Holly Downs, Assistant Professor in the Educational Research Methodology department in the UNCG School of Education, provides hands-on experiences to her students in their field of program evaluation, including working with Physicians for Peace in the Dominican Republic.
Dr. Holly Downs accomplishes something that few faculty members can claim – she offers her students tremendous learning experiences both inside and outside of the classroom. Inside of the classroom she is revered as a guru of Program Evaluation, a field devoted to the art of evaluating the implementation and impacts of social, educational, and health programs to shed light on the effectiveness of programs in meeting their goals and the ways in which such programs might be improved. By all accounts, Holly is a highly gifted instructor, providing her students thoughtful lectures embedded with real-life practical examples and lessons learned. She is a seasoned pro, having served as an evaluator of numerous large-scale educational programs over the past decade, and has worked with some of the leading names in program evaluation. Now, just two years into her position as Assistant Professor in ERM, Holly has become a vital component of the department.
As much as Holly offers her students in the classroom (and that is a lot!), she offers them even more outside of the classroom. Because a large component of Holly’s scholarship involves the applications of methodologies used in actual program evaluation projects, she involves ERM graduate students on these projects to give them real life, hands-on experience conducting program evaluations. Teams of ERM students work under her mentorship on a variety of evaluation projects, learning the details of how to conduct program evaluations in real life contexts. Holly provides ERM students with a nurturing educational environment throughout the project experience, where students feel they can troubleshoot ideas and ask for her advice, thereby building the student’s confidence in their evaluation skills. Her ability to engage her students in their work through the on-the-job learning experiences offered builds trust between student and faculty member, allowing the mentor relationship to thrive. These are the unique qualities that make Holly a role model to her students and distinguish her from her peers.
Because so much of Holly’s work involves practical, hands-on experiences of ERM students, she was a natural fit to serve as Associate Director of ERM’s Office of Assessment, Evaluation, and Research Services (OAERS), which supports and facilitates out-of-classroom learning experiences of ERM students. In this role, Holly works to connect ERM students with external organizations seeking evaluation support through student internships, practicums, and applied learning experiences. As just one recent example of her role in this capacity, Holly coordinated an evaluation of an educational program for prosthetic and orthotic technicians in the Dominican Republic. The program had been implemented by Physicians for Peace, a nonprofit organization that aims to deliver healthcare education and support to underserved countries around the world. Holly headed up the evaluation team, which consisted of three ERM graduate students, and ultimately lead the evaluation team to travel to the Dominican Republic to collect data for the evaluation project. These experiential learning opportunities provide students with solid real-world background experience upon graduation, making them top hiring prospects for national employers. As a result of the work of faculty members such as Holly Downs, ERM is nationally recognized for providing exceptional training to future innovators and leaders in program evaluation, research methodology, and educational measurement.
The Educational Research Methodology Department (ERM) in the UNCG School of Education specializes in educational measurement and psychometrics, research design, program and policy evaluation studies, educational statistics, and the application of research methodology to address educational questions. For more information on the UNCG Educational Research Methodology Department, please visit: erm.uncg.edu.
The Office of Assessment, Evaluation, and Research Services (OAERS) is a division of the Department of Educational Research Methodology (ERM) at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The purpose of OAERS rests at the intersection of two goals. The first goal is to offer exceptional consulting services and technical resources in the areas of assessment, program evaluation, and data analysis to individuals and organizations in the Piedmont Triad, North Carolina, and beyond. The second goal is to provide graduate students in ERM extensive hands-on applied experiences to support their training and professional growth. Through meeting these two goals, OAERS is able to deliver valuable research and evaluation support to organizations while providing a rich training ground for the next generation of leaders in the fields of assessment, program evaluation, and data analysis. For more information on OAERS, please visit: erm.uncg.edu/oaers