Name: BA Laris, MPH
California State University, San Jose – Masters of Public Health, with a focus on health education
St Mary’s College – Bachelor of Arts in English and Political Science
What is your current position(s) and what do you do?
I am currently a Senior Program Manager at dfusion Inc and ETR where I am involved in a wide variety of program development, training and professional development, and research and evaluation projects. I am currently managing the development of two mobile apps and innovative technologies to disseminate sex-positive HIV prevention and health promotion information for young gay black men and transgender women. The evaluation of these new programs will be conducted as randomized controlled trials to test the effectiveness of this new way to communicate information to the users.
I have also been an online course tutor for a Qualitative Methods class (through the University of Melbourne, Center for Program Evaluation, Australia) supporting Master’s Students during the term to understand and integrate qualitative methods into their evaluation practice.
What led you to the field of evaluation?
My evaluation focus began when I started managing an HIV prevention street outreach team for a non-profit organization in Central Massachusetts. The program had struggled to meet the grant requirements and fresh out of my MPH program, I was tasked with turning the program around. I have always seen evaluation as the key to understanding programs and helping them deliver a quality product to the people who need it most. I love the logic and the clear connections between purpose and outcome!
What has been your favorite moment in your career so far?
I have had so many ah-ha moments, I can’t pick just one! It is the school principal who realized that lowering the price of healthy food and raising the price of junk food in the vending machine changed student purchasing, the health teacher that saw that teaching about pregnancy prevention did not increase rates of initiation of sex, the CEO of an AIDS service organization who found that client retention could be improved by changing the intake paperwork, or even for myself when I translate a bunch of data into an infographic showing that teen fathers really want to be involved in caring for their children.
What motivates you at work?
I am motivated by believing that information, when shared and presented in an accessible way can make a difference in the health and well-being of people every day.
If you could give advice to young professionals in evaluation, what would it be?
Try out lots of different topic areas! Having solid evaluation method skills gives you the flexibility to use them and apply them across a wide variety of topics – this gives you the freedom to engage and have an impact in so many different ways.
What are your favorite resources for evaluators?
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love to do anything outside – and since I live in Southern California, that also means I get to ride my bike year-round. This June will be my 12th year as a rider in AIDSLifecycle, a 545 mile bicycle fundraiser to support HIV prevention and AIDS treatment services.
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