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Passionate About Civic Engagement

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    As Southwestern's new director of civic engagement, Sarah Brackmann will be coordinating partnerships with community organizations such as The Caring Place.

New director hopes to infuse a culture of service throughout the university

Just two days after defending her Ph.D. thesis, Sarah Brackmann was on the road to Texas to start a new job as director of civic engagement at Southwestern.

Brackmann has replaced Suzy Pukys, who directed Southwestern’s civic engagement activities from 2003 to 2011.

“Suzy left a great legacy to work from,” Brackmann said. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to build off what she has done.”

Brackmann is spending the summer meeting with faculty members and community organizations in Georgetown. She is looking forward to meeting students in the fall and putting together a team of community-based learning teaching assistants to help with some of Southwestern’s major community outreach projects.

“I missed working with students while I was working on my Ph.D.,” she said.

A native of Cincinnati, Brackmann earned her undergraduate degree in political science from Xavier University, which she said has a “strong social justice” focus woven into its curriculum. After graduating from college, she was accepted into the AmeriCorps VISTA program, and was assigned to work as a service learning coordinator at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio.

“That was the most transformative experience of my life,” Brackmann said.

After completing her two years of service with AmeriCorps, Brackmann decided she wanted to pursue further education that would enable her to make a career out of civic engagement work. She returned to Ohio and earned a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs from The Ohio State University.

Before starting her Ph.D. studies, Brackmann spent three years at the Georgia Institute of Technology as assistant director of student involvement for community service. She left Georgia Tech in 2008 to begin working toward a Ph.D. in higher education at the University of Georgia. 

Brackmann’s dissertation for her Ph.D. looked at the community engagement programs at two land-grant universities. She will formally receive her degree Aug. 4.

Brackmann said civic engagement can take many forms, including internships, activism, service, outreach, community-based research and community-based learning. She said one of her particular areas of interest is international service learning. While she was at Georgia Tech, she served as the advisor to an undergraduate organization called Engineering Students Without Borders.

Brackmann said she decided to apply for the position at Southwestern after hearing about the university from 1998 graduate Barrett Taylor, who was a fellow student in her Ph.D. program at the University of Georgia. Taylor has just landed a job as an assistant professor of higher education at the University of North Texas.

“Barrett praised the culture and mission of Southwestern,” she said. 

Now that she has completed her Ph.D., Brackmann said she is looking forward to having more time to pursue her other interests such as cooking, running and being outdoors. She also hopes to brush up on her Spanish.

She also is looking forward to the publication of a book titled Facilitating the Moral Growth of College Students, which is expected to be published soon by Jossey-Bass. Brackmann and a colleague co-authored a chapter for the book titled “Promoting civic engagement to educate institutionally for personal and social responsibility.”