Sara Whalen Shifrin ’88 – Intrapreneur & Design Thinker

January 25, 2017

Faculty Spotlight: Sara Whalen Shifrin ’88 P ’19

Sara Whalen Shifrin lives the mantra that the only thing constant is change. From her time as a student to her recent move into the position of Director of the Marlon Family IDEAS Center, and everything in between, Sara leads at Gould by living the growth mindset, sharing her creative confidence, and always focusing on the user.

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Sara Shifrin coaching the prototyping process in the Marlon Family IDEAS Center.

Stagnation has never appealed to Sara. Her tenure at Gould began in the English Studies Program, and then to the English Department where she later became department chair. As department chair, she designed and implemented a 9th grade curriculum truly focused on how 9th grade students learn. Next, she moved to the library where she oversaw a redesign of the Sanborn Family Library. And she didn’t stop there. Having her finger on the pulse of education trends, she knew what she wanted to do next. She took the leap to lead the redesign and transformation of the lower level of Hanscom Hall from archaic classroom space into a hub of innovation.

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Sara Shifrin introducing podcasting equipment to the Tanzania Education Corporation leadership team.

Already flourishing in its 2nd year, the IDEAS Center has been the springboard for programs like the Modern Storytelling in Tanzania course being offered this winter, and Field Guide, a four day, intensive design thinking experience aimed at educators.

I recently sat down to talk with Sara for the second edition of the Gould Idea Cast. Sara’s love for learning new technologies has lately manifested itself in audio production, digital storytelling, and podcasting like a pro. Here she is, in her own words.

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Sara making opening remarks at the first ever Field Guide Conference in June of 2016.


Sara Whalen Shifrin Q&A

High School: Gould Academy

College/Grad School: St. Michael’s College B.A. | Middlebury College Bread Loaf School of English M.A

Proudest Achievement:
I say yes: yes to learning how to use a laser cutter, yes to teaching in Tanzania, yes to learning to drive a tractor, yes to serving on local boards, yes to producing Field Guide.

Last book I read: Reality Radio: Telling True Stories In Sound
My soundtrack is: Birds: anywhere any season

Movie I would recommend: Blues Brothers

Favorite food: garden pesto + backyard blueberries

One word that describes me: indefatigable

Best advice I ever received:
If you plan on making boarding school your career, buy a house away from campus and learn to be a member of a community that is not defined by your job.

Why Gould?
Gould works with my driving need to develop programs, push ideas, and innovate from the inside to the outside.

What’s the last thing you crossed off your bucket list?
Sleeping out on top of Tumbledown Mountain with my daughter, Mia; mountain biking to one of the huts on the Maine Huts and Trails system with my son, Eli; and biking the Bold Coast with my partner and co-pilot, Brett.

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