Rowan Flanagan

Year of Graduation: 
Rowan Flanagan '24 stands outside Jeremiah Smith Hall

“My favorite part of dorm life is absolutely my dormmates. They’ve really guided me through the Exeter experience.”

When Rowan Flanagan ’24 arrived on campus for the start of their lower year in the fall of 2021, they felt a bit like they were starting Exeter all over again. Having spent the entirety of their ninth-grade year learning remotely from home in Fort Washington, Maryland, due to the pandemic, Flanagan “felt like a prep,” they say. “You just can't build those strong connections the same way online that you can in person.”

It didn’t take Flanagan long to adjust to life on campus, however — with the help of a supportive group of dormmates in Kirtland House. “My favorite part of dorm life is absolutely my dormmates,” Flanagan says. “They’ve really guided me through the Exeter experience.”

Thanks to one dormmate, Kodi López ’23, Flanagan found another home away from home on campus in the Office of Multicultural Affairs. This year, Flanagan became an OMA proctor, one of a group of students who take care of the OMA office in Jeremiah Smith Hall and undertake projects each year to “serve the community and bring people together,” as Flanagan puts it. They also co-chair the OMA-sponsored Queer Kids of Color affinity group.

In addition to their work with OMA, Flanagan is co-head of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance and the Exonians with Disabilities Association. With the latter affinity group, they helped develop a planned project to get railings installed around campus, making it safer and more accessible for everyone.

In the classroom, Flanagan has fully embraced how much more rewarding Harkness discussion can be when students are sitting around the same table. “Everything just flows more,” Flanagan says. “It feels like a true conversation, rather than just statements being made at different times.”

Building on their love of language, Flanagan dove into their classes in Spanish, a longtime passion, and started learning Japanese as well. “I also like English. I like being able to interpret abstract texts and poems and see other people’s perspectives, because it can open up a whole new world to me.”

As a final project for Art 408: Painting Portraits, Flanagan pushed their limits with a work that interpreted part of “Perseus Triumphant,” a sculpture by the Italian artist Antonio Canova (1757-1822). During finals week, “I would go into the studio at like 8 a.m. and not leave until the afternoon,” Flanagan recalls. “I would walk outside, and I wouldn't know where the sun was positioned in the sky, because I had been in the studio for so long.”

Their painting of the severed head of Medusa, one of the three monstrous Gorgons from Greek mythology, now hangs in the Latin Study. As part of a student-led Core Values Project aimed at making the venerable Classics Department study room more diverse, equitable and inclusive, students chose the work to display prominently in the revamped space.

Flanagan has also taken on new challenges when it comes to another longtime interest: theater. While they had previously worked on the technical side, doing lighting for last winter’s production of Wolves, in the spring they decided to act in the devised theater production staged on the courts of Fisher Squash Center. “The script, concepts, everything was essentially planned and executed by students,” Flanagan says. “Sometimes it was difficult because we were trying to incorporate so many ideas and so many people’s different experiences…but I think it was all worth it because it really made you think.”

They’re hoping to expand their range of experiences even further by joining the directing team behind UnSilenced, a night of performances in January that is part of the school’s commemoration of Martin Luther King Day. “It was definitely one of the highlights of my winter,” they say of last year’s production. “I’m just excited to be a part of it next term.”

— Sarah Pruitt '95