Demonstrating impact beyond the numbers

Photo of Claire Robertson-Kraft

Claire Robertson-Kraft is inspired by the way Executive MPA students tackle challenges in public leadership

“The Executive MPA program is hands-down my favorite program to teach in at Penn,” says Claire Robertson-Kraft, founder and executive director of ImpactED and instructor at Fels. “Students in the Executive MPA program are professionals working in such a variety of different sectors—government administration, consulting, nonprofits, politics—that they bring a very rich set of experiences to the classroom environment. That influences the approach I take to teaching quantitative methods: I’m not just thinking about the rote technical skills but the big questions these students wrestle with in their jobs and in their lives. It challenges me as an instructor to think about how I can make seemingly technical concepts very concrete and applicable to my students’ goals and experiences.”

For example: as the instructor of the data-driven courses in quantitative methods and program evaluation required for the Fels Executive MPA program, Claire has taught her share of students who enter the program without substantial experience in analyzing data or measuring impact. Claire wants students to graduate with concrete analytical skills—including tools for descriptive statistics and data visualization—as well as an understanding of how and why to apply those skills to the challenges that real organizations face. “There is increasing demand being put on nonprofit leaders and public sector agencies to demonstrate the impact that they have in the community,” says Claire. “Regardless of your role, it’s important to have an understanding of what data can tell you, how to use data, and how not to use data.”

In five years of teaching Executive MPA students, Claire says she continues to be inspired by her students’ commitment to the Fels community as well as the public and nonprofit sectors they serve. “What’s really unique and exciting about Fels is that alumni have such a strong connection with the program,” says Claire, describing a student from her first year of teaching executive courses who had attained a high position in Philadelphia city government and returned to partner with Claire’s current students on a program evaluation project. “Alumni of Fels are incredibly passionate about the school, and they’re always looking for ways to engage with the current students. You don’t often see that close-knit community between students and alumni in other graduate programs.”

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