Each month, The Stone House Center for Public Humanities interviews a humanities scholar or community member and asks them everything from why they believe the humanities are important to what they're currently binge-watching. We hope that our new blog series, Coffee & Questions, will inspire you, introduce you to a variety of people and fields, as well as create new conversations.
Our guest this month is Shelby Heisler, the new Program Coordinator for the Stone House Center for Public Humanities. She is a 2015 graduate from Slippery Rock University, with dual majors in History and Professional Studies with a concentration in Nonprofit Management. Since her graduation, she has worked with multiple Pittsburgh nonprofits and has grown her own photography business specializing in portraits and weddings.
What project(s) are you currently working on?
Currently, I’m working with the CPH to host a local Meet and Greet with local organizations in collaborations with the Student Nonprofit Alliance. Together, we hope to become a valuable tool for local nonprofits and humanities-based organizations to better serve their mission and achieve their goals. I am also working on updates to the Summer Academy and the Humanities Ladder. My main focus has been bringing the humanities into the classrooms of students who would not normally receive humanities education.
I am also a professional photographer on the side, and once my wedding season finishes up I have an exciting shoot in the works celebrating all things Halloween-related. The theme is female-empowerment while incorporating some local folklore. I have the incredible pleasure of working with many skilled Pittsburgh artists and vendors and could not be more thrilled!
What inspires you in your current position/role?
My biggest source of inspiration in this role comes from the incredible professors and community members I have the honor to work with daily. I was the first in my family to graduate college, and I was under the impression that secondary education was all about getting in and graduating with the most generic business degree possible.
It wasn’t until I sat through my first history class that I realized how much the humanities had to offer as a career path. The possibilities are truly endless, and the professors here at Slippery Rock University and the many local mentors I've had the pleasure working with were able to show me that. I am truly doing a job that targets all of my passions in life (education, the arts, and community-organizing), and I am constantly working to make that a possibility for others.
Why do you believe that the humanities are important to everyone, and not just people in academia?
I grew up in a very blue-collar family and had very little to no exposure to diversity in my school or personal life. Before I arrived at college, I very rarely questioned the status quo or searched for any external enrichment. Once I was exposed to philosophy, history, and art I realized how much of the world I had yet to explore. There are multiple viewpoints to every narrative, and with today’s political climate, it is crucial that citizens are both informed and able to take information and arrive to their own conclusions. Studying the humanities gives us the ability to think critically and work creatively to find new solutions to the problems we face everyday. The sciences may be considered the foundations of life, but within the humanities lies the key to navigating and improving our world.
What is something that people might be surprised to learn about you (hobby, skill, interesting story)?
It’s actually more embarrassing than it is interesting – but I own two bearded dragons (pictured above). If you’ve ever seen the movie Holes, bearded dragons play the role of the fearsome yellow-spotted lizards-- minus the yellow spots. Being that Holes by Louis Sachar was one of my favorite books growing up, it was one of the main reason I purchased two as pets. As a joke, I created the pair an Instagram account which in just a few weeks went completely viral. One of their videos recently hit over 3 million views. My husband and I actually received an invite to a reptile show asking us to bring my bearded dragons as local celebrities. Don’t get me wrong—I love my pets, but this all just seems a little ridiculous for two pint-sized reptiles with a somewhat active Instagram account. Maybe I'm just jealous, though. They have way more followers than me.
What shows are you currently binge-watching?
I’m currently binging through Dark Tourist, Flint Town and re-watching The Office for the fifth time. Being that I'm constantly on the road though, you can find me binging podcasts more often than TV shows. I highly recommend Hidden Brain, Criminal, Hardcore History, Curious City and My Favorite Murder.
Check back next month for more Coffee & Questions. In case you missed our previous interview with Gisela Dieter, Associate professor of Spanish at SRU, click HERE.
Our vision is to create a community of learners enriched, engaged and enlightened through the humanities.