Building More, Making Time & Coming Together: Honoring A Magnificent Elder by Leah Christina Neubauer

This week, we honor the life and legacy of the great Dr. Stafford Hood: evaluator, educator, visionary, truth-speaker, and beloved husband, father, and colleague. This week’s authors pay tribute to Dr. Hood by sharing with us the ways in which he touched their personal and professional lives.

-Liz DiLuzio, Lead Curator

I am Leah Christina Neubauer, Associate Professor, CREA Faculty Affiliate, and Chicagoland Evaluation Affiliate member. I am deeply humbled to contribute to a week honoring the great Professor, Dr. Stafford L. Hood. I’ve been challenged to put my deep reflections in writing. I welcome your understanding and interest as I share out some of it all.

Connection To His Work: I first came to know Stafford through his writing and then through the American Evaluation Association (AEA) and the Center for Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment (CREA). Like many, I read the 2005 text, “The role of culture and cultural context in evaluation: A mandate for inclusion, the discovery of truth and understanding” and suddenly the evaluation world looked different. With that connection, I found myself immediately focused on reading everything he had ever written, several of his contributions are found here.  

Building and Dreaming More For Others: While I initially came to Dr. Hood as someone who opened doors, I swiftly found out that he built doors, buildings, and a world where many could exist and feel supported. Out of the 2014 CREA meeting, a small group of Latinx evaluators had organized and were presenting Latinx-CRE oriented work. Seeing this, Stafford invited Lisa Aponte-Soto and myself to apply to deliver this content in a workshop format, a workshop!! We hadn’t even considered a workshop yet, we were quite pleased to simply deliver our conference papers ?. Because of his invite, we were pushed to dream a bit bigger for ourselves and our collective content. Our conference papers became workshops and our workshops became bigger, creative and scholarly contributions. 

Making Time to Advance the Cause, the MEDLD Task Force: Stafford devoted his time, energy and leadership in so many ways.  We served together on AEA’s Membership Engagement, Diversity & Leadership Development, Task Force (MEDLD) whose charge was to examine the degree to which AEA could validate itself as “a socially just professional organization in which evaluators from traditionally under-represented and disenfranchised backgrounds enjoy the supports, status, recognition, opportunities, and depth of professional connections other members have long had the privilege to take for granted.” The Task Force was co-led by outgoing AEA Board Members, Robin Miller and Melvin Hall. Our team was rounded out by Stafford, Nicky Bowman, Lisa Aponte-Sote, Nicole Vicianza, Veronica Olazabal (then liaison to the AEA Board), and myself. From our first meeting together, it was quite clear that our collective energies were aligned; the experience was magic.   

Coming Together Across Generations, the MEDLD Task Force: Our group’s unprecedented charge involved systematic inquiry across decades of AEA happenings. We began in the summer of 2016 and found ourselves on teleconference lines and in conference rooms in DC and Chicago. By February of 2018, we submitted a report of evidence-based policy and programming recommendations aimed at enriching the global-reaching Association’s diversity, inclusion, and engagement efforts. Across 18-months of service, we represented collective engagement and generations of AEA coming together to dream more for our membership.

Breaking Bread Together: Amidst our work together, I came to know of Stafford’s Chicago roots and he learned of my roots, as a rural Illinoisian. Whether it was sports, Harold’s Chicken, Avanti’sLalo’s on Maxwell or anything happening across the city or state, there was something to chat about. We shared a love of nature and the outdoors. Annually I would find myself down in Urbana-Champaign for the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry and he would have the best place selected. He made time to eat, laugh, and celebrate the fullness of life.

And So, What Happens When Our Great Mentors, Our Elders Move Forward and Beyond?  Well, I just do not know the clear answer to this. My heart breaks knowing there will not be another text, conversation, brilliant critique, dropping of deep wisdom, hearty chuckle, or tasty meal. I do know that his spirit and example live on deeply inside my heart, soul and mind. My life is richer for knowing Dr. Stafford L. Hood. May my sharing of some memories evoke your own connections to his legacy and the forever impact of our most esteemed elders and mentors. Fly high and rest on with forever peace Professor Hood. 

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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