Sarah Desmarais Named Director of NC State’s Center for Family and Community Engagement

Sarah Desmarais stands in front of the Wake County Detention Center

Sarah Desmarais. Photo by Marc Hall.

Sarah Desmarais has been named director of NC State University’s Center for Family and Community Engagement. CFFACE is a public service and research center at NC State, founded in 2008 to support family-centered practices through training, technical assistance, evaluation and research.

Desmarais, an associate professor in NC State’s Applied Social and Community Psychology Program since 2012, took on the center leadership role July 1, 2018, following the retirement of founding CFFACE director Joan Pennell, who served as a professor of social work at NC State for 20 years.

Desmarais has worked as a faculty partner with CFFACE since 2015. She was recently awarded a $1.6 million contract from the North Carolina Division of Social Services to support family centered-practice across the state. This contract represents a continuation of more than 20 years of partnership between NC State and the Division of Social Services. Desmarais brings to the work an increased emphasis on implementation science and evidence-based policy and practice.

A leading expert on violence risk assessment, Desmarais serves on federal, state and local behavioral health and criminal justice advisory committees. Her research focuses on improving public health and safety through evidence-based policy and practice. She has more than 100 peer-reviewed publications and has held more than $4.8 million in grants.

She has received numerous awards and recognition for her leadership in research and engagement. In 2018, she earned an NC State Alumni Association Outstanding Extension and Outreach Award and became a member of the NC State University Academy of Outstanding Faculty Engaged in Extension. In 2017, the Alumni Association awarded her its Outstanding Research Award; Desmarais also became a member of the university’s Research Leadership Academy. She received the 2014-15 NC State Humanities and Social Sciences Outstanding Junior Faculty Award and was selected as a member of the 2015-16 NC State University Faculty Scholars Program.

Desmarais, who holds a doctoral degree from the Law and Forensic Psychology Program at Simon Fraser University, was formerly an assistant professor in the departments of Community and Family Health and Mental Health Law and Policy at the University of South Florida.

NC State University established the Center for Family and Community Engagement in 2008 to advance safe, healthy and productive families and communities. The center works with interdisciplinary partners on both research and practice at the local, national and global levels to improve family and community health and well-being.

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