Become a Scholar

Communities across South Dakota want to bring the humanities close to home. The South Dakota Humanities Council helps make this happen.

Our humanities scholars will carry the humanities across South Dakota during programs in 2020 by presenting with our Speakers Bureau and leading reading discussions with our Book Club to Go and One Book South Dakota programs.

Scholars will be listed on the SDHC website.

Scholars accepted into the Speakers Bureau will no longer be featured in the printed catalog, but will be allowed up to five programs on the website. 

Thank you for your interest. We pride ourselves in showcasing knowledgeable and experienced scholars and their humanities programs in South Dakota.

  • Applications are accepted from Oct 30, 2020 through Nov 29, 2020.
  • The SDHC Program Committee will review applications no later than early January 2021. 
South Dakota Humanities Council scholars bring programs to communities statewide.


How do I qualify? 
Scholar qualifications include training in one of the humanities disciplines, possessing an M.A. or Ph.D., and/or a career and personal history that show commitment to the humanities. We are asking applicants to submit a one to three-minute video introducing themselves and briefly explaining their proposed presentations. The video will be linked with their website information. Scroll down for more instructions and best practices for videos. 

What does an SDHC scholar do? Scholars travel throughout the state to present Speakers' Bureau programs and/or host reading discussions. Scholars can lead book discussions about the One Book South Dakota or choose a book from the lending library with Book Club to GoWhich topics do scholars cover? Speakers' Bureau scholars present programs on a variety of humanities topics that are suitable for audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

  • Chautauqua speakers make history come alive by replicating characters such as first South Dakota governor Arthur Calvin Mellette, President Theodore Roosevelt, the daughter of Sitting Bull and many others.
  • Our speakers also present traditional programs that cross humanities disciplines. They explore topics such as traditional Lakota spirituality and the role of ceremony in today's ever-changing world; the high-profile criminal trials presided over by Peter C. Shannon, Chief Justice of the Dakota Territory Supreme; the history of stained glass in South Dakota and more.

What are the Humanities? "The term 'humanities' includes, but is not limited to, the study and interpretation of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism and theory of the arts; those aspects of social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the humanities to the human environment with particular attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions, and history and to the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life."

(From: --National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act, 1965, as amended

Where are programs hosted? Organizations apply to host a scholar through the South Dakota Humanities Council. Typical applicants include libraries, museums, historical sites, historical societies, parks, tribal entities, K-12 schools, colleges and universities as well as community centers and agencies that are open to the public. Applicant organizations do not need to be located in South Dakota, but the program must take place within the state.

How are scholars compensated? 

Scholars are paid a $150 stipend, or $200 if travel is over 240 miles round trip (within South Dakota) or if they make more than one presentation in a day. In the case of multi-day performances, wages are $75 for each additional day presentation is performed.

SDHC pays state rate for mileage (42 cents per mile) and lodging — $75 plus tax year-round (equal to $79.88 including 6.5 percent tax).

Scholars doing virtual programs receive a flat $150 stipend. 

What are the best practices for sending my scholar video? 

This video is a tool for helping your audience get to know you better. Please make sure it is between 1-3 minutes in length.

With a little preparation, a good hook, and a focus on coming across as your authentic self, you’ll be set to record a great video. Here are some guidelines and tips to help you:
  • Dress professionally
  • Face a natural light source like a window (very important), and use a neutral background
  • If using a mobile phone, stand your phone up vertically, at arm’s length, slightly above eye-level (prop up the phone at that level using books or a shelf, etc.) 
  • People aren’t interested in hearing you ramble about yourself—they care about what you can do for them
  • Prepare ahead of time (write a script, practice reciting it)
  • Failure to prepare is likely to lead to an unfocused, rambling, difficult-to-follow video that won’t do you or your audiences any good!
Say a quick "Hello" and introduce yourself (best intros fall between the 3 to 7 second mark)
  • Challenge: Can you introduce yourself in a sentence? – format your sentence to tease the outcome of the video and make sure it still sounds like you, make the end goal of the video obvious right away (tell your future attendees who you are and what you have to offer)
  • Advanced Tip: Don’t start just by saying your name - capture attention by starting with an interesting story, statistic, or fact, just like you would in an in-person speaking engagement
  • Talk naturally (don’t read)
  • Be authentic - your honest, transparent self; speak as though you’re talking with the audience and not at them
  • If necessary, ask a friend or colleague to sit behind the camera (mobile phone) and act as your “dummy” audience
  • Do two or more recordings until you are happy with the results
  • Choose the best recording, then use an editor to crop the beginning and end – you’ll want to clean up where you were pressing start/stop