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photo of Sarah GrunewaldSarah Grunewald

Former undergrad returns to Delaware with a passion for education excellence

IPA tried to keep Public Administration Fellow Sarah (Hench) Grunewald at Delaware for her master’s degree, but it was not to be.  She received her BA in Political Science and Economics with a minor in Legal Studies from UD in 2003 and then attended NYU, where she received her MPA in Public and Nonprofit Management.  But an opportunity in the First State lured the Newark-area native back home.

Grunewald is a senior program officer for the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, where she focuses on building demand for excellence in public education in Delaware.  Since Delaware received $119 million in federal “Race to the Top” funds to reshape its public education system, Grunewald is in a good position to effect positive change through her work at Rodel.

Grunewald explains, “The opportunity to join the team of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware was remarkable and meant that I could bring together my passion, knowledge, and experience to help create world-class schools for each and every Delaware child.” At Rodel she has been entrusted to help make challenging decisions and conceive exciting new endeavors in education.  Grunewald adds, “Although I initially had thought I would never leave New York, I soon found myself drawn back to Delaware. I missed family and longed to plant my roots in a community where I knew I could have a lasting impact and where I knew my neighbors and their extended families.  And, as a result, I have grown professionally and personally.”

What does Grunewald like about her position at Rodel? 

“Our organization is many things at once,” Grunewald says. “It is a catalyst for new, innovative ideas, a resource for policy and best practices related to education reform, and a partner in incubating new programs and projects. This makes for an extremely exciting and gratifying workplace, yet it also brings many challenges related to managing relationships and communicating effectively.”

Prior to coming to Rodel, Grunewald worked as a senior policy analyst at New York University in its Office of Government and Community Affairs. This position helped prepare her for her current role, due to the complex and multi-faceted partnerships that she helped manage.

“For several years, I was ‘a New Yorker’,” Grunewald says. “I completed my master’s degree and was offered a job within NYU’s Office of Government and Community Affairs. My experiences were vast—from being thrust in front of angry Greenwich Village residents at a community meeting to completely developing and launching a research center from scratch—and were extremely valuable for me in finding my own voice, confidence, and creativity.”

Speaking of preparation, Grunewald had some glowing things to say about her experience at IPA and as a two-time Legislative Fellow in particular.

“My Legislative Fellows experience was extremely valuable in qualifying me for this position [at Rodel], as it gave me insight into local Delaware politics and gave me access to relationships that I still keep to this day,” Grunewald says. “Had I not applied for the University of Delaware’s Legislative Fellows Program and worked in the Delaware state legislature, I might not have found my passion for public and community service and subsequently pursued my graduate degree in public administration. And now that I’ve returned to Delaware, the connections I made at IPA are still strong, and the people there still provide guidance and support.”

Historically one of IPA’s most competent undergraduate students, Grunewald adds, “My experience with IPA taught me how to handle group interviews, balance the goals and expectations of multiple parties (professors, employers, elected officials, etc.), and successfully deliver to each of them.”

Grunewald and her husband just welcomed their first child (a daughter) in September 2010, so much of her time now is spent enjoying her daughter’s ever-changing ways and learning how to multi-task better than ever!

What are some of Sarah Grunewald’s future aspirations?

“On a professional level,” she says, “I’d love to continue giving back to my community by working in the public sector, ideally in the fascinating and critical field of public education. Personally, I’m striving to continually find a happy balance of work life, and hope to expose my family and me to as many corners of the world as possible. I love to travel and meet new people, see different sights, and experience new cuisine. I also like to cook and bake, and I read whenever I get the chance.”

She adds, “Oh, and I also hope to reclaim some piano-playing skills of my youth.” What better advocate for education can there be than someone who continues to want to learn?

photo courtesy of Sarah Grunewald