AEA Newsletter: August 2018

Message from the Executive Director

An Opportunity to Speak Truth to Power

From Anisha Lewis, AEA Executive Director 

Anisha Lewis.jpg

The theme of this year’s AEA conference, “Speaking Truth to Power,” will be addressed in a variety of ways, including a specific focus on the philanthropy, health and education sectors in Cleveland. While we are extremely excited about hosting our flagship event in Cleveland – and are actively promoting and engaging with the wonderful assets of Cleveland – we are deeply troubled by the racist, insensitive and disrespectful mascot of the city’s baseball team. In a recent letter, President Goodyear and I informed David Gilbert, President and CEO of Destination Cleveland that we find the mascot to be extremely offensive and urged him to take a stand to effect change.

The letter cited research that showed how team names and mascots increase implicit bias, and we reminded him that failure to advocate for this change could significantly affect an organization’s decision to host meetings in Cleveland, resulting  in revenue loss for the city.

Speaking Truth to Power is an expression that we do not take lightly. Although Speaking Truth to Power is not a new way of taking a stand and mobilizing society around change, it is a powerful nonviolent challenge to injustice.

This is important to our association for a number of reasons. AEA values diversity and inclusion in all its forms, and our conference participants represent diverse cultures and identities. With this in mind, it is important that all of our members feel welcome at our association’s events.

We also want to share that The American Sociological Association wrote a letter to the Commissioner of the Major League Baseball Commissioner, urging him “…to rid Major League Baseball of all Native American team nicknames…” The letter cited academic research that provides evidence of the social and behavioral harm that racist sports mascots cause Indigenous People of this country. The letter also reminded him, that because scientific disciplines – like sociology and evaluation – are meant to serve the public good, the consideration for ending racist mascots is both a professional and civil rights matter.

Audre Lorde teaches us that “our silence will not provide protection. Speaking our truths helps us imagine and create the world we want to live in, despite systems of oppression that tell us that we are not enough.”

We encourage AEA members to speak truth to power to encourage the discontinued use of the current mascot. Letters may be sent directly to David Gilbert, the President and CEO of Destination Cleveland, as follows:

Mr. David Gilbert
President and CEO
Destination Cleveland
334 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH  44114


AEA 2018 Election Announcement

Thank you for taking the time to vote for your 2019 AEA leadership. The race was close and we're certain the choice between all of the talent candidates was not an easy decision to make. It is with great pleasure that we share with you the outcome of the 2018 election for the American Evaluation Association Board of Directors. 

AEA President-Elect:

  • Aimee White, Custom Evaluation Services, Inc.

AEA Board Members-at-Large 2019-2021:

  • Lisa Aponte-Soto, University of Illinois at Chicago, Office of Community Based Practice
  • Hanife Cakici, United Nations
  • Wanda Casillas, Community Science

The election was open from July 6 through August 6 and received 1073 votes (15% response rate). For comparison, recent historical voting rates are noted below.

Recent Historical Voting Percentages:

  • 2017 - 14.1% of eligible members, 1048 votes cast
  • 2016 - 15.2% of eligible members, 1131 votes cast
  • 2015 - 18.9% of eligible members, 1327 votes cast
  • 2014 - 16.4% of eligible members, 1173 votes cast

Congratulations to our newest AEA Board Directors and thank you to those who took the time to vote. Stay tuned for more information on the new AEA Directors in upcoming newsletters.


The Face of AEA

Meet Melissa Mercer-Tachick 

MelissaMercerTachick-300x300 (1).pngThe Face of AEA spotlights our members and their backstories - why they joined the profession, what drives them and memorable lessons they've learned along the way. This month, we hear from Melissa Mercer-Tachick. Know someone who should be featured? Email the AEA editor, Kristin Fields, at

Affiliation:  MUSE Educational Consulting 
Degrees: BS in Physics (University of Michigan), MAT in Museum Education (George Washington University), MEd in Informal Science Education (University of Florida), PhD in Science Education (University of Michigan) 
Years in the Evaluation Field: 27
Joined AEA: 2012

Why do you belong to AEA?

The conference and the people! I get so many great ideas at the annual conference, and I do not always stick to Topical Interest Groups or subjects that seem most relevant to my work. I learned a long time ago with other professional conferences (such as American Educational Research Association) that if a conference session sounds interesting, I should go to it, regardless of the topic or context. As a result, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about issues across the field and feel comfortable taking projects that push the edges of our fields of expertise. I also try to take at least one of the pre-conference AEA professional development classes every year to expand my skill sets. 

I’ve really enjoyed getting to know other professionals at AEA. I am in regular contact with colleagues in other states and they have been great sounding boards for me. I’m hoping a particular project gets funded so that I can subcontract out to a wonderful person who is new to the field! I can also tell a client that if we need to bring another evaluator into the project at Location X for a project that’s at least a year out, I can provide that. I know I’ll find someone amazing at AEA! 

What is the most memorable or meaningful evaluation you have been a part of? 

It's actually an evaluation that hasn't yet taken place. In November of last year, I received a call from a potential client who wanted to talk about evaluation for a not-yet well-defined project for a grant proposal deadline in March. What a dream this turned out to be. We did some initial brainstorming, let things simmer in our heads over the holidays, and got back to earnest planning in January. The client is my perfect counterpart: she poses big picture questions that pull me out of my tunnel-like thinking, and at least twice her questions helped us completely change directions. We brought in a third collaborator who was just as much fun to work with, and together we shaped a project that we all felt pushed boundaries in our respective fields. That gave me tremendous intellectual satisfaction. At the same time, we created something that would be maximally impactful for the population served by my client, which gave me great personal satisfaction. The amount of time we had to plan, the client's personality and the co-constructed project – all of it was such a pleasure! We will know soon if we got the funding, but the three of us are already planning another collaboration, again with months to think about and shape it. 

What advice would you give to those new to the field?

Go to the annual conference and engage in conversation with everyone. You never know when that business card exchange will come in handy!


Call for Articles from Topical Interest Groups (TIGs)

Submit an Article or Update for an Upcoming AEA Newsletter 

Do you lead or participate in one of AEA's Topical Interest Groups (TIGs)? We want to hear from you and spotlight your work. Send an email to the AEA editor, Kristin Fields ( to share news, updates and articles for consideration in an upcoming AEA newsletter.


Cleveland Local Affiliate Working Group Update

Supporting Your Visit to Cleveland at Evaluation 2018

From Lana Rucks, AEA Cleveland Local Affiliate Working Group Chair

LAWG August Photo.jpg
AEA President Leslie Goodyear with the OPEG Board

The Cleveland Local Affiliate Working Group (LAWG) committee and Ohio Program Evaluators’ Group (OPEG) is excited to welcome AEA attendees to the Evaluation 2018 conference, which is quickly approaching! The Cleveland LAWG committee and OPEG are looking forward to showcasing this vibrant and dynamic city. 

As you plan your visit to Cleveland, note that many local establishments participate in the “Show your Badge” program. This program allows you to receive a host of discounts simply by showing your AEA badge. For instance, by purchasing tickets online and showing your badge, you can visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum for just $18 (not the regular price of $25). For a more complete listing of participating businesses, visit the Cleveland “Show Your Badge” Program website

We have also been able to secure discount tickets to premiere arts events. Enjoy a special group rate for tickets to the Cleveland Playhouse to see Mamma Mia!, Les Misérables, and Pride and Prejudice. Also, 20 percent discount tickets are available by using discount code “AEA2018” to the Cleveland Orchestra where Gerstein plays Rachmaninoff, Nov. 1-3. 

If you have more questions about where to go or what to do in Cleveland, download the Cleveland LAWG resource guide or contact Clara Pelfrey, If you are with a TIG looking for a meeting location, reach out to Jan Noga,

Also, we will continue the Evaluation Without Borders program piloted by the Washington D.C. evaluators at last year’s conference. Evaluation Without Borders is a volunteer consulting event that allows for evaluation professionals to share their knowledge and expertise with community-based non-profit organizations. To learn more or to participate, contact Seema Mahato,

If there is any other way that the we can support your visit to Cleveland, do not hesitate to reach out to me, Lana Rucks, Remember: Cleveland Rocks!


International Evaluation Update

Revising DAC EvalNet Criteria 

From Cindy Clapp-Wincek and Shawna Hoffman 


In the early 2000s, driven by an aspiration to come to common understanding on standards of accountability and performance, the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) articulated a set of five criteria for effective development programs, policies and interventions. Today, the criteria – effectiveness, efficiency, sustainability, relevance and impact – have become widespread in the donor community, and influential in evaluation of international development programs. For example, the USAID and Department of State Evaluation Policies both reference them. 

Having worked for USAID, and to a lesser degree, the Department of State for half of my career, I (Cindy) certainly understand the accountability requirements of U.S. federal funds. In the 1980s and 1990s, as development became a more participatory process, somewhat inadvertently evaluation of U.S.-funded programs increasingly became evaluation of the countries in which we worked and the international colleagues we worked with.  

Today, however, nearly 20 years after their founding, the DAC criteria are being revisited and updated – this time through a process that is inclusive and representative of all development stakeholders. This is particularly noteworthy in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, in which shared ownership and participation are seen as critical if progress toward the Goals is to be made.  

The opportunity afforded by the DAC EvalNet for broad and inclusive representation in revising the criteria that are used to evaluate efforts to achieve these outcomes should be applauded. The EvalNet video inviting participation and suggestions for how the criteria should be revised can be found here. 

Participation is through a survey which can be accessed here

Although this began in the international community, participation by all AEA members is invited. The broad participation that the EvalNet has invited is a reminder that we all can learn from each other. 

Policy Watch

AEA Affirms Need for Integrity and Accuracy of the Census 

From Nick Hart, Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF) Chair 

093_0571_BPC_Headshots_December_2017-WEB-e1517325533459.jpgThe next decennial census in the United States is right around the corner. April 1, 2020, is Census Day and marks the point at which the constitutionally-required count of the U.S. population officially occurs. Every census is closely watched and scrutinized because the flow of federal funding and allocation of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are based on its count of people. But for evaluators and social scientists, there are other reasons to closely watch the 2020 activities.

The census is essential for many evaluations, which is why AEA recently affirmed the importance of integrity and accuracy in the census count. Estimates provided from the U.S. Census Bureau provide the basis for many household surveys conducted by federal and state agencies, local organizations, and evaluators. Thus, an unreliable count can introduce bias for every household survey that occurs over the subsequent decade.

In March 2018, the Commerce Department announced a new question would be added to the decennial census form for 2020 to collect information about individuals’ citizenship status, including whether born in the U.S., born in a U.S. territory, born abroad to U.S. citizens, a citizen by naturalization, or not a US citizen. The Commerce Department described the intent of adding the question was to “enforce the Voting Rights Act.”

While under federal law the use of these data for such purposes cannot be conducted at the individual level, there have been considerable concerns voiced by immigrant communities about how those data could be used. Several states and municipalities have also raised concerns that a question about immigration status could depress response rates, which would subsequently affect federal funding they receive. 

Recognizing the potential challenges for data quality, reduced response rates, lower accuracy of responses, and the lack of evaluation about the potential impacts that a citizenship question could pose in the contemporaneous environment, in August 2018, AEA joined 25 other professional organizations in suggesting that the citizenship question be removed from the 2020 census.

“The Census is a once-a-decade undertaking; if we allow the integrity of the data to be jeopardized by an untested, unresearched citizenship question, we will be living with the harmful consequences for years,” AEA and the other organizations said. “We have no way of knowing what future insights will be lost if this data is compromised.”

The comments were submitted in response to a required notice and public comment period for the 2020 census forms. The Commerce Department and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget will now have to decide whether to include or modify the citizenship question based on the comments received.

A final administrative decision is expected in fall 2018. In addition to the administrative proceedings, several legal proceedings are underway that could also have implications on the final decision about whether a citizenship question can be included.

Read the full comments submitted by AEA and other science organizations here.

Potent Presentations Initiative

Public Speaking Fear? Use the Nike Method: Just Do It

From Sheila B. Robinson, Potent Presentations Initiative Coordinator 

Sheila Robinson-RS 2.pngPublic speaking doesn’t quite have the fear factor associated with politics, environmental concerns, or health problems, but it still ranks as one of the more anxiety-producing activities people have to do. A number of respondents to our Potent Presentations Survey, “You, the Presenter: What Would Help You Up Your Game?” indicated they need help with confidence in public speaking. 

This month, I’ll share part of my own story of overcoming an intense fear of public speaking. I went from dreading oral reports in high school, to being able to deliver a conference keynote with a calm heart and dry palms. But don’t get excited. There are no secrets here, no magic bullets, no “surprising truth” about what works. 

What worked for me is that I simply did it. That’s it. The Nike mantra: Just do it. Over a number of years, I intentionally put myself in positions where I would have to speak. I started with low-stakes environments, first making myself ask a question at a staff meeting (something I didn’t do for the first eight years of my career!), to joining a few committees and finally working up to offering my first professional development workshop for a small group of colleagues. 

Like anything else, public speaking got easier and easier as time went on and I had the opportunity to practice. It’s essentially exposure therapy and it works. Soon other, more challenging aspects of public speaking seemed to find me over time, forcing me to grow even more. Once I was asked to give a presentation to a group of school bus drivers and attendants, and a few days before the event, I thought to ask the size of the audience. “Only about 500 of them will be there,” the person said to me. FIVE HUNDRED??? My largest audience to date had been about 35. 

Another time I was the invited keynote at a statewide conference. Having survived the 500 bus drivers and attendants a few years prior, the audience of about 130 didn’t scare me. This time, however, I found out the Commissioner of Education would be in attendance, and seated at the table directly in front of the podium. Thus, I spoke to my first audience that included a dignitary. 

Each time a challenge arose, it was easier and easier to work through it, and I’ve always been pleasantly surprised at how nice and supportive audiences are. Turns out, at least in these contexts – conferences and professional development events – they really want you to succeed. 

Still nervous? How Do I Get Over My Fear of Public Speaking? by Arlin Cunic offers a number of helpful suggestions.

p2i August imagev2.pngp2i Needs Your Help!

Have you successfully used p2i tools or p2i principles in your presentations?
Do you have “before” and “after” slide examples you would be willing to share?
Do you have ideas for, or are you interested in writing a blog article on Potent Presentations?
Do you have an interest in sharing your tips for Potent Presentations through a brief video or webinar?

Please contact me at and let’s talk! I’m happy to help, offer guidance, or collaborate on any of these. 


Join the AEA Board for Virtual Town Halls

Meetings Scheduled for August and September

From the AEA Board of Directors

TownHalls (1).pngThe AEA Board of Directors would like the opportunity to engage more with AEA members and discuss a variety of strategic and visionary topics with the membership. The virtual Town Hall approach allows a regular opportunity to pose strategic questions and topics to the membership for input. 

The Board will use the GoTo Meeting platform with a Q&A feature for receiving and addressing questions. President Leslie Goodyear will host 30-60 minute sessions. The following session topics and guest facilitators have been confirmed. 


AEA Town Hall: Presenting AEA’s New Evaluator Competencies
Friday, September 14, 2018, at 2 p.m. ET

At its meeting in May, the AEA Board voted to approve the AEA Program Evaluator Competencies, a set of basic competencies developed by the Competencies Task Force over a three-year period (2015-2018). This session will describe the development process, present the competencies, and discuss potential next steps in AEA’s continuing professionalization. Register here.


AEA Professional Development Corner 

On-Demand Resources Available, Plus Live eStudies Through October

From the AEA Education Team 

The Digital Knowledge Hub is an online platform featuring professional development opportunities for evaluators, by evaluators. View past eStudies, such as "Developing Quality Survey Questions." Participants in this session will work through the survey design process through a series of activities, developing an understanding of the cognitive aspects of survey response and question design. Increase your ability to craft high quality survey questions, and leave with resources to further develop their skills, including a copy of the facilitators’ updated draft checklist for crafting quality questions, soon to be published in a textbook. 

Save the date for these upcoming live eStudy courses.

eStudy 093: Introduction to Usability/UX Testing for Evaluators | September 18 and 20, 12-1:30 p.m. ET

Presented by Kay Corry Aubrey, Usabiility Consultant, Usability Resources Inc.

Gain an understanding of what usability testing is, when to use it, the language of usability/User Experience and techniques for blending it with other qualitative methods. Learn best practices for planning, moderating, analyzing and reporting on a usability study, as well.

eStudy 094: The M&E Map: How to Systematically Describe and Measure Any Project | October 9, 11, 16 and 18, 12-1:30 p.m. ET 

Presented by Errol Goetsch, Founder, 4Sight Prediction Solutions Pty. Ltd.

This eStudy will introduce evaluators to the world of M&E and give existing professionals new tools and a common language for monitoring and evaluating any project in the international development aid sector. This course is for anyone who interacts with and wants to influence donors, sponsors, regulators, lobbyists, media, beneficiaries, Government departments, aid agencies, service providers, program or project or partner managers and staff and project designers or auditors, using a language and system that elegantly captures the key features of each and every project, using words, numbers and pictures.

eStudy 095: Engaging the Whole System in Evidence Gathering, Advocacy and Action | October 23, 25, 30 and Nov. 1, 12-1:30 p.m. ET

Presented by Kanti Gopal Kovvali, Author, Organizational Unlearning Specialist, Visiting Faculty TISS and NMIMS

The eStudy will expose participants to a radically different evaluation process that is rapid, transformational and sustainable. The eStudy will help participants to change their paradigms about evaluation, introduce new methodologies and tools and transfrom their orientation from doing good research to facilitating transformational research.

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