Perspectives: What is your current role at Save the Children USA?

CJ: I’m a Senior Specialist on the Education Research Team, which is within the Education and Child Protection department. Our team of ten people supports research and evaluation activities for projects in our department, which are almost exclusively international.

Perspectives: What does your typical day look like?

CL: It varies from day to day depending on the projects in my portfolio. I generally provide insight into research design through tasks like calculating sample sizes, determining experimental designs, and assisting our field offices with trainings. For example, one project I’m working on now involves data collection support for a literacy project in primary schools. My specific role also includes a lot of cleaning data to perform data analysis, as well as writing reports.

Perspectives: What’s your favorite part of your job?

CL: Being able to see a research project through from start to finish. It’s very rewarding to be involved in the design of a project, which involves thinking through the specific questions we need answered. It’s great being able to answer the questions we set out to resolve, as well as disseminating our findings and seeing that our field offices are using the findings to improve our programs.

Perspectives: How did you find your job?

CL: While I was working for the World Bank as a Short-Term Consultant (STC), I found my job through a job search website – I think it was I also had a friend (who was a classmate from SAIS) working at World Vision, which was partnering with Save the Children on a literacy project, who heard about the job and reached out to say I’d be a good fit. He ultimately shared my resume, which was very helpful.

Perspectives: What did you find most valuable about your time at SAIS?

CL: The opportunity to develop my quantitative skills through the Development Economics specialization. I took classes like Econometrics and Applied Econometrics, as well as other courses which exposed me to the Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) field. Starting an STC at the World Bank during my last semester at SAIS was also very helpful, and I got that thanks to a professor's recommendation.

Perspectives: What are your thoughts on trends in the education field and M&E, more broadly, right now?

CL: What I see in the international education field as a whole – and I’m not an expert as I mostly focus on M&E – is that organizations like USAID are increasingly interested in funding and learning about early childhood education. For the last few years, there’s also been an interest in measuring social-emotional skills, like resilience, and how to best design and measure programs for children living in post-conflict regions.  

As for M&E, I’ve seen a lot of discussion about improving feedback loops – i.e., utilizing real-time data to assess program impact and implement changes more quickly. Electronic data collection is part of what makes that possible, because it greatly decreases the time it takes to collect data and upload it.

As narrated to Yifan Powers, Editor, SAIS Perspectives. 

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PHOTO CREDIT: Save the Children Pavillon at Expo 2015, from Sergio D’Afflitto, licensed under CCA-SA 4.0