Sara Nadelman, '02 BA Sociology

Country Director
Transitions Global

Sara Nadelman is the Country Director for Transitions, an NGO in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, which provides aftercare to teenage girls who have been sexually trafficked. Sara was born in North Plainfield, New Jersey, but moved around while growing up, attending junior high and high school in Lincoln, Nebraska before coming to Syracuse for her undergraduate degree. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a minor in Anthropology from the Maxwell School in 2002, and she also earned a Master’s of Public Health with a concentration in international health from Boston University’s School of Public Health in 2009. Currently in Phnom Penh, Sara oversees all of Transitions’ programs on the ground in Cambodia.

Sara NadelmanTransitions provides a holistic, trauma-informed, team-based treatment model that is supported by therapy, case management, education/vocational training and life skills. The goal is to help girls become strong, independent women who can re-enter the community and be safe and secure in a sustainable way. Working closely with the CEO, COO, and Clinical Director of Transitions, Sara’s goal is to build a strong institutional foundation for staff and clients at Transitions. “We focus on caring for the caregiver so that they can provide the best care for our clients,” she says. “It may seem cliché, but the idea is that we are all building a house together; we all [staff, clients, executives, board, volunteers] are creating the foundation for a strong house in which our clients and grow, learn and feel safe and can use this house a base for their lives going forward.” Currently, Sara is working on an organizational assessment with the executive staff at Transitions, as well as reviewing operations policies and procedures for the NGO. She says there is no such thing as a typical day in her world--at any point she could be meeting with staff about an issue that has come up in the program or with a client, meeting at the Transitions-run Shine Career School to deal with schedule changes and client educational or vocational planning, supervising interns and volunteers, building a cohesive, mission-focused human resources plan that promotes open communication and transparency at all levels, planning activities for vacation and/or holidays, creating emergency protocols and procedures with the clinical and operations teams, preparing grants, communicating with partner organizations and dealing with anything else that comes up in the day. 

Upon graduating from Maxwell, Sara began working in hospital administration in Boston, Massachusetts. While at her first job in the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital for Dr. Greg Fricchione, Sara discovered a strong interest in international mental and public health. This interest made her decide to go on to receive her Master’s in Public Health at Boston University part time.

 While she was receiving her degree, Sara was an intern on a qualitative research study on the mental health issues of sexually trafficked girls in Phnom Penh for three weeks. “I fell in love with the country and learned a great deal about the status of sexual trafficking in Cambodia,” she says. Sara went back to working in hospital and medical school administration when a friend sent her a job posting for Transitions. It was the perfect fit for her skills and interests, so she had to pursue it. 

 Sara has nothing but positive things to say about the courses she took while at Maxwell. “Being a Sociology major seems like a broad choice,” she says. “But I learned a lot of really important skills: qualitative and quantitative research methods, ethnography, sociological underpinnings for group and individual behavior and writing skills for a variety of different fields.”

Some professors that Sara remembers fondly at Maxwell include Monisha Das Gupta, who “taught me a great deal about race and ethnicity and its effect on societies domestically and internationally,” and Richard Braungart: “He was considered a tough teacher, but expected excellence from all of his students in our introductory class. He made me want to learn and understand the information more. He was also very willing to dedicate the time to the concepts that were challenging and made us think outside of the book. I have to say that I really learned a lot from all of my Maxwell professors.” Sara says she obtained a strong skill and education set that has allowed her to have many options for employment and further education upon graduation. 

 Looking back on her time as a Syracuse University undergraduate, Sara says one of the activities she remembers most is when a group of monks came to Syracuse University to do sand paintings in the foyer of the geology building. And of course the Syracuse weather: “I also remember the first day of spring and how everyone was out on the quad taking in the sunshine.” 

Her advice to Maxwell students? “No matter how seemingly random a course may seem, take it all in. There is so much more to the courses than the syllabus and you can get out what you put in. Make sure to take advantage of professorial and TA office hours; that made the most difference in my success at SU.”

Sara can be contacted at You can visit Transitions' website at