AEA2014: To Join or Not to Join AEA

By Pennie CrinionDirector of Program Planning and Evaluation, University of Illinois Extension

Ever find yourself wondering if you should renew an Extension Professional Association membership or join another one?  As an administrator most of my career, I’ve seen the addition of three new national professional associations for Extension resulting in a total of seven and have felt pressure in deciding how many to join.

Then when I assumed my current position which included leadership for evaluating programs my predecessor impressed upon me the need to join the American Evaluation Association (AEA). So I registered for the Summer Evaluation Institute held in Atlanta but didn’t formally commit to AEA membership and national conference participation until 2013.

This year I found the conference theme–Visionary Evaluation for a Sustainable, Equitable Future to be particularly interesting in light of the concerns regarding protecting the environment, an issue that has global impact.  Bob Willard, a leading expert on quantifying and promoting the business value of corporate sustainability strategies and core faculty member of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals provided the opening presentation.

His efforts to engage the business community in proactively avoiding risks and capturing opportunities by using smart environmental, social, and governance strategies was insightful and reassured me that  corporations are increasingly recognizing their place at the intersection of global economic, environmental, and equity issues. As Bob shared the business context for corporate social and environmental responsibility, he stressed the importance of standards and benchmarks in linking the corporate world to the field of evaluation.  He highlighted standards that encourage organizations to create positive environmental, social, and economic value so that we have the possibility of sustaining a global economy, society, and ecosystem.  I left convinced that the world renowned evaluation experts who were in attendance and members of AEA would rise to the opportunity he described.

As always, I also appreciated conference opportunities to view the poster session and hundreds of choices offered in 15 concurrent session segments supported by 53 evaluation topical interest groups including the Extension Education Evaluation group. Comradery with Extension colleagues, reasonable registration fees, and opportunities to visit with others in the evaluation field are other great features.

So you may be asking what other benefits would I reap by joining AEA?  Here’s a list for your consideration.

  • Coffee Break demonstrations that are 20 minute long webinars designed to introduce audience members to new tools, techniques, and strategies in the field of evaluation.
  • Professional Development eStudy 3 or 6 hour webinars are provided by evaluation’s top presenters in multiple 90-minute sessions allowing for in-depth exploration of hot topics and questions from the audience.
  • AEA’s active listserv: EVALTALK, with more than 2000 subscribers from around the world that welcome questions and discussion on any topic related to evaluation.
  • AEA365 is dedicated to highlighting Hot Tips, Cool Tricks, Rad Resources, and Lessons Learned with the goal of a daily post from and for evaluators around the globe.
  • Printed or online copies of the American Journal of Evaluation and New Directions in Evaluation.
  • Job posting opportunities.

So visit and explore AEA membership.