Sara Miller McCune is the founder and executive chairman of the independent academic and professional publisher SAGE and president of the McCune Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Ventura, California, which aims to be an agent of productive change by supporting the growth of social capital in communities. Guided by an entrepreneurial spirit and an unwavering dedication to academia, the then-24-year-old Sara founded SAGE in 1965 in New York City. Her goal was to start a company that would allow scholars to disseminate quality research in their own voices and break new ground in emerging fields of study. She served as the company’s president for 18 years prior to becoming SAGE’s chairman in 1984. SAGE moved to California in mid-1966 and set up offices in London in 1971, in India in 1981, and Singapore in 2006, and acquired CQ Press, based in Washington, D.C., in 2008. Today, Ms. McCune also serves as a director of SAGE Publications Ltd and Corwin, a SAGE company and leading publisher for educational administrators and teachers. Ms. McCune remains actively involved in the company’s ongoing expansion and development.
In 2007, Ms. McCune founded the Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media and Public Policy in Santa Barbara, California, and today serves as its executive chairman. In 2008, she launched Miller-McCune magazine both in print and online, which was named one of Library Journal’s “10 Best Magazines” of 2008.
In 2012, the magazine, which brings the “science of society” to the public, was re-titled Pacific Standard. Since then, the magazine has been nominated for the American Society of Magazine Editors’ National Magazine Award for General Excellence in 2013 (one of only five in its category) and was awarded the Sidney Hillman Award, honoring socially conscious journalism for its February 2014 article, “The Next Civil Rights Issue: Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet”; the Media for Liberty Award, honoring articles that explore the relationship between economic and political liberty, for its article “The Deluge” from May/June 2013; five Maggie awards from the Western Publishing Association, including Best Feature Article and Best Politics & Social Issues magazine in 2013; the American Psychoanalytic Association Award for Excellence in Journalism for the May/June 2013 article “What Does It Take for Traumatized Kids to Thrive?”; and a Folio Ozzie Award for Best Use of Illustration for the May/June 2012 issue “The Keyboard and the Damage Done,” to name a few of its many honors.
Reflecting her long-standing interest in philanthropy, especially in promoting world justice, Ms. McCune and SAGE were founding supporters of The Justice Project. She is also the co-founder and president of the McCune Foundation, founded in 1990. In memory of George D. McCune, Sara’s husband, first business mentor, and eventual business partner until his death in 1990, the foundation sponsors a Graduate Dissertation Fellowship at the UCSB Department of Communication. In 2002, the McCune Foundation’s board of directors agreed to award grants to grassroots organizations in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties that build “social capital” with an emphasis on educational and other opportunities for the poor and underserved. This program remains a priority of the foundation, which has supported groups such as the Oaxacan farmworker community in Ventura County. Ms. McCune’s philanthropic efforts extend to the local medical community; in 2007, she arranged a donation of $2.5 million to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital through SAGE. She is also a past president of the Santa Barbara Foundation Roundtable.
Ms. McCune is a passionate supporter of the arts. She was on the board of the Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts from 1998 through 2009 and, for much of that period, served as chief financial officer, helping the center to restore and reopen its Granada Theatre. She served on the board of directors for the Community Arts Music Association of Santa Barbara until 2014.
In February of 2011, Ms. McCune and SAGE donated £1 million to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London to build an indoor Jacobean theatre which opened in January of 2014. A patron and trustee of Shakespeare Globe Centre-USA Inc., Ms. McCune supported the Broadway production of the London-based Richard III (nominated for one 2014 Tony Award) and Twelfth Night (nominated for seven 2014 Tony Awards, and winner of two).
SAGE and Ms. McCune have pledged support for an upcoming PBS documentary on the life and times of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Sara currently chairs fundraising for further support of the production.
Ms. McCune is an active supporter of academic and university initiatives. She was a long-serving member of the board of directors at the American Academy of Political and Social Science until June of 2014, and in January 2012, she joined the board of directors of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. She has served as a trustee of the Fielding Graduate University headquartered in Santa Barbara, California, and was the university’s interim president in 1999-2000; in 2002, Fielding recognized her as a Lifetime Fellow.
Ms. McCune was a member of the University of California, Santa Barbara Foundation Board of Trustees for more than two decades. Currently, she co-chairs the Council for Arts & Lectures at the University of California, Santa Barbara which has a five-year campaign goal to raise $20 million, half going to current programming and half to its first endowment fund.
Ms. McCune served for two decades as a member of the Howard Samuels State Management and Policy Center (focused on state and local government) at the CUNY Graduate Center. She recently co-chaired the effort to endow a professorship at CUNY GC to honor her mentor and lifelong friend, Marilyn Jacobs Gittell.
In June 2005, Ms. McCune received from The Board of Directors of the Alumni Association from the University of California, Santa Barbara, a Life Membership, their highest award. In May 2012, she received an honorary doctorate from her alma mater, Queens College. This honor recognized Sara’s distinguished service to education, her many decades of publishing and philanthropic achievements, as well as her entrepreneurial skills.
In the summer of 2014, Ms. McCune was also awarded an honorary fellowship from Cardiff University and an honorary doctor of letters from Bath University, both acknowledging her esteemed work and contribution to the field of social sciences and the global publishing industry, as well as her philanthropy.
Over the years, Ms. McCune has received a number of additional awards for her business, academic, and philanthropic achievements. In 1988, she received the American Evaluation Association’s Special Award for Distinguished Contributions to the field of evaluation in recognition of the influential role SAGE played in institutionalizing evaluation. In 1993, the Knowledge Utilization Society awarded her its Outstanding International Service Award.
In 1998, Ms. McCune was recognized as the 1998 Philanthropist of the Year for Santa Barbara County by the National Society of Fundraising Executives (currently the Association of Fundraising Professionals). In 2002, Ms. McCune received the Distinguished Community Service Award from the Anti-Defamation League and Santa Barbara B’nai B’rith Lodge. In 2003, she received the Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Arts and Entertainment for the Greater Los Angeles area from Ernst & Young as well as the Ernst & Young Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award for “extraordinary leadership.”
In 2004, Ms. McCune was honored with the Hope Award by the Channel Islands Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. In 2006, Ms. McCune received the News-Press Lifetime Achievement Award from the Santa Barbara News-Press based on the recommendation of previous winners of the award. In 2009, she was honored as the Entrepreneur of the Year by the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, and Opera Santa Barbara. In 2012, Ms. McCune received the HOPE Foundation’s Courageous Leadership Award in recognition for her contributions to education, philanthropy, and business. In May of 2013, Ms. McCune was inducted into the Pacific Coast Business Times Hall of Fame and was the first woman to receive this honor.
Ms. McCune is the stepmother of four, the grandmother of four, and the great-grandmother of seven. Ms. McCune resides in Montecito, California.
WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO
A letter from Sara Miller-McCune, founder of the Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media and Public Policy and Pacific Standard.
January 9, 2013
For more years than I care to count, I have been reading and publishing academic articles about the latest research in political science, education, sociology, and psychology. Together with economics, these areas of study—the social sciences—make up the empirical backbone of American public life. From James S. Coleman’s research proving that “separate but equal” schools were anything but equal, to James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling’s “broken windows” theory of policing, to Robert D. Putnam’s bracing look at the decline of civic engagement and social connections in his 2000 book, Bowling Alone, the research and the findings of social and behavioral scientists have repeatedly risen to the forefront of the national debate, and set the course of policy.
Just as often, however, valuable and potentially transformative insights from the social sciences have been overlooked, misunderstood, or passed over. Today, whole edifices of policy and public opinion rest on outdated models of human behavior and expedient nostrums about how markets, cultures, and institutions work. Where this is the case, the best research cries out to be heard.
We live in exciting times when it comes to our understanding of the mind, human behavior, and society. Advances in psychology and brain science have begun remaking entire fields of knowledge, including economics, law, and education. The notion that we humans are rational actors seeking always to maximize our self-interest—a concept that has been the basis of much modern economic policy and thought—is losing ground to explanations that chart the ways in which we are, to borrow a term from the behavioral economist Dan Ariely, predictably irrational.
These ideas have already begun to reshape the world of policy. In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister David Cameron has created a Behavioural Insights Team within his Cabinet Office. Here in the United States, the fledgling Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was deeply informed by behavioral economic principles from its founding—which means that these theories now stand to transform the market for mortgages, credit cards, and numerous other products that define the financial lives of Americans. Not long ago, the National Academy of Sciences sponsored an open meeting, in which we participated, to discuss the contributions of the social and behavioral sciences to national security, medicine, and engineering. The discussion covered the prevention of medical errors, the importance of human factors on the battlefield, and the ways in which an understanding of national and global human behavior can be harnessed to complete complex engineering projects in developing countries.
The world is facing so many overwhelming problems. How do we build an economy that is both fair and vibrant? How can we deliver basic, affordable health care for all? How can we educate our children so that more are trained for lives of success? How can we develop an environmentally sustainable society? How can we create a more just and democratic world in the face of rising inequality? These questions beg for answers, facts, and serious inquiry. Yet all too often the media pose merely rhetorical questions, leaving the loudest mouths on the far edges of the political spectrum to answer them, while neglecting the job of getting to the empirical truth of the matter.
Over the years, as one trailblazing article or book after another came across my desk at SAGE Publications, I would worry about how to get these important ideas to a wider audience. I founded the Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media and Public Policy to do just that by pairing experienced journalists with the researchers and experts who scientifically scrutinize the nation’s biggest issues relating to education, justice, the environment, and the economy.
Today, early in our sixth year of publishing this magazine—formerly under the name Miller-McCune, and now as Pacific Standard—we look around and see an unharnessed wealth of research that can address many of today’s problems and actually advance our most intractable debates. Two of the organizations I am involved with—the American Academy of Political and Social Science and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University—are working to expand the public’s recognition of research that should be central to our national conversation.
Pacific Standard’s goal is to be the publication that explains the deeply researched work that is, and that should be, changing policy. We endeavor to give our readers the tools—in the form of lively reportage and robust research findings—to answer the most vexing problems facing the world today.