American Evaluation Association awarded Professor Donna M. Mertens, Department of Educational Foundations and Research, the PAUL F. LAZARSFELD THEORY AWARD at their annual meeting in Orlando Florida on November 13, 2009. The Lazarfeld Theory Award is presented to an individual whose written work on evaluation theory has led to fruitful debates on the assumptions, goals, and practices of evaluation.
Mertens posits that the field of evaluation can transform society through work that shares - or brings - the voices of those pushed to societal margins into the world of research. This applies to those discriminated and oppressed due to factors including but not limited to race/ethnicity, disability, immigrant status, political conflicts, sexual orientation, poverty, gender or age as well as power structures that perpetuate social inequities and indigenous people and scholars from marginalized communities undergoing change. Mertens explains that "The transformative approach to evaluation makes explicit the use of evaluation for the purpose of furthering social justice."