…I’d like to be intentional about disrupting [certain] paradigms, even in my own practice, and instead prioritize and advocate for human-centered methodologies. Why else do the work if not for the good of people and betterment of society?
Our staff spotlight series continues with a deeper dive into the experiences and perspectives of the HEI staff — Continue reading to hear some recent thoughts from Tashera Gale, Director of Research and Evaluation.
What is one achievement or project you’re most proud of from the last 12 months?
I am immensely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish in partnership with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Most recently, our team concluded a national evaluation of the Foundation’s University Centers of Exemplary Mentoring Program and released our findings report. We’ve gotten such positive responses thus far! That assessment was difficult but important work, and the entire experience has been rewarding. I am appreciative of the active engagement of, and rich insights offered to us by, students, alumni, program staff, institutional stakeholders, and administrative partners. We gleaned an abundance of key learnings that are applicable to both the UCEM community and the postsecondary landscape at large. Beyond the evaluation study and associated report, I have valued the relationship we’ve developed with the Foundation, and especially the Higher Education team. Our teams truly took a collaborative approach to the work, in that we genuinely engaged in thought-partnership and led with our values. I believe this orientation substantially contributed to the evaluation’s quality and its utility to the Foundation, and beyond.
What is your typical day at HEI like?
Amusingly, the most normative characteristic of a day for me at HEI is that no day is typical at all! Some days are extremely fast paced while others are a bit more laid back. Some days are writing intensive, while others largely comprise meetings with colleagues and clients. I have days where I’m in the field—whether virtual or on-site—engaging with initiative stakeholders during data collection. Conversely, there are times where I find myself deeply immersed in words or numbers as I analyze data. On occasion, I might think my day will look one way but then my plans will shift in real time. Some of the most interesting days are when I dabble a bit in numerous activity types. Taken together, my work has taught me the importance of remaining flexible and agile, particularly if I am to be responsive to organizational, client, or project needs. Not having a “typical” day adds a sprinkle of excitement and most definitely keeps me on my toes.
What areas of work would you like to focus on more in the next 12 months?
I’ve been thrilled with the focus of my work as of late: efforts in service of racially minoritized people and other marginalized communities. I’d like to continue to support advancements toward equitable access and opportunity; inclusive cultures and environments; and systemic and sustained change. Fundamentally, I just hope to have a hand in making a difference for the better, however large or small, and to be deliberate in my commitment to doing so. I especially want to focus on engaging work in manners that are humanizing. At the heart of it, educational and workforce initiatives are about real folks leading real lives in the real world; people and communities are not mere data points, sources from which information is to be extracted, or subjects to be studied. In these next 12 months, I’d like to be intentional about disrupting these paradigms, even in my own practice, and instead prioritize and advocate for human-centered methodologies. Why else do the work if not for the good of people and betterment of society? This philosophical orientation is consistent with me working in alignment with my values, and that is what fulfills me most.