Story by Dwain Hebda
As a native of Arkansas with a lifelong interest in public service, you might think Sarah McBroom (’10) would have set her sights on the Clinton School of Public Service early in life.
In fact, the school didn’t open its doors until McBroom was an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. By the time she graduated from UNC with a degree in English, the Clinton School was still in its infancy.
“I had some exposure [to the school], but not a ton,” she said. “The Clinton School was still very new to Arkansas and the whole higher education scene.”
However, despite it being such a young institution, McBroom ultimately chose the Clinton School over the University of Chicago and entered as part of the school’s fourth class in 2008.
“I thought that I could learn more and gain more experience at the Clinton School,” she said of her decision. “And I’m rooted here in Arkansas, my identity is tied to this place. I want to create impact here. I think, for me as an Arkansan and as a Little Rock native, that was powerful to be part of something that was happening in my own community.”
Once classes started, the school announced a new concurrent degree program that allowed students to split their time between the public service curriculum and earning an MBA through the Walton School of Business at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. McBroom became the school’s very first concurrent graduate.
“I was the guinea pig,” she joked. “My spring semester I was still in Little Rock but taking some classes virtually. I was doing virtual before the pandemic made it cool and it wasn’t without its kinks. I relocated to Fayetteville my second year and did most of my coursework at Walton School of Business but was still taking some virtual classes in Little Rock, too.”
Years later, McBroom still raves about her major projects as being particularly impactful. As a first-year student, she was part of a team that completed their Practicum project in the Arkansas Delta, forming a kitchen incubator to help food-based entrepreneurs get their ventures off the ground.
Her International Public Service Project took her to Bolivia where she worked with a local nonprofit that was providing micro-enterprise training to the incarcerated. And her Capstone included work with Green Valley Development, a regional economic development organization in Northwest Arkansas for which she did some strategic planning and marketing.
But even more life-altering than the work she did was the broadening of perspective she experienced while interacting with her class of international scholars.
“I think it just really deepened and expanded my understanding of what I would now call building power in agency in communities,” she said. “At the Clinton School we talked about it in various ways. We talked about servant leadership and we talked about social change and the concept of how do you support a community to create their own vision and give them the tools to get there. That took me from just dreaming of wanting to do good to understanding a way of being in this space and how to do this professionally.
“I think the secret sauce in that was the type of students and the diversity of students that the Clinton School draws in, diversity across many different pillars. We had a cohort of international students and students based in the U.S., so we had an international perspective in the classroom, racial diversity, geographic diversity and diversity of background. We had folks with all different kinds of expertise coming out of their undergraduate degree, all different kinds of work experience, lived experience.”
McBroom continues to apply her skills and expertise in Arkansas through Project Equity, a national nonprofit organization which helps communities and business owners unlock the power of employee ownership to create more resilient and equitable local economies.
“Change happens working across silos and at the intersection of politics, at the intersection of the public and the private sector, government working with nonprofits. That’s what I feel I learned at the Clinton School,” she said. “What I have expertise in now is bringing people together across silos, across government and the private sector and finding solutions and implementing strategies that help create social change.”
As for what she would say to college students contemplating attending the Clinton School, McBroom is direct.
“We need subject matter experts in this world and there’s a place for folks to go deep and really learn a specific subject. We also need changemakers to pull the subject matter experts together and help drive social change,” she said. “They’re two different things, but you can be both. The Clinton School is about working across experiences and coming together to create impact in communities. That’s what it teaches is that skill, that leadership.”
Sarah McBroom, a native of Little Rock, Ark., graduated from the Clinton School of Public Service in 2010 and became the program’s first concurrent graduate of the Master of Business Administration program with the Walton School of Business at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. She is currently the Director of Regional Engagement for Project Equity.