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Member Spotlight

The membership of Washington Evaluators is as diverse as the the industries in which they serve. In celebration, WE has launched a Membership Spotlight campaign to share the professional and personal journeys of our members, learn from each other's experiences and inspire young and/or transitioning specialists.

Today's feature shares the story of a member who participated in our 2019 Evaluation Without Borders (EWB) program. EWB aims to match evaluators with community-based organizations and nonprofits seeking program planning, measurement, and evaluation services. If you know a CBO or non-profit interested in participating in the 2020 cycle, please note that applications are due Friday, April 17, 2020. 

Please join us in celebrating Stacey S. Merola, Ph.D...

Stacey S. Merola, Ph.D.

President & Principal Scientist,

Merola Research LLC

Stacey was an Evaluator Without Borders for the Community Education Group (CEG) in 2019. As a non-profit, CEG is committed to stopping the spread of infectious diseases through the development and implementation of creative, viable, culturally appropriate programs and that reflect the needs and concerns of the communities most affected and infected—the communities they are designed to help.

The project's Scope of Work focused on the analysis of survey data and subsequent publication in a report. More specifically, a total of 511 surveys had been collected in the fall of 2018 during the United States Conference on AIDS and Harm Reduction Conference in Orlando, FL, and New Orleans, LA respectively. The surveys collected responses to mobilize communities impacted by HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, barriers to medical care, and reproductive health for transmen and transwomen. The information garnered, helped to identify priorities to be delivered at the state and county level within three categories: access, advocacy, and policy.

Today, we ask Stacey about her EWB experience, life as an evaluator, and more:


What do you love most about being an evaluator?

The best part about being an evaluator is that our work has a real-world impact on improving people’s lives. I love it when my findings are used to change programs or practices for the better, or to justify additional funding due to a program demonstrating effectiveness.

What originally interested you in serving as an Evaluator Without Borders in 2019?

Data is everywhere, but a lot of small nonprofits may not have the resources to effectively collect and/or utilize the data to answer questions related to the effectiveness of their programs. I felt that this would be a way to help these organizations, and, through them, the populations that they serve.

What was the most interesting or surprising thing you learned from your experience as an Evaluator without Borders in 2019?

It was interesting to work on a health-related project after working in the education space for most of my career. I learned a lot about the efforts to reduce the transmission of HIV in the United States by making access to treatment and prevention more equitable.

What is one piece of advice you would give to a prospective Evaluator without Borders?

Be flexible both in terms of time and expectations. You might be working in an area different from what you usually study. Also, the staff at nonprofits are likely very busy, and may not be that data savvy (which, of course, is why they need our help).

How do you define success and/or what is your philosophy of failure?

I tend to look at failure from the perspective of, “Well, at least I tried.” Also, usually I’ve learned something new in the effort that I can either use to try again or apply to something else.

What’s something about you (a fun fact) that not many people know?

I play keyboard in a rock band.

What do you wish people knew about evaluation?

I wish more people understood that the evaluation process could be beneficially applied to many different programs and practices in society, rather than simply when an external funding source or other external entity requires it.

What non-evaluator skill do you incorporate into your evaluation practice, how and why?

The concept of celebrating incremental progress. Whether it is learning a musical instrument, running a marathon, or doing research, these things all take time and the results may be uncertain. Usually, however, there are small successes along the way that can be celebrated and help keep one motivated.

If you would like to nominate a member to be spotlighted, please send their

name, email, and a brief statement of support to communications@washingtonevaluators.org.

Washington Evaluators (WE) is 501(c)(3) organization and a local affiliate of the American Evaluation Association (AEA). Founded in 1984, Washington Evaluators is one of the oldest Voluntary Organizations for Professional Evaluation (VOPE) in the United States. Washington Evaluators supports the growth of the evaluation community and profession in the DC-area by promoting individual development of evaluation expertise, knowledge sharing, and collaboration. Washington Evaluators serves members by facilitating professional development events, networking, social interactions, as well as publication of upcoming evaluation events and opportunities in the region. The more 300 Washington Evaluators' members come from a diverse mix of federal, state, and local government agencies, universities and educational settings, corporate businesses and independent consulting firms, and nonprofit associations. 

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