LA RED TIG Week: Polycephaly and the Evaluator of Color by Wanda Casillas

My name is Wanda Casillas, and I am an evaluator with Deloitte Consulting, LLC. I am a member of LA RED, the MIE TIG, and an alum of AEA’s GEDI Program. I have been privileged to be under the care of AEA’s community since I was born into the evaluation world. I have been mentored, nurtured and cared for by prominent, brilliant professionals who have helped me learn to navigate scholarship and the professional world, particularly as a woman of color.

In that spirit, I place great value on the role of mentorship for evaluators, regardless of their tenure or experience, who are learning to navigate culturally-situated programs- let’s say mindfully and deliberately culturally-situated, since all programs are culturally-situated to some extent. For evaluators of color, I want to draw attention to the idea that “excellence” for us is characterized not only by typical professional standards, but also by the addition of 1) advocacy and the promotion of social justice in our communities and by 2) actively seeking to work in our communities.

With this blog, I hope to encourage potential mentors to think about what these added demands mean for the training and development of evaluators of color. I often find myself questioning if this is a double-standard, and how I want to deal with it in my mentoring relationships.

Hot Tips:

Be patient.   We are asking evaluators of color to have two heads: the mainstream professional head that understands excellence and scholarship in evaluation and the head that focuses on community advocacy and challenges injustices. This isn’t an expectation to which everyone is held. Professionals new to this expectation will waver, question, and find his/her own way on his/her own time. Respect the fluidity and dynamism of growth through complex development that may sometimes appear as resistance or “giving up”.

Withhold judgement. Are we feeding into a double-standard that in its own way is a prejudice? I am reminded of president Obama. The country waited in anticipation and fear of all the social justice policies unduly expected of him merely because he was African American. Somehow, his ethnic identity was supposed to give him super powers to trump (a little pun intended) all social ills. Well, not every evaluator of color will wear both heads, and we shouldn’t expect them to. Strong, well-trained professionals and scholars of color are an asset to our profession even if they choose not work in advocacy and social justice.  It is still our duty to mentor and hone their skills and respect their professional choices. Well-trained people will do “good work”, and that will have far-reaching benefits for many.

Rad Resources: Lewis, K.R. (2014). Five mentor mistakes to avoid. Fortune Magazine.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Latina/o Responsive Evaluation Discourse TIG Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from LA RED Topical Interest Group members. 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.

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