Welcome to the University-Based Centers TIG website!
The University-Based Evaluation Centers Topical Interest Group (TIG) provides a forum for practicing evaluators based out of universities and colleges to network, problem solve and disseminate knowledge. We aim to ensure that university-based evaluators have a place to share experiences and build understanding about how to thrive within the unique context of a university setting.
Reasons for joining
- Establish a vibrant community of university-based evaluators
- Create a hub where university-based evaluators can debate and discuss issues of shared concern, ask questions and share resources
- Provide opportunities to network with others working in university-based evaluation settings
- Share resources about how to operate within the complex bureaucratic settings associated with colleges and universities
- Coordinate and disseminate research on strategies and tactics for effectively operating university-based evaluation centers
For evaluators who are based out of a college or university, there are a number of distinct constraints and benefits that impact their work. The vast bureaucracy associated with a large, complex system can make the job of developing new work, hiring staff, getting contracts approved, or even purchasing supplies or being reimbursed for travel time intensive and burdensome. Evaluation units are frequently embedded in larger colleges and administrative entities where complex chains of command can be difficult to navigate. Negotiated, administrative and overhead costs can at times be prohibitive to community partners with limited resources. And many staff in these units are non-tenured, so that personnel-related issues are more difficult to resolve than is the case for traditional, tenure-track faculty members.
On the other side of the coin, being at a university brings name recognition and built-in reputation that is not available to many other professionals. Generous fringe benefits may be available to full time employees, and university resources such as the library and institutional review board (IRB), and access to high quality graduate assistants and expert faculty set these organizations apart. In some situations, university partners are required for grant projects and contracts. Further, the bureaucracy that creates barriers also brings legal protections, and the university will often go to bat if there are conflicts that independent practitioners may have to handle themselves.
At the 2015, 2017, and 2018 meetings of the American Evaluation Association, small roundtable and birds-of-a-feather discussions were held where the distinctive issues associated with working in a university-based evaluation unit were discussed. These conversations were fruitful, but didn’t last long enough or cover enough ground to satisfy participants. At the 2018 meeting, many participants in these discussions expressed an interest in a forum for similarly situated professionals to learn from, and strategize with one another for the purpose of improving our ability to do effective and functional evaluation work.
This TIG builds off of the discussions mentioned above, as the conveners feel that a TIG focusing on university-based centers would address an important, unmet need for evaluators working in these environments. While there are TIGs focusing on other, distinct groups of practitioners and researchers (such as non-profit organizations and independent consultants) there is no analog for university-based evaluators. Some university-based centers have informally shared information with one another, and some attempts have been made to set up online forums to discuss shared issues. However, these efforts have not gained much traction. Establishing a formal TIG should facilitate networking and information sharing efforts, and help these evaluators to better address barriers confronting them, while best taking advantage of their unique opportunities. The primary function of this TIG is to discuss practical issues and concerns that affect university-based evaluators, keeping a focus on how the setting in which we practice evaluation can affect how we practice evaluation. There may also be novel research undertaken, that is relevant to this specific group of practitioners.
Monthly TIG Zoom Calls
The TIG offers monthly Zoom calls for University-Based Evaluators to meet and discuss topics of interest (typically on the 3rd Thursday at 3 pm CST). If you are interested in attending, please contact a member of the TIG leadership team.