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Humanities Kansas team

People

Change the World

                             
                             

We believe that stories carry our culture and ideas change the world

Since our founding as an independent nonprofit in 1972, Humanities Kansas has pioneered programming, grants and partnerships that share stories to spark conversations — drawing people together and generating new ideas. These stories and ideas inspire each of us in Kansas to play a part in strengthening our communities and our democracy.

 

Our stories tell us who we were.

Our conversations inform who we are.

Our actions define who we'll become.

We've impacted 107 communities.

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In 2019, our work reached 1 in 5 Kansans across 107 communities.

  • $292,802 awarded in Culture Preservation and Humanities for All grants, plus Community Resources
  • 685 supported events and grants
  • 193 partnerships with local organizations
  • $808,692 leveraged in community support

We believe that democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens — and that the humanities provide a way to gain both. Our programming, grants and resources are designed to share stories that inspire, spark conversations that inform, and generate insights that strengthen civic engagement.

Download Annual Report

Our Staff

Julie L. Mulvihill main image Julie L. Mulvihill hover image Julie L. Mulvihill Executive Director
 
Julie L. Mulvihill picture

Julie L. Mulvihill

Executive Director

"I love the humanities because there’s an encouragement, an expectation that we should all see beyond ourselves, and connect our own experiences with those of others."

Email: julie@humanitieskansas.org

Years Dedicated to the Humanities: 17 years, 11 as Executive Director of Humanities Kansas 

Hometown: Perry, KS

Education: I have a Masters in Historical Administration and Museum Studies with an emphasis in study in anthropology from the University of Kansas. I also hold a Bachelors of Science in Education, Social Studies and English from the University of Kansas.
 
Career Highlights:
I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with some of the smartest, most imaginative and civic-minded people in Kansas. I’ve met so many people I admire, won a Kansas Sampler Foundation’s We Kan! award on behalf of our work, and have been humbled with a line in a skit performed for our 40th anniversary by our board members. (In the style of Rock Island from Music Man:  Ever meet that person named Mulvihill? Mulvihill? Mulvihill? Mulvihill? Mulvihill! Mulvihill? Mulvihill!  … She’s a bang beat, bell ringing, big haul, great go, neck or nothing, rip roarin’, every time a bull’s eye person. That’s director Julie Mulvihill.”)

Why do you love the humanities?
I love the humanities because there’s an encouragement, an expectation that we should all see beyond ourselves, and connect our own experiences with those of others. Since I was a little kid, the humanities have inspired me, spurred me into action, and given me reason to pause for some serious thinking. I didn’t recognize my love of reading and history and curiosity about life in general as “the humanities” then, but I remember going to a museum in grade school and learning about the Galapagos Islands and sitting there on my carpet square and thinking, “there is a whole world out there that I know nothing about” and I felt like it was an important responsibility to know more.  It excited me then and it excites me now. That’s the humanities at work.

Why do BIG IDEAS matter to you, and for the future of Kansas?
The foundation of democracy is built on the principles of the humanities and the values that define us. I know that might sound kind of lofty but it’s true. In fact, the legislation that created the National Endowment for the Humanities states that “democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens.” Now there’s an example of a big idea. The humanities help us ask good questions: what do we value, how has that changed over time and across generations, what do we owe to one another, and where do we make adjustments to prepare for the generations to come? We are grounded in this ideal that the human experience is worthy of our attention. Big ideas are the only way to tackle the big topics in front of us and there is never a shortage of big topics to cover in Kansas or anywhere.

Why do you love what you do?
I love the energy that happens when people have a connection with the humanities. We call it the humanities buzz. I’ve seen it happen all over the state and it’s that moment when you feel the hair on the back of your neck tingle as people volley ideas and perspectives back and forth or when a community comes together to participate in something that’s meaningful. I’ve felt the buzz at ribbon cuttings for museum exhibits, during oral histories about segregation, and while watching a locally produced short film in a small town American Legion. I could go on and on. Craig Miner, a stalwart in the Kansas history field, had a better term for it. He called the buzz “soul transformation.” None of this would happen without the boldness and vision of the people leading these movements within their own town, often librarians, museum curators, and others working in the cultural sector.  They make all the difference in our state.

Fun Facts:

  • I make up songs and sing them to my dog.
  • Once I gave a heart shaped potato chip as a gift on Valentine’s Day.
  • I’m fascinated by real life stories of art heists and art theft detectives.
  • I’ll read pretty much any piece of fiction with a protagonist who is an archivist, museum curator, professor, historian, archaeologist, anthropologist, park ranger, rare books restorer, librarian. You get the idea. I welcome recommendations.


Favorite Kansan Quote:

  • “All night Kansas/the lungs of the continent/takes a sip of the galaxy.” Poet Wyatt Townley from her poem, “Centering the House.”
  • “Never waste a crisis,” advice given by Sue Sutton former KHC board member from Concordia and retired Dean of Humanities at Cloud County Community College.

What's the inside scoop that we should know about Kansas?
I live in rural Jefferson County, not far from the roots of two dreamers — noted regionalist painter John Steuart Curry and Samuel Peppard, who mounted a mast and sail to his farm wagon in 1860 in an attempt to ride the wind to the gold fields of Colorado. He nearly made it. You can see monuments to both Curry and Peppard’s windwagon in Oskaloosa.

 
Leslie Daugharthy main image Leslie Daugharthy hover image Leslie Daugharthy Director of Finance
 
Leslie Daugharthy picture

Leslie Daugharthy

Director of Finance

"The humanities allow me to engage with my state, community and past in new and fascinating ways.  "

Email: leslie@humanitieskansas.org

Years dedicated to the humanities: 1.5 years

Hometown:  I was born in Emporia, but have lived in Topeka the majority of my life (excluding a short stint in Columbia, MO).

Education: B.G.S. in Anthropology with a minor in Sociology and MA in Public Administration, both from KU. ROCK CHALK!

Why do you love the humanities? I am a curious person and the humanities allow me to engage with my state, community and past in new and fascinating ways.  

Why do BIG IDEAS matter to you, and for the future of Kansas? We are living through a divisive time and have difficulty engaging with ideas different than our own. We are siloed in many ways but sharing ideas in a respectful platform can lead to empathy for others and the way they experience the world.

Any fun facts that we should know about you? 

  • I am really good at blowing bubble gum bubbles.
  • I love taking quizzes on Buzzfeed.
  • I am a fan of British TV. My current favorite is 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown.

Favorite quote by a Kansan: 

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity” – Amelia Earhart

“The greatest things [about Kansas] are the simplicity of life, watching the thunderheads building on the horizon and running though cornfields.” – Erin Brockovich

Inside scoop or fun fact about Kansas? 

Second only to Texas, there have been more meteorites found in Kansas than in any other state west of the Mississippi River. 

The graham cracker was named after Kansas minister Reverend Sylvester Graham who preferred whole wheat flour crackers. 

 

 

 
Abigail Kaup main image Abigail Kaup hover image Abigail Kaup Program Officer
 
Abigail Kaup picture

Abigail Kaup

Program Officer

"Big ideas are how we spark conservations and fresh ideas that could transform our lives."

Email: abigail@humanitieskansas.org

Years dedicated to the humanities: One and a half years.

Hometown: I’ve lived in Kansas my entire life! I grew up in Plainville, Kansas. For the past several years I have lived in Lawrence and find it a great place to call home.  

Education: I have a BA in Art History from Baker University and a Masters Degree in Art History from the University of Kansas. 

Career highlights: During my last semester of graduate school, visiting Murphy Professor, Erika Doss, (a leading historian of modern American art and culture and Professor of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame) whose writing I greatly admire, complimented my research on the American artist Paul Cadmus. 

A more recent highlight has been working with organizations across Kansas to develop their Museum on Main Street projects and exhibits. Kansas is brimming with interesting stories—some familiar and others waiting to be uncovered. I like supporting communities as they cultivate ideas and see their projects come to fruition. 

Working at Humanities Kansas I’ve also been able to get know my state, its history, and the people who live here better—that’s pretty special.

Why do you love the humanities? The humanities tell stories of our past, help us to understand who we are and what we value, and inspire us to think creatively and thoughtfully. I love the humanities because art, literature, history, philosophy, ethics, religious studies all have a unique ability to help us connect across our differences and bring people together. 

Why do BIG IDEAS matter to you, and for the future of Kansas? Big Ideas matter because that’s when change can happen. When we share big ideas, listen to each other, and engage in thoughtful conversations, we develop as individuals and as a community. Big ideas are how we spark conservations and fresh ideas that could transform our lives. This is important for the sustainability of our communities and state.

Any fun facts that we should know about you? 

  • I love the theatre. I went to college to study theatre before I changed my major to art history. I continued to act and work backstage all throughout my undergraduate experience, and I still hold “script nights” with my college friends.
  • I’m fascinated with true crime stories and like to read books from the genre and watch true crime documentaries. 

Favorite quote by a Kansan: “The most effective way to do it is to do it.”—Amelia Earhart

Anything else we should know about you? I have a corgi named Larry. He’s the best.

 

 
Tracy Quillin main image Tracy Quillin hover image Tracy Quillin Associate Director
 
Tracy Quillin picture

Tracy Quillin

Associate Director

"We have the opportunity to explore ideas that matter and in a way that can impact our future."

Email: tracy@humanitieskansas.org

Years Dedicated to the Humanities: 11

Hometown:
I spent my early years in Leawood. My family moved to Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, (just outside Madison) when I was 11 and that’s where my parents still live. I now live in Lawrence and consider it to be my adopted hometown because I’ve lived there longer than I’ve lived anywhere else!

Education:
I have a BA in History and a BA in Art History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I have a Masters Degree in Historical Administration and Museum Studies from the University of Kansas.

My background is in museums and I was curator of education at the Johnson County Museum prior to coming to Humanities Kansas.

Career Highlights:
My first full-time museum/humanities job was as site manager for the Lanesfield School Historic Site in Edgerton, Kansas. I dressed as a 1904 schoolteacher and led 4th and 5th graders through an immersive, first-person 1904 school experience. My favorite part of the job – and what’s stuck with me over the years – was how the power of stories and hands-on experience brought history alive for the students. It was amazing to see 21st century students transport themselves back in time over the course of a day. When we put ourselves in other people’s shoes, we build empathy and a better understanding of how we got “here.”

A highlight of my current position has been unlocking the power of storytelling. Whether it’s working with Kansas communities to develop their local stories for Museum on Main Street projects or sharing our stories and the stories of our statewide partners on social media and in publications. Every person and every community has a unique story that no one else can tell. It’s been enlightening and inspiring to bring these stories to light though my work at Humanities Kansas.

Working on the rebranding for Humanities Kansas is another highlight of my work with Humanities Kansas. The transistion to Humanities Kansas is the start of another exciting new chapter in the organization’s rich 45-year history. I am motivated and re-invigorated by the opportunity to connect the work of Humanities Kansas with even more people who live in our state through the movement of ideas.

Why do you love the humanities?
The humanities help us understand the world around us, by providing context, sharing stories and perspectives, and encouraging inquiry and reflection. The humanities show that we are all in this human experience together and, through the humanities, we can come together to engage in civil discourse to have thoughtful, meaningful discussions about our past, present, and future without intolerance and partianship.  
 

Why do BIG IDEAS matter to you, and for the future of Kansas?
There’s never been a better time for Big Ideas in Kansas. We have the opportunity to explore ideas that matter together and in a way that can impact our future. Now is not the time to shy away. There’s a perception that Kansas is “boring” and behind the times -- that it’s just like the black and white scenes from “The Wizard of Oz.” What the people of Kansas know, and what we need to expand on, is that there are people in our state who are doing big, exciting things. We need to connect those people through the movement of ideas and work together to share and inspire others to join the movement.

Why do you love what you do?
My favorite part of the working at Humanities Kansas is what I refer to as the “humanities buzz” – it’s that feeling you get when the hairs on the back of you neck stand up because something magical is happening: the shared experience of the humanities. It could be the outpouring of local stories at a grassroots history exhibition in Perry or immigrants from Laos sharing traditional dances in Winfield or a room full of awe-inspired silence as the Poet Laureate of Kansas finishes reading a poem. Everyone on staff has countless examples of when they have experienced the “humanities buzz” and the list continues to grow  and inspire us as we encounter people across the state who are sharing ideas and making connections with one another.

Fun Facts:
I am postcard famous. I was once the model for the 1950s All-Electric House at the Johnson County Museum and from time to time I’ll see the postcard in circulation or my photo will appear in a book, newspaper article, or online.

I like to cook and bake In my spare time. In fact, the more stressed I am, the more I like to bake. I’m currently working through recipes in “Dinner: Changing the Game” by Melissa Clark and “Sweet” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh. This obsession is especially popular with my husband who is a chef and appreciates it when someone else is doing the cooking.

Also in my spare time, you can find me shopping for antiques, reading, having a dance party with my two sons, doing yoga, trying new restaurants, visiting muesums, or pouring over home décor ideas.


Favorite Kansan Quote: 
“Kansas had better stop raising corn and begin raising hell.” - Mary Elizabeth Lease, 19th Century Kansas Lecturer and Writer 

“Women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others.” – Amelia Earhart

Inside scoop on Kansas?
One of the perks of working at Humanities Kansas is that you really get to know the state firsthand through all of the travels. Each city and town in Kansas has its own unique qualities, interesting history, and wonderful historic architecture. Everyone should take the time to explore our state! And if someone offers to give you a tour of their town or recommends a place to try, take them up on it. It’s hard to pick just one place to visit, but a particular standout is southwest Kansas. I love going to Garden City for the food (Pho Hoa One for Vietnamese and El Zarape for Mexican). Dodge City is a favorite for the absolutely charming saloon show at the Boot Hill Museum and the Boot Hill Distillery which is housed in an amazing 1920s Spanish Colonial Revival building.

Anything else we should know about you?
My Hogwarts house is Hufflepuff.

 
Leighann Thone main image Leighann Thone hover image Leighann Thone Development Officer
 

Leighann Thone

Development Officer

 
Leslie VonHolten main image Leslie VonHolten hover image Leslie VonHolten Director of Grants and Outreach
 

Leslie VonHolten

Director of Grants and Outreach

 

Our Board of Directors

 
Patricia E. Ackerman, Abilene
 

Patricia E. Ackerman

Abilene

Patricia E. Ackerman, Ph.D., Abilene, serves as a Professor of Language Arts at Kansas State University. She is an alumni of Marymount College of Kansas, Fort Hays State University, and Kansas State University. As a freelance writer she has published dozens of magazine articles and most recently a book entitled Marymount College: A History.

 
Brad Allen, Lawrence
 

Brad Allen

Lawrence

Brad Allen, Lawrence, has been the Executive Director of the Lawrence Public Library since 2012. He has over 15 years of experience working in public libraries in Kansas and on the West Coast.

 
Lori A. Goetsch, Manhattan
 

Lori A. Goetsch

Manhattan

Lori A. Goetsch, Manhattan, has served as dean of Kansas State University Libraries since May 2004, coming to Kansas State after serving as director of the Public Services Division at the University of Maryland's Libraries. Goetsch is a member of the American Library Association, where she has served as a member of the board of directors of its academic division, the Association of College and Research Libraries, and as president of the division from 2009-2010. She earned a master of library science from Rosary College, now Dominican University, and master's and bachelor's degrees, both in English, from Illinois State University.

 
Kim Goodnight, Maize
 

Kim Goodnight

Maize

Kim Goodnight is Regional Manager of Local Government and Community Affairs for ITC Great Plains, a subsidiary of the nation's largest independent electricity transmission company. He is a sixth generation Kansan, past state President of the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts, and Ford County Commissioner. Kim is a board member of the Boot Hill Museum and founder of the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame. He is active in the Rotary Club of East Wichita, Dodge City Festivals Inc., Dodge City/Ford County Economic Development, and the Ford County Historical Society. He and his wife, Beth, life in Maize.

 
Natalie G. Haag, Topeka
 

Natalie G. Haag

Topeka

Natalie G. Haag, Topeka, currently serves as General Counsel of Capitol Federal Savings Bank. Prior to joining Capitol Federal she worked nine years as in-house counsel for Security Benefit Corporation. Since graduating from Washburn University School of Law in 1985 Natalie has also served as General Counsel and Chief of Staff to Governor Graves, prosecuted for four years, handled civil litigation for six years, and served two years as an agency director. Natalie was the President of the Kansas Bar Association, President of the Board of Directors for the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, Chair of the Missouri Valley Swimming Association, on the Board of Directors for the Stormont Vail Foundation, and the 2nd Congressional District attorney representative on the Supreme Court Nominating Commission.

 
Kevass Harding, Wichita
 

Kevass Harding

Wichita

Rev. Dr. Kevass J. Harding, a Wichita native, received his Master of Divinity Degree (cum laude) from Phillips Theological Seminary and his Doctor of Ministry Degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. In 2002, Dr. Harding was ordained an Elder in the United Methodist Church and currently serves as lead pastor of Dellrose United Methodist Church in Wichita. In addition to his ministerial work, Dr. Harding is a developer, author, and serves as executive director of Hope Enterprise Community Development Corporation. Dr. Harding is a former board member of Wichita USD 259 and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Sedgwick County. He is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and serves on the board of Youth Entrepreneurs and the Greater Wichita Ministerial League. Dr. Harding is married to the former Teketa Berry and they have two adult children.

 
Mike Heldstab, Wichita
 

Mike Heldstab

Wichita

Mike Heldstab, Wichita, has served as the State Military Liaison and the District Representative for United State Senator Jerry Moran since 2014. Born and raised in Kansas, Mike has recently served on numerous boards, including the Kansas National Guard Foundation, Wichita District II City Council Advisory Board, Wichita Grants Review Committee, Junction City Community Baseball Club, Junction City Housing Authority, and the Governor's Military Council.

 
Nickolaus Hernandez, Arkansas City
 

Nickolaus Hernandez

Arkansas City

Nickolaus Hernandez, Arkansas City, is a lifelong Kansan and former U.S. Marine. He is a past president of the Kansas Association of City/County Management and is currently the City Manager of Arkansas City. He received his bachelors degree from Fort Hays State University and obtained his graduate degree from Wichita State University.

 
Brandon Hines, Hays (Chair)
 

Brandon Hines

Hays (Chair)

Brandon Hines, Hays, is the Director of the Hays Public Library. Hailing from a farm in the southwest Kansas town of Spearville, Brandon has a teaching degree from Fort Hays State University and taught second grade before pursuing a career in public libraries. Brandon is passionate about civic engagement and is active in a number of civic groups and professional associations.

 
Jane Holwerda, Dodge City
 

Jane Holwerda

Dodge City

Jane Holwerda, Dodge City, is currently the Vice-President of Academic Affairs at Dodge City Community College. A published and award-winning author, Holwerda grew up in Lindsborg, earning her BA from Marymount College, a Masters in English and Doctorate in American Studies from Saint Louis University (Missouri). Introduced to HK as a TALK leader, she currently serves on HPPR’s Radio Readers Book Club steering committee and the Dodge City Public Library board of directors.

 
Roetta Mann, Quinter
 

Roetta Mann

Quinter

Roetta Mann, Quinter, is an active community volunteer, serving on the boards of Legacy Bank and Cobblestone Inn, as well as 4-H council, the fair board, and other community organizations. She is committed to the growth of small town America.

 
Denise L. McNabb, Waverly
 

Denise L. McNabb

Waverly

Denise L. McNabb is an attorney with the firm of Stevens & Brand, LLP, Topeka, who practices in the areas of trust and estate planning, elder law, long-term care planning, and probate. Her practice centers on advising clients based on a person’s or family’s unique priorities and circumstances. Denise resides in Coffey County with her husband and three children on their rural farm.

 
Eric Norris, Lawrence
 

Eric Norris

Lawrence

Eric Norris is the 17th State Librarian of Kansas and a native Kansan who received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas, MA from Fort Hays State University, and MLS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Prior to joining the State Library, he served as the Adult Department Librarian and Director of the Hays Public Library. He also has work experience as a Director of Human Resources and a newspaper reporter. Eric is an active member of the Kansas Library Association, the Mountain Plains Library Association, the Western Council of State Librarians, the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, and the American Library Association.

 
Kim Perez, Hays
 

Kim Perez

Hays

Kim Perez, Hays, is an Associate Professor of History at Fort Hays State University. She is a Kansas native who returned to Kansas after completing her Doctorate in the History of Science at the University of Oklahoma. Her research interests include the nature education and the nature study movement in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and amateur involvement in science. She is a passionate owner of and advocate for dogs.

 
Sheilah Philip, Overland Park
 

Sheilah Philip

Overland Park

Sheilah Philip is Professor Emeritus at Johnson County Community College where she has been teaching theatre and humanities since 1989. She is a stage director and has been very involved in International Education there, having participated in a year-long Japan studies program and chairing a three-year Title VI grant team to infuse Chinese studies on campus. She is on the advisory board of the Greater Kansas City Japan Festival, and is the Volunteer Coordinator for the InterUrban ArtHouse in Overland Park. She received JCCC's International Award in 2012, and the Community Impact Award from the City of Overland Park in 2017.

 
Lisa Sisley, Manhattan
 

Lisa Sisley

Manhattan

Lisa Sisley, principal and co-owner of New Boston Creative Group, LLC, a marketing and communications company, is a proud product of Ingalls, Kan. (pops 275). Lisa has a bachelor's degree in English literature from Kansas State University and has lived in Manhattan since 1981. She is an active volunteer, chairing and serving on the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce Business Advocacy Committee, serving as past present of the Manhattan Konza Rotary Club, as president of the Meadowlark Hills Board of Directors, and as a member of the Flint Hills Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Committee. She is a member the 2018 Leadership Kansas class.

 
Jason Wesco, Pittsburg
 

Jason Wesco

Pittsburg

Jason Wesco, Pittsburg, is Executive Vice President of the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas. He received an undergraduate degree in American History from Ball State University (Muncie, IN) and a graduate degree in American Culture Studies from Bowling Green State University (OH). He and his wife and daughter live in an old brick house on an old brick street in Pittsburg.

 
 
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What are the Humanities?

The humanities help us understand what it means to be human — to seek connections with people and place. As we draw on our diverse histories, literature, ethics and cultures, we see more clearly who we are as people and define ideas that will shape a future worthy of generations to come.

The humanities start with stories — stories that connect us, that tell us who we are and where we’ve come from. They help us draw on insights from history, literature and culture to live richer lives.

The humanities generate ideas — ideas that change lives, that make each of us better citizens, and that strengthen the choices we make every day at home, at work and in our communities.

The humanities inspire action — action that changes lives and strengthens communities and our democracy.

 

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