towards veterinary medicine stemmed from her innate affinity with animals and nature, which her coursework in Environmental Studies at WFU allowed her to explore. “I find my solace in nature and cannot imagine doing anything with my life that doesn’t involve preserving it,” Buso said. Internship opportunities with The MacKenzie Law Firm and ReefTeach, Inc. while attending WFU guided her work and passion. After graduating, Buso realized she could combine her areas of interest by working in environmental law. To test whether or not it was a path to which she wanted to commit, she obtained a paralegal certificate and worked as a paralegal for three years before attending Vermont Law School. During her graduate work she was involved in numerous student law organizations, studied abroad in Spain and Italy, and completed a semester in practice at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“At the beginning of my legal career, I believed I could make the most difference by preserving wildlife and large public lands,” Buso reflected. Upon graduating with a JD and Masters of Environmental Law and Policy, she moved back to Puerto Rico and worked as a law clerk. When Buso decided to move back to Atlanta a couple of years later, she knew she wanted to focus more attention on environmental policy and started working at The Clean Air Campaign. Atlanta’s interconnected environmental network allowed her to smoothly transition into her role at Midtown Alliance where she is able to continue her life’s pledge to preserve nature.
In her time at Midtown Alliance, Buso developed and co-authored Greenprint Midtown, a local sustainability action plan. One outcome of the plan is the development of the Midtown EcoDistrict. Working to join the collective of current EcoDistricts, which includes sustainability hallmark cities Portland and Seattle, Midtown Atlanta is implementing initiatives of its own to create what the organization describes as “a neighborhood of the future.”
Although her professional path has taken some twists and turns, she still believes her work contributes to conserving the nature she values. “Creating a sustainable infrastructure for people to thrive in, both professionally and personally, has given me a sense of purpose beyond the one I felt in the wilderness,” she said.
To this end, Buso has already worked on many programs that advance the goals of Greenprint Midtown and Midtown EcoDistrict: engaging property managers and building owners in the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge, coordinating the installation of the first public space recycling program in the City of Atlanta, and creating a sustainability initiatives recognition program. Buso also manages Midtown Transportation Management Association, which works to increase the use of alternative transportation to and from Midtown.
Considering last April marked her one-year anniversary at Midtown Alliance, saying she has been productive would be putting it mildly. Still in the beginning stages of implementing Greenprint Midtown, Buso will have just as much to balance moving forward. She always finds the hard work worth it: “Being able to walk the streets and see work I influenced being done first hand is an experience that I feel lucky to enjoy.”
By Hannah Slodounik, Program Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability