The Rucks Group 2021 Fall Newsletter


The Rucks Group Fall 2021 E-Newsletter

Plan to Attend Our Next Coffee Break Webinar

Thursday, October 7, 2021 2:00-2:30p EDT

Physical structures are built in a way to make them earthquake-proof such that when a tremor occurs, there is less likelihood of major damage to the structure


MNT-EC Expands its Resources Supporting Technological Education

The online portal of the Micro-Nano Technology Education Center (MNT-EC), a center funded by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program, is a resource about the convergence of multi-disciplines in semiconductor, photonics, and nano-biotechnology programs.

As a key partner in strengthening the bridge between academia and industry, MNT-EC has developed a new peer-reviewed journal, the Journal of Advanced Technological Education (J ATE). This journal seeks to circulate the most relevant innovations in research and to promote novel technician education programs to two-year college faculty and staff, K-12 educators, and other industry stakeholders. J ATE is now welcoming submissions for its upcoming issues. For more information on submitting your article to J ATE, please visit the Micro-Nano Technology Education Center.


Continually Improving to Meet Clients’ Needs

Research, evaluation, and continuous improvement increasingly serve as the cornerstone of successful projects and initiatives. As so many project teams gravitate towards this approach, we are proud to enact changes in our organization that respond to the growth occurring in the demand for expert evaluation services. To stay true to our core values, we have implemented changes in responsibilities at The Rucks Group to meet the needs of the clients we serve. As such, we are pleased to recognize our new Director of Research and Evaluation Services Julia Siwierka, Ph.D. as well as to welcome our new Research Associate, Alyssa McKinney-Hokky.


Julia Siwierka, Ph.D
Director of Research and Evaluation Services

Dr. Siwierka joined The Rucks Group in 2018 and during her tenure has become a key member of The Rucks Group team. In her new role, she will focus on maximizing The Rucks Group’s processes for high standards to ensure consistency and excellence on the firm’s full portfolio of projects.

Prior to her advancement, she served as a Research and Evaluation Associate with the firm. In this role she was involved in designing, facilitating, and analyzing data using mixed methods; creating evaluation plans; reporting findings and recommendations to clients; and engaging with clients as collaborators in evaluations. Dr. Siwierka has several years of experience in program evaluation and applied research methods within educational and youth organizations and community-based initiatives. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Theatre Arts at Dominican University and a master’s and doctorate degree in community psychology from Wichita State University.

Dr. Julia Siwierka, Ph.D - profile photo
Alyssa McKinney-Hokky profile photo

Alyssa McKinney-Hokky
Research Associate

Mrs. McKinney-Hokky brings several years of experience in STEM fieldwork and STEM education. Prior to joining the firm, she worked within various nonprofit and government agencies to aid in grant-funded project execution, database management, and data analyses. At The Rucks Group, she utilizes her skills to provide direct support for evaluators through survey dissemination, focus-group and interview facilitation, database management, statistical analyses, and report-writing. Mrs. McKinney-Hokky holds a bachelor’s degree in the biological sciences with a minor in psychology from Ohio Wesleyan University. She is currently pursuing a professional science master’s degree through the University of Wisconsin-Stout.


Highlighted Resources

Did you miss our last webinar, Demystifying Evaluation Planning for Grant Proposals? The recording is available on our website. Click the “View Now” button below.


Related Resources

The Rucks Group 2021 Summer Newsletter


The Rucks Group - Innovation through Revelation - Summer 2021 E-Newsletter

Join Our Next Coffee Break Webinar at 2:00p EDT on June 17

Thursday, June 17, 2021 2:00-2:30p EDT

With many grant proposals’ due dates just around the corner, we are offering an update on our formula for writing an evaluation plan.

The evaluation section continues to be an important component of a grant proposal. As such, we have previously introduced a formula for how to write an effective evaluation plan for a grant proposal. In this webinar, we share our updated formula and lessons we have gleaned over the past year of working with dozens of project teams. We build on those lessons for insights on how to increase the potential for you to garner grant funding.


Project Leader Highlights Work with Rucks Group Evaluators

If you have followed any of our blogs, webinars, or other resources, you have probably noticed how firmly The Rucks Group values a collaborative relationship with a project team to cultivate project innovation. Columbus State Community College’s (CSCC) Project Manager David Cofer draws from his experiences working with The Rucks Group evaluators, Drs. Michael FitzGerald and Julia Siwierka, to argue the importance and impact of a collaborative atmosphere in his blogpost Innovation & Cooperative Evaluation on EvaluATE’s website. EvaluATE is the National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education (NSF ATE) evaluation resource hub. In Mr. Cofer’s blog, he also addresses the four components of cooperative evaluation that are instrumental in enriching any project: continuous improvement, evaluation co-creators, challenging norms, and becoming culturally ingrained.
For more information on collaborative (cooperative) evaluation, check out David Cofer’s blog on EvaluATE


U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Seeks Researchers with Technology Backgrounds


Using Social Network Analysis to Evaluate Connections among Stakeholders

Mapping and measuring the structure and development of the connections between educators, industry partners, and other stakeholders is an integral component to attaining project success and developing a skilled technical workforce.

EvaluATE published a blog written by The Rucks Group’s Senior Research and Evaluation Associate, Dr. Michael FitzGerald, that addresses the role of Social Network Analysis (SNA) in helping a project team to understand the interconnectedness of networks. This method is appropriate in an evaluation of the individuals, groups, or other entities involved in a particular network towards measuring the strength, frequency, and closeness of these relational ties. If you would like to learn more about this method, please click “View Blog” below.


Highlighted Resources



The Rucks Group, LLC is a research and evaluation firm that gathers, analyses, and interprets data to enable our clients to measure the impact of their work. 

The Rucks Group 2021 Spring Newsletter


Get a Grip! Tips to Ease Annual Report Anxiety

Thursday, April 22, 2021 2:00-2:30p EDT

Receiving grant funds to implement an innovative initiative can be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. The usual responsibilities—and self-doubts—can intensify as the annual report deadline approaches. How do you start? What details do you include? Are just two of the discomforting questions that come with tackling an annual report.

Even when a funder provides a template, it does not necessarily simplify the process of fitting the unique aspects of what is happening on the ground with your program into a set format. Defuse your anxiety by attending The Rucks Group’s Annual Report webinar. In 30 minutes, you will learn what most funders, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) in particular, want to know from grantees.


Solutions to Transforming to a Remote Space


Join the Working Partners Team and The Rucks Group Spring 2021 Working Partners Workshop.

As a partner to the Working Partners team, we are pleased to share information about an upcoming event to offer a collaborative, interactive professional development opportunity designed to support ATE community members with identifying, assessing, and planning for successful industry-education partnerships. The free 8-week workshop will be held from May 23, 2021 – July 20, 2021.

Workshop Details:

  • Live Sessions on Tuesdays from 3:00p – 4:30p EDT: Presentations, expert panel discussion, Q & A, interactive exercises, learning together, and more!
  • Canvas Cohort Hub: Resources, planning guides, cohort support, announcements, recordings, exercise submissions, and more available 24/7 on the Canvas online course site.
  • Hi-Tech Conference Registration: The workshop’s final live session will be held on Tuesday, July 20, just prior to the July 21 & 22 HI-TECH virtual conference. Participants who complete the workshop will be provided up to four free registrations to the conference.

For more information, click the Learn More button below.


Kathleen Lis Dean Joins The Rucks Group

We are pleased to announce a new member of The Rucks Group. Kathleen Lis Dean, Ph.D., joined the team from the Cleveland area in January 2021. As a Senior Research and Evaluation Associate, she provides insights to clients to help them attain intended improvements and program impacts.
Prior to joining The Ruck Group, Dr. Dean spent 20 years in evaluation and strategic leadership roles at higher education, nonprofit and philanthropic organizations, where she leveraged qualitative and quantitative data to support organizational effectiveness, outcomes assessment, accreditation, strategic planning, and continuous improvement.


Growth Comes with New Location

New opportunities this year have seeded a new home as well as growth at The Rucks Group. While most of our team continues to work remotely due to COVID-19, we have moved our offices to the 130 Building in the bustling center of Dayton’s Business District.
 
Please update our contact information in your records:

Physical Address:

130 W. Second Street; Suite 1050 Dayton, OH 45402

Payment Remittance Address:
P.O. Box 24655 Dayton, OH 45424

Additional Contact Info:
(p) 937-242-7024
(f)  937-242-7026
(e) info@therucksgroup.com (w) therucksgroup.com


Highlighted Resources



The Rucks Group, LLC is a research and evaluation firm that gathers, analyses, and interprets data to enable our clients to measure the impact of their work. 

The Rucks Group 2021 Winter Newsletter


Moving Forward: A Year to Look Forward

I have heard it joked that 2020 was a year written by Stephen King and directed by Quentin Tarantino. We laugh at that idea because we understand that 2020, to put it mildly, was a year filled with the unexpected. It is why, even though intellectually we know there is not a substantive difference between December 31, 2020, and January 1, 2021, we yearned for that calendar change.

Now that it is 2021, our wish is that 2021 becomes the dawn after the storm and that this year will be brighter and better than the last one.


The Rucks Group Coffee Break Webinar

Program Evaluation in Practice: A Case Study of Central State University’s STEM Success Center

Program Evaluation in Practice: A Case Study of Central State University’s STEM Success Center

Thursday, February 4th, 2021 at 2:00p-2:30p EDT

Evaluation plays a critical role in providing feedback that allows project owners and project teams to make evidence-based decisions about the project and use evaluation findings to persuade decision with an institution. 

In our next coffee break series webinar, The Rucks Group is pleased to partner with Central State University’s Dr. Morakinyo Kuti, Project Director of the U.S. Department of Education’s funded STEM Success Center. In this webinar, we will demonstrate how the elements of evaluation coalesced to enhance the implementation of the project. Participants will walk away with an enriched understanding of how evaluation through continuous improvement, can enhance grant-funded work. These concepts include:

  • How to use program evaluation and associated best practices;
  • How program evaluation helps to achieve the goals of a project; and
  • And how program evaluation can aid in sustaining and institutionalizing aspects of a project.


Carla Clasen Retires (A Second Time) From The Rucks Group

We are at once delighted and disheartened to announce the retirement of Carla Clasen, M.P.H., R.N.. With over 30 years of program evaluation experience, at the end of 2020, Carla decided to retire (for the second time) and relocate from Ohio to Minnesota to be closer to family.

Carla joined The Rucks Group as a Senior Research and Evaluation Associate in 2013. In that capacity, she worked on a wide variety of projects from a survey of Ohio boaters to a maternal and child home visiting evaluation and of course, our mainstay projects related to workforce development and student success. Throughout her career, she supported the evaluation community by serving on the board of the Ohio Program Evaluators’ Group and as a member of the American Evaluation Association. Carla made important contributions to the quality of our work and the culture of our team. She will be missed.

Carla Classen


Reporting Help: How to Calculate the Nearest Person Months

As a reliable and trusted source for program evaluation, we often get a lot of questions on related topics such as reporting issues. One questions we often get is:

“I’m working on my annual report for my National Science Foundation grant, and they are asking for personnel time spent in ‘person months’. How do I calculate this?”

Visit our resources center on our website to use this tool to assist you in your reporting needs.


Review The Rucks Group’s Previous Coffee Break Webinars

Our coffee break webinars are succinct learning opportunities focused on addressing program evaluation topics relevant to grant writers and project owners. We encourage you to visit our website to take advantage of these resources and review key concepts of evaluation that will impact your initiatives. Feedback from participants indicates that individuals find the information shared to be extremely useful:

“I continue to be impressed with how well organized your

thinking is around these topics that can be quite ‘squishy’. Watching your presentations helps me organize my own thinking.”

“I like the length of these webinars.

It’s easy to fit them into my schedule and they provide useful information.”

“I very much enjoyed the series and will keep an eye out for future webinars from your organization! Oftentimes, evaluation webinars speak in generalities; yours offered very concrete information. I appreciated your approach very much.”



The Rucks Group, LLC is a research and evaluation firm that gathers, analyses, and interprets data to enable our clients to measure the impact of their work. 

The Rucks Group 2020 Fall Newsletter


This fall feels simultaneously family and unfamiliar.

If you are like us at The Rucks Group, you are busy finalizing annual reports and working on new grant proposals. All quite normal for this time of year. But this fall, we are doing this while working remotely alongside our family members who are working remotely and our children who are remotely going to school. Even though we have been in this space for months, it still feels just a little bit different.

While we cannot do much about the unfamiliar context we are operating in, we can support the otherwise familiar tasks. Given the breadth of funding opportunities, in this newsletter, we are featuring resources that are relevant to the development of innovations.

As always, if we can be a resource in any way, do not hesitate to reach out to us at info@therucksgroup.com.


Webinar on Grant Proposal Evaluation Plans:

This past July, The Rucks Group offered a three-part webinar series to provide a formula for writing an evaluation plan for a grant proposal. Here’s what participants shared about the series:

“I appreciated how the process of creating the evaluation was broken down into steps and how the logic model was explained as being a pictorial representation of the theory of change.”

“[The webinar] was well organized and a good introduction with very usable pointers.”

To review the webinars, visit our newly launched resources page. The page will be continually updated, so we encourage you to frequently visit it. 


Broadening Participation in STEM:

The National Science Foundation Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (NSF INCLUDES) recently released a research brief highlighting evidence-based strategies to broaden participation in STEM. This document serves as a reference guide for project teams striving to increase the participation of students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.


Webinar on NSF ATE Grant Proposal Evaluation Plans:

EvaluATE, the evaluation resource center for the National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education (NSF ATE) community, recently hosted a webinar on evaluation plans for NSF ATE proposals. In this webinar, EvaluATE shares “some of the biggest mistakes made in evaluation plans for ATE proposals and how to fix them.”


Join Us for Our Next Coffee Break Webinar

Webinar - Developmental Evaluation: What is it? How do you do it? Facilitated by Lana Rucks.

Thursday, September 10; 2:00pET – 2:30pET

Developmental evaluations apply evaluation principles to nascent innovations and complex systems. This approach is useful for evaluating new initiatives as evidenced by the Department of Labor’s solicitation for Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grants promulgating a developmental or adaptive evaluation approach into the grant-funded work.

In this webinar, we will introduce the key concepts of developmental evaluation and explain how to use them by walking through a Department of Labor-funded project that used developmental evaluation. Participants will leave the webinar with a better understanding of what developmental evaluation is and how it is applied.


Focusing on Student Success

Student success is directly or indirectly central to educators’ work and related grant projects. As such, we invite you to read a recently published EDUCAUSE blog, Student Success in a Changing World. In this highly informative article, authors Steven Mauro and Terry Mills present a model for driving student success that applies to our current remote learning environment. Dr. Mills is a previous guest blogger with The Rucks Group.


Highlighted Blog Posts:

Student Success Part I: Are we clear about what this means? by guest blogger Dr. Terry Mills
Student Success Part II: How is it defined and what promotes it?
Obtaining Credible Evidence of “Long” Long-Term Outcomes

The Rucks Group 2020 Summer Newsletter


Many higher education professionals are taking a moment to exhale after a whirlwind experience caused by a most unusual spring semester while also trying to digest an ever-evolving and tumultuous world.

We recently were involved in a conversation with a funder who asked the project team that we are working with, “Given everything around us, does this elevate the importance of program evaluation?” We found this question to be encouraging and motivating.

Program evaluation may seem like a relatively unimportant topic compared to what is swirling around us. Still, through the systematic frame that program evaluation offers, it helps to produce insights for what to do next. At The Rucks Group, our “next” is focusing on identifying solutions to address issues from the perspective of our core competencies. We hope that the resources offered in this newsletter will help you as you determine your “next.”


Join Our Next Coffee Break Webinar

Wednesdays, July 1, 15, and 29; 2:00pET – 2:30pET

In our increasingly measurement-driven culture, gathering evidence of the difference that an initiative makes is important. Gathering credible evidence of outcomes is imperative within grant-funded work. Whether you need to write an evaluation plan or review one provided for your project, this webinar series will provide a formula for writing a program evaluation. Webinar participants will come away with an understanding of the evaluation plan elements to scale them for large and small grant proposals.


Example of Columbus State Community College Pivoting to a Virtual Career Fair

We are all deeply aware of the need to “pivot” in these ever-evolving times. Determining the best strategy for how to change directions appropriately can be challenging. We learned about this excellent example of pivoting from an in-person career fair to a virtual one through our work with Columbus State Community College. With their permission, we share this resource, including the language used for disseminating, with our audience.


Additional Resources

HI-TEC 2020 Transformed: The High-Impact Technology Exchange (HI-TEC) Conference is going virtual this year. Look for our session handouts on Using Social Network Analysis to Evaluate the Development of Professional Connectivity with Michael FitzGerald, Ph.D., as the lead presenter in collaboration with Emma Leeburg of EvaluATE. Registration will open soon and is complimentary for the first 350 registrants.


ATE Community Support Webinar: On Wednesday, June 10 at 1:00pET the American Association of Community Colleges, Mentor-Connect, and ATE Central, are sponsoring a webinar intended “to address commonly asked grant management questions.” This webinar is certain to provide lots of great information on to manage current and future NSF ATE grants.


Urban Institute RFPs and RFIs: WorkRise, which is hosted by the Urban Institute, is a research-to-action network forced on jobs, workers, and mobility. WorkRise is seeking request for proposals (RFPs) and request for information (RFIs) to identify research projects in need and funding and “promising, scalable practices” in need of additional support and/or research and evaluation. Responses are due by 11:59pmET, June 29, 2020. 


Highlighted blog posts:

5 Data-Informed Tips for Transitioning from Remote Learning to Online Learning
Reporting Help: Calculating Nearest Person Month
Using Logic Models to Navigate Projects
The Rucks Group 2020 Spring Newsletter


The Rucks Group 2020 Spring Newsletter


By now you have heard, discussed, and thought dozens of times how the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to abandon familiar rhythms of life. The Rucks Group team is doing the same.

We have been asking ourselves what resources can we provide to help the adjustment as it relates to the slice of life that we work in of research and evaluation.  As such, we’re highlighting a variety of resources and information on upcoming events that you may find useful as we all are slowly finding the beats to new rhythms.


Join Our Next Coffee Break Webinar

webinar - now what?
Thursday, April 30, 2020; 2:00pET – 2:30pET

You’ve won the grant and now you’re needing to do a program evaluation. There are two general mindsets towards this work: “proving” to demonstrate to funders what you’ve done or “improving” which addresses the proving by focusing the program evaluation on using the information from the program evaluation for project improvement. This complimentary webinar will provide insights into how to realize the true value of evaluation through the lens of continuous improvement and particularly given the COVID-19 pandemic. Time will be allotted to answer your unique questions. 


Funding Opportunities for Your Innovative Ideas

Proposal

There are several funding opportunities that you can pursue to identify funding for your innovative ideas. One such program is the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program places an emphasis on the education of technicians within two-year institutions. Proposals are due by October 1, 2020.

In writing your grant, make sure to review the most recent solicitation for the appropriate program track. A focus area of note is the Adaptation and Implementation program track which is “designed to increase the pace of innovation diffusion and encourages the use of innovative materials and practices of demonstrated course and programs.” 

Also, the NSF DUE (Division of Undergraduate Education) is particularly interested in how the COVID-19 is impacting undergraduate education. This is quite fitting considering how many schools had to rapidly transition to completing courses online.

Finally, note that NSF’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) grants are now due on April 22, 2020 (and change from the original March 25, 2020 date).


If you want resources to help develop your ideas, check out these websites:

ATECentral logo

Supporting Advanced Technological Education
EvaluATE logo

The evaluate resource hub for the NSF ATE community
Mentor Connect Logo
NSF ATE leadership development and outreach initiative

Browse our most popular blog posts below:

Partnership Rubric: A tool for measuring industry relationships
The Partnership Rubric was designed as a tool to quantify the involvement of outside partners in a given project or center by measuring the changes in the number of and level of involvement of those partnerships in targeted areas. 

Student Success: Are we clear about what this means? 
In this two-part blog on student success, we are first sharing this article in which guest blogger Dr. Terry Mills provides his perspective. In the second blog on this topic, Dr. Lana Rucks will provide a perspective of a researcher and program evaluator on this key issue.

Paying Students to Attend Tutoring Produces Interesting Findings 
Students who received the stipend for attending tutoring sessions had the lowest failure rates and earned the highest percentage of As.