Hi! I’m Kristi Lekies, Associate Professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University. Although my main area of work relates to youth and their interactions with community and natural environments, I’m also known as ‘the evaluator’ for my background in teaching evaluation, developing evaluation measures for colleagues, and serving as evaluator on research studies.
For the past 10 years, I have been an evaluator on several large federally-funded studies related to climate and agriculture. It is a far stretch from my academic background of social work and human development, but I love being part of transdisciplinary teams and contributing in any way possible to the future of our planet. On these projects, I have worked with experts in soils, water quality, crop growth, weed management, hydrology, climatology, economic modeling, rural sociology, and risk and decision-making. Graduate students from all disciplines have been an integral part of these projects, and lately I’ve been thinking about ways to engage them in the world of evaluation.
1: Always Promote Evaluation
I promote evaluation every chance I get. My first evaluation experience was as a graduate student over 25 years ago, and little did I know at the time it would lead to job opportunities, career advancement, fascinating projects, and best of all, lifelong learning on topics I wouldn’t have considered otherwise. I’m not sure how many students outside of education or evaluation are aware of the possibilities of evaluation, so I look for ways to talk about evaluation and why it is so valuable, with the hope of sparking interest. And of course I mention the American Evaluation Association!
2: Allow Time for Evaluation at Team Meetings
At research team meetings, I ask that a portion of time be allocated for discussion of evaluation strategies, review of measures and methods, and findings. Students can raise questions, make suggestions, and experience evaluative thinking. Furthermore, all team members have the opportunity to learn about evaluation and its critical role in project implementation and improvement.
3: Create Collaborative Opportunities for Students
Whether it’s helping to develop a survey or completing data analysis or a report, I try to think of ways that I can extend opportunities to students. Even if it is just a small part of the overall evaluation, I consider ways students can work collaboratively with me. When it comes to evaluation, I am always happy to mentor.
As I prepare to celebrate Earth Day 2021, I’m grateful for the support evaluation provides to transdisciplinary teams addressing environmental issues and to be a part of this important work. I encourage readers to take steps to support a sustainable future for our planet and for the next generation of evaluators.
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