Friday, July 29, 2022
Associations serve as the professional home for their members, who usually look for some level of alignment with their personal value systems. That’s why it’s important that our values and mission remain at the forefront of all activities of The American Evaluation Association.
Nonprofits are often a driving force behind social justice, racial and gender equality, and although the American Evaluation Association was not particularly founded to focus on advocacy, we often find ourselves in a position to be a driving force behind these issues as they relate to the field of evaluation.
While we use caution to stay neutral when addressing controversial issues, it’s important to note that we use our values system as a guide for when and how we should respond to issues. Our values are as follows:
The American Evaluation Association values excellence in evaluation practice, utilization of evaluation findings, and inclusion and diversity in the evaluation community.
Based on our values system, members of AEA are responsible for enacting and maintaining social equality in evaluation. This responsibility is based on ethical and moral ideals that format the expectations of a socially responsible person. Change is never easy, nor is it comfortable. Social change agitates social structures because it brings inequalities to light so that needs can be addressed. It is important for evaluators to be catalysts for equality, and this, is the reason why we issue statements around social justice, equity and diversity. Our statements aim to create awareness to educate and disseminate correct information to support equity to individuals and marginalized groups of people.
The American Evaluation Association is young in its journey towards Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), but we are on the road! Our journey begins with the desire to ensure that access to resources, equity, participation, diversity, and human rights are at the forefront of our structures for governance, operations, programs, and events. Evaluators have key roles in social justice, which include social safekeeping to improve or expand programs, and social exploring, to gather data to support better understanding of world events.
I look forward to your participation in an upcoming Town Hall (date to be announced in August) on how AEA will incorporate the review of social justice and DEI issues that affect us an association into our conference site selection process!
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
Why do you belong to AEA?
As program evaluators and data scientists, many view us as individuals who merely crunch numbers. However, through my lived experience as a struggling student, STEM educator, senior administrator, and research analyst, the last thing struggling students need is a reductionist script. At ILC, we know the devastating impact of such a faulty assessment. Such judgments create a reality where students who need the most get the least. At ILC, we fiercely fight that narrative by attending to the whole human experience in STEM education.
So, when I reflect on why I belong to the AEA, my first thought is not about how it benefits me or my business. I think about how being a member of the AEA provides a supportive space to spread and share my personal and professional knowledge and passion to uplift and empower people—especially struggling students. We design our work ultimately to benefit students, although we work with students' primary points of contacts-educators and administrators.
Why do you choose to work in the field of evaluation?
For too long, a deficit-based methodology has ruled the classroom. This narrative often leads to a sense of shame and inadequacy in students, which can hinder their ability to learn. Fortunately, there is a shift happening in education -- a long-awaited move toward a constructivist approach that prioritizes students’ intellectual assets.
As a researcher, evaluator, and CEO of an evaluation firm with over 20 years of experience, I am honored to be a thought leader in this arena. I delight in creating inclusive learning environments that are affirming for all students, including the adults in their sphere, since we implicitly acknowledge that student learners are surrounded by lifelong learners. At least they are supposed to be.
Twenty years ago, I chose the field of evaluation to help lead educators as they reorient their thinking from merely academic achievement toward the total student experience. My vision, then and now, is that the embrace of students’ intellectual assets will not only promote equity, but the adoption of a strength-based perspective through deep-reaching evaluation and research, cultivates an academic environment that prioritizes our stakeholders and by extension students.
What's the most memorable or meaningful evaluation that you have been a part of?
About six years ago, I was chosen to help increase the efficacy of a multi-million-dollar funded program to implement change by increasing underrepresented STEM faculty receiving promotion and tenure at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). But this was not your ordinary evaluation.
Before they chose me for the project, I learned the previous evaluators left or were asked to leave. I was the third evaluator on the project. I had my work cut out for me. But, I knew I was ready for the challenge.
When I came on, I needed to solve several challenges. Instead of centering first on the challenges, I engaged the project team in my usual way. Instead of focusing on the deficits, we focused on their assets and gradually implemented constructive strategies to strengthen their weaknesses. For me, this is a simple process, but it proves difficult for many. I often wonder, could it be that the challenges observed evoke unresolved struggles within the observer?
Through our work, we reconstructed the program to allow more space for brainstorming, implementing mentor feedback, and collaborating with peers -- which helped the institutions gain valuable insight into what was working and what the primary program participants needed most.
Over the years, the program has seen an institutional change that allows HBCUs to create environments where African American faculty know their growth is actively supported. But what stood out to me was how the program leaders began to slowly, then forthrightly, recognize their own intellectual assets they’d previously failed to acknowledge while detailing their efforts to make a significant positive impact in the lives of others.
What advice would you give to those new to the field?
There are three things I would share with those new to the field. We’ll call these the jewels of life.
The first is to be insatiably curious. At some point in your journey, you will encounter overwhelming obstacles and relentless resistance. Persevere anyway. Be curious about what would happen if you explored an alternative path. The right opportunities and people to support your vision, knowledge, and passion will present themselves.
The second is to have a friendly disposition. Practice kindness. Be someone that others want to work with. If you want to be successful in the evaluation field, you need to learn how to get along with people. Data is more than numbers.
The third is to be inclusive. Before hiding away in your office or your lab, immerse yourself in the field and get to know those you are evaluating. Use data to tell an inclusive story that represents the whole human existence of the program or project.
The International and Cross-Cultural Evaluation (ICCE) TIG held a pre-conference submission collaboration session on March 31st. In this session we supported each other in brainstorming ideas for AEA conference submission and looked for opportunities to collaborate on designing sessions with similar themes. We also reviewed how to keep engaged with the ICCE community through the AEA Connect platform and opportunities to get involved with the TIG by serving as a conference proposal or travel awards reviewer or by writing a blog for our annual AEA365 week. We had a lot of fun sharing ideas with each other and we look forward to more opportunities like this in the future!
From May 30 to June 5 the ICCE TIG sponsored a week worth of AEA365 blogs with our members sharing their experiences in culturally responsive and equitable evaluation approaches, conducting evaluations with displaced peoples and other vulnerable populations, working with international organizations on localization approaches, evaluating sustainability, and ensuring child rights in evaluation. If you missed those blogs, check them out here and join us in the discussion on these important topics!
Upcoming International Evaluation Conferences and Workshops:
It's time to mark your calendars and start checking flights: AEA's annual conference is back! Evaluation 2022 will take place November 7-12, 2022 in New Orleans, LA. We are beyond thrilled to re-convene for our first in-person conference since 2019.
Registration and the AEA hotel block for Evaluation 2022 will open in August. In the meantime, we want to give you ample time to plan your trip. View registration details and hotel information to start budgeting for the event, which will feature hundreds of top-notch sessions over the course of six days.
Learn More About the Conference
Evaluation can and should support efforts to transition to a better world”- George Julnes, 2021
The family and friends of Dr. George Julnes and the American Evaluation Association are pleased to introduce the George Julnes Endowed Social Betterment Conference Award, an endowed award established to honor the life and legacy of Dr. George Julnes. George had a distinguished career in program evaluation and contributed outstanding service to AEA, including as Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Evaluation.
This award will be given to recognize one or more accepted paper proposals to be presented at the AEA annual conference, Evaluation 2022. The award(s) will be given to benefit emerging evaluators to attend and present at the conference. Learn more about the award and George’s legacy here.
You can support the George Julnes Endowed Social Betterment Conference Award by donating today to the AEA giving campaign. Your gift plays a critical role in advancing education and opportunities for emerging evaluators.
Thursday, August 4, 2:00 p.m. EDT
Presenter: Danielle de Garcia, Vice President, Strategy, Performance and Learning, Social Impact
Locally-led monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) has been gaining momentum in recent years. While the principles have been around for some time, meaningfully implementing it is a whole other matter. Join us on August 4 to for an interactive Town Hall discussing the implications of shifting to locally-led MEL and how that will re-shape evaluation more broadly.
We’ll look to panelists and participants to provide input on the gaps and opportunities of locally-led MEL in development; which will serve as the foundation for a Presidential Strand discussion at Evaluation 2022, tsking place later this year.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.*
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As a member of AEA, you will receive a discounted price on Evaluation 2022 and other discounts on education offerings. AEA offers multiple membership options to fit your budget and your needs. In addition, AEA follows anniversary membership, meaning you receive a full year of membership no matter what time of year you join.
Learn More About Member Benefits
AEA members receive discounts from certain publishers. Use the special codes below during your next purchase:
Sign up for upcoming eStudies sessions! Spots are limited, so register now for one of the following spots:
Pressed for time? You can take a Coffee Break session below for quick presentations that cover a variety of topics.
What's new this month in the AEA Online Career Center? The following positions have been added recently:
Explore the Online Career Center
AEA would like to recognize and thank some of its most longstanding members. Click here to view individuals who are celebrating 5+, 10+, 20+, and 30+ years with the association this month!
AEA would like to welcome those who have recently joined the association. Click here to view a list of AEA's newest members.
AEA is a professional association of evaluators devoted to the application and exploration of evaluation in all its forms.
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