Thursday, October 28, 2021
In 1988, Michael Patton was President of AEA. In the “President’s Corner” section of the newsletter that year, he wrote about a tradition that had been established by Michael Scriven, another former AEA President, in which the AEA President would pose a “problem” to be solved at the annual conference. Members and conference attendees were encouraged to submit a response/solution to the proposed problem, with the winning submission to receive a $100 prize.
Although the “presidential problem” tradition was discontinued long ago, our conference theme this year, “AEA at 35: Meeting the Moment”, certainly presents a challenge for all of us to consider: In light of AEA’s preceding 35 years, how do we meet this moment?
Today’s evaluators cannot live in the past, of course; we live in the moment. But we must not forget our past. This notion is beautifully articulated by one of the sisters in the PBS series, “Call the Midwife”:
“The past is never lost to us. We carry it with us everywhere we go. It is in every cell of our body & our soul. It is where we have been.
This is where we learn to love. It is where we made our mistakes, where we consign them. The gift is knowing that the present will soon pass and the way we embrace it has the power to change everything”.
Unlike at perhaps any other time in AEA’s history, our profession is now facing a multitude of contextual changes due to issues such as a global pandemic, the plurality of individual and cultural differences, racial injustice, indigenous sovereignty, accelerating threats of climate change and the history and effects of colonialism.
We evaluators may not recognize or understand the systemic contextual changes that have taken place over the past 35 years and that have led to this moment - a moment in which we are confronted with, and at times burdened by, norms rooted in the past. We may not fully comprehend existing inequalities.
I believe that we evaluators need to reflect on our past practice in terms of our values and biases, the roles of context and culture and our commitment to equity and ethics. Without reflection in these critical areas, the transformation of evaluation practice that we seek will not move us beyond our past failures.
The realities of this moment give us the opportunity to ensure that the trajectory of change in evaluation practice is toward bettering humankind and our planet. In other words, the challenge of this moment may be for us to acknowledge and understand what our history brings to the realities of this moment, and then to begin to rise above limitations imposed by our past.
Let’s take advantage of what we can learn from our past to embrace the moment and to enhance the future. Let’s do our best to be courageous, to seize this opportunity to reflect, to be open and honest with ourselves and others, to interconnect, to be vulnerable and, above all, to be ethical in the way we conduct evaluation in today’s realities.
In sum, let’s be informed by the past as we navigate by the now and look toward the future.
Let’s work together to meet the challenge suggested in our theme “AEA at 35: Meeting the Moment”.
To celebrate 35 years as an association, AEA is highlighting members that have made an impact within the association and industry. Take a look at some of the recent spotlights you may have missed:
AEA is excited to celebrate our 35th year as an association in 2021! Since our inception in 1986, we have strived to advance evaluation as a profession and provide a space for community amongst a diverse group of evaluators. AEA is standing tall after 35 years, even amid the second year of a global pandemic; we think that is worth commemorating.
We want you to join in the celebration! Send us a few sentences on what AEA means to you or your team by tagging us at @aeaweb on Twitter and Facebook, or on LinkedIn, or email email@example.com. Take pictures using the AEA Zoom backgrounds (Option 1, Option 2, and Option 3) during committee, TIG, or your own team meetings and send them to us for a chance to be featured in an upcoming AEA Newsletter!
We look forward to seeing you celebrate our anniversary.
Degrees: BA (Psychology), MS (Educational Psychology), PhD (Educational Psychology Inquiry)
Years in the Evaluation Field: 24
Joined AEA: 2008
Why do you belong to AEA?
My evaluation work creates the opportunity to collaborate across many sectors: non-profit, higher education and health and human services, as well as corporate contracts. AEA is the perfect intersection for me to network with peers with a wide range of experiences and skills. The AEA culture is incredibly collaborative and collegial. Although I wasn’t new to the field when I joined AEA, I immediately appreciated the opportunities to connect with peers, learn new strategies and grow professionally.
Why do you choose to work in the field of evaluation?
I have always enjoyed the structure and diversity of evaluation work. In graduate school, other students seemed to have a passion for a particular area of research, like early childhood or school-based. I was just always fascinated by the range of questions a researcher might ask and answer. My interests and strengths have been in my ability to outline plans to answer those applied questions about fidelity and impact. Evaluation work provides a great vehicle to explore questions that are trans-disciplinary in nature using a toolbox that matches both methodology to address questions as well as a framework that operationalizes quality of work.
What's the most memorable or meaningful evaluation that you have been a part of?
During COVID, I worked with a team to summarize the impact of a program for consumers who had mental health needs and substance use histories. These community members were especially hard hit when their access to resources was drastically restricted during the pandemic. The clinical teams and the recovery community used technology and their systems of support to create virtual access to care for hundreds of people a day during the peak of the crisis. As an evaluator, I really felt grateful to be a part of the team and use my skills to tell their story in a way that others might be able to replicate. Ultimately, we wrote an article that was accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal and the evaluation team’s data contributed in important ways to this achievement. It’s not often that I get to feel as much a part of the “mission” as this project allowed.
What advice would you give to those new to the field?
Work as an external evaluator can feel fairly isolating. In my early career, I was part of research centers where colleagues were readily available and expectations for learning were well supported. I certainly valued that structure later in my career as an independent consultant because it had reinforced great habits for pushing my knowledge growth, staying connected to professional peers doing work I respected and setting goals for disseminating my work. Be gracious with yourself and value the learning journey that never ends rather than being focused on some mythical end goal of “expertise.”
Anything additional you would like to share with the AEA community?
The past two years have reminded me what an important community we have and how grateful I am for my colleagues.
We were pleased to participate this month on the Eval4Action Campaign regarding the impact we are having. We shared a two-minute video on how our work is aligned with the Eval4Action Campaign values—inclusion, professional practice, embracing young and emerging evaluators, inviting Indigenous leadership in evaluation, building strong partnerships and hosting excellent professional conferences while we also support conferences of other colleagues. Please like and share the AEA video on Twitter!
As always at this time of the year, we are very excited to welcome all of our members to upcoming retreat. You are all invited to the AEA Business Meeting where Board members and our Executive Director will cover what has been happening at the governance level of the AEA. We look forward to seeing you there as well as to hearing your input on what we have been doing, and in any area of interest to you. Watch the video.
Past President and Board Secretary
AEA is saddened to learn that longtime member Chris Coryn has recently passed away. Chris tirelessly led Western Michigan University's interdisciplinary Ph.D in evaluation program since 2008. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends. Click here to learn more about Chris.
Eval21 Reimagined is next month, and we hope to see you there! Join us (virtually) November 8-12 for 120+ sessions covering a variety of topics, notable plenary speakers, networking opportunities, and more. Take a look at the searchable program and check out our networking oppertunities:
Pop Trivia Night
Thursday, November 11, 4:30-5:30 p.m. EDT
Save the date for a night of pop trivia! Take off your evaluator hat and test your general knowledge. AEA will assign teams that will work together (virtually) to answer questions focused on general trivia, with a bonus round that will test your AEA knowledge. Trivia will be accessible via the virtual platform, which will be shared with registrants next week.
AEA will be hosting a series of Coffee Chat discussions. These informal coffee chats serve as an opportunity to get to know your fellow virtual attendees. Share what you learned throughout the day, meet like-minded professionals, or discover something new from AEA volunteer leaders. Topics and dates for the discussions will be released shortly.
Learn more about Eval21 Reimagined and register today!
AEA is excited to present ten workshops inspired by Eval21 Reimagined: A Virtual Experience. These workshops will take place through our Digital Knowledge Hub throughout December, and require separate registration on the Digital Knowledge Hub. View all workshops.
Join AEA President Tom Grayson and members of the Board of Directors to hear first-hand about AEA’s 2021 accomplishments and projects for 2022. During this meeting, we will also review the financial health of the organization and our strategic direction for future years. The Annual Business Meeting is open to all members and takes place November 4, 2021 at 2:00 PM EDT. Register now.
Did you miss AEA’s town hall on the status of our current fiscal health? Watch AEA Executive Director, Anisha Lewis, and AEA Treasurer, Felicia Bohanon as they provide an in-depth overview of our most recent fiscal year-end status, investments, revenue, and expense trends, as well as discuss new initiatives and paradigm shifts to boost funding of our programs and operations. Watch here.
Did you know? AEA members are added to our “Find an Evaluator” tool. Members and nonmembers alike use this tool to collaborate, develop partnerships, and connect with other professionals who are conducting similar evaluations. The “Find an Evaluator” tool has consistently been one of our highest viewed webpages, giving our members maximum visibility.
Learn more about other AEA member benefits.
In need of a new podcast series to listen to during your workday, commute, or just for fun during your free time? The AJE podcast series dives deeper into selected articles published in American Journal of Evaluation (AJE). Each episode will include an interview with the author to uncover insights form each article.
Start listening now!
AEA members can receive a 20% discount off of select Oxford University Press social work and research method titles when they order through the website www.oup.com/academic using the discount code AEA20.
Guilford Press is happy to offer AEA members a 30% discount off the list price of all Guilford titles—plus free shipping (U.S. & Canada) to enhance their work, teaching, training, and research. To see new and recent books, visit your special page at: www.guilford.com/aea. Receive the 30% discount and free shipping by using the promotional code: AFAEA.
AEA members can receive a 20% discount off Routledge products by ordering through the website using the discount code AEA20. Of particular interest to AEA members may be the books in the Comparative Policy Evaluation series (Ray C. Rist, Ed.), most recent title: Changing Bureaucracies: Adapting to Uncertainty, and How Evaluation Can Help – Burt Perrin and Tony Tyrrell Eds.).
The Digital Knowledge Hub is an online platform featuring professional development opportunities for evaluators, by evaluators. Check out our upcoming Coffee Breaks, eStudies, and Eval21 workshops:
Looking for a crash course in evaluation? Purchase the Introduction to Eval 101 on-demand course!
Created with the assistance of Tom Chapel, Chief Evaluation Officer for the CDC, Eval 101 provides an overview of the evaluation framework. This hands-on, self-paced eLearning course uses case studies and simulations to teach the step-by-step framework for program evaluation. The tools and insights learned from Eval 101 will empower you to use evaluative thinking effectively and make an immediate and practical impact on your evaluation practice.
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.