A first timer’s guide to getting the most out of the annual AEA conference by Darla Scott

Hello there! I am Darla Scott, one of the 2018 AEA Minority Serving Institutions Fellows. In my role as Assistant Professor, I train preservice school psychologists at Bowie State University, an HBCU in Bowie, Maryland.

As a full-time faculty member at an MSI, I recognize the value of professional networking opportunities. I can truly say that I found my “tribe” at the Evaluation 2018, the AEA conference in Cleveland, Ohio. Every hour of that week was a gut-wrenching dilemma for me with so many interesting and engaging workshop options. My brain was tingling at the end of each day! Needless to say, it was a very enriching experience for me with so many welcoming spaces for my culturally responsive evaluation work. For this blog post, I wanted to share three tips for getting the most out of the annual AEA conference.

Hot Tips:

  1. Identify your TIGs!

Each Topical Interest Group (TIG) focuses on a specific interest area in evaluation and can help you to connect with sessions that will deepen your understanding of evaluation.  You can choose up to five TIGs with your AEA membership, so I found it helpful to pick a few in my areas of expertise and a couple in my growth target areas.

  1. Check out the Presidential Strand!

The theme for Evaluation 2018 was Speaking Truth to Power and it fit so perfectly with our current sociopolitical climate. Our society is being challenged to answer deep-seated identity questions about who we are as a nation.  We as evaluators have a critical and potentially transformative seat at this table.  The Presidential Strand placed a special highlight on presentations that addressed the theme, so if you are particularly drawn in by the conference theme, then it will have what you are looking for.

  1. Network, network, network!

I encourage you to bring more business cards than you think that you will need. Many presenters will email out additional resources, so I encourage you to access and organize those resources as you get them. It makes it easier to retrieve them when you return home.

Lessons Learned:  In sum, I learned that we need new paradigms, epistemologies, and methodologies (like Photovoice) to shift the conversation and empower marginalized communities. Although I am still processing all of the implications for my own work, I recognize the importance of the MSI Fellowship experience for providing access to the AEA community to faculty at minority serving institutions, who might otherwise be excluded from these spaces.  Here are some additional tips for first time AEA conference attendees.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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