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Susan Kistler on How to Win a Book by Identifying the Essence of Evaluation

I am Susan Kistler, AEA’s Executive Director. After my junior year in high school, I attended a short summer program in between working 50 hours weeks at a health food restaurant. The restaurant t-shirts read “Something Natural…and Something Else” on a sea of earthy green. The summer program searched for something similarly pithy. After a week of intense discussion, we chose “MASPERS do it with Elements of Style” in deference to the Strunk and White grammar guide that was a required purchase for all attendees.

What pithy phrase captures the essence of the evaluator or evaluation? Evaluators do it by the numbers? Nope…we’re multi-method. Evaluation is the vocation devoted to triangulation? Doesn’t quite have that je ne sais quoi. As you can see, I’m not very good at this.

Lesson Learned: Pithy is an adjective meaning “brief, forceful, and meaningful in expression; full of vigor, substance, or meaning; terse; forcible” (thank you dictionary.com). That’s what we’re looking for – short, sweet, and compelling.

Hot Tip: Enter your ideas for a pithy phrase exemplifying the essence of the evaluator or evaluation in the comments section for this post. We’ll randomly draw two entries to win a book from the great AEA prize vault, supported by our colleagues at SAGE Publications. And, the very best, might even get to see her or his entry on a t-shirt.

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.

28 thoughts on “Susan Kistler on How to Win a Book by Identifying the Essence of Evaluation”

  1. Come stay with what can’t stay.
    Trust only what fades away.
    Skies wish they’d made us button-eyed.
    In autumn only man is heavy-eyed.
    Such eyes: sky-storming wings.
    …We first don’t know we’re things.
    When we do, we’re not.
    When we’re not, we wake as rings:
    A circle, not a dot.
    Are we a sick-gene’s blunder?
    Call us the unthing wonder.
    – Peter Viereck (Unthings)

  2. Nothing outlasts the Evaluator. It keeps going and going and going…


    [Front of shirt]: I have high standards
    [Back of shirt]: Utility, feasibility, propriety, accuracy…


    [With a picture of an athlete looking sad on a bench]: Evaluators are used to benchmarks

  3. We help you measure what you treasure…

    ( or measure close what you treasure most )


    Your outcomes are our incomes! 😉

  4. Evaluation–truth, justice, and action!

    Evaluation. . . Get a clue! (okay, maybe not!)

    Evaluate, Cogitate, Activate.

  5. A subtle chain of countless rings
    The next unto the farthest brings;
    The eye reads omens where it goes,
    And speaks all languages the rose;
    And, striving to be man, the worm
    Mounts through all the spires of form.
    – Ralph Waldo Emerson (Nature)

  6. My $.02:

    – Change the nation through evaluation!
    – Evaluation: Progress with purpose
    – Evaluation: Practice with Purpose
    – I think therefore I am, I EVALUATE therefore I understand
    – Be cool: Evaluate, you fool! <— just kidding 🙂

  7. Evaluation: The trends of the world as we know it.


    Evaluators make > a statistically significant difference.

  8. Stuart Henderson

    What a creative bunch of suggestions. Mine is a little less sophisticated:

    Who, What, Where, When, Why and How? – Evaluate

    I must confess that the first part is sung on the cartoon “Busytown” that my 5 year old loves.

  9. Evaluators make logical models.

    Evaluators question the answers.

    Evaluation cures stagnation.

    Outcomes got your down? Evaluate!

  10. Michelle Searle

    At our Assessment and Evaluation Group (AEG) at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON, CA we have just had t-shirts made! These t-shirts celebrate AEG and the newest formation of a group of Graduate Researchers in Assessment & Program Evaluation. The name is a mouthful – but it spells out GRAPE and we though there was some potential with that.

    Our t-shirts have a small university and AEG logo on the front with a large bunch of grapes filled with a spectrum of evaluation related words on the back. Underneath the grapes is the phrase – A Grand Cru!

    Grand Cru is a wine classification … with loose translation it means good growth to indicate a place where good grapes can be found for making wine.

    Check out the AEA auction to place your bid on one of these sensational t-shirts!

  11. How about…

    …. Evaluators treasure the measure….


    …Evaluators measure for pleasure…


    …Evaluator: Your best friend on a summary day

  12. Evaluation…

    …Using Curiosity To Improve the World.

    …Reality Testing Made Useful.

    …It’s a Process…Beyond Books and Reports!

    ..but I still hope for a new book! 🙂

    Happy Weekend.

  13. Mohamad, Dorian, Sheron – great ideas!

    Dorian, yes! Something Natural in Nantucket (where I grew up). I worked there for four years in the 80s through high school – front counter, prep cook, baker, even scallop opener in the off-season. I still have to have my sandwich fix whenever I go back to visit.

  14. Evaluators Change the World! One Program at a Time

    I don’t think I’m very good at this either.

    Something Natural in Nantucket? Great homemade bread. I have one of their t-shirts too, but I think it must be a different version.

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