SCEA Member Spotlight – Michelle Molina


University of California, Los Angeles – Bachelor of Arts in Psychology

University of California, Los Angeles – Master of Arts in Education, Social Research Methodology

What is your current position(s) and what do you do?

I’m an independent consultant who partners with non-profits to collect data so that they can show their impact, learn, and make better decisions. By helping the organizations consider their context, my aim is to help them refine their goals so that they can collect data that is meaningful.

A lot of my work comes from subcontracting agreements with other evaluators. I enjoy doing this because I get an inside look at how others work with clients, all while strengthening my skills. I often help others with qualitative and quantitative analysis (including social network analysis), data visualization, report writing, and facilitating discussions. 

The project I currently spend the most time on is a Kaiser Permanente initiative funding several coalitions implementing healthy eating and active living strategies in their communities. On this project, the evaluation team works really closely with the grant management team. Together, we regularly discuss the progress each community has made and consider how we can better support their work. Regularly our data collection is used to inform internal conversations within each coalition. For example, we recently collected survey data on coalition functioning. We took these results to coalition meetings and helped facilitate discussions around each coalitions strengths and weaknesses. These sessions will not only allowed the coalition time to reflect and identify opportunities to improve, but also gave us data on how coalitions function within the initiative.

What led you to the field of evaluation?

The programs I participated in had a huge impact on my life and helped guide me towards higher education. I was interested in giving back, but also curious about what made programs effective.

Finding evaluation itself was a bit of a stroke of luck. Early after transferring to UCLA, I had to take a 6 unit class that was notorious for being difficult. I decided to look for another class with a lot of units in order to better manage my course work. The class I chose was the first undergraduate class Dr. Marvin Alkin offered on program evaluation.

I fell in love with evaluation. At the time, I was just learning about research methods and how research is used to grow our body of knowledge. I was quickly able to see how evaluation would allow me to use those technical skills in a real world setting that could have an actual impact on the lives of others. I often think about how lucky I am to have found something that combines a lot of my interests. I will always be thankful to Dr. Alkin!

 What has been your favorite moment in your career so far?

Last year I helped a 4H group in Tucson, Arizona build their evaluation capacity by considering their context. We worked together to develop a theory of change, thought about their stakeholder’s perspectives, identified assumptions, thought about what lifecycle stage their program is in, and more. We reviewed the evaluation tools they are required to implement and identified outcomes they were still interested in exploring.

Recently, we planned an Evaluation-Skill-a-Ton where they can teach their youth about evaluation while collecting data. For example, the youth rotated between a few stations where they would respond to prompts aimed at answering the evaluation questions. Afterwards, the youth were asked to review the data provided by others and think about how to interpret it. The 4H coordinators were excited about this plan and thought it could provide more meaningful information than a survey could. I will be hearing back from them about the event soon.

What motivates you at work?

The organizations I work with are filled with dedicated and passionate people who are working to improve the lives of others. I help give them the tools they need so that they can tell a compelling story to others about the importance of their work. Plus, they are able to use the data to reflect upon what’s working and what’s not, allowing them to improve and make important decisions. So, when data collection and analysis starts to feel monotonous, I remind myself of how helpful the ultimate product might be.

If you could give advice to young professionals in evaluation, what would it be?

Continue learning. Stay on top of what’s going on in the field. Things change and so will evaluation. By keeping up with trends you’ll be able figure out what the best approach is faster. There will be situations where clients will ask you to use an approach. You’ll need to have a general understanding of it so that you can effectively advocate for or against it. Also, learn new skills that you’re interested in even if you’re not sure how they might be connected with evaluation. For example, I recently started dabbling in coding, I was able to use my very limited knowledge to help easily figure out how to use (a social network analysis software) when I was asked to use it on a project. Furthermore, you can learn from most situations (including missteps). For instance, you can reflect on conversations that didn’t go well to improve next time. As long as you have an eye out for lessons learned you can continue to strengthen your skills.  

Connect with other evaluators. Building a network is important in any field. Every project that I have enjoyed being a part of came about in some way because of the network I’ve built. Either they know of me through the evaluation book club. Or, received a recommendation from a friend to work with me. Luckily, most evaluators are kind people who care about the work they do. Evaluation is still a relatively small field and many people find their way to it indirectly. So, evaluators are usually more than happy to talk to other evaluators. If you reach out, you’re more than likely to receive a positive response.

What are your favorite resources for evaluators?

The Workbook for the Systems Evaluation Protocol – I’m really interested in helping organizations think about their context and develop a theory of change. This protocol offers guidance on how to take organizations through that process.  (

Netway – This helps you easily put a theory of change on paper. It is from the same people who developed the Systems Evaluation Protocol. (

What do you like to do in your free time?

I spend a lot of my free time relaxing. I like to read books, listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos, hang out, have a beer, and sometimes I also go on hikes.

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