Four Reasons to Be an Evaluation Intern
Learning, Validation, impact, and Community
Learning, validation, impact, and community
by Katie George Zehr
For 10 weeks last summer, I joined the team at Vantage Evaluation as a program evaluation intern. In this post I’ll be sharing my main takeaways from the experience and offering four awesome reasons to be an evaluation intern.
After wrapping up the first year of a Ph.D. program in Research Methods and Statistics at the University of Denver, my curiosity about program evaluation was growing. I’m a social worker by training, so I wanted to know more about how I might use my newfound research and data wrangling skills to help nonprofit organizations improve their service delivery and increase community impact. When I came across Vantage’s internship posting, I saw my opportunity to take a dive into program evaluation and went for it.
During the internship, I contributed to five external evaluation projects and three internal projects, which exposed me to the Colorado nonprofit landscape (I’ve lived in Denver for about a year), and introduced me to a variety of businesses, organizations, and entities that use and benefit from evaluation. Learning from a team of experienced evaluators, I was able to gain a better understanding of evaluation approaches, methods, and some of the nitty-gritty details involved in implementing an evaluation project. From these experiences and other lessons learned, I composed a brief list of reasons that others might want to pursue an evaluation internship.
Here are the top four reasons to be an evaluation intern:
You’re always learning and growing. As an intern, you’re expected to take on a learner’s role, and that means asking lots of questions (even if they sound silly) and absorbing new ideas. But here’s a cool secret: you can use this approach all the time! And committing to ongoing growth, in whatever way is manageable for you, will help you be a better evaluator, partner, and anything else you’d like to be. Plus, learning is a core component of good evaluation.
You can get as nerdy as you want (about evaluation). Evaluation helps us answer all kinds of questions, and evaluators use a variety of methodologies to arrive at those answers. This summer, I was introduced to new (to me) analytic techniques like thematic analysis of social media posts and content mapping, and because I was supported by a team of enthusiastic evaluators, I was encouraged to embrace my nerdy appreciation of these methodologies.
You know your work will have an impact. As an evaluation intern, you know your work will have an impact because the “use” branch of the program evaluation theory tree ensures that evaluation findings will be used for some practical purpose. The work you contribute to evaluation projects may be used to improve practices at organizations or change the way people think about the effectiveness of certain programs and services.
You’ll join a community of evaluators. Being new to Colorado and the field of evaluation, I found it valuable to attend monthly gatherings of the Colorado Evaluators Network (COEN) as part of my internship. I was introduced to evaluators who work nearby, learned examples of how evaluation is used in Colorado and began to feel like part of the Colorado evaluation community. Attending COEN meetings helped me appreciate the collaborative nature of evaluation practice and made me aware of some of the great resources available to Colorado evaluators.
I hope that by sharing my thoughts, I encourage others to explore the possibility of being a program evaluation intern.
Katie George Zehr | Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Denver
Katie is an aspiring evaluator with a background in social work and a desire to help nonprofit and community leaders learn how to better serve their communities. She completed an internship with Vantage in the Summer of 2018.