Workshop on "What They Said About Us When We Asked": Opinions of Americans After Working with Peace Corps Volunteers

U.S. Department of State Third Annual Conference on Program Evaluation - Cultural Diplomacy Track
Washington, DC
June 9, 2010

MODERATOR: So that we don’t waste all the time, as we have already spent a fair bit doing nothing other than talking to each other, which I suppose is networking, and that is good, let me take a couple minutes and introduce the three people who are going to be presenting this session, and hopefully by the time I have done that we’ll be able to move, and you’ll know them then so well that you’ll want to talk with them all the way over to our new room.

Our first presenter is Dr. Cathryn Thorup. She is fairly new to the Peace Corps. I think she said six months when I was talking with her earlier, and she is the director of the Office of Strategic Information Research and Planning at the Peace Corps. Prior to joining the Peace Corps, she had an extensive series of experiences as an independent consultant in the area of international development. She has served as the vice president for learning and evaluation at the International Youth Foundation.

Prior to that she actually did work for USAID for six years where she headed up USAID’s work in the area of donor coordination and she led the agency’s development of the new partnership initiative, an early endeavor to promote community empowerment through strategic partnering among government, business and civil society actors. She was, in 1994, detailed to the National Security Council. I’m surprised she was able to get back into the Peace Corps, but anyway, to substantially increase the level of engagement of not -- she must not have put that in that resume -- of non-governmental actors in the development of U.S. policy agenda for the first Summit of the Americas.

She has a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard and she has published extensively both in English and in Spanish in the fields of international relations and international development. Much of the research has focused on the nexus between civil society development and democratic reform in both Latin America and the Balkans.

She has also more recently focused on community participation at the local level and is the cofounder of a grassroots citizens advocacy group in rural Maine. So this summer she is in Maine, and the rest of the year she is where it’s warm.

The second presenter is Janet Kerley, who is -- and don’t take this as a bad thing about her, she is an old friend of mine. She is still a really great person. She is the chief of research evaluation and measurement in the Office of Strategic Planning, Research and Planning -- that is a strange title -- of the Peace Corps.

Prior to taking that job she was actually part of the directorate of foreign assistance, known by those that love it as F, and there she -- that’s where we first met, and we still are friends, so obviously a really good person.

At the Peace Corps, she leads an evaluation team conducting the host country impact evaluations and works with all organizational units within the Peace Corps to strengthen program evaluations and to effectively link performance management and evaluations.

She was, as I said before, team leader for monitoring evaluation in the Office of the Director of Foreign Assistance. And before that, she was at USAID and the bureau for policy and program coordination where she led the administrator’s initiative to revitalize evaluation. And you can see, finally it has worked. It’s going to -- evaluation at USAID is finally being revitalized.

She worked in USAID’s Africa and Europe and Eurasia bureaus as the monitoring evaluation officer. She is a sociologist with more than 30 years of experience in international program evaluation and applied social research, a master’s degree from UCLA and she has completed her coursework for the Ph.D. in sociology from Boston -- connect that, Harvard, Boston.

And then we go to Yale, Dr. Susan Jenkins. She has 15 years of experience in designing and conducting a range of program evaluations. She is currently evaluation program analyst with the Peace Corps. She oversees the collection of host country data about the effects of Peace Corps volunteers and information from returned Peace Corps volunteers, so those of you who raised your hands at the earlier question should all know Susan -- about the effects of their service on their later personal and professional choices. And I have never yet met a Peace Corps volunteer who didn’t say it was a life-changing event, so it’s the baseline data that is important obviously.

Prior to working with the Peace Corps she was a federal contractor conducting evaluations and developing performance measurement systems primarily for the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. She is a member of the board of Eastern Evaluation Research Society. She received her BA from Yale, another one of those, and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, the heartland.

And I would love to say, and now -- but it’s not now. We’re going to now move to room 1485. That’s three floors up, two floors down, and around. No, it’s just around the corner here, and if you’ll all follow me over there, engage these three people on the way over so that they will forget their presentation and cause mayhem and confusion.

(A brief recess was taken.)

[Editor's note: Due to the change in venue, a transcript for the remainder of this workshop session could not be produced.]