Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Sarah Foster (MPA/MPH ’14)

Sarah Foster (MPA/MPH ’14)

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degree in human ecology, minor in physiology, The Ohio State University

Hometown
Berlin Heights, Ohio

La Follette School honors
Capstone paper was selected for publication in La Follette's Policy Report (Fall 2014)

Employer
Oregon Business Council, Portland, Oregon

Job title
Executive Director, Oregon Healthiest State; Director of Health Policy, Oregon Business Council

Start date
July 2014

Primary job responsibilities
The Oregon Business Council’s mission is to contribute to Oregon’s quality of life and economic prosperity. OBC’s core work is policy analysis, policy advocacy, and coalition building among business, public, and community leaders on behalf of statewide, equitably shared economic prosperity. As a complement to this work, OBC houses and supports a number of distinct projects. One of these projects is the Oregon Healthiest State Initiative, which works with the businesses, communities, institutions, and leaders to build a culture of health and well-being.

I manage and sustain an annual operating budget of more than $4 million to support a community-based transformation effort throughout Oregon, lead the health strategy and policy development arm of the Oregon Business Plan, and manage a diverse board of executive leaders from the public, nonprofit, and private sectors. I also negotiated a multi-million dollar contract with Sharecare to deliver the Blue Zones Project services in Oregon as part of the community transformation effort to improve health outcomes across the state.

How do you use what you learned at the La Follette School on the job?
Really good policy analysis, done quickly. The president of the Business Council always tells us that 90 percent of our policymaking is politics, and 10 percent is policy analysis, but the analysis needs to be evidence-based and perfect or you just have really bad policy. Professor David Weimer trained me well on how to write an effective memo, QUICKLY!

Project assistantship
I worked as a project assistant with UW–Madison’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences on a grassroots food and agriculture policy effort with the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. The experience helped me better understand rural economic development and agriculture perspectives and trained me in consensus building.

Most rewarding La Follette School experience
All of the teamwork! I really appreciated (and was often humbled by) how team dynamics are so critical to successful projects.

Most challenging La Follette School experience
All of the teamwork! It was so important, though!

Why would you recommend the La Follette School to a prospective student?
Many reasons! The training in policy analysis, the access to other colleges within UW–Madison, the wonderful campus, access to helpful advisors, etc. etc. etc.

Volunteer activities
I volunteer on Oregon State University’s School of Public Health Community Advisory Council (which acts as its board). I’ve really love participating in discussions and guiding the school to train its next generation of public health practitioners. Although university strategic planning is quite different from the work I do, it’s really great to gain experience and learn about how large institutions function.

Awards, honors

  • Hatfield Resident Fellowship in 2014 and was placed at the Oregon Business Council
  • Portland Business Journal’s 40 under 40 class of 2018
  • Harvard Kennedy School Emerging Leadership Program a 
  • part of the school’s Executive Education Public Leadership Certificate. Will attend the week-long program at Harvard in June 2018

Mentors, influencers
I’ve stayed in touch with faculty from UW–Madison’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the School of Medicine and Public Health, where I worked in grassroots food policy for Transform Wisconsin, an initiative funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The former director of UW’s Population Health Institute (Dr. Javier Nieto) is now the dean of the School of Public Health at Oregon State University, and I sit on his Community Advisory Council. I’ve greatly appreciated his continued connection to research at UW–Madison and mentorship as I’ve explored different career options in Oregon. While this isn’t a La Follette connection, I appreciated how my dual degree opened doors with many other faculty and mentors across many disciplines at UW–Madison.

People would be surprised to know that I …
Live in a 240-square-foot tiny house (yep, the ones you see on TV). I love it!