Greetings from Washington, D.C.! My name is Kwamé A. McIntosh, member of the American Evaluation Association’s Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) 2012-2013 cohort. Today, I am eager to share with you my experience that I had as an Assistant Education Evaluator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) Office of Education (OED).
As a scholar, I was given an opportunity to conduct a process and outcome evaluation of five years of statistical data about the effectiveness of two scholarship programs for undergraduate students to expand their knowledge of the atmospheric, oceanic, and/or environmental sciences. Since the students participated in their internships within the summer, I would never have the opportunity to interact or engage with the clients. This meant developing a relationship with staff members who worked directly with the population to gain a viable understanding of the program and its participants, though the staff members for this program were located at another NOAA location. Though each site is under the umbrella of the OED, I was still an evaluator who was responsible for unveiling the effectiveness of the program. Though it took time, through responsive pro-activity versus reactivity, I gained the insight needed to provide practical deliverables while assisting in solidifying the bridge between both facilities.
Lesson #1: Trust is earned, not given. The process of gaining trust may be the difference between empowering your client or becoming the enemy.
Lessons #2: It is the evaluator’s duty to be purposeful in engagement, not the client. In Hazel Symonette’s “Walking Pathways Toward Becoming a Culturally Competent Evaluator: Boundaries, Borderlands, and Border Crossings”, she highlights the need to have multilateral self-awareness by asking “Who do those that one is seeking to communicate with and engage perceive the evaluator as being?” Many times due to social misunderstandings of the role of evaluator, clients tend to become distrustful towards us, which will ultimately result of in difficulty in conducting the evaluation and/or not gaining valuable insight to truly impact the client. This can be addressed by constantly removing “self” out of its box and being willing to reform “self” in another completely for the sake of utilizable evaluation outcomes.