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Employee Spotlight: Kaylen Sanchez, My Journey as a Research Assistant

My Journey as a Research Assistant

Entering undergraduate studies, I studied Psychology, where potential career paths seem to lead straight to either being a psychologist or therapist. During my undergraduate studies, I was given the opportunity to be a research assistant. This opportunity would be pivotal, as it was a career path that I didn’t know existed and would continue to evolve throughout the different stages of my professional life.

Being a research assistant in a university environment contains a lens that is driven by statistics and significance testing. So, what does it mean to be a research assistant in the context of a consulting firm?

Here at EVALCORP, a research assistant wears many hats to assist with program evaluation, needs assessment, and strategic planning projects. We collect qualitative and quantitative data with clients—this might include focus groups, surveys, and/or stakeholder interviews, among others. We maintain data sets, conduct literature reviews, and analyze data. We package these findings so that they are user-friendly by summarizing findings in graphic and narrative formats and writing accessible reports and presentations. We work hard and stay busy— it’s a rewarding and exciting job!    

Within the realm of program evaluation, we utilize research methods to transform an organization’s data into data-informed decisions. Using the EVALCORP Project Cycle, we tailor each evaluation plan to meet the needs of the client, from creating data collection tools to creating deliverables that present the organization’s strengths, accomplishments, and continued challenges. In the field of evaluation consulting, the goal is to use the data to inform and educate all community members on the different programs and resources available within their county.

There were a number of experiences during my education that helped prepare me to be a program evaluation consultant. At California State University, Channel Islands, my responsibilities included conducting literature reviews, survey building/distribution, designing poster presentations, and presenting findings at research conferences.

During my graduate studies at San Diego State University, being a research assistant consisted of data entry of homicide reports, quality control over regional crime deliverables, and qualitative interviews with justice-involved individuals at local jails.

I have used this background in psychology and criminal justice as a research assistant at EVALCORP to connect with clients and assist with data collection and report development. I am excited for more opportunities to engage with communities through focus groups, key stakeholder interviews, and listening sessions during program evaluation consulting projects. These activities utilize applied research methods to drive program decision-making and I look forward to building my knowledge through the lens of a program evaluator.

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.“

– Peter Drucker

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