Sheila B Robinson on Love, Admiration, Passion…and Evaluation

Dear Evaluators, will you be  my valentine? Sheila B Robinson here, aea365’s Lead Curator and Saturday contributor feeling a bit mushy today.

On holidays, we are reminded of the way we feel about life, ourselves, and each other. We express thanks on Thanksgiving, appreciation for military personnel on Memorial Day, and hope for the future on New Year’s Day. And of course, today is a day we traditionally express love for one another.

Lesson Learned:  I love evaluation work and evaluators, but when I hear myself say that, I wonder why. With my first career – teaching – the reason for my passion was clear. I love people. I love teaching and learning. I love working on teams, taking pleasure in our shared passion for the work, and admiring colleagues who share so generously their time, attention, and knowledge. I love rooting for the underdog, helping build up those who are down, and find tremendous joy in watching them succeed.

But why evaluation? Sure, I love collecting and analyzing data as much as the next evaluator, but is that really it?

I offer two brief anecdotes as illustration:

1. For a graduate school course on qualitative research, I studied a small local music store and its owner. His passion was singular, his work ethic admirable, and his mantra was “it’s ALL about the music.” Despite all, business was not booming. I wondered what made the operation tick, so to speak, as it had been barely surviving (from a fiscal perspective) for decades, yet wildly popular with its cult following. My findings? It was not “all about the music.” It was about the people, their shared passion and connections, and social relationships. Music was just the raw material.

2. I started a conversation about cars with the owner of a very successful automotive business and received a tepid response to my excitement about a particular model. I asked, “so then, what cars do you love?” His response: “I don’t really love cars. I’m a businessman. I love running a business. Cars are just the vehicle  – uh, no pun intended.”

So why evaluation?  Same reasons as above. It’s all there in evaluation work as well, as I’m certain it is in law, medicine, or business too.

Rad Resource: YOU. Inspiration for this post came from an interview I granted to grad students from my university. They mentioned they had also interviewed two of the biggest names in evaluation. The students then asked me why, with all the blogs, free resources, accessibility and approachability of the “rock stars,” evaluators seem to be so generous with their time, knowledge, and intellectual property when that doesn’t appear to be the case in other disciplines. I think I have the answer.


Image credit: seaside rose garden via Flickr
Image credit: seaside rose garden via Flickr


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3 thoughts on “Sheila B Robinson on Love, Admiration, Passion…and Evaluation”

  1. This piece was a nice read. Its nice to see that those “higher names” are willing to share information and be so generous.
    Personally I think it’s unfortunate that people like the male in your example of cars get into work not for the enjoyment but for the business part of it alone.

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