Three Reasons You Should Attend c2017: Student Edition by Jacob Helliwell

I was tremendously fortunate to be the recipient of the student bursary to attend c2017! Reflecting on the bursary and why I want to attend the conference, I realized there are three key reasons I think students should attend this CES annual conference.

  1. Network to Kick-start your Career

Networking isn’t about handing out business cards – it is about building common connections with people. Networks give you a community to rely on and to bounce ideas off when you run into challenges on an evaluation or within your career. They provide an opportunity to be mentored and to learn about diverse approaches. This is especially important for new evaluators who have yet to develop their own practices, and build their confidence in navigating the many challenges that can arise in the field of evaluation.

c2017 focuses on networking through its Soiree in the Park, hospitality suite, first-time attendee orientation, buddy program, and other activities. This is a prime opportunity for an aspiring or new evaluator to build the network they need to be successful.

  1. Real-world Evaluation Tips and Tricks

There is a concern (real or perceived) that academic study focuses on theories and methods that may not arise in professional evaluations. (When is the last time you heard “epistemology” in the workplace?) There are also skills like facilitation, client management, and project management that are not often taught at university.

This conference brings together practitioners and influencers to share valuable lessons from actual evaluations, and the day-to-day benefits and drawbacks of different evaluation techniques. These perspectives offer invaluable insight for students moving from studying academic evaluations to conducting professional evaluations.

  1. The Conference Theme is Grad School in a Different Setting

Students should be intimately familiar with two aspects of the conference theme – innovation and reflection. Grad studies require research and analysis that looks at problems in a new way or tries to fill a gap in our understanding. This is innovation. One lesson I learned from my coursework is that innovation does not need to be an outside-the-box insight – it can be taking a solution that works in one context and applying it to another. This conference will provide numerous opportunities to learn of solutions that have worked in contexts across the country and may be applicable to challenges you face in your own studies and career.

Education is also about reflection. We reflect on what we have learned, we reflect on our assumptions, we reflect on our own development, and we reflect on how our education will (fingers-crossed) support our career goals. c2017 will create an engaging environment for students to actively reflect on their academic training and how it supports or detracts from the perspectives, challenges, and evolving techniques that will be shared throughout the conference.

I look forward to meeting you all at c2017!


Jacob Helliwell is pursuing the MPA at UVic to solidify his three years of on-the-job training in evaluation. He currently works in Performance Audit at the Auditor General of BC