Sarah Menard

Master of Social Work, '22G
Sarah Menard MSW 2022
The Balance -

Sarah Menard, 2022 graduate of the online UNH Master of Social Work (MSW) program, has firmly committed to her vocation. Raised by parents who specialized in education and social work, she was drawn to the caregiver model, influenced by Menard’s younger sibling who experiences multiple developmental disabilities. In her work as a resident caregiver, Sarah facilitated therapeutic home environments for people with emotional and behavioral challenges.

"As a child I was drawn to the image of communal life sustained by a collective purpose. As a professional I was attracted to a lifesharing model that is designed to nurture trusting relationships between residents and caregivers as a way to foster both acceptance and change. Growing up with a family sensitivity to developmental needs seeded a deep empathy that has served me well in this role."

After completing some UNH classes in social work policy as a non-matriculating student to flesh out her skill set, Sarah was so inspired she decided to enroll in the online UNH master’s degree program, graduating in 2022. For further training, she also completed the UNH Graduate Certificate in Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities. Menard holds a master’s degree in Human Services Administration from Walden University and a Liberal Arts & Sciences degree from Vermont College of Union Institute and University.

Reflecting her interest in life sharing and community-based service models, Sarah’s experience includes Director of Student and Adult Services and Care Manager at Crotched Mountain Foundation in New Hampshire and Program Manager for Camphill Communities Triform and Heartbeet Lifesharing in New York and Vermont. She also completed two years of service as an Americorps volunteer and worked as a camp counselor for the Farm and Wilderness Foundation.

During her MSW field internship, Sarah received a scholarship and participated in the New Hampshire-Maine Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Program (NH-ME LEND), collaborating on cross-system crisis planning for people experiencing emotional and behavioral disabilities. Fascinated by the macro view of legislative process, Menard witnessed systems planning first-hand while attending a Washington DC summit on funding policies for people with disabilities.

"I can picture myself as an advocate in the legislative process to address the problem of community-based services that are chronically underfunded and understaffed. My ultimate dream, however, is to push for programs that accommodate people’s lifestyle choices instead of forcing them to reshape their lives to fit within restrictive funding parameters."

To remain focused as a student of the online UNH MSW program, Sarah wrote out a weekly list of course work and disciplined herself to complete one item every day. Inspired by the range of backgrounds and experiences among her student cohort, Menard relied on a mutual support system during the chaotic demands of the pandemic. As an example, she cites a pleasant memory of the UNH Social Work Department’s weekly, remote-based “Tuesday Tea” when any student or instructor could dial in to chat during this unstructured hour.

"I love the student life emphasis on learning, thinking and exchanging ideas. Although I had not planned to earn two master’s degrees, the online UNH MSW program was the perfect next step to re-energize my career. I was inspired by the UNH social work program and the faculty’s well-crafted methods to foster communication and connection greatly enhanced my success."

When the pandemic intensified the daily workflow for residential caregivers, Sarah came to realize that she needed a more sustainable balance between her work and family life. After earning an MSW, she accepted the position of social worker for a New Hampshire middle school where she works closely with students and families to build constructive relationships, using her person-centered planning experience to develop circles of support that connect students to external services. The structured boundaries of this new role are conducive to a more balanced schedule and she applies the wisdom of focusing her attention on “conquering one thing at a time.”

Menard loves spending time outdoors. A strong believer in the benefits of self-care, she enjoys community activities such as choral singing and a meditation group that encourages members to begin their week with focus and perspective. Sarah believes that self-care provides the necessary ballast to keep her healthy, motivated, and productive both at home and on the job.

"I prioritize my work when I am there and focus on my family when I am home. Dedicated to my career, the best way for me to serve others is to maintain intentional boundaries around my personal space at home that allow me to rest, relax and recharge."

Which is precisely what the caregiver in Sarah is committed to helping others achieve – a meaningful, well-supported life at home and within the community.

                                                                                                                        Written by Gwendolyn Goguelet