STAFF SPOTLIGHT: Tashera Gale, Ph.D., Director of Evaluation Services

HEI invites you to get to know our fantastic staff members. Each month, we will highlight a different colleague. This month, learn about Dr. Tashera Gale’s background and what drives her professionally.

Tashera Gale, Ph.D.

Tashera Gale is a passionate social scientist who employs asset-based approaches and culturally responsive practices, appreciating and leveraging the richness that exists within diverse populations. Dr. Gale contributes her experience as a past Syracuse University STEM Fellow primarily focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) educational and career pathways for under-represented populations. As a critical scholar, Dr. Gale identifies permeating systemic disparities hindering equitable outcomes for marginalized groups, and highlights techniques to counter their impacts. She advocates for equity and inclusion, both of which are central to her engagements in scholarship and service. Dr. Gale holds a PhD in Instructional Design, Development and Evaluation from Syracuse University. She earned her master’s degree in the same field, as well as a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and sociology from Syracuse University.

What first drew you to work in higher education?

Honestly, I wasn’t initially drawn to higher education. I was interested in broadening access to and participation along Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) academic and career pathways for Black and Brown youth living in inner-city communities, where trajectories extended from K-12 learning environments, through postsecondary contexts, and into the workforce. My motivation was helping children reimagine who they could be and what they could do. It was about instilling this truth that if given a chance, they—we—too could succeed. My life was changed in manners unimaginable because someone courageously invested in me in this same way. That’s where my advocacy for higher education began: an appreciation of and commitment to my lived experience.

How would you describe your current work/the work you’re most passionate about?

I love everything STEM! I get most excited when working on projects aimed at advancing equitable access to STEM opportunity. My current portfolio includes efforts like evaluations of STEM innovations at the K-12 and postsecondary levels, including within formal and informal learning environments; strategically scaling high-quality, equitable work-based learning in digital technology region-wide; understanding the landscape of diversity, equity, and inclusion-focused STEM education investments; comprehensive local needs assessments of Career and Technical Education; and examinations of gender equity among STEM faculty using an intersectional lens. I also support clients by designing research and evaluation studies of their STEM interventions during grant proposal submissions. As you can see, much of my work is STEM-oriented, but also quite varied in terms of content and context. I enjoy it all a great deal. 

My passion is reinvigorated every time I am afforded the chance to observe students—especially young learners of color from underserved communities—positively engage with STEM and cultivate strong STEM identities. I become filled with such pride and joy as I witness firsthand the development of our next generation of STEM-ers!

What gives you hope in the work you do?

Every so often, I cross paths with educators, program directors, and other stakeholders that exude abundant enthusiasm about and genuine care for the learners they serve. Their commitment is demonstrated not only by the words that they speak but also their actions in practice. Relationships are established with families, they become familiar with and sometimes even a part of communities, they recognize and appreciate youth cultures, and understand the imperativeness of supporting the whole person. They authentically live the work. That type of passion and dedication is contagious, and gives me hope that there are people out there sincerely valuing and advocating for groups too often left at the margins.

And of course, the researcher in me would never allow me to talk about this idea of hope without mentioning impact. Identifying that an initiative or intervention successfully transformed lives, communities, and systems fosters a sense of intrinsic optimism that this world is filled with such great promise. While we can all appreciate the significance of impact as evidenced by numbers, for me, it all truly comes alive when hearing personal accounts. The power of reflection, of someone sharing their truth about how an experience was influential, is unmatched. It’s after leaving those conversations or reading stories and (counter) narratives that I am most inspired.

What is your favorite part of working at HEI and with HEI’s clients?

The people are definitely the best part about working at HEI—we have a tremendous team! Each of my colleagues contribute a wealth of knowledge and expertise, which supports our collective growth and development. One of our greatest assets, in fact, is the diversity of our experiences and backgrounds since we are able to leverage the broad perspectives they afford in all facets of our work. As a primarily virtual team (even pre-pandemic), we find creative ways of making connections and building community; icebreakers always leave me quite intrigued and often give me a good laugh. We each have unique interests and passions that attract us to this work but are unified in our shared value of advancing equitable, accessible educational opportunity for underserved populations. We also have an appreciation for one another as people, a profound respect that extends beyond our research or other professional identities. I truly couldn’t ask for a better team of colleagues.

My favorite part about working with HEI clients is collaborating to make a difference, however large or small. I also enjoy embarking on the journey of learning together from early exploration to deepened understanding. Most of all, I love when clients see and treat me as a partner in the work. Establishing that level of trust positions us to overcome the greatest challenges and realize the most substantial feats together, as a client-partner team.

Any final thoughts? I find myself fortunate being able to do work that excites me. I enjoy meeting new people, learning about different contexts, addressing interesting questions, and exploring at the intersection of research and education. There’s a level of comfort—assurance even—experienced when you recognize that the work you do has purpose and provides personal meaning.