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Oak Ridge Associated Universities

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.”

Instructional Technology

Hathaway earned an MS with the Instructional Technology program in 2014. Originally from Wilmington, DE, he now lives in Maryville, TN. We asked him to reflect on past experiences with EPC and discuss where he’s at now. Read his responses below.

Current Occupation

Health Physicist
Professional Training Programs
Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU)
Oak Ridge, TN

I am involved in developing, coordinating, and conducting training courses in health physics*. These courses for corporate and government clients may be face to face (F2F) and/or online.

*Health physics – the science of protecting people and their environment from potential radiation hazards, while making it possible to enjoy the benefits of the peaceful use of the atom.

Awards and Accomplishments Earned as a Student

Not so much of an award as it is an accomplishment, but selfishly getting my classmates to collaborate on project topics of personal interest to me.

Accomplishments since Graduating

After completing my MS in Instructional Technology, I was successful in implementing a ‘prototype’ IT class project. I and my team took 14 months and converted a F2F course (consisting of 80 hours of instruction and hands on laboratory exercises + 2 weeks of travel and expenses) and converted it into a course which blended asynchronous, level 2 online content, synchronous online meetings, and only 4 days of travel and expenses. This successful foray into online learning was instrumental in our group winning a multi-million dollar government contract to continue similar course conversions.

Personal Interests

Personal interests include travel and outdoor activities; i.e, snow skiing in the winter, fishing in the spring, kayaking in the summer, and football (watching) and hunting in the fall.

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

The IT program was ‘on-campus’ when I started and was employed at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. Shortly after I started, the IT program transitioned to its current ‘online’ format. Yes, the ‘online’ experience took a bit getting used to but the side benefit – you can go on vacation and still attend class.

Did you end up where you thought you would?

Not exactly. When I started the IT program, I was employed at the University of Tennessee Medical Center as the Program Director for the School of Nuclear Medicine. It was there I had an interest in distance learning and started in the IT masters program at UT. Literally two courses into the program, the School of Nuclear Medicine closed and I landed at ORAU. They had ideas of offering online training but had none at the time. Well I stayed in the IT program and the rest is history.

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

In retrospect, the transition of the IT program to a blended synchronous/asynchronous, online format greatly benefited me in my new position at ORAU where my team and I produce content and develop blended online courses. Nothing like having a personal experience in an online learning environment.

“Go Vols!”