Thursday, August 4, 2016

Colleen Kelly - Applying the Humanities: Connection and Community

Colleen Kelly is an Army Reserve Veteran from Minneapolis who served for 10 years and was deployed in support of “Operation Iraqi Freedom” in 2005 and 2008. Currently Colleen is an attorney who works for Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans. Colleen provides civil legal assistance to homeless Veterans or Veterans in crisis throughout Minnesota. She has worked to expand legal access for female Veterans, including homeless female Veterans, and focuses on helping these Veterans transition from solider to civilian. Before becoming an attorney, Colleen taught high school chemistry in the South Bronx of New York City and secondary sciences in Guyana, South America.

Prior to receiving the Veterans’ Voices Award in September 2015, I was unfamiliar with the Minnesota Humanities Center and did not fully appreciate the value of the humanities. I am embarrassed to admit it now, but I had a history of teasing my undergraduate friends who were humanities majors. I was a biochemistry major, and I judged as easy their class schedules that included  hours of reading and writing, but lacked the laboratory classes, reports, and exams of my biochemistry major. I argued both science and humanities majors had to read and write, but science majors had to apply that knowledge to practical exercises. The humanities seemed to lack the practical application which I valued in the sciences.     

Then I received a phone call from Trista Matascastillo, the Veterans’ Voices Program Officer at the Humanities Center, congratulating me on being selected for the 2015 Veterans’ Voices Award. I instantly googled the Humanities Center to learn more about this organization that had selected me for an award. The website provided an overview of the organization, but I still had no idea how my perspective of the humanities would change until I attended the Veterans’ Voices Award Ceremony

During the award ceremony, I learned that the Humanities Center focuses on what connects us versus what divides us as a community. This idea resonated with me because too often our society focuses on “us versus them” and how one, and only one, perspective represents “true” America. After the ceremony, I sought opportunities to attend events at the Humanities Center and became more engaged with their programming.

I attended events sponsored by the Humanities Center focused on Veteran transition issues and a public speaking training to encourage Veterans to share their stories. I attended a fundraiser for an organization working to end discrimination based on sex, gender, and sexual orientation held in the Humanities Center’s Event Center rental space, and in addition, I now serve on the board of directors of the Women Veterans Initiative, an organization that utilizes office space at the Humanities Center. During each of these events, the facility has been an open and welcoming space for all – men, women, Veterans, civilians, and even science majors – to share their stories and experiences. It is truly a place where communities can develop a broader, deeper, and more complete understanding of one another. I now believe the humanities represent a practical way to connect communities and are valuable in helping us explore and experiment with our human connections, even if they do not include hours upon hours of laboratory exercises.  

No comments:

Post a Comment