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Programs in International and Comparative Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College
Columbia University
ICE Alumni Profiles > Sara Poehlman

Sara Poehlman

TC Degree & Year of graduation: MA, 2002

Current position: Chief of Education, UNICEF Sri Lanka

Before TC: Sara has been interested in international and education related issues since a young age and this was accentuated through her study abroad experiences in France and Russia and her service in AmeriCorps. This together with her community based work and her appeal for understanding and doing curricular reform brought her to pursue her Masters of Arts in Peace Education at Teachers College (TC).

While at TC: Faculty members and peers in the Peace Education Program helped Sara articulate her experiences in the field. She greatly benefited from the knowledge and skills she gained from technical curriculum development classes taken at TC's Curriculum and Teaching Department, group work activities, analytical frameworks, alternate assessment methods, peace pedagogy and learning about issues of equity in education.

Moreover, Sara greatly took advantage of TC's New York location and became an intern at the United Nations women's peace organization. The work done in the internship allowed her to base her integrative project (IP) on this experience and once she graduated to continue to work on peace promotion and technical assistance in education.

After TC: Sara's numerous skills together with Columbia University's prestige and TC's coursework, faculty, location, peers and networking opportunities helped her get the foot in the door; to work with different NGOs, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and UNICEF's education and peace building related programs. For almost ten years she worked for UNICEF supporting West African countries; and India's national education programs and education policy development.

Current work: Today Sara is Chief of Education for UNICEF Sri Lanka. One of her tasks is to serve as an education advisor to the government while other work responsibilities include providing technical support to the government to strategize innovative programs and prevent school drop-outs; promoting children's rights, particularly in conflict affected areas; attending advocacy events; and producing education knowledge and data on Sri Lanka. As Education Chief she also performs administrative tasks such as preparing donor reports, fundraising, managing the large program budget, and supervising office and team staff.

Words of advice: Sara recommends students to not only focus on knowledge, but also on process. She greatly encourages TC students to take risks, benefit from New York, get connected and network at events and forums, to enhance technical skills and to think outside of the box. Sara definitely walks the talk!