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AHE TIG Week: Bridging the Gap: From Grad School to Becoming an Evaluator by Fanni Farago

Hello. My name is Fanni Farago (she/her) and I am serving as the 2021-2022 Program Chair for the Assessment in Higher Education TIG. Additionally, I am a new & emerging evaluator and a Sociology Doctoral Student at George Mason University. Currently, I work as a Research Assistant at Mason and investigate the impacts of inequality in higher ed for historically underrepresented students.

Like many others in the evaluation field, I didn’t have childhood dreams of becoming an evaluator, but instead stumbled upon it by accident. I first learned about evaluation at a conference, and it was about halfway through my graduate training. This was challenging because I didn’t know how to connect my academic research training and grad student activities with having transferrable skills for becoming an evaluator. Additionally, I also wasn’t connected to a broader evaluation community at that time. While I’m still figuring it all out, I am excited to share some related lessons that I’ve learned throughout my professionalization journey.

Lessons Learned

  • Evaluation training can be hidden in plain sight. While a course syllabus may nowhere mention “evaluation,” think about ways that the course’s subject matter, theory, or methods connect to evaluation knowledge or evaluator competencies. For example, identify and write down connections between your class activities and evaluator competencies as outlined by AEA. Keeping a running list of how your academic training is promoting your development as an evaluator can be then converted into useful content for your resume/CV.
  • Identify opportunities for developing your evaluation knowledge and skills within and beyond your coursework. Graduate research methods seminars can offer excellent opportunities to do mini or pilot evaluation projects and assessments.Whether it’s a mini survey or an interview study, it’s worth connecting your in-class projects to principles of evaluation design and implementation. Such endeavors can then become useful material for evaluation conference submissions! If you’re like me and you want to specialize in higher education assessment, leverage your position as a graduate student to learn about all the university assessment efforts happening at the course, program/department, and/or institutional level.
  • Get connected with fellow evaluators beyond your home institution. It’s so important to be able to learn from fellow evaluators about what evaluation work, and the field at large, is all about. Two avenues that have worked so well for me for connecting with folks has been joining AEA local affiliate organizations and TIGs. There are a lot of different ways to get involved and to professionally collaborate with others.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Assessment in Higher Education TIG Week. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from AHE TIG members. 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. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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