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Dr. Syard Evans Receives 2022 CQL Award of Excellence

CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership is recognizing Dr. Syard Evans, Chief Executive Officer of Arkansas Support Network (ASN), with a 2022 Award of Excellence. This international award highlights Dr. Evans’ leadership in supporting self-advocates, advancing human rights protections, empowering direct support professionals, and promoting innovation across the agency and beyond. More importantly, her efforts have had a demonstrable effect on the lives of people receiving services, beyond solely impacting organizational operations. 

“Organizational transformation is not an easy undertaking. It requires exemplary leadership skills,” says Mary Kay Rizzolo, President and CEO of CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership. “Syard embodies those traits to inspire staff and spark change, so it’s our honor to recognize her as a CQL Award of Excellence recipient.” 

Dr. Evans Is ‘Centering The Humans in Human Services’ 

Dr. Evans started her work at Arkansas Support Network as a 19-year-old direct support professional (DSP). Now, after 22 years, she is pioneering efforts to transform the culture and direction of the organization and industry. From promoting leadership development among people receiving services to addressing the issues that DSPs face, Dr. Evans’ personal quest is ‘centering the humans in human services.’ 

“We don’t just want to provide good quality services; we want to be able to accurately value the people we support as the experts of their own lives and to empower them to live the lives they desire,” says Dr. Syard Evans, CEO of Arkansas Support Network. “In order to support people in this way, it’s necessary for us to understand the oppressive systems that impact people’s lives and be willing to do the work necessary to negate the harms those systems have on the people we support and the people we employ.” 

Organization-Wide Examples of Excellence 

While Dr. Evans has led multiple new initiatives across the organization, there are a few that especially stand out. Listed below are just some of those examples that represent the level of dedication and vision that make Dr. Evans such an incredible Awards of Excellence recipient. 

  • Self-Advocacy Advisory Council – The seven-person group advises ASN on hiring practices, fair treatment topics, recreation options, and more. 
  • Human Rights Committee (HRC) – To protect rights of people receiving services, the committee educates on, reviews, and addresses rights restrictions placed on those supported. 
  • Direct Support Professional Council (DSPC) – The council gathers and acts upon input from direct support professionals (DSPs) to promote change that benefits employees. 
  • Innovations and Investment Committee (IIC) – Expanding innovation and investment opportunities, the committees guides ASN in advancing its objectives. 

To help facilitate these organizational-wide programs, Dr. Evans established a senior leadership level position at ASN responsible for auditing all ASN programs and making program recommendations to ensure the work of the agency remains focused on the mission of the organization. The position is titled Ethics and Mission Integration Director, and the role is required to be filled by a person who has first-hand experience receiving home and community-based services (HCBS). The position is  integral to organizing and coordinating committees and councils, while guiding agency-level decision-making. 

“She is a fierce and passionate advocate who never turns down an opportunity to increase the quality of services people receive,” shares Lindsey Parker, Director of Behavioral Health for Arkansas Support Network. 

About Arkansas Support Network 

Arkansas Support Network provides support and services to individuals with disabilities and their families. They are a licensed disabilities service provider for all of Arkansas, with offices in Springdale, Fort Smith, Camden, and Jonesboro. ASN works with a wide range of government agencies and departments, nonprofit organizations, health care facilities, education agencies, local schools, foundations, businesses, and individuals to provide the most effective and highest quality supports for people with disabilities in environments they and their families choose for themselves. The mission of ASN is to “recognize and support every person’s right to be included in the life of the community.”  

About the CQL Awards of Excellence 

The CQL Awards of Excellence recognize individuals, organizations, and/or systems that exemplify the very best in human services for people with disabilities. The 2022 award recipients were selected among numerous submissions by entities that have achieved CQL Accreditation and/or CQL Certification. Since the CQL Awards of Excellence was first established in 2015, there have been just over a dozen recipients of this prestigious designation. 

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Since 1969, CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership has been a leader in working with human service organizations and systems to continuously define, measure, and improve quality of life and quality of services for youth, adults, and older adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities. CQL offers accreditation, training, certification, research, and consultation services to agencies that share our vision of dignity, opportunity, and community for all people.