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Work Hard. Be Each Other’s Business: Lessons learned from Dr. Stafford Hood by Pamela Frazier-Anderson

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

Hello! I’m Pamela Frazier-Anderson, a culturally responsive program evaluator and the founder of Kandaki Tech, a responsive website design company.

In Reflections on the Journey of One Aspiring Culturally Responsive Evaluator-Thus Far, Dr. Stafford Hood wrote, “I have gotten beyond trying to explain how I got here. I do not think I have been in control of this ride; a lot of it does not make sense. Just a quick, subtle change of destiny and someone else would have been sitting here-not me.” 

This comment perfectly captures the start of my personal and professional journey with Stafford Hood. Had I not, by chance, taken his program evaluation course at Arizona State University, I would not have had the privilege of being his “first minted doc student” (his words), a culturally responsive evaluator, or co-developer of the ACESAS model for conducting culturally responsive evaluation (CRE) with him.

When I think of Stafford, one word that immediately comes to mind is “work.” As a mentor, Stafford was encouraging and supportive with rigorous standards. His expectations were high, and he was honest with his criticism. If he believed you were serious and committed to your work, he would be one of your most vocal advocates and strongest supporters. Yet, there were limitations. I vividly remember one of our first conversations at Arizona State as my dissertation chair. He said, “I will work as hard as you, but I will NOT work harder than you (on your behalf).”

Stafford’s work ethic was unsurpassed. He would occasionally say that “sometimes the work we do is challenging, but it must be done.” He instilled in me the value of hard work and the futility of complaining about it. Hard work coupled with passion is a necessary means to an end when the goal is to achieve better outcomes for historically marginalized, disenfranchised, and vulnerable populations. From Stafford, I learned that my responsibility as a culturally responsive program evaluator is to ensure that all stakeholders’ voices are respected, represented, and heard. This is not a simple task. Doing this takes more time, effort, humility, sensitivity, and honest self-reflection than most traditional evaluation methods. Unfortunately, not everyone who can incorporate CRE into their work does or knows how. Not everyone with decision-making power requires CRE as a skillset or sees its value. Only some people are up to the task. Even when up to the task, not everyone is willing to spend the extra hours, let alone decades doing it. But Stafford Hood was committed to this work for more than three decades and did it exceptionally well.

Stafford, who first coined the term “culturally responsive evaluation,” emphasized that our work should have meaning and “do no harm” to others. Therefore, it is vital to “get it right.” Our evaluation activities can have significant implications on policy and programmatic decisions, which can, in turn, positively or negatively affect lives and livelihoods. I will never forget his words: “Once something is out there (meaning in the digital space or printed media), you can’t take it back, so make sure it is right before you let it go.”

While working on the Center for Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment (CREA) end-of-year greeting last year, Stafford sent me an email containing one sentence. It read, “I like this one.” It was a quote from Gwendolyn Brooks stating: “We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” Our strengths are derived from each other. To move forward, we must find ways to respect, understand, celebrate, and value cultural differences. We must “be each other’s business.” So, in honor of Dr. Stafford Hood’s legacy, I challenge each of you to “roll up your sleeves” and get to work.

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