Missouri Humanities Council taps DU professor to lead regional outreach

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Aug. 31, 2017 — Drury English professor Dr. Katherine Gilbert has been selected by the Missouri Humanities Council to help expand the organization’s reach statewide. Gilbert and Drury will work with the nonprofit to deliver more of its programming and education in Springfield and across southwest Missouri.

Representatives from MHC and Drury signed an articulation agreement formalizing the partnership earlier today.

From left: MHC executive director Steve Belko, Dr. Katherine Gilbert, Drury president Dr. Tim Cloyd

The MHC was established in 1971 to serve as one of the 56 state and territorial humanities councils affiliated with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Its mission is to enrich lives and strengthen communities by connecting Missourians with the people, places, and ideas that shape our society. MHC provides programming that encourages family reading, highlights Missouri’s heritage, supports creative writing by veterans, and assists local museums, libraries, and other organizations promoting education. It facilitates public conversations on topics that include history, religion, archaeology, anthropology, philosophy, literature, law, ethics, and languages.

We spoke to Belko and Gilbert about this partnership before the signing ceremony.

Question: Tell us about the mission and work of the Missouri Humanities Council.

Steve Belko: As a statewide nonprofit organization committed to advancing the humanities throughout Missouri, our mission is to enrich lives and strengthen communities by connecting Missourians to the people, places, and ideas that shape our society. Through our five comprehensive programs – Heritage, Education, Family, Veterans, and Grants – we offer an extensive array of public programming opportunities that enhance in various ways the quality of life for the citizens of this state. Our vision is to create in Missouri a more thoughtful, informed, and civil society, and our reach extends into every county.

Why do you believe the MHC’s work is so important?

Dr. Katherine Gilbert: I’ve long admired the work of the MHC. They are excellent at bringing the humanities to the public, and intertwining scholarship, community engagement, big ideas, and civil discourse when doing so. The humanities help us all to think about what it means to be human, and to create bridges with others who come from other places and other time periods. This is life-enriching work that is also good for our democracy. I feel honored to have the chance to participate in it.

Belko: Simply put, we are here to perform a public service that government agencies and private entities cannot do so efficiently and effectively.  It is important to advance democratic principles, inspire social dialogue (in a civil manner), provide our underserved and underrepresented citizens with crucial programs that not only benefit them on an individual basis, but enhance our overall society here in Missouri, and, above all, improve the quality of life.

President Cloyd and Steve Belko sign the agreement between Drury and MHC.

Q: Dr. Gilbert, what will your role as the MHC’s local director for Southwest Missouri entail?

I will be reaching out to develop connections with a number of organizations that work in the humanities across southwest Missouri. So often, people don’t realize the ways in which the Humanities are already enhancing their own lives, be it through participation in a book club, attending a talk at your local library, or viewing a film at an independent theater like the Moxie. I plan to connect with groups that are doing this kind of work, and to collaboratively develop new ideas for how to grow the public Humanities across the southwest part of the state, in cities, rural areas and smaller towns.

How can people connect with MHC if they’re interested in partnering in some way?

Gilbert: While I’ll be reaching out to many folks in the near future, if anyone would like to contact me first, they can phone me at (417) 873-6941 or email me at kgilbert@drury.edu.

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