Dr. Sam Larson (she/her) is an Associate Professor in the Master of Public Administration (MPA) Program at UWO. She also serves as Program Coordinator of the Fire and Emergency Response Management (FERM) Program, Research Director of the UWO Whitburn Center of Governance and Policy Research, and is a Co-Principal Investigator on a National Science Foundation ADVANCE Adaptation Grant. Her work focuses on how public service and policy can advance social equity, belonging, democracy, resilience, and healing. Prior to UWO, Sam served for more than 15 years in public and nonprofit organizations focused on rural, environmental, and educational initiatives. A native of North Dakota, Sam received her B.A. in Social Science from the University of North Dakota, M.S. in Sociology from North Dakota State University, and Ph.D. in Public Affairs at the University of Colorado – Denver. She and her partner, Dr. Bobbi Jo Merten (she/her), split time between Wisconsin and Colorado with their two cats, Frida and Peanut.


My teaching philosophy has evolved over the course of 12+ years as a university-level instructor. Prior to joining the UWO faculty, I engaged in many professional development activities that led me to develop this philosophy, based on three interdependent pillars. These continue to guide me today: 1) Engaged Pedagogy. My philosophy is grounded in student-centered learning. I take time getting to know individual student backgrounds, their interests in the material, and what they want to get out of their education to benefit their future career. I revise my courses and materials to ensure I am meeting the needs and interests of every single student. 2) Differentiation. I create diverse class activities, assignments, and assessments to meet the needs of different learning styles. I create dynamic presentations to satisfy visual learners. My courses include online and face-to-face discussions that allow auditory learners dialogue, case studies, and group exercises. Tactile learners are able to gain hands-on experience through my research-based assignments. Finally, kinesthetic learners enjoy my experiential methods, such as community-based projects. 3) Inclusive Excellence. A cornerstone of my philosophy integrates universal design principles and a variety of readings and activities to ensure students from all backgrounds feel welcome and included in my courses and the MPA program as a whole. I incorporate cultural competency into my overall curriculum and connect students with related opportunities on campus and in the broader community.