New Director Hired for South Dakota Humanities Council

Newly hired SDHC executive director Ann Volin (left) with her mother, Rita Barnett. Volin has returned to her hometown of Brookings for the position. 

Brookings Native Volin Chosen to Lead Statewide Non-Profit

The South Dakota Humanities Council, a statewide non-profit that provides humanities programs for South Dakotans, has hired a new executive director.

South Dakota Humanities Council Board Chair Vonnie Shields is pleased to announce the hiring of Dr. Ann Volin.

Dr. Volin, former director of the Aylward-Dunn Learning Center at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo., returns home to Brookings to take the helm of the literature-oriented non-profit, which was founded in 1972. She succeeds retiring executive director Sherry DeBoer, who has worked for SDHC since 1987 and served as director since 2007.

With support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a federal agency, and organizations and individuals throughout the state, the Brookings-based organization "celebrates literature, promotes civil conversation, and tells the stories that define our state."

Meet Volin During Open House Dec. 18

Members of the public are invited to an open house for Volin at the SDHC office, 1215 Trail Ridge Rd. Ste. A in Brookings on December 18 from 3-6 p.m. During the open house, SDHC will also announce its 2019 One Book South Dakota and Young Readers One Book South Dakota selections. The One Book program is one of several statewide programs Volin will help coordinate as the new director.

"The South Dakota Humanities Council welcomes Ann Volin as its new Executive Director. We are excited to welcome her back to South Dakota," said Shields.

Volin grew up in Brookings, attending Brookings schools through high school and earning an undergraduate degree at South Dakota State University in Brookings. She met her husband, Rick, at SDSU.

Volin returns to her hometown after many years living in Kansas and other states.

"I feel really fortunate," she said. "I didn't see that our life would circle back to South Dakota. It's a gift that our life is back here." 

New Director Comes from Rockhurst University in Kansas City 

Volin attended the University of Kansas, where she earned a master's degree in education, teaching English as a second language (TESL); a master's degree in English and a doctorate in English. She studied poetry for her doctoral project; she has endeavored to include the humanities in the work she has done, whether in teaching English classes that combined museum visits with written projects or developing poetry panels to support student classroom learning.

She spent the past 11 years at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, where she created and managed academic support programs to mesh student needs with faculty goals as director of the Aylward-Dunn Learning Center, a student tutoring and supplemental instruction institution.

In addition to overseeing operations and helping students polish their academic skills, Volin managed and taught peer tutors, facilitating their relationships with fellow students who sought supplemental education. Volin also taught English classes.

"The work was really heartening," she said. "No matter how often students came in, I felt like the peer tutors were a core strength and made a positive difference for students."

Readers and writers gather at Exhibitors' Hall at the 2018 South Dakota Festival of Books in Brookings. New SDHC executive director Ann Volin will oversee numerous programs run by the statewide humanities organization, including the Festival of Books.

Readers and writers gather at Exhibitors' Hall at the 2018 South Dakota Festival of Books in Brookings. New SDHC executive director Ann Volin will oversee numerous programs run by the statewide humanities organization, including the Festival of Books.

Lifelong Reader and Poetry Enthusiast

A lifelong reader and poetry enthusiast who cites favorites such as romantic poet John Keats and writer/philosopher Voltaire, Volin welcomes the opportunity to direct a statewide literary organization in her hometown. SDHC offers a variety of grants and public programs promoting reading and education and is perhaps best known for its annual South Dakota Festival of Books.

Volin remembers reading every day as a child, both at home and at her country school. Her parents filled her home with books and encouraged her to read.

"I read a lot growing up," she said. "Literature was just a constant."

At SDHC, she'll serve as the chief administrative officer responsible for staff performance, annual planning, financial management, marketing, and community and liaison relations, including establishing strong partnerships with state and federal humanities organizations and support from local and state governments.

She'll be directly accountable to the Chair and Executive Committee of the South Dakota Humanities Council's 18-member Board of Directors.

"She will take the lead role in organizational fundraising, strategic planning, government relations and institutional advancement," Shields said. "We are pleased to have her on board."

The move is also a homecoming of sorts for Volin's husband, Rick, who grew up in nearby Sioux Falls. The couple's daughter Katie lives in Chicago and their son Danny in Kansas City. Both are writers, while daughter Andree is a social worker in Oregon. Volin's mother, Rita Barnett, still lives in the Brookings area.

With a staff of four full-time employees, the South Dakota Humanities Council supports local humanities initiatives throughout the state. SDHC's Speakers Bureau helps communities host engaging and informative humanities events. On an annual basis, the organization also facilitates and encourages civil conversations on tough but important topics ranging from racial reconciliation to the crisis of trust in journalism

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