Plenary Presentations 

The 2017 Plenary presentations will feature in-depth education sessions that focus on this year’s theme: From Learning to Action. These sessions have been organized by AEA President Kathy Newcomer and her program chairs to explore ways that our community can learn from evaluation to create better practices and outcomes.

From Learning to Action: Employing Evaluation to Advance the Public Good

Wednesday, November 8

3:15 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.  
Kathy Newcomer

The current president of the American Evaluation Association will draw upon her three decades of experience studying evaluation and measurement in the U.S. federal government to describe what she believes are imposing challenges to learning from evaluation within the public and nonprofit sectors. She will also talk about what we have learned that we can use to address persisting obstacles, including addressing organizational cultures, expectations and incentives in order for us to promote and use evaluation to strengthen effective and humane organizations that contribute to the enhancement of the public good.

Kathryn Newcomer, PhD is the Director of the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at the George Washington University where she teaches graduate level courses on public and nonprofit program evaluation, and research design.  She is a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, and currently serves on the Comptroller General’s Educators’ Advisory Panel. She served as an elected member of the Board of Directors of the American Evaluation Association (AEA) (2012-2015), and began service as AEA president on January 1, 2017.  She routinely conducts research and training for federal and local government agencies and nonprofit organizations on performance measurement and program evaluation, and has designed and conducted evaluations for many U.S. federal agencies and dozens of nonprofit organizations. 

Dr. Newcomer has published five books, including The Handbook of Practical Program Evaluation (4th edition 2015) and Transformational Leadership: Leading Change in Public and Nonprofit Agencies (June 2008), and edited a volume of New Directions for Public Program Evaluation, Using Performance Measurement to Improve Public and Nonprofit Programs (1997). She has also published over 60 articles in journals including the Public Administration Review and the American Journal of Evaluation. She served as President of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) for 2006-2007. She has received two Fulbright awards, one for Taiwan (1993) and one for Egypt (2001-04). She has lectured on performance measurement and program evaluation in Ukraine, China, Australia, Brazil, Italy, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Poland, Costa Rica, Egypt, Taiwan, Colombia, Honduras, Canada, Nicaragua, and the UK.

Dialogues on Race & Class in America

Thursday, November 9

9:00 a.m.  –  10:00 a.m.
Melvin Hall

With the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, AEA has hosted a series of Dialogues, the purpose of which has been to illuminate the complex issues of race and class within institutional structures and social patterns that allow negative effects to remain, while few condone the practices and outcomes we observe.

Today’s discussion of program evaluation and its role in supporting societal learning is focused on what program evaluators must know about race and class in America, if their professional practice is to fulfill the mandate of assisting society in learning about itself. The problem which prompts this action is persistent, deeply rooted, and structurally intertwined racial, ethnic, and class disparities in our society.  These disparities arise from both historical and ongoing systemic racism (structural and personal biases against racial, ethnic, and class minorities in our society). Despite commentary about how racism has changed over the past 50 years, examining whether the problem has gotten “better,” there can be no real argument disputing that daily events and surveys have made clear the need to do more, and to find ways to do it now.  How is it that a society which claims to abhor racial discrimination and hatred, witnesses so much of it on a regular basis? How can a society that espouses the notion that all are created equal, condone, and amplify the greatest levels of inequality found in the developed world? What is it that society must learn about itself to fully grasp these issues, and can program evaluation truly assist? This plenary session is built upon a year-long demonstration project that has explored how program evaluation and the evaluators who helm its work, can be meaningfully involved in a large-scale learning to action project around the realities of race and class in America.

Melvin Hall, PhD, is Professor of Educational Psychology at Northern Arizona University.  Dr. Hall completed his B.S., and PhD, degrees at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in Social Psychology and Educational Psychology respectively; and M.S. in Counseling at Northern Illinois University.

During a forty plus-year professional career in higher education, Dr. Hall has served in four successive appointments, as an academic dean, comprised of positions at Florida Atlantic University, University of California-Irvine, University of Maryland at College Park, and most recently Northern Arizona University (NAU).  At NAU, Dr. Hall served as Dean of the College of Education and additionally was the principal investigator on two five-year US Office of Education GEAR UP grants providing dropout prevention programs and services to thousands of middle and high school students throughout Arizona. 

Returning to full-time faculty life in 2002, Dr. Hall has melded teaching and scholarship in Educational Psychology with responsibility as co-principal investigator on five-years of National Science Foundation support for the Relevance of Culture in Evaluation Institute.  Subsequent to the RCEI grant, Dr. Hall began a continuing appointment as affiliated faculty in the Center for Responsive Evaluation and Assessment (CREA) at the University of Illinois.  As an external reviewer, Dr. Hall has served on numerous review panels and Committee of Visitors for the National Science Foundation EHR Division including an invited expert panel on the future of evaluation methodology in STEM programs. In 2015, he accepted an appointment as an intermittent expert at NSF and in that, capacity serves as a program officer for the ADVANCE and HBCU UP Programs within the Human Resource Development Division of the EHR Directorate. He currently serves on the External Advisory committee for the NSF-funded Collaborative for the Advancement of STEM Leadership (CASL).

For several years, Dr. Hall served on the American Evaluation Association (AEA) Standing Committee on Diversity, initiating the association’s published statement on the importance of Cultural Competence in the field of Program Evaluation. In 2013, Dr. Hall became an elected member of the AEA Board of Directors. In addition, he has been appointed as a Senior Scholar by the Association of American Colleges and Universities where he also serves as a member of the Inclusive Excellence Commission of AAC&U.  

Putting Elmer’s Glue on a Lecture

Friday, November 10

9:45 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.
Dr. John Medina, Brain Scientist

What are the elements involved in making lectures interesting? Are they the same elements involved in also making lectures memorable? In this two-part talk, we explore how the brain processes complex information, and how this knowledge can be used to make compelling presentations, talks and lectures. The first sections discusses attentional states in the brain, focusing on a cognitive gadget termed the attentional spotlight. The second part discusses the many facets of human memory and the role repetition plays in making interesting information memorable. 

Acknowledged as one of the most engaging and crowd-pleasing speakers in the world of neuroscience, Dr. Medina is a developmental molecular biologist, researcher, professor and the author of ten books. His New York Times bestseller, Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving at Work, Home and School has been celebrated as the standard handbook on understanding the brain and optimizing its performance. Brain Rules has been translated into more than 20 languages and selected as a textbook at numerous universities. Dr. Medina’s focus is on the genes behind brain development and psychiatric conditions. He has spent most of his professional life as an analytical research consultant, working primarily in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries on research related to mental health. He also consults with hospitals and healthcare facilities on designing brain-healthy environments that reduce staff stress and improve patient outcomes. Dr. Medina is an Affiliate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He is also the Founding Director of the Talaris Research Institute studying how infants encode and process information at the cognitive, cellular and molecular level. Dr. Medina’s extensive study of the developing brain resulted in his most recent book, Brain Rules for Baby. His upcoming books, The Teenaged Brain and Your Aging Brain further explore the brain’s life stages.  

The Role of Evaluation in Improving Healthcare: A Call for Embedded Evaluation

Saturday, November 11

12:15 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Rashad Massoud, MD, MPH, FACP

The field of healthcare improvement aims at improving outcomes of care by testing and implementing changes to healthcare processes. Evaluation plays a key role in understanding whether an improvement activity “worked”. More importantly, evaluation can advance our understanding of the attribution and generalizability of the changes we are testing and implementing. Evaluation can therefore play a key role in helping improvers understand “why” and “how” an improvement activity worked. This session calls for an increased collaboration between evaluators and improvers through embedded evaluation

Dr. Massoud is a physician executive and public health specialist internationally recognized for his leadership in global health care improvement. He is Chief Medical and Quality Officer/ Senior Vice President for University Research Co., L.L.C., heading its Quality & Performance Institute. He directs the USAID Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Systems (ASSIST) Project, which is operating simultaneously in 30 countries applying improvement science to deliver better results in global health priority areas. In previous work, he was Senior Vice President at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) in Cambridge, MA. In voluntary capacities he is the President-Elect for the Alumni Association of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. He is a member of the Palestinian Health Policy Forum. In July 2016, he Chaired the Salzburg Global Seminar: “How do we Learn about improving health care”.


Perspectives on Quality

Better Health Care:  How Do We Learn About Improvement?