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New endowed chair will explore public service in the aftermath of pandemic

As the new Hazel Cramer Endowed Chair in Sacramento State’s Department of Public Policy and Administration, Sara McClellan will engage in her longtime passion for collaborating with public and private entities to support student learning and improve the lives of Californians.

McClellan, an assistant professor and associate chair of the department, has accepted a three-year appointment in the new role. She replaces Christopher Cabaldon, former West Sacramento mayor and the first Hazel Cramer Endowed Chair, who was appointed in fall 2019 and recently left to pursue other interests.

Sara McClellan portrait
Sara McClellan, an assistant professor and associate chair of Sac State's Department of Public Policy and Administration, has been appointed as the new Hazel Cramer Endowed Chair in Public Policy and Administration, a role that will allow her to strengthen the University's relationship with the region.

“We searched for candidates, and realized we already had the perfect one within our department,” said PPA Chair Robert Wassmer. “Sara is a very good fit to shape the position and build upon what Christopher started.”

Prior to joining Sac State three years ago, McClellan was a manager, trainer, consultant, and applied researcher for several local government and nonprofit organizations. She focuses on communication strategies and organizational practices designed to improve health, safety, and education outcomes in rapidly changing communities. She has a master’s in Public Administration from the University of Southern California and a doctorate in Organizational Communication from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

At Sac State, her teaching and research focus on organizational communication, planning, leadership, and stakeholder engagement.

In her new role, McClellan will help strengthen the University’s community ties and cement its status as an “anchor institution” in the region. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic offers new ways to explore that work, she said.

“I think we have a unique opportunity to rethink some important aspects of public service as we emerge from the pandemic and engage in critical conversations about racial justice and social and economic equity,” said McClellan.

“I look forward to working with students and community and University partners to document and learn from pandemic experiences and experiment with new ways of designing public services, engaging our workforce, and partnering across organizations and sectors. I’m particularly interested in understanding the type of leadership that inspires young professionals to pursue and persist in public service roles as they face the challenges ahead.”

In a message to the campus June 15, President Robert S. Nelsen said McClellan’s experience “as a practitioner, consultant, and scholar allows her to help forge stronger connections between theory and practice.

“She aims to give PPA students direct exposure to the messy and complex organizational contexts that shape public policy outcomes,” strengthening their skills to help them solve vexing problems, he said.

Her students’ applied research has helped them hone skills such as building coalitions, interpreting data, and solving interpersonal conflicts while aiding nonprofit organizations and community groups.

“If one did a Google image search for ‘engaged scholar,’ I would halfway expect Sara’s picture to appear at the top,” said PPA Professor Edward Lascher, who has served as interim Dean of the College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies. “She seems equally comfortable interacting with students in the classroom and working with a group of stakeholders on some pressing community issue.”McClellan also is a valued colleague and “a wonderful instructor,” Lascher said.

“It's actually fun reading her syllabi because they are laid out in an interesting manner and include provocative questions to get students to think about the material. She manages to develop creative assignments that prompt students to apply what they have learned to issues facing public managers.” 

Wassmer cited McClellan’s teaching background and community engagement as key reasons why she is a perfect fit for the endowed position

“Her passion is getting out and doing things that truly make a difference,” he said. “So we think this will work out great for her, for students, for the University” and for its partners throughout the region.

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About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.

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