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Centering Equity in a University-Based Evaluation Center by Liz Litzler, Erin Carll, and Emily Knaphus-Soran

Hello, AEA365 community! Liz DiLuzio here, Lead Curator of the blog. This week is Individuals Week, which means we take a break from our themed weeks and spotlight the Hot Tips, Cool Tricks, Rad Resources and Lessons Learned from any evaluator interested in sharing. Would you like to contribute to future individuals weeks? Email me at AEA365@eval.org with an idea or a draft and we will make it happen.

Hi!  We are Liz Litzler, Erin Carll, and Emily Knaphus-Soran from the University of Washington Center for Evaluation & Research for STEM Equity. In honor of next week being University-Based Center TIG Week, today, we would like to share a little about how we center equity in our work as a University-Based Center. As a center that is focused on conducting high quality program evaluation and research to improve equity and broaden representation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields, we feel like we are always thinking about equity- both in how we do our work and how we operate the center.

We will share some examples below that we hope might spark an idea for you in your own evaluation practice, but acknowledge that we never stop learning how to be more equity and justice-oriented in our lives and our work. We welcome ideas and further discussion about how you also center equity.

Examples of centering equity in our evaluation work:

  • Highlighting any equity-related issues that arise in evaluation findings and offering proposed approaches to addressing these issues. We consider it our responsibility to do so even if the issue does not explicitly pertain to an evaluation question. Because we do not want to erase the voices of minoritized individuals, this can mean responding to an issue that a single individual experienced, though we take particular care to protect the individual’s privacy in such cases. We recently added a statement to our website that outlines our commitment to highlighting equity issues and will begin systematically communicating this to new partners.
  • Offering program participants copies of their interview transcripts/survey results and the option to member-check results when feasible and/or participants raise privacy concerns.
  • Encouraging the stakeholders who reach out to us (typically university faculty, administrators, and others in positions of power) to consider metrics of success beyond traditional academic outcomes.
  • Including insights regarding institutional policies and practices in framing our individual-level findings.
  • Continually reflecting on our own positionalities in relation to the work we do and the biases we bring to our work.

Examples of centering equity in our center’s operation:

  • Involving students in administrative and policy discussions when possible (staff hiring, policy improvements, etc.) and paying for their time to participate.
  • Dedicating one monthly all-staff meeting to explore themes related to better practicing what we preach.
  • Normalizing pronoun sharing upon meeting new people.
  • Providing name pronunciation guides for student and professional staff on our website.

Ways we could continue to do better:

  • Encourage partners to engage students from their focal populations in the development of interventions aimed at improving equity.
  • Revisit and refine our hiring practices to attract more diverse core staff.

Lessons Learned

Approaching the journey toward more equitable practices with a spirit of learning and recognition that we won’t always get it right gives ourselves and the partners we work with space to grow.

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.

1 thought on “Centering Equity in a University-Based Evaluation Center by Liz Litzler, Erin Carll, and Emily Knaphus-Soran”

  1. This is a great list – thank you for sharing! I am interested in learning more about some of the equity-focused metrics of success you’ve used that are “beyond traditional academic outcomes.” Could you share any examples? Thank you!

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