Nonprofit executive director reflects on her MPP

Friday, September 7, 2018

Sarah Wrightsman G'17 could be described as someone with a growth mindset.  As a community garden project coordinator for at-risk youth in Somersworth, New Hampshire, Wrightsman discovered the positive impact she could have in her own community.  

 “Teaching children the patience, love and care that gardening requires meant a lot to me, but I wanted to do so much more for them. It was when their after-school program closed due to lack of funding that I was inspired to pursue a career in policy,” says Wrightsman.

Today, Wrightsman is the executive director of the Workforce Housing Coalition of the Greater Seacoast. She credits the Master in Public Policy (MPP) Program at UNH’s Carsey School of Public Policy with helping to shape her career goals and skills as well as reaffirming her commitment to New Hampshire, and state and local politics. As executive director, Wrightsman works with municipalities “…to identify and amend local land-use regulations to better facilitate the development of financially feasible workforce housing.”  

When asked what aspects of the MPP program have aided her work at the Workforce Housing Coalition, Wrightsman points to the Strategies for Policy Impact course. “I didn’t realize at the time how much I was learning in this class. Now that I work in housing, the importance of the techniques I learned throughout that course has become clear. Housing requires changing public perception by using the right messages, targeting the right decision-makers and using the right tactics,” says Wrightsman.  She also cites her fellowship with New Hampshire Listens as valuable training in the intricacies of public engagement and civil discourse.

One of Wrightsman’s biggest takeaways for current or incoming students? “Be professional and work hard. Carsey staff and faculty view students as an equal, a peer, a colleague. Being professional and networking with the staff and faculty at the Carsey School means you will have them as resources — and they are great resources to have.”

What started with a small patch of dirt in Somersworth has grown into the entire Seacoast as Wrightsman works every day to improve the lives of New Hampshire residents and the state’s economy. What keeps her motivated? Wrightsman says, “I fully and wholeheartedly believe in the power of engaging the community around all issues and working together toward the future.”

UPDATE: On October 11, 2018 Wrightsman was honored as Civic Leader of the Year for the 2018 NH Rising Stars Award.

Explore the possibilites of a Master in Public Policy degree and see where it can take you.