Hi, I’m Bonnie Stabile, an Adjunct Professor in the School of Public Policy, and the Department of Public and International Affairs at George Mason University, just outside of Washington, DC. I have been teaching Program Evaluation in the Master’s in Public Policy, and the Master’s in Public Administration, Programs for three years now. This year I instituted a “Student Practitioner Speaker Series” in which I have students who have taken the class in previous semesters come back to talk to my current students about how they have applied the evaluation principles and techniques they have learned in the class on the job.
Hot Tip: Offer Master’s students the opportunity to adapt the semester research paper to focus an evaluative eye on a project of importance to them at work. While most students, who range in experience from recent college graduates to established career professionals, opt for the standard research paper option of doing a GAO-style evaluation synthesis of a federal program, a few jump at the chance to work on a project of practical importance to them, while applying the theories and skills of evaluation. I have had one student, director of a local county library system, undertake a needs assessment for library services, for which there was a keen felt need in light of threatened budget cuts. Another student, neighborhood coordinator for a local county department of public works, developed a needs assessment to determine the training requirements for property code inspectors after a work reorganization. These students approached their task with unprecedented energy and enthusiasm, and have expressed that the projects they undertook, beginning with their evaluation class papers, actually had lasting and demonstrable utility in the workplace. As an added bonus, they have come back to share their success stories with current students, who benefit from hearing of evaluation success stories accomplished by their peers.