FPG Profile: Schatzi McCarthy
Schatzi McCarthy, MP, MAPA, joined the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) as a technical assistance specialist with the Trohanis Technical Assistance (TA) Projects in 2019. Her prior experience in early childhood issues includes leading the team that approved and monitored North Carolina Smart Start activities statewide, leading the NC Division of Public Health’s Early Intervention Branch evaluation team, and working as program director for a maternal and child health program in Jamaica. In the public health arena, she has worked as an associate director for a program in the UNC Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health and as a research director and board member for Family Health Ministries. She has led federal and donor performance reporting for more than a decade. And, initiatives in North Carolina, Haiti, and West Africa have all benefited from her experience and knowledge.
We recently spoke with McCarthy about her work at FPG and here’s what she had to say.
What drew you to working at FPG?
I was attracted to FPG by the flexibility to work on a variety of projects. I’ve worn two hats in my career, one that is focused on early childhood care and education and the other on international development. The common theme is around systems strengthening. With two master’s degrees, one in public administration and one in planning, I tend to see the world from a systems perspective. The work at FPG allows me to do that from a national and international perspective.
What do you enjoy about working at FPG?
I embrace FPG because it allows me to be a well-rounded generalist who can employ my skills in evaluation, systems strengthening, supervision, and monitoring to support program initiatives. I also appreciate the flexibility of working across divisions, not just within FPG, and being able to contribute to the wider UNC Community.
What are some of your current projects?
My day-to-day responsibility is primarily evaluating TA services and developing TA resources to support states in their implementation of early intervention services. I work with the State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP) Workgroup and the Implementation Science Workgroup for improved systems strengthening across state early intervention programs. I also lead federal reporting on annual performance report indicator analysis across states and jurisdictions and work with others on the evaluation team to prepare the Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA) Center annual report. I am also a recent addition to the ECTA leadership team as I am transitioning to the role of Associate Director of Evaluation.
In addition, I’m working with Data for Impact (D4I) doing an external evaluation of a project in Rwanda, an early care and education initiative being implemented by Catholic Relief Services. I was pulled into this project because of my international experience, evaluation knowledge, and familiarity with early care and education.
What is your biggest professional achievement since you've been at FPG?
My greatest professional achievement to date at FPG is grounded in my adaptability. I have worked in all aspects of program design, implementation, and evaluation. I joined ECTA primarily as a TA specialist. But when the team needed support on the evaluation team, I was able to pivot to meet the demands of the organization. I have been able to support the team during a time of staff transition, which has been essential to programmatic continuity.
My work, along with that of the other evaluation team members, helps ensure we have fulfilled the obligations of each grant and makes sure that our performance measures are fulfilled in a timely manner and are consistent with expectations.
My evaluation strengths have subsequently fostered collaboration in the wider UNC community through my work on the D4I Rwanda Project as a member of the external evaluation team. This cross-pollination of resources has helped me to strengthen the ECTA evaluation plan and services for the future through the adoption of evaluation methodologies that I am gleaning from this collaboration. This rich environment of continuous learning, adaptation, and innovation is the petri dish in which I thrive best. I’m very excited for the future.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
In the course of a day, I might be working on initiatives for the work groups I’m part of, such as the Trohanis Racial Equity Committee, the Implementation Science Work Group, and SSIP, which is a systems change initiative mandated by the federal Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). But, I am primarily engaged in different phases of evaluating the TA initiatives that are being carried out by ECTA TA Teams.
For example, I had a meeting today with one of the TA providers who is providing intensive TA to a group of states to help improve their outcomes for inclusion. Based on that conversation, I’m going to draft the first of several survey instruments to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of their cohort. For another project, I am analyzing the results of the evaluation and writing the impact report so I can share it with the TA team. For SSIP evaluation, I’m supervising another staffer who is new to the process as he leads the analysis of our impact data across all states that received targeted TA services. We will be drafting a report of SSIP impact following the presentation and analysis of the data.
Most of my work revolves around modifying the evaluations based on the type of TA being delivered, such as webinars, communities of practice, targeted or intensive TA initiatives, or SSIP activities. My work focuses on ensuring that ECTA performance objectives are being monitored and reported so that continuous improvement is being realized by the TA Teams and ECTA in general.
How does your work fit into the mission of FPG?
The work of ECTA is critical and has a big impact that is central to FPG’s mission. People say, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it really fall?” My job is showing and substantiating the work that ECTA/FPG/UNC does so that people know, yes, the tree fell, and the impact of our work was realized. Evaluation—measuring the impact of our programs—is critical to our work to improve child and family outcomes for children across the nation and globally.