In 1997, several influential evaluators who represented the American Evaluation Association (AEA) and W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s leadership got together to discuss how to diversify the evaluation profession and create a pipeline for evaluators from underrepresented populations. An initiative was conceived, funded by the Kellogg Foundation, advised by an AEA committee, and implemented by Community Science (at that time, it was called the Association for the Study and Development of Community). Among the recommendations that developed from this initiative was a fellowship program that became the pipeline program—the AEA Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) program. (See New Directions for Evaluation, No. 143, Fall 2014, Building a New Generation of Culturally Responsive Evaluators through AEA’s Graduate Education Diversity Internship Program, for a history of the program and experiences of several GEDIs and evaluators who have contributed to the program’s development.)

Fast forward to 2023 and 19 cohorts of evaluation practitioners later, the GEDI Program remains strong with a network of over 150 evaluators from underrepresented populations and who hold leadership positions in foundations, federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, and consulting firms. Community Science is at the forefront of leading the GEDI program, where Brandi Gilbert, PhD— Senior Associate at Community Science—has served as a Co-Director since 2017. She has a longstanding connection to the GEDI pipeline, as she was a former GEDI scholar in the 2009 cohort.

The Program’s wins should be celebrated, it took a lot of hard work to get here—at times it was fun and joyful, at other times it was frustrating and painful, as the New Directions issue describes. No matter how successful, we must wonder why pipeline programs like this one and many others continue to be critical for so many professions that are not easily accessible to people from underrepresented populations, namely African Americans/Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, Native Americans/Alaska Natives, women, and first-generation college graduates. A lot of attention is paid to each person in the GEDI program and an abundance of care is given to the relationships and community that has been forming and growing stronger over the past 19 years.  At the same time, the generations of leaders in the evaluation profession who have supported the diversification of the profession and the current leaders who are using evaluation to push our society to become more equitable, must continue to focus on systemic changes that will one day, make pipeline programs no longer necessary.

Until then, Dr. Gilbert’s leadership, experiences, and insights into what emerging professionals in evaluation need to be successful are invaluable. She shared reflections at a webinar entitled Empowering Emerging Evaluators on May 31st at 12pm EST, hosted by EnCompass Learning Center.

About The Author

Kien S. Lee, Ph.D., Principal Associate and Vice President, has expertise in promoting equity, inclusion, and cultural competency for health, food security, civic engagement, and leadership development. Current evaluations include those with the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the Colorado Trust, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.