Board Spotlight: Maggie Ardiente
Maggie Ardiente is the Director of Development and Communications for the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. She previously worked for twelve years as the director of development and communications at the American Humanist Association and the senior editor of TheHumanist.com. She appeared on or has been quoted in Fox News, NPR, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and other local and national media. She’s also served on the board of directors of the Secular Student Alliance and The Humanist Institute.
From an editorial internship with the Humanist magazine to becoming the development & communications director and senior editor of TheHumanism.com, I worked for the American Humanist Association (AHA) for twelve amazing years. Each year brought new opportunities, challenges, and lessons. During my first year I remember participating in coalition meetings on Capitol Hill where our fellow progressive organizations didn’t know what humanism was. Now more and more people know what humanism is (plus more are identifying as humanists), and we continue to gain respect and recognition from our allies in Washington, DC.
While working at the AHA, I was encouraged to sit in on a meeting of The Humanist Institute board to learn more about their education program. The board members, most of whom were graduates of THI’s Humanist Studies Program, came from different humanist organizations and were dedicated to providing more humanist educational opportunities to all. This means not only developing courses that are inclusive of all humanist perspectives (ranging from secular to religious), but also preparing curriculum for all ages and making the content accessible to people everywhere. THI has developed in-person trainings, online courses, and they are now providing printed materials to incarcerated people. I knew at that board meeting that I wanted to support the institute so I attended the graduate-level program, and after graduation I joined the board.
I’m an atheist, but studying religion always fascinated me (I minored in religion in college), so THI’s World Religions course was particularly interesting to me. We were lucky to have our session in New York City, where in between our discussions of the reading materials we were able to observe prayers at a Muslim mosque, taste holy food at a Hindu temple, and participate in a Shabbat service at a Jewish synagogue. I also met humanists who comfortably used religious terms such as “spiritual” and “worship” even though they don’t believe in a god or anything else supernatural. In 2014 I was proud to help the AHA develop a brochure series called Paths to Humanism to illustrate how numerous religious traditions share many principles and values that are the basis of humanism, and hopefully build bridges between secular humanists and religious humanists of all kinds.
A THI education is critical for anyone who wishes to pursue a career in humanist advocacy and support the spread of humanism. Even though everyone in my class called themselves a humanist, we didn’t always agree—and that was a good thing. THI helps train you to better articulate your viewpoints while listening to different humanist perspectives.
I continue to keep in touch with my mentors and classmates, all of whom have given me valuable advice as I’ve grown in my career. Even in my new role at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, the values I learned and explored through THI shape my view on how people experiencing homelessness should be supported in society. I look forward to staying engaged with The Humanist Institute and helping this great organization spread humanist education.