Hi, my name is Erica Roberts, an AEA GEDI scholar, doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, and an intern at the National Cancer Institute Office of Science Planning and Assessment. As a graduate student who is approaching the transition from student to professional in the field of public health evaluation, I would like to share with you the lessons I learned from attending the AEA conference in the hope that these lessons can be used by other graduate students planning to attend next year’s conference.
Lesson Learned: Prepare to build your professional network. The AEA conference provides an expansive and rare opportunity to meet evaluation experts, future mentors, and possible employers. Prior to attending the conference, use the Topical Interest Groups (TIG) to navigate the conference program and identify experts in your field of interest. Remember to pack business cards and update your resume or vitae. Once at the conference – be bold! Introduce yourself to presenters from organizations or fields of practice that interest you and have a few talking points or questions prepared. Once you’ve connected, add their information into an Excel spreadsheet and, after the conference, note if and when you follow-up via email and the outcome of your discussion. This will help for professional networking down the road!
Lesson Learned: Prepare to be overwhelmed (but in a good way). Before arriving at the conference, figure out a way to stay organized that works best for you. I brought my iPad to each session and used the EverNote app to take notes. Most importantly (to my organization), I kept a “to-do” note where I listed everything I wanted to do when I returned home (e.g., articles to read, experts to connect with, student scholarships or job opportunities to apply for). It is likely that you will encounter a lot of information that you want to know more about but do not have the mental space to process – this is where making a “to-do” list for home comes in handy!
Lesson Learned: Prepare to be inspired. You may find at the AEA conference that the ways to approach evaluation are endless – depending on the field, the context, the purpose, etc. Do not let this discourage you; rather – let it inspire you. Take these ideas and put them in your back pocket and know that at some point you may be asked to conduct an evaluation and you will have a myriad of methods and approaches to look to. I encourage you to use the AEA conference to learn about approaches to evaluation that you are not familiar with, and identify ways in which those methods could be adopted to your work!
We’re celebrating Evaluation 2014 Graduate Students Reflection Week. This week’s contributions come from graduate students of Dr. Osman Ozturgut of the Dreeben School of Education at the University of the Incarnate Word, along with students from other universities. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.