When people work and put forth effort, they want to know that it actually accomplished something. The discipline of evaluation has arisen to measure whether almost any endeavor—a class, a non-profit organization, a university degree program, a policy, a product, business, etc.—is being effective and getting the hoped-for results.
The American Evaluation Association guides the best practices in evaluation methodology. Recently, it honored NLU Assistant Professor Tiffeny Jimenez, Ph.D., chair of the Community Psychology program, with a Minority Serving Institution fellowship.
“This prestigious fellowship recognizes the efforts NLU makes serving students of color,” said Judah Viola, Ph.D., chair of NLU’s College of Professional Studies and Advancement.
“I will bring all my lessons learned into my courses, which is especially interesting because evaluation spans several areas of our field of community psychology,” Jimenez said.
The fellowship will bring her the expertise and mentorship of evaluation experts as she takes on some evaluation projects at NLU. One is an evaluation of the Ph.D. program; faculty are considering what data to look at and how to evaluate the program’s goals. One goal to measure might be how many graduates are working in positions they studied for and desired.
Another area to evaluate will be the NLU Veterans Program, especially using evaluation methodology to understand the effectiveness of NLU in supporting student veterans.
Jimenez also aims to focus evaluation methods on whether, and how, NLU’s Community Psychology program is culturally responsive in meeting students’ needs.
“Community psychology emphasizes positive change for underserved communities,” she said. “By the very fact of bringing in students from those communities, we’re making progress toward our goal.”
Students from those communities already know the norms and customs better than an outsider would. Many are working with non-profits or government agencies to improve conditions in the communities. Jimenez explained an evaluation could consider how effectively their doctoral program is establishing the conditions that will enable students to enact positive community change. It could also measure how well the students themselves are faring, possibly by evaluating whether graduates are getting jobs in this field, such as in consulting or with non-profit organizations or other employers.
Viola noted that earlier this year, a Community Psychology Ph.D. student was awarded a Graduate Education Diversity Initiative fellowship.
“So to have both students and faculty being recognized and offered additional resources to advance the mission of diversifying higher education and improving outcomes for minority students is just outstanding,” he said.
“Furthermore, receiving these fellowships increases students’ chances for successfully competing for grants and fellowships in the future.”