Like most professional evaluators, I wore multiple hats at the AEA Conference held in Washington DC. Read my thread on my experience as a “first-timer” attending AEA, volunteer, presenter, graduate assistant, and student.
Something I learned: The participation of student volunteers was an important part of Evaluation 2017. With nearly 4,000 members attending AEA this year – volunteering assistance was essential! As a student volunteer, I found it was a great opportunity to network and meet new faces in the differing fields of evaluation.
Something new I did: Presenting evaluation research at a national conference was a first for me. My partner and I presented our research on attempting to determine what factors are essential to reflective practice as it relates to program evaluation. Just thinking about presenting in front of a large group of professional evaluators did not put my nerves at ease. As many people do, I suffer from social anxiety when speaking in front of large or new groups of individuals. However, I felt the only way to improve my presentation skills was to get any practice I can. And what a better way to work through this fear of public speaking, than to present at AEA. Once I realized amount of effort my partner and I put into the project and how much knowledge I have gained from it the more comfortable I became. The presentation went well, and the audience had great feedback for us to further our project. Overall, it was a great experience and something I would do again!
Favorite thing about AEA: As a first-time AEA attendee, it was a great experience to put a face to the name. With the help of my fellow classmates, talking to the evaluators we admire such as Fetterman, Patton, and King was a sure possibility while roaming around to different conference events.
Favorite session: This year’s evaluation theme, From Learning to Action, was perfect for an emerging professional like myself. Being able to learn from others was what is was all about! My favorite experience was being involved in the focus group demonstration entitled Simple Steps to Effective Focus Groups presented by the Applied Research Center. Being involved in this demonstration instilled some confidence in myself. Working as a graduate assistant at the ARC I have gained an abundance of knowledge and guidance from my project managers. Yet, there is something about presenting in front of an audience of beginner level professionals, like myself. Having this session experience gave me the self-assurance that the ARC has truly provided me the tools necessary to be a working professional.