My name is Michael Harnar. I have been in the evaluation discipline for about 16 years and for almost 3 years an assistant professor in the Interdisciplinary PhD in Evaluation program at Western Michigan University. Today I want to talk about what I like about teaching in an interdisciplinary program.
By my very nature, I am attracted to all sorts of ideas, and an interdisciplinary teaching environment is especially good fodder for that. At any point in time I am developing research focused in 3 or 4 directions, from evaluation education, to social impact and SROI, to meta-evaluation and quality assurance in evaluation. While this does sometimes make it challenging to keep all the ideas actively moving along, I find our students bring with them varied interests and incredible curiosity and inevitably our interests intersect. For example, two of our current students were intrigued by my research into evaluation quality so they joined my research project (one volunteered and the other worked as a graduate associate). We completed two studies together, presented at numerous conferences, and have an article in press with the American Journal of Evaluation and they’re both co-authors. One of the students is even taking the research into a new direction and preparing their own manuscript for publication.
I became a university professor because I enjoy the education process, for myself and for others. I love guiding students through the process of discovering their voice. I work hard to find ways student interests can be supported, and in turn, I learn more about a new area.
The students that are drawn to an interdisciplinary program come from a wide variety of disciplines and backgrounds. I encourage them to find ways to bring those interests into their research. Two students, in particular, provide useful examples of how student interests have deepened my knowledge base. Amy Jersild’s extensive experience in international development, including a current project, intersects with my interest in quality assurance and we are jointly authoring QA tool for use in evaluation. Zach Tilton has been working in the MERL Tech space for some time and we worked together on a scoping review of MERL Tech in the development space. He also brought a laser-focused intent to improve the peacebuilding evaluation landscape and this new arena has introduced us to that arena.
We work to not only prepare evaluation scholars to participate in advancing the research on evaluation but to also bring with them the interests that brought them to evaluation in the first place. Together, we advance their learning, add to our own understanding of the field, and create new knowledge that contributes to the canon of evaluation discipline. I love my job!
Learn more about our great students:
- A couple of our students wrote AEA365 blogs on The Constructivist Credo a few months ago
- Here’s a link to a peace indicator project Zach contributes to
- Zach also co-authored a chapter in this book “New Directions in Peacebuilding Evaluation”
- Watch my LinkedIn page for more highlights of our students’ research
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.