Labor Day Week: Melvin Hall on Honoring Karen Kirtkhart

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

Greetings, I am Melvin Hall, a current AEA Board Member and program evaluation specialist for over forty years. I have had many excellent mentors throughout my career including Tom Hastings, Bob Stake, Terry Denny, and Ernie House.

Why I chose to honor this evaluator:

In this series to honor living evaluators I wish to honor Karen Kirkhart, as both a leading scholar and a person who has demonstrated a commitment to social justice, making the field more engaged with and respectful of human cultural and values diversity.

Pioneering and enduring contributions:

As a scholar, Karen is a tenaciously brilliant thinker who has permanently altered the evaluation literature with her introduction of multicultural validity as a central concern for quality practice. Under the banner of evaluation influence, she additionally has effectively woven together the practical understanding of how evaluation functions as a tool of society; and in that regard, argued effectively for turning the spotlight on power and privilege that generates and maintains inequity across social institutions and interactions.

An early failure of evaluation as a profession was its unease with matters of context. While known to be central to the functioning of programs and services evaluated, the field was not equipped to think well about how to handle context in practice. Karen’s work has centered cultural context in discussion of quality practice. Working through these issues with indigenous communities and others less well served by evaluation, Karen’s legacy affirms the ethical imperative to be responsive to all stakeholders to an evaluation…not just the privileged and powerful.

As a former AEA President and thought leader in the field, Karen has provided pivotal guidance and influence to important AEA initiatives. This includes the cultural reading of the Program Evaluation standards that informed the most recent revision; development of the AEA Statement on Cultural Competence; and co-developing significant published scholarship with evaluators of color bringing new and important voices into focus for the profession.

Whenever there is acknowledgement of the present and improved state of the profession, it is easy for me to see woven into the past several years of progress, the steady hand of influence provided by Karen Kirkhart. I am one whose career trajectory was elevated by her friendship and mentoring, and thus feel honored to prompt this recognition by others.


Kirkhart, Karen E. “Seeking Multicultural Validity: A Postcard from the Road.Evaluation Practice, Vol.16, No.1, 1995, pp. 1-12.

Hood, S., Hopson, R., and Kirkhart, K. (2015). Culturally Responsive Evaluation: Theory, practice, and future implications. In Newcomer, K. and Hatry, H (Eds.). Handbook on Practical Program Evaluation (4th ed.) (pp. 281-317). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


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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