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IDPE Week: From Evaluation Practitioner to Evaluation Scholar by Amy Jersild

Greetings! My name is Amy Jersild, Doctoral Scholar in the Interdisciplinary Program in Evaluation (IDPE) at Western Michigan University (WMU), and an evaluator working in the international development sector.

I entered the program in August 2018 following four years of teaching evaluation in a MA program in sustainable development at World Learning’s School for International Training in Washington, DC. I also had significant experience as an independent evaluator internationally with the International Labour Organization, UNICEF, the United Nations Development Program, the U.S. Department of Labor, The Rockefeller Foundation, and other donors.

As a mid-career evaluator with significant evaluation experience, I was a somewhat conflicted enrollee in the program when I arrived in 2018. I went through a long process of debating the pros and cons. Uprooting my family (including my daughter, a middle-school student) from the DC area to live in Kalamazoo for 3 to 4 years was a significant decision on multiple levels. Furthermore, I was the main breadwinner for my family, and enrolling was not a small leap of faith.

My primary objectives for the program was to further my skills and knowledge in research methods, gain greater depth and knowledge of the evaluation field, and collaborate with others to carry out research on evaluation (RoE). As I now finish up my coursework and plan for my dissertation, I reflect on the benefits of the experience. The evaluation work I have conducted over the past several years has not only enabled me to support my family, but it has fulfilled credit requirements, enabled constructive reflection with others, and has served as impetus for furthering my advisor’s research agenda and developing articles for publication. I am currently involved in three RoE projects, all very instructive and beneficial for both the field and our learning at WMU.

I have expanded the nature of my evaluation work as well, moving beyond conducting evaluations to advising on evaluation and conducting evaluability assessments. Finally, I have very much benefited from and enjoyed being part of a learning community with like-minded people all as obsessed with and fascinated by evaluation as I am. The easy access to colleagues at the Evaluation Center down the hall, which houses the IDPE program, has also broadened my perspective and learning.

Lesson Learned:

I made the right choice! As an experienced practitioner, I have entered the realm of scholarship on evaluation as well as strengthened my skills as an evaluator. I look forward to contributing toward the knowledge base of the field through my upcoming dissertation work and the research I will engage in post WMU. I will also enjoy a greater depth to my work as a practicing evaluator having strengthened my research skills and knowledge of the field.

This week, we’re diving into learning about the Interdisciplinary PhD in Evaluation (IDPE) program at Western Michigan University.  IDPE is the oldest evaluation doctoral program whose purposes include the education and development of thought leaders in evaluation. 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.

7 thoughts on “IDPE Week: From Evaluation Practitioner to Evaluation Scholar by Amy Jersild”

  1. Jaideep Visave

    Dear Amy,
    Thanks for your message. When I was reading your blog, I felt that I was reading all about my “journey”, “delima”, “uncertainty “ etc. the only difference is I was working in disaster risk reduction field and you in evaluation field. I am very happy for you. This literally made my decision easy. I am in the same “long process” of pros and cons not knowing what to do. But now the decision is clear. I am applying for PhD in evaluations at WMU for next intake.

    Thanks for sharing again.

  2. Thank you for sharing Amy. I followed a similiar path, practictioner to partial academic. At AEA I spoke about the usefulness of being a hybrid, and keeping one foot in each field. I do find that academics don’t find me ‘academic enough’ and practitioners are starting to think of me as an ‘academic.’ That classification has pros and cons.

    Good luck with your brave journey.

    Donna Podems

  3. Dr. Sondra LoRe

    Thank you for the wonderful post Amy! I too joined a Ph.D. evaluation program after many years working as a practitioner in education & evaluation. It is a leap of faith just as you described. Wishing you continued happiness and success as you progress towards completing your degree.

    Sondra LoRe, Ph.D.
    Manager | National Institute for STEM Evaluation and Research (NISER)
    Adjunct Professor | Evaluation, Statistics, and Measurement Program, Department of Educational Psychology & Counseling

    The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
    Office of Research & Engagement
    114 Philander P. Claxton Education Building
    PH: 865-974-4962

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