Kerry Vachta

(she/her/hers - or - they/them/theirs)
Evaluation & Education Associate


Specializingin systems change and program evaluation; adaptive planning and learning; community-based and participatory research and evaluation; and strategic thought partnership, I have spent my career honing and applying the skills needed to support community-based, non-profit, educational, and philanthropic organizations in their pursuit of equity-centered, community-driven change - primarily around environment, food, and health. I help my partners create a shared vision, develop a plan to achieve that vision, and apply data gathered through systematic, typically multi-level/multi method, evaluation to assess how well the plan is working and the intended and unintended impacts of their efforts as they unfold. Through strategic thought partnership, we apply the resulting learning to make evidence-based adjustments to better align practice and process with desired outcomes to ultimately achieve success.

At SERC I provide evaluation and learning support for partners, typically in higher education and their collaborators in the public sector (among others), who are working on vital initiatives designed to improve public understanding of, and engagement in, critical environmental concerns and to facilitate community engagement in the design, adoption, and assessment of innovative and equitable solutions.


Founder and Executive Director, Rogue Scholar, LLC and Just Research, LLC
Through these consulting firms, I put the skills I developed during my academic and evaluation consulting career (e.g. systems change, organizational and program evaluation; participatory and community-based research; strategic and adaptive planning and learning; thought partnership; grant development and management, etc.) to work with governmental, philanthropic, non‐profit, community-based, and private sector organizations.

Senior Researcher, Spark Policy Institute
In this role, I helped to secure and direct evaluation, organizational consulting, and systems change projects. I supervised interdisciplinary teams of researchers, project managers, and other support staff through all aspects of projects designed to help clients create, implement, and assess typically equity-centered, community-driven, multi‐level and cross‐sector strategies to effect systems change around complex problems. I served as Spark's team lead on the national BUILD Health Challenge evaluation team and as Lead Evaluator for the Missouri Foundation for Health's Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative.

Principal Investigator/Project Director: Detroit Child Health Incubator Research Project (CHIRP). CHIRP was a 6 year long, $4.4million, NIFA‐funded participatory action research partnership with 7 community‐based organizations working to address child health in Detroit "through a food justice lens." As PI/PD, I co-facilitated the CHIRP collaborative, authored the grant that supported the project, and created systems that allowed our community partners to manage their own grant funds while meeting federal regulations and university reporting standards. I also established, trained, and supervised a research team to document the process and outcomes of the collaborative as a whole and to provide evaluation and learning support for each of our community-based partner organizations as they worked to promote child health and well-being through things like urban agriculture and community food sovereignty, critical media literacy, culturally appropriate and child-friendly healthy cooking and physical activity, environmental education, and food policy and advocacy training.

Director, Evaluation Research Unit, Center for Urban Studies, Office of the Provost, Wayne State University. In this role, I developed and maintained partnerships with university researchers and departments, as well as public sector and non-profit organizations, to provide typically multi-level/multi-method evaluation services addressing a range of policy and program initiatives to improve opportunities and quality of life for urban residents. For example, I partnered with faculty in the Departments of Computer Sciences, Biotechnology Education, and Nursing to design and implement evaluation of initiatives aimed at improving the retention and success of under-represented students in STEM fields, developed and implemented a comprehensive evaluation of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion's Community Racial Reconciliation initiative, and supported the Detroit Food Justice Task Force in their effort to establish a collaborative partnership working to eliminate racism in the Detroit food system and ensure equitable access to food, nutrition, and entrepreneurial opportunity for Detroit residents.

Director, Environmental Programs and Offerings, Antioch College
Designed environmental studies curriculum and courses to meet the needs of students in two sponsoring departments: one focusing on policy and economics, the other on social movements and humanities. Supervised senior thesis projects. Participated in related campus service and co-op programming development and oversight. Recruited cross-listed courses from other university faculty including those in environmental science and other STEM fields. Delivered courses exploring things like the evolution of environmental advocacy in the US from the early conservationists through modern environmental justice organizing, domestic and international environmental policy, urban environments, environment and international development. Many courses included hands-on experiential education from public epidemiology through found object art and an annual field trip to participate in the environmental justice tract of the Detroit Summer program.


Ph.D., Forestry: Michigan State University. Fall 1999(concentrations in Urban, Community, and Environmental Studies).

M.A., Ecological/Community Psychology: Michigan State University 1993.

Selected Publications and Reports

Vachta, K. E., Iverson, E., & Carlson, A. (2022). Building the Foundation for the Megalopolitan Coastal Transformation Hub: Principles of Engagement and Governance Structure.

Vachta, K. E., Carlson, A., & Iverson, E. (2022). Polar Literacy: 2021-2022 Annual Evaluation Reportpolar Literacy: 2021-2022 Annual Evaluation Report.

Vachta, K. E. & Iverson, E. (2022). TIDeS 2021 Evaluation Summary.

Vachta, K. E. (2021). Colorado Spirit CCP Team Professional Quality of Life. (A report to CDPHE on a statewide survey exploring compassion satisfaction, burn out, and secondary trauma among COVID crisis response workers.)

Vachta, K. E. (2020). Missouri Foundation for Health. IMRI-Wide Key Learnings Summary. January-July 2020. (Report on the progress of funded partners on the Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative which sought to reduce infant mortality largely by eliminating racial disparities in maternal health and care.)

Vachta, K. E. (2019). Missouri Foundation for Health, Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative 2018-2019 Annual Report.

Spark Policy Institute & Equal Measure (2019). Community Approaches to Systems Change: A Compendium of Practices, Reflections, and Findings

Spark Policy Institute (2019). BUILD Health Challenge: Implementation Assessment Site Reports. (Lead Author – summary reports to each of the 19 partnerships summarizing overall and site-specific progress, outcomes, and strategic guidance.)

Vachta, K. E., Kweli, M. T, Campbell, Stewart, L., Davis-Williams, P., Adjuman,H., Yakini, M., Jordan, D., Thompson-Curtis, M., Spady, L., Ademé, S. and Newsom, A. (2016). Detroit Child Health Incubator Research Project: Creating a transformational community. Poster presented at the 2016 Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB) annual conference and published in the corresponding issue of the Journal for the Society on Nutrition Education and Behavior.*

Vachta, K. E. (2010). Broadening Participation in Computing Demonstration Project, Final Report.

Vachta, K. E. (2010). Report to the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion ‐ Community Racial Reconciliation Initiative Summary of Key Findings.

McDonough, M. H. & Vachta, K. E.. (2005). "Community Empowerment and the Urban Forest" in R. G. Lee & D. R. Field Communities And Forests: Where People Meet The Land. Oregon State University Press: Corvallis, OR.

Cunningham, K. C. and Vachta, K. E.*(2003). Critical Currents in Community Service Learning and Community‐Based Research: History, Theory and Practice. Joint issue of Journal of Applied Sociology 20(2). and Sociological Practice, 5(2), 23‐41. (*Authors listed alphabetically)

Vachta, K.E. (2002). "Participatory Development and the Sustainable City." In The Sustainable City, Proceedings of the 2002 conference, Segovia, Spain.

Vachta, K. E. (2001). Quantitative/Qualitative or Positivist/Post-positivist: Participatory research and sociological inquiry. 72nd Annual meeting of the Pacific Sociological Association (PSA), San Francisco, CA.

(*Note: Similar posters reporting on progress and outcomes were presented annually and published in each annual corresponding issue of the SNEB journal, 2012-2016.)

Related Volunteer/Service

Board member, James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership (2004-2009).

NGO Observer: United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janiero Brazil (1992).

Click below for full vita.

Kerry Vachta - Full Vita (Acrobat (PDF) 362kB Nov4 21)