Equity, Authenticity, and Convening: Reflecting on the Impact of Dr. Hood’s Mentorship by Ayesha Boyce

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

My name is Ayesha Boyce. I am an associate professor of Educational Leadership and Innovation at Arizona State University (ASU) and co-lead the STEM Program Evaluation Laboratory. Others within this week have done a beautiful job of highlighting some of Dr. Hood‘s amazing contributions to our field. So, in my post, I reflect on my first meeting with him and some professional lessons I have learned from him. I met Dr. Hood at a pivotal point in my burgeoning career. I was just 25 years old and working for the Arizona Department of Education (ADOE). My supervisor and colleagues suggested I seek out Dr. Hood to inquire about a PhD program at ASU. I walked into his office at ASU and there were books in stacks on the floor, along the wall, and on his desk. Moving boxes were strewn across the room. Here is my vivid recollection of that meeting.

Hood: Hello! Ayesha, right? 

Boyce: Yes, sir. 

Hood: Good, good. [grabs a stack of books and tosses them in a box]. 

Boyce: Yes, I am interested in a PhD program in evaluation at ASU. 

Hood: (gestures around the room, and grabs another stack of books] 

Boyce: [I nervously inquire] Are you moving offices? 

Hood: Yeah! I am moving more than offices. I am leaving Arizona and heading to the University of Illinois in Champaign. 

Boyce: [shock and disappointment on my face] 

Hood: It has a great program. Lots of really great professors up there. People who think well about evaluation. I did my PhD there a long time ago. Have you heard of Bob Stake? 

Boyce: [I shake my head no] 

Hood: Oh, ok you have got some learning to do! [laughs]. Well, based on your interests I believe it would be a good fit. You are a Delta right? I think you are in the alumni chapter with my wife, she will tell you. It's cold up there, really cold. But you should try to get in. 

Boyce: I don't really want to leave Arizona. 

Hood: Well there is nothing here for you at ASU, not right now anyways. Lots of changes are happening. [reflects for a few seconds, and sits down behind his desk] Well if you are set on staying here, my colleague Melvin Hall is at Northern Arizona University, I can introduce you to him. The program he is in might fit [it wasn't]. 

Boyce: Ok, thank you. I would appreciate that! 

Hood: Listen, if you change your mind about leaving Arizona, let me know. Graduate school is tough. Everyone and everywhere won't support and understand you as a Black woman. Think about it. 

Boyce: I appreciate that advice. I will be heading to my first American Evaluation Association Conference in November. 

Hood: That will be great. I will introduce you to some of the big wigs in the field then. [Stands back up and surveys all he still needs to pack]. I'll get you that introduction to Melvin. Good luck!

I share our first interaction because I believe it captures who Stafford was as a mentor. He was busy but would always make time for a meeting. He reviewed drafts of cover letters, my tenure dossier research statement, and my curriculum vitae. He was direct and always told you exactly what he thought. He was a connector and networker. He laughed easily and smiled frequently. 

Maria Jimenez, Gabriela Garcia, Jennifer Greene, Ayesha Boyce, & Stafford Hood – AEA 2011
Maria Jimenez, Gabriela Garcia, Jennifer Greene, Ayesha Boyce, & Stafford Hood – AEA 2011

The rest of that story is history. I met with Melvin Hall and to my dismay, he also strongly suggested that I leave Arizona and apply to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). I did see Stafford in Denver at my first AEA in 2008. As promised, he introduced me to many evaluation leaders. One of them was Jennifer Greene, who ended up being my advisor at UIUC. Over the course of the next 15 years, Stafford (and Denice) became mentors, colleagues, and friends.

Lessons Learned

Melvin Hall, Ayesha Boyce, & Stafford Hood – AEA 2015
Melvin Hall, Ayesha Boyce, & Stafford Hood – AEA 2015
  1. Culturally responsive evaluation is concerned with equity and justice. In 1998 Stafford coined the term culturally responsive evaluation (CRE) at the festschrift for his mentor Robert Stake. In his reflections, he outlined the importance of shared lived experiences, the need for more Black evaluators, and argued for attention to cultural nuances. As his thinking evolved, he continued to reflect, alone and with others, about the importance of interrogating culture, race, equity, social justice, power, white privilege, and evaluator self-reflection as key tenets of CRE (See Hood, Hopson, & Kirkhart, 2015)
  2. Remain true to your authentic self. Stafford was someone who owned his positionality. He always made sure to let people know that he was a Black man, husband, father, and member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity Inc. In public presentations he masterfully mixed academic and Black vernacular english. In less public meetings he might even cuss a little. Just in being himself, he reminded me to never shirk from any of my own identities and to bring as much of my whole self into my work as I could.
  3. Convene colleagues to plan, reflect, share, and just be. Prior to founding the Center for Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment (CREA) at UIUC, Stafford was a founding Co-Director of the national conference on the Relevance of Assessment and Culture in Evaluation. He knew that it was essential to find time to ‘preach to the choir’; to be around colleagues with similar personal and professional commitments.
Stafford Hood & Ayesha Boyce – AEA 2018
Stafford Hood & Ayesha Boyce – AEA 2018

I was excited when Stafford and Denice began to spend more time in Arizona. We meet up for lunch and planned to gather our families together this spring. His passing has deeply impacted me personally and professionally. I owe him a debt of gratitude that can only be paid with my continued work in our field and mentorship of emerging evaluators.  

Rad Resources

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