(Left to Right, Top to Bottom): Stephanie Liu, Cassandra Parsons, Natasha Vitkin, James Young, and Kathy Chan.

FHS team wins bronze at World Evaluation Case Competition

January 21, 2021

A group of SFU health sciences alumni and students (Cassandra Parsons, James Young, Stephanie Liu, Natasha Vitkin, and Kathy Chan) successfully defended their title as North American Champion, and won the International bronze medal, for the 2020 World Evaluation Case Competition.

Most of the “SHIFT Consulting” team also participated in the 2019 competition and were crowned the North American Champions competing against teams from across Canada and the USA. For the 2020 WECC, they remained the North American Champions, and went on to win bronze against 15 other teams. Competing against teams from across the world is a familiar challenge for Young, Liu, Vitkin, Chan – recent graduates from the Faculty of Health Sciences’ Master of Public Health (MPH) program - and Parsons, a current MPH student.

“Year after year, our team is always excited to tackle a new case competition. Besides providing an opportunity to apply to our Program Planning and Evaluation knowledge, our team prioritizes an equity-focused approach that weaves in our learnings across our MPH program,” says Liu. “Each person brings their unique strengths and perspectives to the team, and our success in part is due to ensuring we leverage each person's strengths. Our team has had so much fun competing in the case competitions over the years; it has been rewarding to see how MPH program has given us the tools to succeed, not only in these competitions, but in our professional careers, as well!"

The 2020 WECC hosted 16 teams from North America, Asia, Africa and Europe. The teams were given a limited time period to develop an evaluation proposal for Blue Dragon Children's Foundation in Vietnam, an organization that offers services to help children, including victims of human trafficking and slavery, escape from crisis.

“Our previous evaluation competition experience, both at the Canadian and international level, was a huge benefit,” says Young. “It allowed us to split up our tasks efficiently, ensuring that we made the most of our limited time.”

“To prepare for the case, our team reviewed previous evaluations about human trafficking in international contexts, which helped us develop our evaluation questions and indicators for our submission,” says Vitkin. “Our team also leveraged our strong background in health equity and global health, which we developed in our MPH coursework.”

The team was coached by Faculty of Health Sciences adjunct professor Beth Snow, who was also their coach for the 2019 WECC. The 2020 competition was the first one where Team Canada ranked in the top three. The accomplishment was exciting for the team, as it showed how they could reach new heights with hard work.

“It has definitely widened our dreams and further cemented our desire to continue refining our teamwork and evaluation skill sets,” says Chan. “We hope that this will inspire future SFU students to come together and challenge themselves with the evaluation case competition. Evaluation within public health is a growing field and we are confident that FHS students can build on our momentum and become national leaders on the world stage.”

Vitkin notes that there is a practical benefit to competing in evaluation competitions. “Many Canadian evaluation firms sponsored and attended the national competition, so winning the national championships helped [us] get a foot in the door to the evaluation job market. Three of our team members now work in evaluation, where we prepare proposals for cases like the one from the competition. By participating in both the National and World Evaluation Case Competitions, we have improved our critical thinking, writing, presentation, and collaboration skills, which will benefit us in the field of evaluation and beyond.”