ACE Evaluation Network Member Highlight: Afi Wiggins
With 95 Evaluators and growing in the Network, we are highlighting an ACE Evaluation Network Member each month to share their experiences and current projects with the ETB® community.
Advancing Culturally-responsive and Equitable (ACE) Evaluation Network Member, Afi Wiggins, PhD earned her doctorate in Research Statistics and Evaluation from the University of Virginia. In her current role as Director of Evaluation and Research at the University of Texas at Austin, Afi leads the development and implementation of comprehensive, coherent, and equitable strategies for research and evaluation initiatives in K-12, higher education, and the high school-to-college transition space. Afi has served many roles in her almost 20-year career including research analyst, professor of research statistics and evaluation, assistant principal, and even started her career as an elementary school teacher. Afi worked in national education policy, serving as a writer on the 2011 Council of Chief State School Officers Interstate Assessment and Support Consortium Model Core Teaching Standards revision committee. She currently serves on the Texas Association of Community Colleges Knowledge Development Committee and the Greater Texas Foundation Research and Learning Agenda Development Committee. She is an alum of the Strategic Data Project Institute for Leadership in Analytics at Harvard University Center for Education Policy Research. Afi serves as an evaluation and research expert with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Intermediaries for Scale, Catalyst: Ed Postsecondary Expert Network. Afi is building scholarship in equitable evaluation and has designed metrics for measuring equity in education policies, systems, structures, and practices, and student access, experiences, and success.
What first attracted you to the ACE Evaluation Network?
About four years ago, I attended a conference at The University of Texas at Austin. I do not recall the name of the conference but it had something to do with evaluation of STEM programs in higher education. The panel I attended was led by three Black women who referred to their evaluation practices as equitable. As they were speaking about the elements of equitable evaluation practices, I realized I had been engaged in similar practices for some time, I just did not know there was a formal title for such practices. After the panel, I spoke with one of the panelists and asked her where she had been trained. She mentioned that she was part of the Advancing Culturally-responsive and Equitable (ACE) Evaluation Network. When I got home that evening, I researched Expanding the Bench® and immediately applied to be part of the ACE Network. I knew I had met my true evaluation family.
What do you value most about the ACE Evaluation Network?
The ACE Network is valuable in that it is such a breath of fresh air to have a Network of like-minded, highly skilled professionals who share the same values and contribute to a world of findings for understanding the experiences and perspectives of traditionally marginalized peoples — findings that otherwise may not be produced. The Network is a beautiful experience.
What’s a current project you are working on?
Through my day job, I lead a team of researchers who are executing five to seven evaluations at a time. Those projects are focused on mathematics and science education and are focused on systems change from policy through school and classroom practices across K-12 and postsecondary. Each evaluation process is collaborative and centers students, families, and communities’ perspectives and experiences in both programmatic and evaluation practices. I am also a consultant on a Gates-funded project with Growing Inland Empire (GIA) in California. The work is to codevelop and produce an equity-centered evaluation framework with practical tools and processes for data collection, sense-making, and reporting in an effort to equitably transform the education and life experiences of students in the region.
To learn more about Afi, connect with her on LinkedIn.