Staff Photo of Chris Sommerich 
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Chris Sommerich

Chris Sommerich was named Humanities Nebraska executive director effective Jan. 1, 2011. He joined the council as development officer in 2004, and became development director in 2007. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where as a graduate assistant he served as undergraduate adviser and teaching assistant in the political science department. Chris achieved a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) certification in 2007, which emphasizes the highest standard of ethical and professional conduct in fundraising. He served on the board of directors for the Nebraska Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) in 2005-2011 and as its president in 2010. In 2014 Chris was elected to the board of directors of the Federation of State Humanities Councils, and he was a member of Class VII of Leadership Nebraska in 2014-15. He came to HN after four years of managing annual giving programs as development associate for Audubon Nebraska. Chris lives in Lincoln with his wife, Vicki, and two sons, Eli and Benjamin.
Staff Photo of Kristi Hayek Carley
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Kristi Hayek Carley

Kristi Hayek Carley, Program Manager, joined the Humanities Nebraska staff in October 2009. She is a fifth-generation Nebraskan and grew up on a farm south of Friend. She is a graduate of Concordia University in Seward, with a bachelor’s degree in education, and an emphasis in secondary education in the social sciences. Before joining the council staff, Kristi served as a deputy legislative assistant in U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson’s Washington, D.C., office and as a high school social studies teacher at Concordia Lutheran High School in Fort Wayne, Ind. Since her return to Nebraska, she has substitute taught in the Lincoln area while pursuing graduate studies in political science and history at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and taught a class in American government at Concordia University for a number of semesters. Kristi and her husband Matt live in Seward with their sons Caleb and Asher. Besides her interest in activities related to the humanities, she enjoys playing and watching a number of sports, shopping, music, traveling, and spending time helping out at the family farm.
Staff Photo of Barbara Grant
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Barbara Grant

Barbara Grant, Office and Grants Coordinator, joined Humanities Nebraska in March 2012 as Program and Communications Assistant. She has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Troy University-Florida Region. She is pursuing a Master of Business Administration. She began her non-profit career at Indian Center, Inc., as trainer, and then project director. Barbara served four years in the U.S. Air Force. She enjoys reading, going to movies, playing board games and spending time with family and friends.

Staff Photo of Erika Hamilton
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Erika Hamilton, Ph.D.

Dr. Erika Hamilton, Director of Literary Programs, joined Humanities Nebraska in February 2005. In 2014, she earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a dissertation analyzing the advertising of Willa Cather’s fiction. She has a master’s degree in English and creative writing from UNL and a bachelor’s degree in English and secondary education from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. Erika serves on the board of directors for the Nebraska Center for the Book and Nebraska Literary Heritage Association. Her previous employment includes two years as administrative assistant to Nebraska’s lieutenant governor. Erika lives in Lincoln with her husband, their two children, and two cats.

SheriLynne Hansen

SheriLynne Hansen, Communications Manager, joined Humanities Nebraska in February 2013. She has more than 20 years of experience in communications strategy, journalism, public relations, marketing and advertising. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Drake University. SheriLynne and her husband Mark are raising their three children to appreciate Nebraska’s history, culture, literature and art in all forms.
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Joanna Hejl

Joanna Hejl joined Humanities Nebraska as the Development Associate in July of 2021. Joanna graduated from the University of Richmond in 2020 with a Bachelor’s degree in American Studies and Political Science. In college, she explored history and memory studies and spent a lot of time at museums, including interning in development at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. She is passionate about community engagement and excited by Humanities Nebraska’s work connecting Nebraskans to literature, history, art, and more! Joanna is a proud Lincoln High Link. Outside of work, she enjoys reading, sewing, and drinking a good cup of tea.

Staff Photo of Liz Makowski
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Liz Makowski

Liz Makowski, Program Associate, joined Humanities Nebraska in April 2012. Originally from the Kearney area, she has a Bachelor’s degree in Classics and Art History from the University of Nebraska -Lincoln. She received a master’s degree in Art History and Archaeology from the University of Missouri, where she worked as a graduate assistant in the Visual Resources Center. She enjoys cooking, reading, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.

Staff Photo of Heather Thomas
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Heather Thomas

Heather Thomas, Director of Development, joined Humanities Nebraska in April 2011. She works with board members and others to raise funds from individuals, corporations, and foundations to support HN’s programs. Heather graduated from Trinity College (Hartford, CT) with an interdisciplinary major in Russian studies, with coursework in Russian language, literature, art and history. Her professional work has centered on the arts and humanities and includes three years as membership coordinator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and 10 years in development at the University of Virginia, as director of development for the University’s School of Architecture and director of development for Historic Preservation. Since moving to Lincoln in 2005, Heather was previously the education director and grants coordinator for the Haydon Art Center (2006-2011), a non-profit arts center in the Haymarket. She served as a trustee of the Sheldon Art Association of the Sheldon Museum of Art from 2008-2014 and was chair of the education committee in 2013-14.
Staff Photo of Mary Yager
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Mary Yager, C.P.M.

Mary Yager, Associate Director, joined Humanities Nebraska in March 2005, bringing with her more than 20 years of experience in developing, managing and evaluating programs for the National Arbor Day Foundation. Mary has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She and her husband, Randy, live near Hickman. They have three sons and eight grandchildren.

Susan Hale

Susan Hale is the Prime Time assistant. She manages Prime Time in Omaha and works on expanding the program in Lincoln by reaching out to schools and other sites, armed with her passion for family literacy. Susan joined Humanities Nebraska in February 2017 with a passion for family literacy. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and has long worked on public policies that impact underserved and disadvantaged populations. Susan lives in Lincoln and enjoys spending time with family, reading, playing the piano and working in her yard.

Alexis Cruz

Joining Humanities Nebraska as the Grants Specialist in August 2021, Alexis Cruz is originally from the Lincoln area. She has a Bachelor’s degree in History as well as a Bachelor’s in Journalism and Mass Communications from Drake University. She received her Master’s degree in History from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she worked as a graduate assistant in the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities and University Archives. Outside of work she enjoys music, walking her dog, and playing board games.