HomepageAlumniSara Jacobson ’94

Sara Jacobson ’94

2023 Henry P. and M. Page Laughlin Educator Award recipient

Sara Jacobson graduated from Ursinus in 1994 with a B.A in international relations and politics. She earned her JD degree from Temple University’s Beasley School of Law in 1997 and a master of law in trial advocacy from Temple Law in 2004. She spent a decade as an assistant public defender in Philadelphia where she tried thousands of cases and served as assistant chief of the Juvenile Unit.

In 2008, Sara took on a faculty position at Temple, and has been training and teaching future and current trial lawyers ever since. Sara taught for other prestigious institutions, including the National Institute of Trial Advocacy and the University of Pennsylvania. She frequently volunteers her time and expertise for a range of organizations and causes, including the City of Philadelphia, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

Sara is highly respected and sought after as an expert in her field who is empathetic, caring, and objective. She has trained judges, prosecutors, public defenders, court staff, and other trial advocacy teachers on transgender competency. She has also taught lawyers internationally in China and Uganda. She has published several articles and given dozens of presentations. Sara was awarded the prestigious Edward D. Ohlbaum Professionalism Award by her peers in the trial advocacy community in 2020.

Sara is currently the executive director of the Public Defenders Association of Pennsylvania, overseeing all aspects of an organization responsible for training public defenders across the Commonwealth.

Ursinus has always held a special place in Sara’s heart. She credits the faculty for putting student success first and she has followed their example in her career as an educator. Ursinus instilled in her the skills that prepared her for a career in the courtroom and for life.

Q&A with Sara Jacobson ’94

How is winning an Ursinus Alumni Award significant for you personally and professionally?

Ursinus is a special place and holds a special place in my heart. Some of the students I’ve taught at Temple Law were themselves Ursinus alumni. That makes this professional acknowledgment special to me. Winning this alumni award is significant to me personally, given the amazing award winners who preceded me, and given how much my time at Ursinus meant to me.

How did Ursinus College prepare you for a career as an educator?

At Ursinus, education wasn’t just professors talking at us. An Ursinus education was professors talking with students and asking us to think and to communicate our thoughts. Those skills – quick, critical thinking and clear, thoughtful communication – prepared me for the courtroom, and then to teach students how to think and communicate in courtrooms. I also hope that in the individual interactions I have, and in relationships I build with students, that I carry the best parts of Ursinus with me: professors who put students’ success first.

How have your Ursinus mentors shaped your role as a leader in your industry?

They haven’t really, but I hope that I can serve Ursinus students and young alumni I meet along the way.

What has been your proudest contribution to your professional community?

When I was on the full-time faculty at Temple Law, I educated and mentored scores of law students, but my proudest professional contribution is what I do now, teaching and training public defenders across Pennsylvania. Because PA’s public defenders are so underfunded, the training that my organization provides is the only training available to most of the state’s PDs. It’s a massive responsibility. I still do teach Law students, which is also important, but helping Pennsylvania’s public defenders be prepared to defend their clients well does more for the public good.

What was your proudest UC moment?

It’s hard to pick one moment in time. I made friendships at Ursinus that will last a lifetime, and every moment with them was meaningful: meeting my friend Joy in the library to bring her needed support, attending requisite advising sessions with my friend Jenn, house bonding activities. None of those were big moments, but they were all moments where we matured, and the foundations of our lifelong friendships were formed.

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