Labor Day Week: Sonja Evensen and Judith Inazu on Honoring Lois-Ellin Datta

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

Aloha, we are Sonja Evensen, Evaluation Senior Specialist at Pacific Resources for Education and Learning, and Judith Inazu, Acting Director, Social Science Research Institute, University of Hawai’i. In 2006, we worked together to establish the Hawai’i-Pacific Evaluation Association (H-PEA), an affiliate of AEA. We wish to nominate Dr. Lois-ellin Datta as our most-esteemed evaluator.

Why we chose to honor this evaluator:

Lois-ellin Datta has made tremendous contributions to the field of evaluation at the international, national, and local levels. Many know of her leadership and influence on the national scene, but few know of how she has given unselfishly in supporting the development and survival of H-PEA. In those early years, she participated in our conferences as a keynoter, workshop presenter, and panelist — every time we asked, she said yes, and did so without compensation. When we were getting organized she told us that it was easy to start something (H-PEA) but difficult to sustain it. Fortunately, H-PEA is now celebrating its 10th “birthday” and is still going strong! We are forever grateful for her support, both financial and strategic, in our efforts to grow the Hawaii-Pacific Evaluation Association.

Contributions to our field:

Dr. Datta spent many years in Washington, D.C., serving as director or head of research of many organizations, including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. General Accounting Office where she received the Distinguished Service Award and the Comptroller General’s Award.

She has served as past-president of AEA, a board member of AEA and the Evaluation Research Society, chief editor for New Directions in Evaluation, and now serves on the editorial boards of the American Journal of Evaluation, International Encyclopedia of Evaluation, and the International Handbook of Education, among others.

Dr. Datta has written over 100 articles and three books, all while providing in-kind assistance to countless local organizations such as the Hau’oli Mau Loa Foundation, the Maori-Hawaiian Evaluation Hui, and the Native Hawaiian Education Council in support of culturally sensitive evaluation approaches.

Lois-ellin is precise and exacting in her work and simultaneously caring and sensitive to those she works with. She has always been keenly focused on achieving social justice and mindful of the importance of policy. We deeply admire her intellect and wit, but it is her encouragement and boundless enthusiasm which make her such a valued colleague and advisor. Each time her counsel is sought, she thoroughly considers the issue at hand before providing a deliberate, thoughtful response. Over the years, the unique contributions of Lois-ellin Datta to the field of evaluation at the local, national, and international levels have been legendary.


Lois-ellin Datta on LinkedIn

The Kohala Center

Books by Lois-ellin Datta

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.

1 thought on “Labor Day Week: Sonja Evensen and Judith Inazu on Honoring Lois-Ellin Datta”

  1. I would like to commend Dr. Shelia Robinson for coordinating and posting these stories honoring evaluation pioneers. Even though our profession is based on measuring data, I’ve enjoyed reading these stories about how our evaluation pioneers have given their time beyond measure to empower others. What a great story on servant leadership!

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