UT Extension Specialist Honored with National Evaluation Training Award

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In the course of a year, how many people do we see? How many lives do we touch? Those are numbers Joseph Donaldson wants to know – and he trains others to find that valuable information.

Donaldson is now being recognized by his peers nationally for his work with UT Extension in training and evaluation efforts. He is receiving the Excellence in Evaluation Training award for 2009 from the American Evaluation Association. This is an organization of professional evaluators around the country who work at other universities and in private industry. Donaldson will receive the award at the group’s national conference in Orlando, Florida, in November.

“I appreciate the confidence of my colleagues who nominated me,” Donaldson says. “This award represents the professionalism and outstanding scholarship of UT Extension. It reflects our commitment to accountability and the important role of program evaluation. Extension agents and specialists are committed to communicating with stakeholders, and their hard work has provided an opportunity for me to deliver high-quality instruction in evaluation.”

Donaldson is a Program Development and Evaluation Specialist for UT Extension. Over the past four years, he has provided 523 hours of face-to-face instruction to more than 4,000 Extension professional contacts in 160 classes. He also created the Tennessee Extension Program Planning and Evaluation Model delineating four dimensions of Extension work: Identify Issues, Plan, Deliver, and Evaluate. This model has been used extensively to improve Extension programs statewide.

“We all recognize the need to provide the highest level of accountability for program support, but many of us don’t have the background or training to demonstrate this accountability, says Dr. Tim Cross, Dean of UT Extension.  “Joseph has done an outstanding job of conducting training programs for Extension agents, specialists and staff to improve our ability to report the outcomes of our educational programs. I’m pleased that his peers are recognizing the quality of his teaching and training.”

Dr. Heather Boyd of Virginia Tech University, who serves as awards chair for the Extension Education Evaluation Topical Interest Group of AEA, praised the depth of Donaldson’s work in her letter congratulating him on the honor. “Your letters of support describe your integrity, professionalism, attention to detail and your obvious enthusiasm for the content that you help others learn,” she writes.

Donaldson also works with computer software SUPER – the System for University Planning, Evaluation and Reporting – and trains Extension personnel in how to use this technology to more accurately measure the organization’s outreach efforts.

This past year, UT Extension had more than 4.8 million face-to-face contacts with Tennessee citizens. That’s the highest total ever, and SUPER enabled UT officials to count contacts made by volunteers trained by Extension professionals, and that boosted the totals.

In 2008, UT Extension had nearly 2 million contacts through 4-H, more than 1.6 million in Family and Consumer Sciences, and nearly 1.1 million in Agriculture and Natural Resources. SUPER also reports the overall economic impact of Extension’s efforts to the state was $343 million dollars. For every dollar invested in Extension programs, the estimated return is $5.10 in increased revenue, increased savings and one-time capital purchases.

“This award speaks well of our system. I want Extension professionals to be well-served by the professional development I provide,” Donaldson says.

Donaldson holds a B.S Degree in Agriculture and Extension Education from UT, and a M.S. Degree from Pennsylvania State University in the same field. He has worked for UT Extension for 11 years, first beginning his career as a 4-H Agent in Giles County in 1998. He joined the Extension Evaluation and Staff Development Department on the Knoxville campus in 2003. He is a native of Celina, Tennessee.

UT Extension, with offices in every county of the state, is one of the UT Institute of Agriculture’s four units, which together provide instruction, research and public service. The other units are the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the College of Veterinary Medicine, and AgResearch, including the statewide system of 10 research and education centers. For further information, go to http://agriculture.tennessee.edu.

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