Sarah Garner is the newly hired director of Student Life and Leadership, stepping in after the retirement of former Director Annie Route. Garner comes to Anchorage from a similar position at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her background is in advertising and public relations, which she has a degree in from University of Nebraska’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications. Her master’s degree is in student affairs administration from Michigan State University.
Garner started her first day as director Aug. 28, and she comes to UAA with a three-fold mission.
“There are sort of three parts of my philosophy that are important,” Garner said. “The first is really about student engagement and empowerment, so at the end of the day, regardless of what my or our vision is for the future of Student Life and Leadership or Student Affairs on this campus, it must be student centered and it must incorporate student voice because ultimately we are here to serve students.”
The second pillar of her philosophy is community engagement. Garner learned the importance of community engagement to her philosophy by growing up in rural southeast Nebraska in Jansen, a community with a population less than 120.
“I think the other piece is that it be community engaged, and community may be defined differently depending on how we look at it, but I think as a public university we have a responsibility to be engaged with the local community to find opportunities to serve the local community and in a way that is mutually beneficial, that’s reciprocal,” Garner said.
Her third pillar is to work with community partners to collaborate in a time of limited resources.
“I think for me the third piece is that it all be really related to sort of collaboration and partnership,” Garner said. “You know working with limited resources and as stewards of those resources, I think we only benefit by coming together in partnership with one another. I hope no matter what our vision looks like we find opportunities to partner with students, with other campus departments, and with folks in the campus community as well.”
Garner and Associate Director Kim Morton are both new to UAA and Student Life and Leadership this year, but Garner sees opportunity in fresh perspectives at UAA.
“I think in so many cases the folks who are newest have the best perspective because they’re not necessarily tied to anything…I think the beauty of the team is that we have this variety of staff that have been on board longer and who have a variety of experiences as students at the university and now as staff at the university,” Garner said.
When she is not working, Garner likes to enjoy the outdoors hiking or kayaking, while also trying her hand at photography.