AEA Newsletter: October 2020

AEA Monthly Newsletter Banner.png


AEA_478494-20_Newsletter-Icons_From the Executive Director.png

Shining Your Light Beyond Eval20 Reimagined

From Anisha Lewis, AEA Executive Director

Anisha Headshot_Updated.png

Eval20 Reimagined: A Virtual Experience, kicks off this week, and we couldn’t be more excited! This will be our first virtual conference, and we promise not to disappoint! This virtual experience is designed to provide educational and networking experiences to help us feel together, while we are apart.

The conference theme, “Shine your Light,” seeks to encourage participants to use evaluation to shine a light on issues that contribute to the detriment of our society. Social justice, racism, inclusion, and equity are just a few of many examples where evaluators have the power to shine a light and make a difference through evaluation.

As you enter into a week of stellar learning opportunities, think about how you will shine your light in your work. Will you broaden circles? Will you use evaluation as a tool for intentional transformation, or to alleviate fear? The possibilities are endless, and we hope that you will execute your learning into action.

We kick-off on Tuesday, October 27 with our opening plenary, “Shine your Light.” Join us for this entertaining yet thought-provoking call to action, encouraging evaluators to shine their light to transform a culture of fear into a culture of learning.

On Tuesday, October 27, our plenary panel, titled “Measuring Love,” will be based on a Brown Paper resulting from years of heart-led community collaboration and social justice work. The authors and those included in the paper share stories and insights into how to “measure love.” They will discuss how we call upon love as an antidote to injustice, and discuss how we “measure” transformative love ─ or rather, how we can know it when we see it and how we can document its power for change.

On Wednesday, October 28, join Big Date Expert Talithia Williams for a plenary keynote, titled “Illuminating Justice: Challenging the Status Quo with Data Driven Disruption.” Talithia will discuss ways that we can challenge systems, traditions, perspectives, and the status quo by bringing our whole selves to our work environment. By employing data-driven disruption, we can shift historical mindsets and create transformational change.

What will you do with your data agency?  We hope that you will apply your learning from this virtual experience to transform, uplift, educate, and shine a light!

It's not too late to join us for this exciting event! Register today.

P2i Banner.png

Public Speaking with a Mask

From Sheila B. Robinson, Potent Presentations Initiative Coordinator 

Sheila Robinson.jpg


As some offices begin to have additional workers onsite, many are mandating mask wearing, even while presenting at meetings or workshops. Public speaking with a mask isn’t ideal, of course, and presents a set of unique challenges; but many people have already been learning key lessons from these new experiences.

 Masks can muffle the voice and make it more difficult for people to hear. We all do a certain amount of lip reading when we’re listening to someone in person, even if we’re not aware of it. Background noise can also interfere more when we can’t see a speaker’s mouth.

Advice for speaking with a mask:  

1.) Focus on enunciation and projection. It’s not necessarily about being louder, but about speaking more clearly and distinctly. For some, this may mean slowing your speech just a bit.

2.) Vary your voice. Get a bit louder and higher pitched at times, and a bit slower and lower pitched at other times. Give your voice “color” and let emotion come through your mask to keep your audience engaged.

3.) Since the audience is missing so much of your facial expressions, turn up the dial on what you can. They can still see your eyes, eyebrows, and of course, your hands. Use good eye contact skills and be liberal with hand gestures. Move a bit, perhaps walking back and forth, but be sure to face the audience at all times.

4.) Reduce excess noise in the room. Turn off fans or other sources of background noise. Ask your audience to refrain from side conversations while you’re speaking.

What about a face shield?

Face shields may offer the advantage of showing the speaker’s mouth, but they are not considered a replacement for masks because they don’t offer the same degree of protection. In fact, they’re not allowed in certain workplaces unless the wearer is also wearing a mask. 

What about a mask with a clear panel?

These are growing in popularity and availability, especially among teachers and speech therapists. The good news is that a clear panel will get back your facial expressions, but you will still need to deal with the muffled sound and the need to enunciate clearly.

Mask basics:

Make sure you wear a mask that fits well for presenting. It would be distracting to an audience (and to you!) if you’re constantly adjusting your mask. Practice with the type of mask you plan to wear for public speaking. For those who don’t generally wear a mask all day or have a lot of conversation while wearing a mask, presenting will feel a bit different from casual conversation. Some claim that surgical masks with their lightweight material and metal nose clip work well for public speaking. Others say to find a mask whose material doesn’t touch your mouth or interfere with your lips as you’re speaking.  

Untitled design - 2020-10-23T130737.997.png


Additional resources:

We need 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.


AEA_478494-20_Newsletter-Icons_The face of AEA.png

Featuring Rebecca Heilman

Name: Rebecca Heilman


Affiliation: Southern California Evaluation Association (SCEA)


Degrees: Master of Arts in Applied Social Psychology and Evaluation from Claremont Graduate University


Years in the Evaluation Field: 6 years 


Joined AEA: 2014


Why do you belong to AEA?


I joined AEA initially as a student during my years at Claremont Graduate University as a way to learn more about evaluation and connect with others in the field of evaluation. I remain a member for the wealth of resources, networking opportunities, and sense of community that AEA brings.


Why do you choose to work in the field of evaluation?


In my graduate studies, I was searching for a way to mix my passion for research with my passion for helping people solve real-world problems. Evaluation gave me the chance to apply my research skills to enhance programs and make a greater impact on my community. The past five years, I have worked in the private sector, doing evaluation and consulting in a small Southern California firm and now, I use my evaluation knowledge and learnings in the public sector, working within the County of Orange Behavioral Health Services on one of the research teams. My unique experiences within the evaluation field allow me to bring another perspective to the county's research projects, and provides me better insight on how the data findings can ultimately be used to inform and improve programming throughout the county.  


“Evaluation gave me the chance to apply my research skills to enhance programs and make a greater impact on my community.”

What's the most memorable or meaningful evaluation that you have been a part of?


Two of my most memorable evaluations have actually been Needs Assessments; we were contracted in 2015 and 2019 to conduct a needs assessment and complete the four-year strategic planning initiative for a Northern California County. We assessed older adult needs related to services and provided recommendations for areas to focus on improving access and quality to services. I really enjoyed this project in both iterations; in 2015, it was one of my first "big" projects after having completed my degree, and gave me a lot of learning opportunities. We just completed our second contract with them this past spring (2020), and I realized how much I had grown in my ability to present information to diverse stakeholders, respond to questions, and compile multiple data sources into a clear, concise story for others to comprehend key takeaways and build a roadmap to improve on implementation strategies for providing services for older adults in their county. In addition to seeing my own growth between these contract cycles, both iterations were meaningful to me because I was able to work directly with different language interpreters, collaborate with our clients and their diverse and very engaged advisory board, and travel throughout a unique county during the data collection and reporting stages.  


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


My advice to those new to the field is to ask questions, remain curious, and continue to stay humble. I constantly remind myself that, while I bring a wealth of expertise and knowledge to evaluation projects, I am also human and prone to implicit biases ─ the first step to conducting "good" evaluations is acknowledging that you are coming in with your own biases. That means, when developing plans for data collection, analysis, and reporting, it's so important to discuss with others and assess what assumptions you are bringing to your work and whether those assumptions are impacting your ability to do "good work."  

AEA News Banner.png

Support, Learn, Connect: A Q&A with Chari Smith, Eval20 Plenary Session Speaker

How We Shine Our Light: Songs, Stories, and Reflections 

This is not your typical presidential strand session. Join Chari Smith, founder and president of Evaluation into Action, on Tuesday, October 27 as Eval20 Reimagned kicks off. Smith will perform original songs and share stories exploring how we shine our light. She will blend her program evaluation expertise with her passion for music. You will meet Eval20 Reimagined speakers as they share how their perspective on how they shine their light, and through song learn how to navigate the virtual experience. AEA was able to chat with Smith about her upcoming session.

Untitled design - 2020-10-23T114641.122.pngCan you tell readers about yourself and how you got started in the field of evaluation?

My career jumped around quite a bit before landing as a program evaluator. I was an elementary school music teacher, and left that career to pursue market research/brand strategy. The combination of being a classroom teacher as well as trained in research methodologies landed me a program evaluation associate job at Education Northwest in 2001. I learned so much there, and was ready to reach beyond program evaluation in education. So in 2005, I launched my own business to help nonprofits and foundations build meaningful and realistic program evaluation systems. I’m very excited to share that my first book on program evaluation is due to come out this year! 

What can attendees expect from your upcoming session, “How We Shine Our Light: Songs, Stories, and Reflections”?  

The plenary session is designed to engage attendees through music, as well as the spoken word. The theme of how we shine our light is a springboard to explore how we as evaluators can shine our light to improve the condition for others. I wrote the song entitled, “Shine your Light,” with chorus lyrics that include:

Shine your Light, Make a difference with what you find

Shine your light, let the light shine through, revealing truths.

These lyrics reflect this concept of shining our light as evaluators to reveal critical truths – data – needed to understand what change is needed to improve.

Attendees will also meet Eval2020 plenary session speakers Talithia Williams, Shiree Teng, Sammy Nuñez, and Audrey Jorden. They share their thoughts on the theme of how we shine our light, followed by original songs that reflect their different perspectives. This is just a portion of what the plenary session will include, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with Eval2020 attendees.

Where did the idea to combine your passion for song, storytelling, and evaluation come from?

When Eval2020 was going to be in my hometown, Portland, Oregon, I was going to do a formative songwriting session. It was going to be a song about things to do in Portland, and evolve into a sing along. When COVID-19 hit, we quickly changed to making the opening session about the theme, and tie it to the program evaluation. What started as a fun focus on creating a song together, evolved into storytelling and evaluation that reflects the theme. 

What advice would you give to those just getting started in the field of evaluation?

Network. Read. Engage. Learn. One way I do this is ongoing professional development through creating a peer community. For example, I’ve been a part of a local nonprofit consultant peer group for about eight years; we meet quarterly, and it’s a fantastic opportunity to learn about resources for myself and clients, as well as connect with other people who serve the nonprofit community. If you are new to the field, establish a community that can provide ongoing support, learning, and connection. AEA’s Topical Interest Groups (TIGs) are another great place to find your community.

Do you have any additional comments you’d like to make? 

I’m really excited for Eval2020, and look forward to the 120 sessions! I’m so glad we have three months to watch them all. It’s a fantastic opportunity to engage and learn. In a time of so much uncertainty, I’m grateful to connect with a strong professional program evaluation community.

I am passionate about program evaluation, and am grateful to have delivered trainings on how to build a culture of evaluation for the Colorado Evaluation Network as well as Oregon Program Evaluators Network. If you are interested in learning more about my training/coaching programs for evaluators, please reach out.

For more information on the Tuesday, October 27 session, visit our website and register now!

Board Update: October 2020

From Tessie Tzavaras Catsambas, AEA Board Secretary and Immediate Past President

Catambas_Tessie_131130-1 - Copy (2).jpgOn the eve of the 2020 AEA online event, we are holding our collective breath, hoping that it will be a great experience for all participants and that it will bring in much needed revenue for AEA. We are grateful to our staff and president Aimee White who have gone all out in preparing for an event that will technically be accessible for three months after it takes place. We hope all of you will join!

In the meantime, we entered the fourth quarter of the calendar year and are focused on:

  • Ensuring an accelerated path to reopen a new and improved AEA listserv (this is well on its way under the stewardship of our talented staff)
  • Developing a more streamlined process for the board to communicate with members
  • Organizing the deep dive we are planning for 2021 for a fresh look into our mission and vision, which will, in turn, drive a redefinition of our awards processes
  • Planning the board calendar for 2021

As you can imagine, our upcoming two-day board meeting is virtual and dispersed among many several different days. We look forward to sharing with you our priorities going forward, and later on in December, our year in review.


Tessie Catsambas

Reserve Your Spot at Eval20 Reimagined! 

Discover Eval20 Reimagined: A Virtual Experience 

Coming to your computer screen this week (October 27-30). Eval20 Reimagined will feature 120 concurrent sessions available for live and on-demand viewing for up to three months, ample opportunities to connect with other attendees through one-on-one meeting and group discussions, and an interactive Connection Center where you can visit virtual booths of publishers, organizations, and more. 

What can you expect during the virtual experience? 

  • Change in program size: A high quality program without overwhelming users, due to a reduced education program size
  • Flexible education offerings: Enjoy diverse learning opportunities that can be accessed for three months after the event so you won't miss anything
  • Online networking opportunities: Ask questions, begin discussions, and connect with fellow attendees throughout the entire event
  • Virtual connection center: Network with representatives from exhibiting and sponsoring companies

Visit the AEA Virtual Experience website to learn more about the virtual experience and what you can expect.

New Oxford University Press Titles for AEA Members

Available with AEA's Discounted Price 

Don't forget — this is of course something you should feel free to promote with your members — all AEA members can receive a 20% discount when they order through the website using the discount code AEA20.

    If you are a publisher and would like to participate as an AEA publishing partner, or if you are an author of an evaluation-related text from an alternate publisher that you would like to see participate, please contact the AEA office at

    AEA Offers COVID-19 Support and Resources

    AEA's top priority at this time is the health and well-being of its members and the evaluation community as a whole. We understand this is a strenuous and difficult time, and are dedicated to providing you with support and resources to help you navigate the evolving effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.

    We want to remind you of a few of our resources to help you through this time.

    • AEA's daily blog, AEA365, is rolling out a series of Saturday posts offering reflection and information for evaluation practice during this global pandemic.

    Topics covered include Reflecting on the Role of Evaluator During this Global PandemicTips + Resources for Virtual Gatherings, and Self-Care in the Age of Coronavirus.

    Click here to subscribe to AEA365. We will continue to share resources and experiences of our community. 

    • AEA encourages you to turn to your community of peer evaluators through EvalTalk. This discussion forum provides a safe space to trade insights and concerns, talk through specific challenges that are arising, and overall, to lean on each other for support. Now is the time to maintain strong connections with colleagues worldwide as we navigate today's climate together.
    • You can also stay connected to your community through TIGs. Topical Interest Groups are defined around a certain topic or interest and create a forum enabling its members to become a resource that the entire community can leverage. This organized community and combined experience is needed now more than ever. As an AEA member, you are allowed to join up to five of the 60 Topical Interest Groups.
    • AEA continually monitors its social media channels, looking to bring forward engaging and relevant content to our community. We continue to share resources circulated by the broad evaluation community. Follow us on Twitter @aeaweb or "like" our Facebook page for timely updates and content relating to the pandemic and beyond.
    • While you are looking to stay connected to your teams, we recommend browsing the AEA Coffee Break library on the Digital Knowledge Hub. These 20 minute webinars are free to all members.

    If you have resources you think would be valuable to the evaluation community, share them with us by contacting AEA at

    Member Suggested Events 

    In this section, we spotlight events of interest to the AEA community, suggested by fellow members. Please note these events are not sponsored by AEA. If you would like to suggest an upcoming event, email Cady Stokes, AEA newsletter editor, at


    Digital Knowledge Hub Banner.png

    AEA Professional Development Corner 

    From the AEA Education Team 

    The Digital Knowledge Hub is an online platform featuring professional development opportunities for evaluators, by evaluators. See eStudies available for purchase like the ones below. 

    Advance Your Evaluation Learning with AEA 

    While many of us are working from home the next few weeks, we wanted to remind you that AEA membership provides several exclusive resources to expand your knowledge in the comfort of your own home. Discover the online resources that are available and learn more about upcoming events.


    AEA eStudies

    The Digital Knowledge Hub contains live and recorded eStudies. eStudies offer in-depth lessons on trending evaluation topics, skills, and tools. Expert speakers share their experiences and offer time to answer your individual questions.

    Upcoming Live Courses:

    See more live courses here

    Student eStudies:


    November Workshops:

    Evaluation workshops are now open for registration! We will be hosting 10 workshops inspired by Eval20 Reimagined: A Virtual Experience! These workshops provide in-depth lessons on evaluation techniques and best practices.

    When: November 11, 12:00 p.m. EDT

    Presenter: Rita S. Fierro, Ph.D.

    This workshop will readily support organizations in producing their own social change if the evaluation process is in sync with stakeholders' perspective. We will introduce tools that, when mastered, will never have you scared of losing control of a meeting again.

    When: November 17 & November 19, 12:00 p.m. EDT

    Presenter: Sheila B. Robinson, EdD.

    In this highly interactive workshop, participants will increase their ability to craft high quality survey questions, and leave with resources to further develop their skills, including a copy of the facilitator’s checklist for crafting quality questions, published in their book.

    Workshops require separate registration on the Digital Knowledge Hub. 

    View complete schedule.

    Take a Coffee Break with AEA:

    As an AEA member, you have free access to our library of Coffee Breaks. These short, 20 minute webinars are great for sharing lessons with your students or other colleagues, while you are apart.

    Here are a few Coffee Breaks you might be interested in

    AEA_478494-20_Newsletter-Icons_Events of interest.png

    AEA Events of Interest

    In this section, we spotlight events that may be of interest to the AEA community, as suggested by fellow members. Please note these events are not sponsored by AEA. If you would like to suggest an upcoming event, email Cady Stokes, AEA newsletter editor, at

    Member Suggested Events 

    In this section, we spotlight events of interest to the AEA community, suggested by fellow members. Please note these events are not sponsored by AEA. If you would like to suggest an upcoming event or highlight actions members are taking during the COVID-19 crisis, email Cady Stokes, AEA newsletter editor, at

    Thank You to Our Longstanding Members

    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!

    Welcome to Our New Members

    AEA would like to welcome those who have recently joined the association. Click here to view a list of AEA's newest members.

    Recent Stories
    AEA Newsletter: November 2020

    AEA Newsletter: October 2020

    AEA Newsletter: September 2020