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A New Year and New Beginnings

A New Year and New Beginnings

   by Marilynn Bradford, Missouri Humanities, Board Chair

Welcome to 2022! A New Year and New Beginnings.

Not only are we beginning a new year, we are also starting off with new leadership and new directions. Missouri Humanities is at a strategic turning point, and it is my pleasure to serve as the new in-coming Board Chair. What an opportunity we have before us.

Challenges have always been a part of all our lives; however, the last few years have posed perhaps even more than we ever anticipated. However, big problems often provide big opportunities – and at Missouri Humanities, this is so true. Our Board and staff have embraced the challenges and we are off to a positive new year.

Looking back to 2020 when the Pandemic hit, we quickly changed the way we delivered programs and services, going to virtual or digital methods. and this had a positive and lasting effect on our programming efforts. Because people were at home more; we all became more creative with our at-home activities. The good news for Missouri Humanities was, more people started discovering our programs. Our online viewing skyrocketed, and since our staff was ahead of the curve, we have begun to reach larger and more diverse audiences.

New Leadership

Moving forward to the close of 2021, we experienced another significant change; a change in leadership, both with new Board Officers and a new Executive Director. Ashley Beard-Fosnow became our new Executive Director in November, and since then, the Board, Ashley and her staff have been working diligently together to move Missouri Humanities forward in a positive direction in 2022.

New Direction

Additionally in 2022, we started implementing our new Five-Year Strategic Plan. Our four main guiding priorities are: 1) Providing Innovative Programming; 2) Expanding Connections; 3) Increasing Operational Effectiveness; and 4) Expanding Cultural Heritage Tourism. These four priorities will be our focus as we move forward over the next five years.

While all of this may sound like a lot of change, you can be assured that we are all working hard to deliver quality programming and activities for all Missourians.  

Our mission remains the same; “to enrich lives and strengthen communities by connecting Missourians with the people, places and ideas that shape our state.” Because Missouri Humanities remains focused on excellence, we have become one of the top Humanity Councils in the nation.

As more people hear about our organization, they often ask, what are the humanities and what do you do? The short answer is: we serve as a catalyst to bring people together around common interests, beliefs and traditions that benefit our state and society. We work to build common connections for a healthy, informed, civil society, focusing on what unites us rather than what divides us.

An excellent example of Missouri Humanities in action, was a recent bi-partisan event held on opening day of the 2022 Legislative Session. Senators Jeanie Riddle (R) and Jill Shupp (D) hosted, both past and present women senators, at an event celebrating the publishing of the book “You Can Too.” The book, paid for by MO Humanities; told the stories of the 36 women senators who made history, serving as Missouri senators.

While we recently celebrated Missouri’s 200th birthday, the first woman senator did not take office until 1972.Today a record number of women senators now hold office, and because these 11 women chose to set aside differences and look for commonalities they chose to unite and promote literacy efforts across the state.   

First Lady Teresa Parson and Second Lady Claudia Kehoe, joined the effort, offering their words of encouragement by authoring the foreword to the book. Governor Parson and Lt. Governor Kehoe joined their wives at the event and echoed their support.

“You Can Too,” is a children’s book that tells the women’s stories and how they made history by stepping up and serving their state. While their reasons and paths may have been different, each woman made the conscious decision to make a positive difference for her community and state. They came from small towns and big cities, with varying levels of education and political experience.

The goal of the book is to highlight, for future generations, that much can be achieved by stepping up to serve your community and state and seeing that anyone can do what these ladies accomplished. It also identifies the Who, What, When, Where and How; painting the picture for people to see that they too can make a difference for their community and state by stepping forward to serve. The book is a perfect example of why the humanities are important.

Distribution of the book will be to fourth grade classrooms and libraries across the state. The women senators hope to visit each other’s districts and read portions of the book to fourth grade children-connecting literacy and civics components  

The book and the resulting event show how just one small investment can help bring people together to build a stronger and more informed citizenry. We at Missouri Humanities believe we have a good story to tell and that STORIES, IDEAS and VALUES help all of us make sense of the world around us – and ultimately help us decide what is IMPORTANT and what we can each do to make Missouri a little bit better.