Thursday, April 4, 2013

Save the Date and a Big Welcome to Yer Chang!

Before reading further, please take a minute to pull up your calendar and Save the Date for our 2013 Annual Forum on June 11, from 11:00am - 1:30pm. We’re bringing the Forum to a whole new level this year, and we’re pretty jazzed about the pieces that are coming together. We’ll tell you more in a few weeks, but here’s what we can say for now: Our keynote speaker is a nationally recognized bestselling author, he’s talking about failure, and what you’ll learn is game-changing. Stay tuned for more! You do not want to miss it. 


Now for even more exciting news. You might have noticed a ‘welcome’ trend recently: we’re growing. We’re working really hard to build an incredible team of experts to move the Council forward into a new era of social change. Part of that is demonstrating our commitment to measurement and evaluation. So meet our new research and evaluation consultant, Yer Chang. She’s busy building a number of surveys and working on defining our impact, but she generously took a few minutes to tell us a bit about herself in her own words.

1. How did you end up in the research and evaluation field?
Serendipity, actually! Starting at a very young age, I’ve always had a curious mind and loved searching for information as a way to learn and grow – I just didn’t know that it was called research. And as for my love for evaluation, it came much later while studying at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. In school, I took a course in program evaluation and was amazed of how naturally things came to me as I read the course materials and completed the assignments. However, I put that passion for evaluation on the back burner and didn’t pay much attention to it until after graduation as I met with one of my mentors for lunch. She shared with me her career path in program evaluation, and she quickly introduced me to her other colleagues in the field. I am very fortunate to have great mentors. Since that meeting I have enjoyed working on multiple research and evaluation projects.

2. If you could open your own business, what would it be?
I love food, so it would have to be a restaurant, of course! I especially love Southeast Asian food, anywhere from Thai, Lao, Burmese, Vietnamese and Hmong food would fit my fancy. I also love organic produce and fresh veggies, so I would try to incorporate that into the menu as much as possible.

3. Tell us about your favorite movie of all time.
I probably have watched “Titanic” about a dozen times. I just love the romance story that is told through the two main actors, Kate Winslet and Leonardo Dicaprio. I would probably watch it another dozen times if I had the time.

4. What are you most excited about working on at the Council?
I am most excited about bringing my knowledge and expertise of program evaluation to the Council. I look forward to working with the staff and board. I think, the council is at a pivotal point in building up their services and I am thrilled to be in the midst of this exciting change.

5. If you could go on a vacation anywhere at no cost, where would you go?
My escape would be to Chiang Mai, Thailand. I lived in Thailand for a year in 2003 and have not gone back since. I love the variety of things you can do there, I miss my friends and of course, I love the food!

6. Do you have any advice or tips for nonprofits regarding easily-accessible evaluation tools or resources?
I love American Evaluation Association (AEA), Minnesota Evaluation Association (MEA) and Minnesota Evaluation Studies Institute (MESI). All these organizations are full of resources, tools and information about evaluation. AEA has an annual conference every year in the Fall, it also has daily blogs, and just tons of resources online. MEA has local topical interest gatherings quarterly or monthly, local evaluators to connect with and acts as a local chapter to AEA. MESI has an annual conference in the Spring, great resources online and offers additional ways to connect to local evaluators.

One of my favorite books of all time is Handbook of Practical Program Evaluation by Joseph S. Wholey, Harry P. Hatry, and Kathryn E. Newcomer. It’s the book we used during the evaluation course that got me started on this journey. Every now and then I refer back to the text to refresh my skills and it’s also a great resource for those who want to explore the field of evaluation.

7. What’s the most delicious thing you’ve ever eaten?
I took a short vacation once to Phuket, Thailand in 2003. Phuket is known as one of the largest island south of Thailand. My friend was from the area so she took us to the most fabulous restaurant ever! We took a paddle boat from shore to reach the restaurant, which was located on the water – it was beautiful and only something you would only see in a movie. We ate live seafood, fish, and oysters caged within short distance of where we were seated. We selected our fish by pointing to which one we wanted cooked and served to us. We had the most fabulous and fresh oysters straight from underneath our seats. It was the best restaurant experience ever!

To recap, she’s an evaluation geek, she’s full of resources, and she loves delicious food. Obviously, Yer fits right in already. Save the date for June 11 at the Annual Forum and you can meet her yourself!

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