New Members Elected to Federation of State Humanities Council Board of Directors

The States of Indiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas Represented by New Board Members

The Federation of State Humanities Councils is pleased to announce the election of four new members to its board of directors, effective November 5, 2020. The board members include two humanities council executive directors and two public members.

“Each of these new board members brings an invaluable set of skills to the Federation board as well as a strong commitment and passion for the humanities and the humanities council community,” said Federation President Phoebe Stein. “These public humanists have backgrounds in diversity and inclusivity, racial equity, immigration, documentary filmmaking, journalism, poetry, political science, public humanities programming, and more. We couldn’t be happier to introduce our new board members: Dr. Terri Jett (IN), Dr. Stuart Rockoff (MS), John Phillip Santos (TX), and Sherry Paula Watkins (NC).”

About the Elected Board Members:

Dr. Terri Jett is a professor of Political Science and Special Assistant to the Provost for Diversity and Inclusivity. Dr. Jett teaches courses on U.S. politics with a focus on the experiences of African Americans and other ethnic minorities such as Black Political Thought and The Politics of Alice Walker. Her research focus is on the post-Civil Rights Movement experiences of African Americans in rural communities in the southern U.S. and she is currently writing on the recent discrimination settlements of Black, Native American, Women and Latino farmers against the United States Department of Agriculture for discrimination and revisiting the conversation that James Baldwin held with Margaret Mead on race 50 years ago. Her expected books are titled “Fighting for Farming Justice: Diversity, Food Access and the USDA” and “Talking About Race: James Baldwin and Margaret Mead Then and Now.”

Dr. Jett has a BA in Ethnic Studies and a Masters in Public Administration from California State University, Hayward (now East Bay) and a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Public Administration from Auburn University. She currently serves on the boards of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana (ICLU), Indiana Humanities, Indianapolis Public Library and Indianapolis-Marion County Land Improvement Bond Bank.

Stuart Rockoff, a native of Texas, Stuart Rockoff received a BA in History from Wesleyan University in 1991. He then earned a M.A. and Ph.D. in American History from the University of Texas at Austin, specializing in immigration, race, and American Jewish history. He then spent over 11 years as the director of the History Department at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Mississippi, where he was responsible for creating the Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities. He has written and lectured widely on the history of Jews in the American South. In 2013, he became just the third executive director in the history of the Mississippi Humanities Council, following in the large footsteps of Dr. Cora Norman and Dr. Barbara Carpenter.

John Phillip Santos is a writer, journalist, and documentary filmmaker from San Antonio, Texas. His two memoirs, “Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation” (a National Book Award Finalist) and “The Farthest Home is in an Empire of Fire,” together tell the ancestral stories of his mother and father’s families, an American origin story of the centuries-long migrations that emerged out of Spain, Mexico, and the lands that became South Texas. His book of poems is “Songs Older Than Any Known Singer.”

As an Emmy-nominated television producer, he has produced more than 40 broadcast documentaries and news programs on cultural themes in sixteen countries for CBS and PBS. His journalism and commentary has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the San Antonio Express-News, the Manchester Guardian, Texas Monthly and other publications in the U.S., Mexico, and Europe. This work is archived in the Special Collections of the University of Texas San Antonio.

During his six years as a program officer at the Ford Foundation, he directed the philanthropic program in media infrastructure and production, making more than $40M in grants to support the development of independent media networks in the US, Latin America, Africa, and Asia, and to fund the production of documentaries around the world.

A proud graduate of Texas public schools, Santos was the first Latino to be selected as a Rhodes Scholar and holds degrees in English Literature and Language from Oxford University, and Philosophy and Literature from the University of Notre Dame.

After twenty-two years in Manhattan, Santos returned to his hometown of San Antonio in 2005, where he now lives with his wife, the poet Frances Trevino Santos and their daughter, Francesca de la Luz. Since 2010, he has been University Distinguished Scholar in Mestizo Cultural Studies, teaching in the Honors College at the University of Texas San Antonio.

Sherry Paula Watkins is the executive director of North Carolina Humanities Council. Prior to the North Carolina Humanities Council, she served as the assistant director and South Carolina Book Festival Director at the Humanities Council SC.

A Hartsville, SC native, Watkins joined the staff at The Humanities Council SC in October of 2001 in the role of Finance and Business Manager. She brought two national programs to The Humanities Council SC in 2004: Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Healthcare and the traveling Smithsonian Museum on Main Street exhibition Barn Again.

Watkins was promoted to assistant director and SC Book Festival Director in 2005 and coordinated eight festivals, overseeing the addition of the Children’s Fieldtrip Day, the Children’s Pavilion, and the Literary Vine partnership with Richland Library. Under Watkins’ leadership, the SC Book Festival attained new heights in attendance, fundraising, and cultural outreach. Watkins was recognized in 2011 with the Lucy Hampton Bostick Award from Richland Library for her efforts in advancing interest in books and libraries. During the 2013 SC Book Festival, Watkins was honored by the City of Columbia with the key to the city because of her service in the literary and cultural arts, and Saturday, May 18, 2013 was named Paula Watkins Day.

Watkins is a graduate of the University of South Carolina with a degree in biological sciences. She is using her years of experience with humanities councils, along with her unique academic perspective, to strengthen and broaden the organization’s relationships with the citizens of North Carolina.

About the Federation of State Humanities Councils

Founded in 1977, the Federation of State Humanities Councils is the national member association of the US state and jurisdictional humanities councils. Our purpose is to provide leadership, advocacy, and information to help members advance programs that engage millions of citizens across diverse populations in community and civic life.

About the Councils

The state humanities councils are independent nonprofit organizations supporting and creating grassroots humanities programs and community-based activities. Humanities councils were established by Congress in the early 1970s and receive an annual congressional appropriation through the National Endowment for the Humanities, which most councils supplement with state and private funding.