In late August, 2020, our staff team bid farewell to Hanna Espie, the Michigan Humanities Programs Assistant who joined us in late 2018. Hanna is embarking on a new adventure in a graduate program for Ecological Economics at the University of Edinburgh, and we are excited to hear more about all that’s ahead for her in a new field of study and career. To celebrate her recent arrival in Scotland, we’re sharing Hanna’s reflection about working with Michigan’s humanities community. 

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned about the humanities is that we should always be looking for what the humanities can teach us. To always be open to understanding that history and current events are uniquely experienced and interpreted by each person. And how important it is to embrace different perspectives to help us supplement and enrich our view of the world.

During my time at Michigan Humanities I have been fortunate enough to work with some of the best advocates for the humanities in the state. My favorite program to work on has been Poetry Out Loud, a national poetry recitation competition for high school students. It’s been inspiring to see students seamlessly compete with and support each other all while interpreting and sharing their perspective on a poem through nuance of voice and presence, traits that will serve them in leadership roles and the workforce. Their passion and poise give me hope and optimism for the hands the world will soon be in.

The other major program I worked on while at Michigan Humanities is the Great Michigan Read. The latest cycle of GMR features What the Eyes Don’t See by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha. GMR uses a Michigan-themed book to collectively analyze a story through a humanities lens. More than any other program I’ve worked on, this GMR book has moved people to action. I’ve heard from many partners and participants that they had no idea about certain events that happened during the Flint water crisis, or the toll it takes to stand up for human rights and find your voice. The humanities remind us that there are people behind the headlines and that caring for your neighbor isn’t political.

I enjoy traveling and discovering new places, which is why it has been my pleasure at Michigan Humanities to support the Humanities Grants review process and the Michigan Humanities Awards. If you ever want to find the hidden gems in Michigan, look for the different community programs and events funded by your humanities and your arts councils (like the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs!). The programs these grants fund peel back the layers in your community and highlight often overlooked experiences, making for a richer understanding of our home here in Michigan.

Having a variety of humanities experiences to draw on makes us adaptable. I continue to be impressed and proud to have been part of a group that gracefully toggles between the needs of partners, students, teachers, and communities to ensure polished and high-quality humanities programs reach everyone in Michigan. The care that has been taken to adapt program delivery for COVID-19 has been fluid and resilient, and I will miss being part of all the wonderful programs in store for the rest of 2020 and beyond. Undoubtedly, Michigan Humanities will always be part of my lens for the world.

Thank you, Hanna, for your dedication to MH, your hard work and creative problem solving, and for all that you’ve done to support the humanities in our state; you will be missed!