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American Evaluation Association

Alumni Spotlight: Erin Mehalic BurrEvaluation, Statistics & Measurement

Erin earned a PhD in educational psychology and research with a concentration in evaluation and assessment (now known as the Evaluation, Statistics, and Measurement program) in 2009. She is originally from Surry, VA and currently lives in Knoxville, TN. We asked her to reflect on past experiences with EPC and discuss where she’s at now. Read her responses below.

Current Occupation

Senior Evaluator & Section Manager of Assessment & Evaluation (A&E)
Scientific Assessment & Workforce Development (SAWD)
Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU)
Oak Ridge, TN

I manage the SAWD A&E team at ORAU. My team evaluates STEM education and workforce development programs for the US Department of Energy, other US government agencies, and ORAU that target K-12 students and teachers; university students and faculty; and PhD-level researchers. Our focus has been on evaluating federally funded programs at national laboratories and universities.

Awards and Accomplishments Earned as a Student
  • Lots of travel grants to attend professional conferences to give presentations. (2004-2009)
Accomplishments since Graduating

My greatest accomplishment was the opportunity to develop my own evaluation team, the Assessment and Evaluation group at ORAU. I started at ORAU in 2009 as a postdoctoral fellow in evaluation, and was hired as a full-time employee in 2011. Since then, I have grown our STEM Workforce Development (WD) evaluation portfolio to include a diverse set of approximately 30 evaluation projects. Projects in our portfolio include annual evaluations of STEM WD programs and program portfolios at national laboratories and other federal agencies, longitudinal evaluations of portfolios of STEM WD programs for national laboratories and federal agencies, external evaluations of NSF and NIH grants awarded to Principal Investigators at universities, evaluations of processes for federal agencies, and evaluations of support services at national laboratories. Now, I manage a team of 5 full-time employees that I absolutely love. I am likely to hire a few more people in the near future as business continues to grow.

Other highlighted accomplishments include:

  • One project that I am particularly proud of is the evaluation I designed and implemented for the portfolio of STEM workforce development programs at the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. This evaluation was selected as an exemplary evaluation by the STEM Education & Training Evaluation Topical Interest Group of the American Evaluation Association. Later, I have became the Chair of that Topical Interest Group and have had the opportunity to take a greater leadership role in STEM workforce development evaluation outside of ORAU.
  • This past year, in the 70th anniversary edition of the ORAU annual report, I was recognized as a thought leader in our organization.
Personal Interests

Spending time with family, going on vacations to the beach, and relaxing on my screened-in porch.

Causes I support:

  • Protecting the environment, nature conservation, and protecting wildlife – I grew up next to a state park.
  • Mental health – I have personal experience struggling with mental health and have worked hard to be successful despite my challenges. I strive to impress upon others that mental health is not something to be ashamed of or for others to judge. We need to support people with mental health challenges, because with the right support systems, they can do amazing things.
  • People with disabilities – my daughter has a rare chromosome disorder that has presented her with many challenges, yet she is the happiest little girl despite it all. She inspires me. Before I had kids and my hobbies didn’t pose a safety risk to them, I enjoyed wood carving and making jewelry.
What was a memorable experience during your time here?

I had never attended a university with a football team before – UT is quite the place to land for a first-time university football experience. Sooo much fun!

What would you tell an incoming/current student in the program/department?

Make sure you develop strong project management skills along with evaluation skills. The larger, more complex a program is, the more relevant they are to your success. Project management is very important for many evaluation positions. Even if someone else is serving in the project manager role on an evaluation you are conducting, understanding all that project management involves will make you a better team member.

Did you end up where you thought you would?

No – I thought I would have to go to Washington DC, but I got a great job doing what I love in Oak Ridge, TN.

“I see the fields of evaluation, statistics, and measurement being more important than ever and anticipate that there will continue to be plenty of job opportunities for our graduates as a result.”

Alumni Spotlight: Susanne Käsbauer

Evaluation, Statistics & Measurement

Käsbauer earned a PhD with the Evaluation, Statistics, and Measurement program in 2012. Originally from Germany, she now lives and works in Oxford, England, United Kingdom. We asked her to reflect on past experiences with EPC and discuss where she’s at now. Read her responses below.

Current Occupation

Senior Research Associate
Picker Institute Europe in Oxford

Picker Institute Europe is a registered charity in England, Wales, and Scotland, which seeks to:
– Influence policy and practice so that health and social care systems are always centered around people’s needs and preferences
– Inspire the delivery of the highest quality care, developing tools and services which enable all experiences to be better understood
– Empower those working in health and social care to improve experiences by effectively measuring, and acting upon people’s feedback

Awards and Accomplishments Earned as a Student
  • Recognized with the certificate for Extraordinary Professional Promise by the Chancellor’s awards.
  • Held research assistant positions with the Institute for Assessment and Evaluation in the Educational Psychology and Counseling Department and the Safety, Environment, and Education Center within the Division of Student Life.
  • Presented with colleagues at national and regional conferences, including the American Evaluation Association and the Eastern Evaluation Research Society.
Accomplishments since Graduating

It was important for me to find a job where I can work directly with individuals and help them make sense of and use evaluation/research findings. Conducting evaluations is great but building time directly into each project to go out and work with doctors, nurses and healthcare staff to interpret and plan for the use of the evaluation data is much more rewarding. By stepping away from the desk and engaging more with front line healthcare staff, I can help improve the experiences of patients/service users and feel a great sense of accomplishment.

Personal Interests

I teach vinyasa yoga at a local studio, YogaVenue, and Oxford Brookes University. Yoga provided me with a space for relaxation and helped me strengthen my endurance in challenging situations during my studies. I now enjoy teaching and sharing these benefits with other students and the local community.

Kaesbauer graduation

What sold you on this program/department/university?

The small program, individual feedback from faculty, the mentorship and opportunities for multiple practicum/internships.

What would you tell an incoming/current student in the program/department?

Get to know your fellow students, co-workers, and professors as persons. You will spend a lot of time with them and they genuinely care about your success. It helps when you understand who is working towards what in their own career, and how you can both help and learn from them.

Also, find something outside of work and studies that you are really passionate about. It will help you unwind and put your experiences as a student into a bigger perspective.

How did your experiences as a student help you in your professional/personal life after graduation?

Over the course of my studies, I worked on over 50 different evaluation projects. This was a huge asset, as I had already experienced so may different personalities and agendas that can affect the work of an evaluator. Also, through the advanced courses offered in the ESM program, I walked away with a great set of skills that allowed me to successfully lead and manage my own evaluation projects.

“The Evaluation, Statistics, and Measurement program prepared me well for a career in the field of evaluation. The combination of mentorship and many practical evaluation field experiences helped me feel confident in my job after graduation. The small program also made it easy to connect with other students and create networks.

Thank you to all my mentors, professors and fellow students for your continued support.

Finally, the kindness of the supporting staff at the University of Tennessee still stands out to me today.”


Evaluation, Statistics & Measurement

Wenshu is currently seeking her PhD in Educational Psychology and Research with a concentration in Evaluation, Statistics, and Measurement. Originally from Hengyang, Hunan, China, she received her BS in Psychology at Peking University in Beijing and her MS in Educational Psychology at Miami University in Oxford, then came to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2012. We asked her to reflect on some of her past and current experiences. Read her responses below.

  • Shipley-Swann Graduate Fellowship – 2012-13
    Fellowship awarded from the Graduate School designated to recognize outstanding academic achievement.
  • Received CDC Evaluation Fellowship and working as an evaluation fellow at CDC
  • Completing the master’s degree in statistics through Intercollegiate Graduate Statistics Program while completing the PhD in Educational Psychology and Research
  • Co-author of two manuscripts that are currently under review
  • Served as Association Committee Member and Chairs at regional conferences (Mid-Western Educational Research Association)
  • Gave presentations at leading national evaluation (American Evaluation Association annual conference) and engineering education (American Society of Engineering Education) conferences
  • Refer to Curriculum Vita for more details

Wenshu Li with a peer and professor.

Current Occupation

CDC Evaluation Fellow
Center of Disease Control and Prevention, Center of Global Health, Division of Global Health Protection, Atlanta, GA

The responsibilities are: Serve on a team of evaluators responsible for assessing progress towards implementation of the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA); Work with available, adapted and new methods to assess public health capacities; Conceptualize, design, coordinate, implement and disseminate basic program evaluations in support of GHS.
• Use of both quantitative and qualitative evaluation methods
• Preparation of logic models
• Identification of existing indicators and data sources, and development of new indicators and data sources
• Conduct and coordinate activities to quantify progress towards targets set for GHS implementation with Ministries of Health, other U.S. Government (USG) agencies, and other international partners present in country

Personal Interests

I love outdoor activities such as hiking and camping. I also enjoy family time that I spend the most my weekends with my family (watching movies and having dinner). In addition, I’m a musician playing Chinese fiddle (Erhu). I have been invited to perform at multiple UT activities and Knoxville local events.

Future/Vocational Goals

My short-term goal is to become a full-time employee at the CDC as a Health Scientist leading monitoring and evaluation activities or serving as a biostatistician. My ultimate career goal will be working as a tenured-track faculty member at a university. I would like to apply my evaluation and statistics experiences that I gained in my the field to teach program evaluation, research methods, and statistics to undergraduate and graduate students.

Wenshu Li with husband.

What sold you on this program/department/university?

Close mentorship and the curriculum of the program; the great opportunities to collaborate with faculty and students on diverse research projects and gain various field experiences.

What would you tell an incoming student who joins the program/department?

Talk to your mentor and advanced students when you have questions and engage in multiple field practice projects. I was focused on evaluation of STEM programs. But, I’ve engaged in several public health evaluation field practice, which helped me to get my CDC Fellowship.

What do you think has been the most rewarding/challenging about this program?

The ESM seminar. You will have opportunity to gain field experience, learn how to write your CV, editing your manuscript, etc.

What is the best tidbit/find you have about UTK/Knoxville?

This is a beautiful campus with great faculty and students. You will never regret your time spent here!