University of Arizona students taking up Program Planning and Evaluation collaborated with Tucson-based Beads of Courage to develop a model for self-evaluation. The self-evaluation process will help the nonprofit make data-informed decisions about their programs and make the organization more effective in reaching its goals.

Joel Badzinski filed this report for the University of Arizona News:

During the spring 2019 semester, students in the class worked with Tucson-based Beads of Courage to help the nonprofit organization develop an evaluation that will allow it to better make data-informed decisions and assess over time the performance of its programs.

Beads of Courage, founded in 2005 by Jean Gribbon, who earned her bachelor’s and Ph.D. in nursing from the UA, is an art-based therapy program that provides glass beads for children who are coping with serious illness. For each step of their treatment, the children receive a unique handmade bead that helps tell their story.

More than 200 children’s hospitals in the U.S., Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom offer Beads of Courage.


Mars said Beads of Courage made sense for his class because the organization had never done a formal program evaluation, meaning the students in Mars’ course would be creating a pilot questionnaire and interview protocol rather than building off of previous results.

“So rather than come to a conclusion, which is really hard to do if you don’t have baseline data, we can make recommendations the program can use going forward in support of program expansion and innovation,” Mars said.

Gribbon suggested a neonatal critical unit for pilot evaluation. Mars’ class worked with parents and caregivers at the University of South Alabama Children’s Hospital, distributing online questionnaires and following up with phone interviews. The group made its final presentation of the project on May 6.