The Humanities Action Fellowship is a program for early-career humanities professionals who are passionate about using the humanities to make their communities better. Over the course of 18 months, fellows participate in a statewide cohort and design and implement humanities-based programs that respond to community needs.

Humanities Action Fellows receive stipends and have access to additional funds to support, initiate or highlight public humanities activity in their local regions during their fellowship. This is the inaugural class of Humanities Action Fellows.

Meet the Fellows

Caroline Ban,
Independent Scholar

Caroline Ban served as visiting assistant professor for the Valparaiso University Department of Social Work. Caroline created community projects like the students’ police academy and previously worked for Beyond Housing, a nationally recognized nonprofit in St. Louis. She facilitated meetings with mayors and police chiefs and helped local governments attract or save $3 million through grant writing and efficiencies, setting the table for the consolidation of seven local police departments. Caroline earned her MSW from the Brown School at Washington University, receiving the Dr. Clara Louise Myers Outstanding Practicum Student Award. She earned a B.A. from Carleton College. Caroline lives with her husband and three sons in Chesterton. As a Humanities Action Fellow, Caroline plans to work with community groups and local law enforcement agencies in northwest Indiana on good policing initiatives, rooted in storytelling and other public humanities methods.

Lauren Daugherty,
Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University Bloomington

Lauren Daugherty, LMHCA, ATR-P, is the arts-based wellness experiences manager and art therapist at the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University Bloomington. Lauren holds a master’s degree in art therapy from the Herron School of Art and Design at IUPUI, where she completed her thesis research exploring the intersection of art therapy and art museums. She has extensive experience as a teaching artist working with children, adolescents and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including those with autism spectrum disorders. In addition, she has experience utilizing art therapy with children, adolescents and adults with mental health and behavioral health concerns. During her fellowship, Lauren hopes to deepen her museum-based art therapy practice, especially the use of contemporary art to generate dialogue on social issues.

Sara Drury,
Wabash College

Sara A. Mehltretter Drury is passionately committed to productive communication for democracy, community engagement and working collaboratively to discover new approaches to enduring problems. Her research focuses on rhetoric, politics and democracy. Sara is an associate professor and chair of the Rhetoric Department at Wabash College. She also serves as the director of Wabash Democracy and Public Discourse, an interdisciplinary research and practice program focusing on community partnerships, dialogue and deliberation. She has worked on public humanities and deliberation projects in Indiana, Ohio, Delaware, Kentucky, South Dakota and Illinois. Previously, she worked as a research associate at the Kettering Foundation in Dayton, Ohio. Originally from Buffalo, New York, Sara lives in Montgomery County and enjoys traveling to local festivals, landmarks and restaurants around the Hoosier State. She plans to use the fellowship to design and scale public deliberation programs around Indiana on a range of issues such as race and justice, public well-being and health and community development.

Bex McNair,
Bartholomew County Public Library

Bex McNair is a youth programming specialist at the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library in Columbus, where they connect with tweens and teens over podcast clubs, zine programs, gardens and board games. Combining a professional interest in youth empowerment through “maker culture” with a background in collaborative storytelling, Bex strives to connect youth in their community with meaningful ways to discover, create and share metaliterate artifacts that celebrate their unique experiences. An Indiana native, Bex graduated from Ball State University with a degree in English. Currently they are working toward a master’s degree in library and information science through the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Outside the library, they enjoy painting jellyfish, doing puzzles with their partner Zach and crying over well-written fanfiction. As a fellow, Bex will work with local youth to design forums and workshops about the future of Columbus, as well as explore the potential of libraries to shape communities’ futures by activating teens in the planning process.

Elizabeth Nelson,
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

Elizabeth Nelson is the coordinator of the Indiana Women’s Prison (IWP) History Project, a group of currently and formerly incarcerated scholars who publish original research on the history of women and incarceration. Through such work, project participants gain confidence, purpose and useful skills for reentry. Their scholarship, moreover, critically investigates the historical origins of the current system of mass incarceration. As a Humanities Action Fellow, Elizabeth will provide research support for the scholars on the inside and facilitate the project’s public-facing initiatives and collaborations. In addition to her work at IWP, Elizabeth is an assistant professor of medical humanities and health studies at IUPUI.

Kara Pickens,
Spring Valley Junior-Senior High School/Ivy Tech Community College

Kara Pickens is an ELA instructor who teaches high school and dual-credit classes at Springs Valley Junior-Senior High School in French Lick and through Ivy Tech Community College. She also has experience writing digital curriculum for the Southern Indiana Education Center, working to create an app using Library of Congress resources and serving on the Indiana Department of Education’s Rockstars of Curation team. Additionally, she regularly leads professional development across the state. Outside of school, Kara participates in the community organization Thrive Orange County, which focuses on trauma-informed care. Kara has a Ph.D. and master’s degree from the University of Glasgow in Scotland; her undergraduate degree is from Cairn University near Philadelphia. She values how participation in the humanities builds community and enables individuals to know they are not alone. Kara will use her Fellowship to create community storytelling initiatives, including festivals, performances and workshops, in Orange County.

Ryan Schnurr,
Purdue University/Belt Magazine

Ryan Schnurr is a writer from northeast Indiana. He is the author of In the Watershed: A Journey Down the Maumee River (Belt Publishing, 2017). His features, essays and poems have appeared in publications such as Atlas Obscura, Old Northwest Review, Terrain.org, Midwestern Gothic and Belt Magazine, where he also serves as an editor. Ryan is a graduate student in American studies at Purdue University and a regular facilitator for Indiana Humanities’ Next Indiana Campfires program. During his fellowship, Ryan would like to develop a community memory/storytelling project that helps Fort Wayne residents grapple with the rapid pace of changes taking place in their city.


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