Before we really get into the substance that this blog will address, we figured we should take the opportunity to introduce ourselves to you. Learning a little about our team, and the history each of us has with evaluation and evaluation use, may help provide some context to what we’ll say in the future. Overall, we all work together in some capacity at iEval, an evaluation consulting firm in Michigan. Our blog team is made up of Kristin Everett, Kelley Pasatta, Corey Smith, and me!
My name is Wendy Tackett, and I’m the President and founder of iEval. I’ve incorporated elements of evaluation into the work I’ve done since I first started writing grants as an undergraduate student at Western Michigan University in 1990 and continued working in service learning during my master’s degree at the University of Michigan. Honestly, my first “formal” use of evaluation began in 1997 when I was hired at an urban school district where I wrote and monitored grants while also hiring and supervising external evaluators. Unfortunately, I felt the external evaluations were missing key factors that could have made them useful to the school district. What was the point of spending thousands of dollars on evaluators for work that wasn’t making a difference?
I became passionate about wanting to infuse meaning in all evaluation work and ensure that findings were used to help improve programs. I felt I could do more to make that happen, so I began work on my doctorate in Evaluation, Measurement, and Research Design from Western Michigan University in 2000. I left the school district and started iEval in 2002 once I finished my doctoral classwork. I continued to focus on use by writing my dissertation about the meaningful use of evaluation findings within after school programs in Michigan.
Through my work with iEval, I concentrate heavily on the practical application of evaluation findings and the actual use of those findings to make program improvements and decisions. I often share my experiences and expertise, particularly with new evaluators, through presentations at the Michigan Association for Evaluation and the American Evaluation Association. I’m also looking forward to teaching a graduate level course in program evaluation theory this fall at Western Michigan University. I hope to share some of what I’ve learned over the years so you can have a great experience with evaluation at all levels!
USEFUL TIP: Sometimes your career can be standing right in front of you without you knowing it. By doing an impromptu gap analysis of the work coming into my department at the school district, I realized where I wanted to head in my career. And, 14 years later, I am so thankful I made that decision!