A Concise Overview of The Rucks Group's 2023 AEA Presentations


September 27, 2023

We are thrilled to announce our participation in the American Evaluation Association's (AEA) annual conference, Evaluation 2023: The Power of Story. As leaders in our field, we recognize the importance of staying at the forefront of knowledge generation and networking with fellow professionals. We eagerly anticipate the opportunity to not only learn from our professional community but also to engage in meaningful discussions that will shape the future of evaluation. To offer you a glimpse into our contributions to this event, here is a concise preview of presentations by The Rucks Group.

Cultivating the Next Generation of Evaluators through an Experiential Learning Program Model

Alyce Hopes, M.S. | Alyissa Horn, M.P.A. | Alyssa Hokky, P.S.M. | Spencer Queen | The Rucks Group, LLC

Wednesday, October 11, 2023 | 5:30p - 7:00p | Griffin Hall

Today's evaluators are witnessing a shifting landscape within the evaluation universe. This shift can largely be attributed to emerging technologies impacting data collection, data analysis, and ultimately data story-telling. Such innovation opens doors to other disciplines and professions that are increasingly leveraging innovative data methods and storytelling techniques to tackle some of the world's most complex challenges. To maintain the prominence and value of the evaluation field, it is critical that evaluators keep pace with innovation, and this is especially important when thinking about preparing the next generation of evaluators. Through the implementation of The Rucks Group’s Summer Experiential Learning (EL) Program, we have unlocked an abundance of evaluation potential by recruiting diverse student talent to meet the evolving demands of evaluation work. This poster presentation highlights the mosaic of educational backgrounds and professional experiences that are bringing innovative and valuable approaches to evaluation work by exploring the unique backgrounds of past EL participants. Students who want to learn more about how their backgrounds can lead to a career in evaluation are highly encouraged to visit our poster.

Conversations with Friends of Evaluation: Perspectives on Evaluation to Support Diverse Student Populations

Lana Rucks, Ph.D. | Kathleen Dean, Ph.D. | The Rucks Group, LLC

Grayson McKeown, M.Ed. | Columbus State Community College

Morakinyo Kuti, Ph.D. | Central State University

Thursday, October 12, 2023 | 3:45p - 4:45p | Room 301

Increasing the participation of and equitable outcomes for marginalized and minority students in STEM education and employment requires new or unique approaches to recruiting, retaining, and graduating students. This session will showcase two institutions in Ohio – Central State University (CSU; Wilberforce, OH) and Columbus State Community Colleges (CSCC; Columbus, OH)—that have successfully developed and implemented innovative STEM programs to support diverse and marginalized students. Presenters will engage in a dialogue to discuss the design of these programs and how key data points from the evaluations have informed program improvement to continue better supporting positive student outcomes. As institutional leaders, the presenters will also share how they view the importance of evaluation from their roles within their institutions not only as project team members, but also evaluation liaisons, advocates, and friends.

Words Create Worlds: Using Appreciative Inquiry and the Power of Stories for Strategic Thinking

Kathleen Lis Dean, Ph.D. | The Rucks Group, LLC

Lyssa Becho | Western Michigan University

Friday October 13, 2023 | 10:15a - 11:15p | Room 209

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) starts with individuals sharing stories with one another to elicit a shared understanding that will help to co-create an aspirational future. Using AI as an approach to evaluation generates a wealth of information that tells the story of organizational strengths, opportunities, and goals to create a shared vision. EvaluATE, the evaluation hub for the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program, partnered with their external evaluator (The Rucks Group, LLC) to design a strategic thinking and planning process using AI to engage participants, generate data, and create a future vision to inform subsequent program design. During this demonstration, presenters will guide attendees through applying an AI lens – from developing questions that generate stories to imagining organizational futures – and the tools used to accomplish this virtually. The demonstration will conclude by sharing lessons learned and recommendations for attendees to use this approach in their own practice.

Navigating Research and Evaluation in STEM Projects by Shifting Focus in the Framing, Forming, and Telling of Stories

Christopher Cox, Ph.D. | The Rucks Group, LLC

Friday, October 13, 2023 | 11:30a - 12:30p | Room 208

Recent solicitations from some National Science Foundation (NSF) funding program tracks (e.g., AISL, DRK-12, ITEST, IUSE, SSTEM) include a project research or knowledge generation component in addition to an evaluation component. While both research and evaluation can gather and analyze similar data, the types of stories they tell are quite different based on how a trail of evidence is framed and formed. Utilizing Dykes’ (2023) story framing, forming, and telling that characterize steps associated with data stories, team members from The Rucks Group, LLC will compare the distinct trajectories of research from evaluation in STEM evaluations with respect to approaches, processes, and the reporting of findings. Drawing on several projects in which we serve as the external evaluator, we share our experiences in planning and implementing evaluations in projects with research or knowledge generation components. We will share lessons learned throughout the scoping, planning, and implementation of evaluations, including instances where data sets are used for research and evaluation purposes. We will conclude the session with opportunities for participants to reflect on and anticipate considerations for evaluation scopes of work complementary to project research.