Ever wonder what we do at RK&A or what it’s like being an evaluator? Cathy recently tackled those questions in a column for the Tufts Museum Studies alumni newsletter called “What’s My Job?,” where Museum Studies alums shed light on what its like to work in a wide range of careers in the cultural sector. Check out her response below for a snapshot of what it’s like to work at RK&A!
Hello! My name is Cathy Sigmond and I work as a Research Associate at Randi Korn & Associates, Inc. (RK&A). RK&A is a planning, evaluation, and research firm based in Alexandria, VA, that works to support museums and other informal-learning organizations as they pursue achieving impact.
What exactly does that mean? Basically, it boils down to a few key things. First, we help museum staff think strategically about and clarify what they hope to achieve (be it on the institutional level or for a specific exhibition or program). Then, we also help them measure the extent to which they are achieving these goals (or how they might achieve them) through evaluation. And finally, we help them make sense of the data (evaluation results) so they can move forward with their work more informed.
It means that in my job, I ask why? and what does that mean? a lot. And as someone who loves to dig deep and find out what makes people tick, I love every second of it.
The day-to-day aspects of working as an evaluator at a small company (seven people across three cities!) aren’t always the most glamourous, but to me they are constantly exciting. One day I might travel to a natural history museum to kick-off a front-end evaluation of a new fossil exhibition. Another day I might spend my time managing data collectors I hired to conduct interviews at a botanic garden. Often times I’m out in the field observing and talking with visitors myself (like when I got to observe citizen science programs in Puerto Rico!). And some days, while I might be physically in our office in Virginia, I’m mentally holed up in the data, trying to make sense of visitors’ actions and opinions.
To be an evaluator means having a questioning stance about everything. It requires meticulous attention to detail but also the ability to step back and understand the data holistically, in its broad context.
Perhaps most importantly, however, it requires having a passion for helping people do meaningful work. And that’s why my favorite aspect of my job is translating the data for our museum clients (either in person or through a written report) and working with them to reflect on what evaluation results might mean for them moving forward. I love knowing that my work helps others learn and grow into more informed and intentional museum professionals. And I feel like I’m constantly learning and growing alongside our clients, and that’s a pretty awesome job perk.
If you’d like to learn more about all things evaluation/visitor studies/user experience (or just want to say hi!), please feel free to email Cathy at email@example.com or RK&A at firstname.lastname@example.org.