Dena Wortzel, Executive Director, came to WH in 1994 to direct the grant program. She became Executive Director in 2008. Dena loves the public humanities because they allow her to marry her commitment to equity and justice with her passion for the endlessly rich culture and fascinating lives of her fellow Wisconsinites. A former urban dweller and self-described world citizen, Dena’s love of Wisconsin’s rural communities and landscapes began over two decades ago when she set down roots on a former dairy farm in Iowa county. Today, when she isn’t working with her WH colleagues and statewide partners to use the humanities to tackle our state’s challenges, you can find her at home, riding a horse or fermenting pickles. Dena has a BA in English from Wesleyan University and MS in Sociology from UW-Madison.
Michael Kean, Associate Director, has been working for the Wisconsin Humanities since the year 2000. Michael is responsible for oversight of all administrative, accounting, and fiscal functions of the organization, as well as grant administration, review and reporting.
Maria provides technical and logistical support for her Wisconsin Humanities colleagues, primarily handling invoice processing, scheduling and travel, and
various other administrative tasks. She grew up in the Northwoods of Wisconsin and put down roots in Madison after graduating from University of Wisconsin-Madison with her bachelor’s degree. Maria appreciates Wisconsin Humanities’ focus on human connection and inclusion, and was excited to join the team in July 2021.
Gail Kohl began as the Development Director of the Wisconsin Humanities in 2014. She believes in the power of cultivating relationships, embracing philanthropy, and the importance of the mission of the Wisconsin Humanities. She helps direct the fundraising strategy for annual giving, Future Fund Endowment and the Legacy Circle planned giving program. She has worked in the non-profit arena for over 30 years including the following organizations: American Players Theater, Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, Wisconsin Watch, and the Seth Peterson Cottage Conservancy. Gail is a native of Wisconsin and has spent most of her adult life in our beautiful state capital, Madison. She enjoys making merry with family and friends, going to plays and concerts, and exploring the Wisconsin countryside.
Director of Digital Communications
Jessica Becker, Director of Digital Communications, manages the Wisconsin Humanities website and e-newsletter. She creates digital content and outreach programs and, as the Creative Director for Human Powered podcast, she works with the production team and interns to connect with people and organizations around the state. Jessica has a Master's Degree in Museum Education from George Washington University and came to Wisconsin Humanities over twenty years ago to coordinate a partnership between the Smithsonian, rural communities, and Wisconsin Humanities. She continues to enjoy building partnerships that strengthen the public humanities in Wisconsin and expand the organization’s impact. She grew up land-locked in Ohio and now appreciates living with her family on an urban isthmus in a state with so many lakes, rivers, and forests. She enjoys participating in and leading local efforts that showcase the creative spirit of community.
Director of Grants and Outreach
Meghan Dudle, Director of Grants and Outreach, is energized by connecting Wisconsinites to each other and their unique communities through the public humanities, which she believes can strengthen democracy and further social justice. She manages our responsive and evolving grants program, assisting applicants and awardees through any step and she coordinates outreach to underserved communities for all WH programs. Prior to joining WI Humanities in 2022, Meghan spent over fifteen years in WI and MN working beside youth in experiential learning environments and facilitating traditional folk arts programming. She jumps at the chance to play fiddle for square dancers and now lives in the remarkable Driftless region with her family.
Executive Producer of Love Wisconsin
Jen Rubin is the Executive Producer of Wisconsin Humanities' statewide digital storytelling project, Love Wisconsin. Working with freelance producers from around the state, she is always looking for and helping to share new stories with our very active social media community. She also is a producer for Human Powered podcast and leads storytelling workshops with the Odyssey Project's Odyssey Beyond Bars English class. For over a decade, Jen has co-produced the Moth StorySlam in Madison and she wrote the book "We Are Staying: Eighty Years in the Life of a Family, a Store, and a Neighborhood." She also fancies herself one of the best challah bakers in Madison.
Director of Community Powered
Chrissy Widmayer is the Director of Community Powered. As the Director, she co-developed (with Dr. Arijit Sen) a humanities and place-based curriculum to help communities recognize, communicate, and act upon their strengths, challenges, and histories. She then trained four project coordinators in those humanities methods and supported them in piloting community-led projects in their communities. Chrissy has a PhD in Folklore Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University. She spent over a decade teaching writing, oral history, and folklore at universities in Wisconsin and Virginia. In her spare time, Chrissy crochets and makes linocut art prints inspired by nature and her midwestern roots.
Project Coordinator, United We Stand
Benny Witkovsky, Project Coordinator for the United We Stand project of the Community Powered initiative, is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology at University of Wisconsin—Madison. His work explores the potential and pitfalls of municipal politics in Wisconsin. His research has focused on the local dimensions of the rural-urban divide, the politics of prison building in small towns, the civic engagement of elders in rural Wisconsin, and efforts to build better relationships between the Madison Police Department and local Black, Hmong, and Latinx communities. Outside of school, Benny enjoys camping, hiking, and biking around Wisconsin with his family.