EEE Week: Kevin Andrews on Connecting Students with Extension

Howdy! I am Kevin Andrews, a program specialist at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. In addition to my Extension duties, I co-teach a graduate evaluation course at Texas A&M University.

I came across a post from March about students partnering with community agencies to apply their evaluation skills. I’d like to build upon Dr. Brun’s idea for evaluators who have ties to a university, especially those in Extension.

Many of our students have no idea what extension (or any other agency) is. Any engaged university seeks to tie together the scholarships of teaching, research, and service, and hands-on evaluations are a perfect way to accomplish this.

Lessons Learned: By allowing students to partner with us on evaluations, they not only receive practical experience and make an impact, they also get to learn who we are. This can aid in recruiting talented students to work for the agency; we’ve had several ask about careers in extension.

Hot Tip: Students are going to ask a lot of questions. We can get pretty set in our ways and think we know our agency well. When you have to pause to explain why we do what we do in basic terms, you are forced to reflect on exactly why it is we have been doing things a certain way all these years!

Hot Tip: Our employees just want their voices heard. With students conducting interviews we get far more coverage than a single evaluator using a sample, and employees are able to feel their opinions matter. Our staff is also much more likely to be open with a student than they are a peer.

Lessons Learned: I like to be in total control over my projects, but part of delegating work is letting others do their own thing. By developing goals together early in the project, I can ensure the outcome is as I intended while allowing students to experiment and develop their own processes.

Hot Tip: Often, when a class is over, the student-teacher relationship ends. Keep contact information and follow up with students a year later to let them know the impact of their work. No matter where life takes them, they are your stakeholders and you want them to hold you in high esteem.

Lessons Learned: I’m lucky to get to straddle teaching and Extension. For those who don’t simply reach out and ask! I’ve been approached by others with projects for students, and I’ve approached others with projects of my own. Everyone has something they need done!

Two years ago, I was the student participating in a class evaluation. Three from my class, including myself, now work for Extension and our report generated $200,000 of funding – the model works!

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Extension Education Evaluation (EEE) TIG Week with our colleagues in the EEE Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our EEE 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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