Executive Director

Laurie Zierer

In recent years Laurie has led PHC to strategically sharpen its focus on areas of need in Pennsylvania where the humanities can have the greatest impact: civic engagement and education. 

With community partners in Chester, Pennsylvania, Laurie launched Chester Made, a humanities-based initiative to recognize and promote arts and culture and to harness their power as a force for community revitalization. More than 2,400 community members have participated in Chester Made, and Animating Democracy/American for the Arts found the initiative to be “an informative and valuable test … of applied humanities.”

Also under Laurie’s leadership, in 2015 PHC partnered with the Orton Family Foundation for in-kind support with civic engagement grants for communities across Pennsylvania. The grants support humanities-focused approaches to community planning and development, using Orton’s nationally successful Community Heart and Soul® method. In addition, PHC has recently expanded its award-winning Teen Reading Lounge program to ensure it reaches a diverse group of teens, including those from low-income backgrounds. Teens who take part in this interactive, nontraditional book club report stronger interpersonal, communication, literacy, and critical-thinking skills—and increased confidence.

Laurie joined PHC in 1995 as a program officer and, after playing a number of leadership roles in the organization, was named executive director in 2012. Over the years she produced Humanities on the Road with PCN, Humanities Live with WHYY, the Speakers Millennium Lecture with Frank McCourt, and statewide initiatives like Our Stories, Our Future. In addition she has directed award-winning projects like Raising Our Sites: Community Histories of Pennsylvania and Storyline.

Laurie holds a B.A. in English from Temple University and an M.A. in rhetoric from Penn State. She is an alumnus of Leadership Philadelphia, a graduate of the Nonprofit Executive Leadership Institute at Bryn Mawr College, and holds certificates in fundraising and executive administration from the University of Pennsylvania’s College of General Studies. She serves on the board of Gender Justice Fund, which fights to end all forms of gender-based oppression through trust-based philanthropy and by  amplifying community-led systems change.




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