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Valerie Sauer

Valerie Sauer attended Appalachian State University before transferring to UNC-Chapel Hill and earning her undergraduate degree in political science, with a double minor in public policy and Hispanic studies in 2016. Building on her internship and volunteer experience in social services, Sauer began working as a client services coordinator for the Family Justice Center in Alamance County, NC. In this role, she worked directly with individuals seeking help for a wide range of situations, from domestic violence to human trafficking.

The first center of its kind in North Carolina, the Family Justice Center serves as a “one stop shop” for the myriad of government and nonprofit organizations that clients may turn to in the face of challenging situations. After a year and a half, Sauer was offered the Director of Education Programs position with the Compass Center in Chapel Hill. There, she split her time between direct client work and community education.

Though she enjoyed the work, several years of working with clients “interacting with systems that didn’t serve them” motivated her to be part of systemic changes in the social services field. With that, she turned her eye towards the MPA/MSW dual degree at her alma mater, UNC.

Sauer’s mother and father both work in public administration, so the core values of public service resonate deeply with her. Her mother, a teaching assistant professor at the School of Government, specializes in leadership development with the School’s Center for Public Leadership and Governance. From an early age,  Sauer was drawn to helping people in need, first in her home of Scotland County, NC.

As an undergraduate student she interned with the Compass Center (which she returned to work at in 2018) and the police department. Over the years, she offered support and empowerment to countless individuals experiencing domestic violence. She witnessed system which was not designed to serve people, especially those most marginalized— a system that actually became more trauma-inducing to individuals seeking assistance. Sauer’s direct client work at the Family Justice Center and the Compass Center afforded her valuable knowledge about the ins and outs of social justice in North Carolina; as the Director of Education Programs, she has gained a whole new perspective. 

At the Compass Center, Sauer went out and talked with community members— everyone from middle and high school students to police officers and medical students. She went to schools to talk to youth about healthy relationships and to meet with professionals to tell them about the programs available at the Center. This new role of outreach and prevention education helped her to see the system within which she worked and understand that while “individuals in these systems wanted to help… the system wasn’t designed to help [the victimized] individuals, and that’s why I’m here.” 

When asked about her experience in the program, Sauer states, “It’s the people who really make the difference for me.” Transitioning from full-time employment to full-time student wasn’t easy, but the camaraderie and conversations with like-minded people have helped pave the road for her. She is looking forward to the rest of her time here while keeping a mindful watch on opportunities where her spirit for public service and fixation for system improvement can be utilized.