An attitude of possibility

After nearly 17 years with University Neighborhood Partners (UNP), former director Sarah Munro has stepped to the side. She said it wasn’t retirement and she isn’t moving into a new position. Instead, she has taken a break from her work at the U to care for her aging parents.

Jennifer Mayer-Glenn, Ruth V. Watkins and Sarah Munro.

“There’s only one thing that could have pulled me away from UNP and this was it,” said Munro. “It was a very hard choice but it’s just time to do what’s most important and take care of the people closest to me.”

Munro had served as director of UNP and special assistant to the president for campus-community partnerships since July 2015, but had been part of the program since the beginning in 2002. She started out as the director of outreach, eventually becoming the associate director before taking on her most recent role.

“I would like to thank Sarah for nearly two decades of being deeply engaged with UNP,” said Ruth V. Watkins, president of the University of Utah. “She did a fantastic job strengthening community relationships, initiating new programs and leaves UNP prepared for the future.”

UNP works to bring together university and west side people and resources in reciprocal learning, action and benefit. They partner with community members and work alongside them to enhance the quality of life for everyone involved. Munro describes it as a bridge between the U and neighborhoods on the west side of Salt Lake City.

Sarah Munro addresses the crowd during her farewell celebration on June 28, 2019.

“We bring people together to find solutions to some of the big barriers that prevent low-income families and first-generation students from access to opportunities such as going to college and finding good jobs and affordable health care,” said Munro. “It also allows the university to tap into the knowledge that is in these communities about how to solve problems. I really deeply believe that we come up with better solutions if we have people from different perspectives at the table.”

It is that passion that co-workers say has been an integral part of UNP’s growth and success.

“Sarah has been an invaluable mentor, leader and friend throughout my time at UNP,” said Paul Kuttner, associate director of UNP. “She has taught me so much and her commitment to community and partnership is a constant inspiration.”

Munro said because this work is so broad and complicated, it has been her main focus to give UNP a clear sense of what they’re doing and what success looks like. She has strived to make it as easy as possible for everyone to access their programming and resources so they can find a continuous way to move forward.

“One of the biggest things that stands out and has helped UNP be successful is the general attitude of possibility and people being willing to work together in new ways,” said Munro. “One of the things UNP tries to offer is a space where people can do things differently and come from totally different backgrounds and work together as equals. And there was a willingness to try new approaches and a huge amount of support from the university and the community which really sets this organization and these partnerships apart.”

Sarah Munro’s son reads kind messages written thanking Munro for her work with UNP.

Many who worked with Munro at UNP said she succeeded in creating lasting change.

“Sarah has provided a clear and divine drop of hope that creates ripple effects of positive change in west side neighborhoods,” said Almaida Yanagui, community organizer and assistant partnership manager at UNP. “She has never been shy in sharing her passion and dedication as she worked side by side with the community and partners. That work has helped build the foundation that leads our neighborhoods toward prosperity.”

Watkins appointed Jennifer Mayer-Glenn as the new director of UNP and special assistant to the president for campus-community partnerships. Munro is confident she is the right person to lead UNP forward.

“Jennifer is going to be incredible at this work because she’s really lived it,” said Munro. “She grew up on the west side and she knows all of the institutions really well, so I think she’s going to be one of those people who thread things together even more closely.”