By Abby Weingarten
During the proposed merger in February that threatened New College’s independence, alumna Flannery French was in front of the legislature in Tallahassee, advocating for her alma mater.
Now she is on track to help the community in another way, as she moves on to American University (AU) in Washington, D.C. this fall. She will be working on a project called the Humanities Truck—a fully customized delivery vehicle that acts as a mobile platform for collecting, preserving and expanding the dialogue around the humanities.
“I found out about the program at AU by doing online research about public history programs that had a strong focus on community history, oral history, digital history and museums,” said French, who graduated from New College in 2017. “I felt that the program at AU was focused on activism and social change. In addition, D.C. has a lot of opportunities for jobs in the public history field.”
Using the truck, French will be able to help democratize the sharing and production of knowledge by bringing together scholars at AU with community residents in Washington, D.C. AU also offered French a stipend of $10,000 per year and waived half of her tuition. She will have the opportunity to create her own project with the truck in her second year.
This program builds on French’s longtime passion for humanities and community. French graduated with a degree in anthropology in 2017, working closely with professors Erin Dean, Ph.D., and Maria Vesperi, Ph.D. French’s thesis was entitled, The Heart of the Community: History, Conversation and Identity at Jetson’s Barbershop and Hair Salon.
“I love history, and I want to help expand the general public’s conception of what history can be and which histories matter. The Humanities Truck, in particular, is an excellent way for me to get involved in this work,” French said. “Two tenets of the program at AU are collaborative community engagement and work with museums (these are also two of my career goals).”
A Tallahassee resident, French was among the first people to testify in the original round of hearings about the proposed merger earlier this year (otherwise known as House Bill 7087, which suggested making New College part of the University of Florida and ultimately taking away its independence).
“I first heard about the proposed merger online. Since I currently live in Tallahassee, I decided to go to the first hearing related to the merger with a friend whose sister is an alum,” French said. “Originally, I was not planning on speaking. However, when I got to the hearing, I decided to speak out.”
Her motivation was her belief in New College—a place that truly shaped her identity and career.
“I’m passionate about New College because I believe it is an environment where students are encouraged to take charge of their own education and think collaboratively and creatively with their professors and fellow students,” French said. “My time at New College caused me to think more critically and deeply about the world, and to become more determined to do what I can to change it in a positive way. It showed me the importance of working closely with others, both within and outside of academia.”
Dean, French’s former academic adviser, is extremely proud of French and looks forward to seeing her pursue her career goals.
“Flannery is an excellent and self-motivated student who embraced both the intellectual challenges and creative possibilities of her New College education,” Dean said. “Through her work in an ongoing oral history tutorial and her ethnographic senior thesis on a barbershop in Newtown, she demonstrated her commitment to making community spaces and historical narratives inclusive and accessible. This graduate program will help her continue to pursue those goals, and I am so excited to see what she will accomplish.”
For more information on the Humanities Truck, visit humanitiestruck.com.
Abby Weingarten is the editor/writer in the Office of Communications & Marketing.