Labor Day week: Lauren Workman and Kelli Kenison on Honoring Ruth P. Saunders

This is part of a two-week series honoring our living evaluation pioneers in conjunction with Labor Day in the USA (September 5).

Hello! We are Lauren Workman (Research Assistant Professor) and Kelli Kenison (Clinical Assistant Professor), at the Core for Applied Research and Evaluation in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. Today, we are honoring Ruth P. Saunders, PhD, professor emerita in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Dr. Saunders made significant contributions to public health program evaluation, as well as process evaluation and implementation monitoring.

Why we chose to honor this evaluator:

Dr. Saunders shaped our careers as evaluators, as well as the careers of numerous other students and colleagues. In addition to her work as an evaluator, Dr. Saunders taught and mentored graduate students, providing them with the training needed to gather information to improve programs and public health and attend to the importance of context and situating findings in the real world. In addition to mentoring students, Dr. Saunders served as a resource and mentor for public health colleagues and community members throughout South Carolina. She is sought out not only for her academic expertise, but also for her extremely supportive and helpful demeanor. Her accomplishments and contributions are clear, but the depth to which Dr. Saunders has impacted our own work, as well as the work of many others, deserves to be recognized and celebrated. She is unique in that her approach to evaluation is extremely systematic, but at the same time practical and emphasizes “working with, not on.”

Contributions to our field:

Dr. Saunders published over 100 research articles in peer-reviewed journals and made over 30 scholarly presentations, including several at AEA. Throughout her career, she served as the lead process evaluator on numerous large-scale interventions. For these complex projects, Dr. Saunders developed multi-level conceptual models to inform a comprehensive understanding of organizational environments and constructed scales and indexes to assess contextual factors and implementation processes. Moreover, her work informed approaches to addressing challenges to program implementation in ‘real world’ settings, as well as a methodology for designing and applying comprehensive implementation monitoring. She compiled the knowledge and resources gained throughout her career in a practical guide, Implementation Monitoring and Process Evaluation Textbook, published by Sage in 2015.

Resource: Implementation Monitoring and Process Evaluation Textbook


The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Labor Day Week in Evaluation: Honoring Evaluation’s Living Pioneers. The contributions this week are tributes to our living evaluation pioneers who have made important contributions to our field and even positive impacts on our careers as evaluators. 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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