Thursday, March 30, 2017

Nick Swaggert - Separating Veterans’ Work and Politics: The Minefield of Social Media

Nick Swaggert is a Veteran of the Marine Corps who served since 1999 as an infantryman and was deployed twice to Iraq. He is Vice President of Business Operations for Better Futures Minnesota, a non-profit dedicated to employment of men with a history of incarceration, homelessness, poverty, and other challenges to help them achieve self-sufficiency and a better future. Nick is a Pat Tillman Military Scholar and currently serves as a company commander in the Marine Corps Reserve. He is also a 2015 Veterans’ Voices Awardee.

I recently interviewed a candidate for a role at my organization. Following the interview, I reviewed their LinkedIn profile to better understand their professional background. Unfortunately, it was laced with numerous controversial comments about both political and social topics. This type of personal posting on a professional social media site gave me pause as I considered hiring them. The conflict occurs when personal opinions and professional experience co-mingle.

The organization I work for is non-partisan by nature. A visitor to our organization suggested that we post some politically-charged signage that aligned with some of our values. The challenge was that it did not align with ALL of our values and certainly ostracized a group of our stakeholders. My boss quickly dismissed the idea as he has a deep understanding of risk in mixing business and politics.

As a reserve military officer, I am constantly reminded of the need to separate work and politics. Department of Defense Directive 1344.10 itemizes what a service member can and cannot do, and specifically forbids a uniformed military member from publicly endorsing a political party or candidate. The challenge is that when you associate with a controversial topic in a public space—television, social media, or at a public rally—the perception can be that you are a spokesperson for your professional organization. Cyberspace is not a private forum to share your opinions and thoughts with no consequences. It is a space open to the public, even in so-called “private” rooms. This is especially true in the modern world of blog posts, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

I believe engaging in a thoughtful, literate discussion means that we respect others’ opinions, ideas, and challenges. We must be mindful of the perception that personal posts can be interpreted as representing our professional careers. Consequences exist in public spaces; cyberspace is a public space.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

2017 Educator Institute: Transforming Education Through Absent Narratives

Educator team from Stillwater Area Public Schools
participates in the 2016 Educator Institute
“The Educator Institute remains the single most powerful training I have participated in and has opened the path to ongoing changes in dialogue both in the classroom and with community members,” proclaimed one educator who participated in the Minnesota Humanities Center’s 2016 Educator Institute.

The Humanities Center is thrilled to once again host our week-long Educator Institute at our St. Paul facility beginning on Sunday, June 25 and running through Friday, June 30. This experience immerses participants in the Humanities Center's educational approach of increasing student engagement by focusing on absent narratives—those voices often left out or marginalized. The Institute helps develop student-teacher connections, presents practical classroom strategies, and provides valuable resources, all while building a network of Minnesota educators committed to relationship-based educational change.

Our Educator Institute provides:
  • Rigorous, relevant K-12 professional development
  • Access to educators and community scholars
  • A field trip examining Dakota narratives in Minnesota
  • Classroom materials and resources
  • Year-round activities and support
  • Certificate for 45+ clock hours
  • All meals, plus lodging for those outside the Twin Cities metro area
We anticipate that graduate credit will be available at an additional cost through Metropolitan State University School of Urban Education.


The Humanities Center is pleased to offer the Educator Institute at a dramatically discounted rate of $300 per person. Funding for this $3,100 experience is made possible with generous support from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and other private sources.

Ready to participate?

This professional development opportunity will fill quickly, so we encourage you to form a team and apply as soon as possible.
Application Deadline: March 31
Notification of acceptance: April 19
$300 registration fee due upon acceptance.

For additional information and to apply, visit

Thursday, March 16, 2017

David O'Fallon - Response to Proposed Elimination of Funding for National Endowment for the Humanities

You’ve probably heard today’s news that the President Trump’s proposed budget eliminates funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for fiscal year 2018, which begins on October 1 this year.

This is the budget we expected from the Trump administration. 
However this is the message that resonated from my visits to the Minnesota Congressional delegation in Washington last week. The President proposes; the Congress disposes. 

There is a long way to go in the budget making process.

Humanities council members from more than 40 states met in Washington, DC last week for Humanities on the Hill. The team from the Humanities Center visited every office  of our state’s Congressional delegation. What we heard from red states, purple states, and blue states is strong Congressional support for the state humanities councils. Some members of Congress even said “no way will NEH and NEA be eliminated—no way.”

It is reasonable to think that some appropriation to NEH will survive—especially something that directs funds to the states for their use. The NEH funds that come to the Humanities Center come without strings—except they must be used within the broad mission of bringing the humanities into our public life. We get to decide where to direct it—to Veterans or to education, to the crisis of water or to connections among our multiple cultures, to civic education or wherever Minnesotans think best.

Are we concerned? Certainly, and we have broad support across our state—as do many other state councils.

The Minnesota Humanities Center will continue to deliver strong programs that meet real needs of people all over Minnesota. Today we ask our partners and supporters to deliver the message of the importance and impact of our work with your Member of Congress. Your support of the Humanities Center is critical now. Thank you for supporting the work of the Minnesota Humanities Center.

David O'Fallon
President, Minnesota Humanities Center

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Recognizing Outstanding Minnesota Veterans

2017 Veterans' Voices On the Rise Awardee Linda Knox
and her family at 9/11 Award Ceremony

2017 Veterans’ Voices Award Nominations Now Open
Do you know an exceptional Minnesota Veteran? If so, you should consider nominating him or her for the Minnesota Humanities Center’s 2017 Veterans’ Voices Award.

Now in its fourth year, the Veterans' Voices Award recognizes, amplifies, and honors Minnesotans who have honorably served in the military and are now making significant contributions to their respective communities. These actively engaged, former and current military service members go above and beyond to make positive contributions that improve the lives of people across Minnesota.

To nominate a Veteran for this award, fill out the online nomination form.

If you are interested in nominating a Veteran but are not quite sure of the process, the Humanities Center is here to help. Three information sessions will be held for interested nominators to answer questions and share tips on applying:
  • St. Paul In-person Information Sessions at the Humanities Center:
    10:00 -11:00 am and 5:30-6:30pm Thursday, April 20th
  • Little Falls In-person Information Session at Camp Ripley: Weekend of April 28-30, 2017
Completed nominations must be received by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, May 19, 2017. Nominees selected to receive an award will be notified by July 8, 2016. All awardees must be able to attend the September 11, 2017, dinner and award ceremony to be held at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

Exclusions: Please note that Humanities Center staff, board members, fellows, and consultants are neither eligible to nominate an individual for, nor receive, a 2017 Veterans' Voices Award.
Consider nominating an extraordinary Veteran in your life! For more information visit:

Some of the  Veterans’ Voices Awardees from past years have been featured bloggers for the Humanities Center. Following is a selection of blog posts shared by Veterans’ Voices Awardees:

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Jim Roe - The Places We Learn

Jim Roe is a consulting planner, helping organizations develop places and venues where people can enjoy a kind of learning that’s guided by their own interests, backgrounds, and motivations. He works nationally with a range of organizations—from historic sites and museums to parks, nature centers and other environmental-education facilities, science centers, and children’s museums.

On a cold day in November I took part in a Bdote Field Trip sponsored by the Minnesota Humanities Center. The tour was led by Dakota educators and included stops at various Minneapolis-St. Paul sites of importance to Dakota people, including Mounds Park, Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, Historic Fort Snelling, Fort Snelling State Park, and Pilot Knob—all places I had been to many times before and thought I knew.

One of our guides, Mona Smith, asked us to consider learning from these places, not just about them. I get this. From the warmth of our own homes we could acquire a bounty of information about these places. Learning from them would take a different kind of relationship. The question remained, how do we learn from a place?

I’m used to learning from places that are designed to teach, such as museums and typical historic sites. But when a place is largely unbuilt and uninterpreted, what are the elements I’m supposed to learn from? In the weeks since that tour, I’ve been thinking about other ways to know a place—to learn it in a way that I can learn from it. I’m thinking now that it’s more like getting to know a person, which takes time.

A name is always good place to start. ‘Bdote’ is the Dakota name for the area around the confluence of two great rivers—described better in the sweeping gesture of our guide than by a pin stuck on a map. Mni Sota Makoce, Wakan Tipi, and Oheyawahi are some of the other names I learned that day.

When getting to know someone, I always like to hear their story. Where do they come from and what have they been through in life? Who knows, maybe we know someone in common. Every place we visited that day had a story, in fact many stories that helped me get to know them in ways I couldn’t have before.

In getting to know someone, I also like to hear about their families – brothers, sisters, parents, and others who have loved and cared about them. If I ask, they usually also share some memories of their childhood. During the Bdote experience, I learned that many people care about these places and that each of them hold memories, some from very long ago. People remember, but the land remembers too—and for much longer.

It takes many conversations over many years to genuinely get to know someone. And it takes shared experiences, which we value and remember together over time. I may never learn all there is to know about a place, but I think I can figure out what it has to teach me—given time.

I do know I’m just beginning to figure out what these places have to teach. For that I am grateful to our Bdote tour guides: Ramona Kitto Stately, Ethan Neerdaels, and Mona Smith. And to the land itself.

To learn more about the Bdote Field Trip and upcoming trip offerings visit