Upcoming Topics

VSA offers opportunities for professionals and students to further hone their skills through webinars, web chats, book clubs, and virtual networking. Virtual learning offerings address a variety of topics in our field and provide helpful resources and strategies relevant to a wide range of practitioners. These offerings provide opportunities for audience engagement, and provide time for participants to ask questions. Members of VSA receive discounted registration to these events, so consider joining!

If you would like to make suggestions for future Professional Development topics, please contact [email protected]. For technical assistance accessing the hangout, please contact [email protected].

** All fee-based web chats will be recorded. Those recordings will be sent out to registered participants after the session (both those who joined live and those who did not). The slide decks and chat messages shared during the live session will not be made available since they should be interpreted within the context of the speakers’ presentations. Participants during the live session do have the ability to save the chat to their devices.

Sharing Power and Authority in Evaluation
Wednesday, May 26, 4:00pm ET

Conventional evaluation and visitor studies haven often put researchers and/or their institutions at the center of power, in that they typically define the focus of the study, research questions, study design, and methods, as well as leading the analysis and interpretation of results. This process tends to privilege white, western worldviews, and prioritizes institutional over community needs and questions. This webchat will focus on practical methods and approaches that can help shift these power imbalances, such as by collaborating with audiences to develop studies and analyze results or using photo elicitation or “untours” to center community voices and perspectives.

This webchat will feature examples from Dr. Andréa Giron Mathern (Centrality Research), who co-authored a blog post on this topic, Separation of Powers, as part of the Essential Evaluators series sponsored by AAM’s Committee on Audience Research and Evaluation (CARE); and Dr. Joe Heimlich (Center for Research and Evaluation, COSI); and Anna Rebecca Lopez (arlopezconsulting). Andrea will talk about applying Participatory Action Research (PAR) to a project at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, in which researchers worked with a bilingual Latino/a/x parent group to develop relevant interview questions to understand how this group could be better served by the museum. Joe will share examples of an “untour” and storytelling method from his work at the Philadelphia Zoo; and Anna Rebecca (AR) will focus on community organizing methods to inform the Community-Centric Fundraising movement.

We will then open up the conversation for participants to share their own examples of methods that have helped share power and authority with visitors and community members. Through an interactive dialogue, we will focus on such questions as:

  • What are some examples of how power plays out in evaluation processes at your institution? For example, who determines evaluation priorities and questions, or who leads instrument development and analysis?
  • In what ways have you or your institution been able to share power and authority with visitors or community members around evaluation / visitor studies?
  • What evaluation methods or research approaches do you feel are most empowering for visitors?
  • What challenges have you faced in co-creating or co-developing evaluations with community members? How do you compensate community members or ensure you are not overburdening them?
  • What supports do you need to more effectively shift these power imbalances that are often reinforced in evaluation practices?

Please come prepared to share your own experiences with methods that disrupt power imbalances between institutions and communities.


If you are interested in joining the Justice and Anti-Racism FIG, please contact [email protected] or [email protected].

What’s in a name? Turns out, a lot!

The Bridging Communities Focused Interest Group (FIG) has been actively engaged in organizing web chats, webinars, and informal discussions (aka “brown bags”) within VSA membership around using culturally responsive and equity-informed approaches to research and evaluation with and between a wide range of stakeholders. This past year, in particular, has brought renewed urgency on a national level around addressing systemic racism in our institutions and society more broadly, and we have been reflecting on ways that the FIG can better engage with these essential conversations. After considering the perspectives of FIG collaborators, and thinking about the role that the FIG currently plays and hopes to champion in the larger DEAI foci of VSA, we are changing the Bridging Communities FIG to:

Justice and Anti-Racism in Visitor Studies

We feel that this change in name and focus reflects our commitment as learners in DEAI and social justice work, how evaluation and visitor studies can best support this work, and our purpose in supporting the understanding and utilization of equity- and justice-focused evaluation practices.

Upcoming Conversation Series:
We have planned a series of informal conversations over the next several months focused on our role as evaluators with and within institutions that may or may not have an anti-racist stance. These conversations will be free and open to VSA members, non members are welcome to attend at a $5 registration rate.

These web chats are offered as a member benefit and are FREE to VSA Members and $5 for Non members.

Thursday, May 20 at 2:00pm Eastern
Making Statements/Being Accountable
Many institutions have made statements in support of recent social justice action and/or that condemning police brutality, racism, and white nationalism - how can evaluators play a role in holding institutions accountable to these stated intentions and goals?


Thursday, June 17 at 2:00pm Eastern
Funding Proposals and Partnerships
How do researchers and evaluators build on existing partnerships - or build new ones - through seeking funding together? What are some concrete examples of how to vision, plan, and collaborate on proposals authentically?