Career Story: Program Evaluator At A University

Program Evaluator At A University

Job Title: Program Evaluator

Type of Company: I work at a university on a research study funded by the Massachusetts Children's Trust Fund

Education: PhD in Child and Family Policy from Tufts University. •• MA in Early Childhood Education from Tufts Universtiy •• B.A. in English from Oberlin College

Previous Experience: I was a college English major who wound up working with little kids post-grad, which inspired me to go back to school for a Masters in teaching. But as a teacher, I realized that I wanted to work with the issues surrounding families within a broader, and more political framework, and so I went back to school again, this time to study policy. After graduating I got a job doing policy analysis and research.

Job Tasks: I am the director of a research evaluation of a home visiting program for young parents. Our job is to find out whether the home visiting program is effective in meetings its goals for these young parents. We have recruited around 800 adolescent pregnant and/or parenting women from across the state of Massachusetts to participate in the study. At three different time points, over two years, our team of researchers interviews by phone, and by person these young women, asking them all sorts of questions about their lives, their childhoods, their parenting, and their babies.

My job is to make sure the whole project runs smoothly.I supervise the graduate students and staff who conduct the interviews, I manage the recruitment process, I talk to the programs and agencies that administer the home visiting program and are helping us to enroll participants in the study. I facilitate and maintain data sharing relationships with other state agencies in Massachusetts, and make sure that all of our protocols are approved by the Institutional Review Boards at Tufts and the other state agencies. I also work with the data, or information, we have collected, running analyses and writing reports.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: My favorite part of this job is talking to the teen moms, and also with the program staff who work with them. I also really like the work I do with my students and staff--we work together very well as a team, and all have a passion for the ideas that we cultivate together.

What I don't love about my job are the more bureaucratic aspects of it, (e.g., working on the budget.)

Job Tips: If you want to do a job like mine--conducting research on programs and policies designed to help people--you probably ultimately would need to get an MA or PhD in a field like child development, psychology, child and family policy, etc.

But actually I think the best thing you could do right now--as a high school or college student possibly interested in such work--is to volunteer with either a research project that does program evaluation, or with the actual programs themselves. For instance, you could hook up with a team that was researching the effects of new program for the homeless, OR you could actually volunteer with the homeless program being studied.

At our project, we love to take in motivated students who are interested in learning about how research works, who want to understand more about teenage mothers, or who just want to learn how to construct a database.

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