Dec 2014 – Maureen Wilce
Though she has always loved evaluation and its potential for righting the wrongs of the world, it’s just not in her nature to get excited about all that methodology falderal. And her recently bestowed title of senior statesman within the ranks of the AaEA doesn’t much impress her either.
Really, she’d rather be known as the cat lady.
Maureen’s office is a marvelous cacophony of posters, calendars, flyers, photos, and trinkets all paying homage to one of her great passions in life–cats. The irony of having a feline shrine at the epicenter of the CDC’s National Asthma Control Program (NACP)–in the office of the NACP’s lead evaluator no less–has not escaped her. But neither does it deter her.
You might say that one man’s trigger is another man’s treasure…
As a youth, Maureen felt called to be a lawyer. She has always had a heart for defending the defenseless and she has always been able to argue well. But instead of practicing law, she chose to practice policy instead and so obtained a graduate degree in policy from Georgia State University. Still, if law marches to the beat of policy, as some suggest, then Maureen has remained true to her calling and has simply chosen the higher path.
Maureen’s tenure as an evaluator began in 1988 as an analyst (read: evaluator) in the Atlanta regional Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). As fate would have it, the mission of the OIG to combat fraud, waste and abuse in HHS programs dovetailed nicely with Maureen’s desire for greater social justice in the world.
She would fly up to Washington, D.C., on average about once a month to testify, collaborate, investigate, and otherwise join the fight against fraud, waste and abuse in the healthcare system. She played key roles in a major win against fraudulent home health care companies in Florida and in a significant policy change in foster care programs allowing noncustodial parents to reunite with their children.
From there, in 1994, Maureen joined Tom Chapel at the Atlanta office of Macro International (now ICF International), which provided research and evaluation, among other services, to agencies of the federal government, including the CDC. In this position, Maureen played the role of evaluation consultant which, though rewarding in its own right, was not quite the high-flying job (pun intended) she had at the OIG.
Eventually, in 1998, Maureen got a job at the CDC, but she’s quick to say she didn’t just waltz into it. She completed 62 applications before finally landing an evaluator position. So, when asked what advice she might have for evaluators who are new to the field, she says simply: “Be persistent and be patient.” When pressed further for advice to new evaluators, she adds, “And don’t let perfect be the enemy of good,” meaning, one supposes, that you don’t need to be perfectly qualified for a position to apply for it.
Maureen’s first position in the CDC was an evaluator in the Division of Tuberculosis Elimination (DTBE). Then, six years ago, she transferred to the Air Pollution and Respiratory Health Branch of the CDC where she is today. Currently, she is the lead evaluator on a team of evaluation technical advisors (ETAs) that work with state asthma programs across the country, building each state grantee’s evaluation capacity and helping each state apply the CDC’s evaluation framework to their individual asthma programs.
So here she sits, still catlike, having attained the status of a senior statesman in evaluation, albeit a rather reluctant one.
When asked about the future of evaluation, a question often asked of senior statesmen, Maureen states that she has but one desire for the profession moving forward—that it be inclusive, that it grow in inclusiveness, that it be defined by inclusiveness. Inclusiveness has become for her almost a mantra.
Truth with a capital T has no place in evaluation, she says.
The days of the outside evaluator coming in from on high, pronouncing a program as worthy or unworthy, have thankfully long since passed. As evaluators, we must engage stakeholders with open-mindedness and we must engage reality with humility. Have faith not in your methodology, she would say, but in your passion for truth, and for justice, and for beauty, however they might present themselves.
And if you also have a passion for cats, well, that’s all the better.
Link to this page: http://atl-eval.org/?p=907