Sara Rinfret

Acting Dean, Public Administration and Policy & MPA Director


Law 146
Office Hours

Starting August 2021-May 13, 2022 please use this link to set up a meeting with me. https://calendly.com/sara-rinfret/individual-conferences-with-prof-rinfret If times do not work, send me an email with your availability and happy to meet with you!

Email (most reliable way to reach me)

Phone: 406-243-4702 

Personal Summary

Sara Rinfret is a public administration and policy generalist, teaching courses on regulatory policy, environmental policy, public policy, public opinion & polling (qualitative or quantitative methods), human resource management, organization behavior, and public administration. She is the Acting Dean for Public Administration & Policy within the Alexander Blewett School of Law and Director for the Master of Public Administration Program. Her main area of research is focused on policy creation and implementation (environmental policy, regulations, and compliance) and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Much of her policy research examines the role of interest group participation, women, or public opinion during the stages of administrative rulemaking at the state, federal, or international level. Her scholarship of teaching and learning research advances the role of innovation for online and in-person coursework. 

She has authored more than thirty peer reviewed articles and co-authored six books: The Lilliputians of Environmental Regulation: The Perspective of State Regulators (Routledge); U.S. Environmental Policy in Action (Palgrave) (co-written with Michelle Pautz); Public Policy: A Concise Introduction (CQ Press, with Michelle Pautz and Denise Scheberle), the Environmental Case (CQ Press, with Judith Layzer), and Who Makes Environmental Policy (Temple University Press, September 2021). She is a recipient of the Fulbright Specialist Program in public administration and studied with scholars at the University of Aarhus (Denmark) in 2016. In 2018, she was selected by UM student alumni as the "most inspirational teacher" of the year and the 2020 recipient of the Mike Malone MT Educator of the Year Award. She served as a faculty fellow for the University of Montana's Women's Leadership Initiative (2019), focusing with her colleagues on issues of workplace equity. She has served as the chair for small programs with NASPAA in addition to co-chairing the University of Montana's Graduate Council and a member of the Executive Council of Faculty Senate. Fall 2020 she was elected to NASPAA's Executive Council for a three-year term.

Summer 2019 she helped to create the Department of Public Administration and Policy's annual Public Service Training Academy. Each year, new trainings are offered for current students and public and nonprofit sector employees across the nation. 

Her MPA is from Ohio State University's John Glenn School of Public Affairs and a Ph.D. in political science from Northern Arizona University.


Northern Arizona University, Ph.D.
The Ohio State University, MPA
Otterbein College, BA

Courses Taught

Public Administration (501); Organizational Theory (504); Environmental Governance (595); Women, Policy & Public Administration (528); Introduction to Public Service (NPAD 166), Independent Study (596); Human Resource Management (522); Public Policymaking (531); Policy Analyis (503); Internship (598)

Field of Study

Regulatory policy, American politics, interest groups, environmental policy, public policy, public administration, state and local government, public opinion/polling, qualitative and quantitative research methods

Selected Publications


Rinfret, Sara. 2021. Who Makes Environmental Policy? Environmental Rules and Regulations. Temple University Press.

Rinfret, Sara R. and Michelle C. Pautz. 2019 and 2014. U.S. Environmental Policy in Action. 2nd edition. Palgrave.

Layzer, Judith and Sara Rinfret, 2019. The Environmental Case. Translating Values into Policy. CQ Press.

Rinfret, Sara, Scheberle, Denise, and Michelle C. Pautz. 2018. Public Policy: A Concise Introduction. CQ Press.

Pautz, Michelle and Sara R. Rinfret. 2012. The Lilliputians of Environmental Regulation: The Perspective of State Regulators. New York, NY: Routledge.

Book Chapters

Pautz, Michelle C. and Sara R. Rinfret. 2021. “Engaging Qualitative Research Approaches to Investigate Environmental Compliance Motivations.” in Compliance Research Ed. Melissa Rori. Oxford University Press. Understanding the How and Why of Compliance

Rinfret, Sara R. and Michelle C. Pautz. 2018. “Gender, Class Format, and Student Attitudes Towards Political Participation.” Chapter 8 in Ekaterina Levintova and Allison Staudinger’s Political Science Classroom. Indiana University Press.

Rinfret, Sara R. and Jeffrey J. Cook. 2015. “Rulemaking” Oxford Bibliographies in “Environmental Science.” Ed. Ellen Wohl. New York, Oxford University Press. (2nd edition, 2018, 3rd edition, 2021)

Pautz, Michelle and Sara R. Rinfret. 2014. “The Regulatory Interactions of Front-Line Environmental Regulators, Chapter 4 in Lee Paddock and Jessica Wentz’s Next Generation of Environmental Compliance: The Environmental Law Institute.

Rinfret, Sara R. and Scott R. Furlong. 2013. “Defining Environmental Rulemaking, Chapter 17” in Michael E.  Kraft and Sheldon Kamieniecki’s Oxford Handbook of U.S. Environmental Policy.

Peer Reviewed Articles

Rinfret, Sara. 2021. "Women and Regulation: The Untold Stories." Public Integrity

Rinfret, Sara. 2020. “Telepresence Robots: A New Model for Public Administration Course Delivery.” Journal of Public Affairs Education. 26(3).

Rinfret, Sara, Angle, Justin (published with our students). 2019. “Experiential Learning Revisited: Lessons from a Student-Led Public Opinion Polling Class.” PS: Political Science.  

Rinfret, Sara and Christina Barsky. 2019. “The Gatekeepers of U.S. Elections: Exploring Street Level Bureaucrats in Montana.” International Journal of Public Administration. 53(3).

Rinfret, Sara and Jeffrey Cook. 2019. “Trial By Fire: Rulewriters, Training, the BLM and the EPA.” Environmental Practice 21(3): 113-120.

Rinfret, Sara. 2019. “Debating the Issues and Finding a Middle Ground.” PS: Political Science 52 (3).

Rinfret, Sara, Barsky, Christina, and Samuel Scott. 2018. “Public Perceptions, Election Administration, and Street Level Bureaucrats.” Public Administration Quarterly 42(4): 69-72.

Rinfret, Sara and Michelle Pautz. 2018. “On the Front-Lines of Implementing Environmental Regulation: The Perspective of the Regulated Community in Montana.” Review of Policy Research 35 (3): 422-438.

Rinfret, Sara and Michelle Pautz. 2017. “In the Eye of the Storm: How Montana and Ohio Are Framing the Debate about the Clean Power Plan Rule.” Environmental Practice 19(1): 26-37.

Rinfret, Sara. 2017. “Experiential Learning and Pathways to Carbon Neutrality.” PS: Political Science 50(3) 842-848.

Rinfret, Sara. 2017. “Public Land Agencies, OIRA, and Rulemaking.” Public Administration Quarterly 41 (1) 183-189.

Rinfret, Sara and Jeffrey Cook. 2016. “The NPS and Ossification: Does it Still Exist? International Journal of Public Administration doi: 10.1080/01900692.2015.1076841

Pautz, Michelle C., Rinfret, Sara R. and Melissa Rorie. 2016. “The Regulatory Thicket: Regulators and Environmental Professionals” International Journal of Public Administration http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01900692.2015.1076002.

Rinfret, Sara R. and Michelle C. Pautz. 2015. “Understanding Public Policymaking through the Work of Committees: Utilizing a Student-Led Congressional Hearing Simulation.”  Journal of Political Science Education 11(4): 442-454.

Rorie, Melissa, Rinfret, Sara, and Michelle Pautz. 2015. “The Thin Green Line: Examining Environmental Regulation and Environmental Offending from Multiple Perspectives.” International Journal of Law, Crime, and Justice 43: 586-608.

Cook, Jeffrey J. and Sara R. Rinfret. 2014. “Are They Really So Different? Climate Change Rule Development in the US and UK.” Journal of Public Affairs 15 (1): 79-85.

Pautz, Michelle C. and Sara R. Rinfret. 2014. “State Environmental Regulators: Perspectives about Trust with their Regulatory Counterparts.” Journal of Public Affairs doi: 10.1002/pa.1558

Rinfret, Sara R. and Jeffrey J. Cook. 2014. “Inside EPA Rulemaking: The Reality of Reg Neg Lite” Environmental Policy and Governance 24: 122-133.

Rinfret, Sara, Pautz, Michelle and Jeffrey J. Cook. 2014. “Understanding State Rulemaking Processes: Developing Fracking Rules in Colorado, New York, and Ohio.” Review of Policy Research 2 (31): 88-104.

Cook, Jeffrey J. and Sara R. Rinfret. 2013. “A Revised Look: EPA Rulemaking Processes.” Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences 3 (3): 279-289.

Cook, Jeffrey J. and Sara R. Rinfret. 2013. “The EPA Regulates GHG Emissions: Is Anyone Paying Attention?” Review of Policy Research 30 (4): 263-280

Rinfret, Sara R. and Michelle Pautz. 2012. “Attitudes and Perspectives of Front-Line Workers in Environmental Policy: A Case Study of Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency and Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources.” Journal of Public Affairs 10.

Rinfret, Sara R. 2012. “Simulating City Councils: Increasing Student Involvement and Awareness.” PS: Political Science and Politics 45(3): 513-515.

Pautz, Michelle and Sara R. Rinfret. 2011. “Making Sense of the Front-Lines: Environmental Regulators in Ohio and Wisconsin.” Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences 1: 277-288.

Rinfret, Sara R. 2011. “Cleaning up the Air: The EPA and Shuttle Diplomacy.” Environmental Practice 13 (3)1-8.

Rinfret, Sara R. 2011. “Frames of Influence: U.S. Environmental Rulemaking Case Studies.” Review of Policy Research 28 (3): 231-245.

Gibson-Bush, Brigette and Sara R. Rinfret. 2011. “Environmental Adult Learning and Transformation in Formal and Nonformal Settings.” Journal of Transformative Education 8 (2): 71-88.

Rinfret, Sara R. 2011. “Behind the Shadows: Interests, Influence, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.” Human Dimensions of Wildlife: An International Journal 16 (1): 1-14.

Munn, Sunny, Rinfret, Sara R. and Kendra Davitt. 2010. “Recognizing Privilege: Rural, Urban and International Perspectives.” New Horizons in Adult Education and Human Resource Development. (24) 2.

Rinfret, Sara R. 2009. “Controlling Animals: Power, Foucault, and Species Management.” Society and Natural Resources. (22) 6: 1-8.

Schlosberg, David and Sara R. Rinfret. 2008. “Ecological Modernization, American Style.” Environmental Politics. (17)2: 254-275. Also published in Bomberg, Elizabeth and David Schlosberg. 2009. Environmentalism in the United States: Changing Conceptions of Activism. New York, NY: Routledge.