French Studies Inspires Graduate’s Global Perspective

French Studies Inspires Graduate’s Global Perspective

Commencement is a time of reflection and new beginnings. As the College prepares to send the Class of 2018 across the Cistern Yard May 11-12, The College Today will share a sampling of how some of our graduating seniors spent their time at CofC, and what comes next.


What do you get when you cross a love of the French language with a fascination of mankind throughout the centuries? You may find yourself excavating an archeological site in southern France. Or you may just whip up an award-winning film with a decidedly French flavor.

Those are but two of the highlights of the academic journey of Jonah Crisanti, as his varied interests converged at the College in a singular way. This week, he will graduate with a double major in French and anthropology (and just one class shy of a minor in archaeology).

Crisanti’s love of all things French began well before landing on CofC’s campus. He first became drawn to the country during his high school studies in Berlin, Maryland.

“Having enjoyed it thoroughly, I decided to continue studying the language and culture while at CofC,” he says.

Jonah Crisanti (Photos by Reese Moore)

Crisanti credits his standout professors with helping to shape his studies at the College, leading him to fold in his interests in anthropology and archaeology. For instance, in Juliette Bourdier’s French Marketing course, he was tasked with pursuing internships and jobs in the Francophone world.

Crisanti applied for opportunities at more than 30 archaeological sites in France. That resulted in his spending three months in France as an intern with the Federation Francaise de Spelologie, working on digs in Tautavel and Coulet des Rouches. There, he was able to greatly expand both his understanding of archaeology and his grasp of French culture by doing everything from cooking meals for the team to excavating through the different stratigraphic levels at the dig.

“This gave me an amazing opportunity to practice both speaking French with native speakers in addition to getting field experience in archaeology,” says Crisanti.

He also got a taste of filmmaking during his time at the College, when he and a team of two other students worked on an award-winning short film for the 2015 French Short Film Festival, by way of the Alliance Francaise. The short film, which focused on French cuisine, literally stirred the pot on the question of what it means to be French.

“In the video we had a pot of boiling water, into which we dropped items from all over the Francophone world, not simply from France,” says Crisanti.

But, Crisanti’s love of all things French didn’t stop on the big screen. His French studies even took him to the stage. In his Voices from 17th-Century France course, he and fellow classmates were charged with producing their own interpretation of Moliere’s Le Misanthrope.

“This I can say was most probably the apex of my academic career,” says Crisanti. “Acting in front of 100 people was absolutely nerve-racking. However, it was a success.”

Crisanti also includes retiring anthropology professor John Rashford in his who’s who list of outstanding professors. “I am honored to have had the chance to take as many of his courses as possible.”

The soon-to-be graduate, who plans to stay in Charleston, is still figuring out just how his diverse interests will come together after he walks across the Cistern. However, there is no doubt this inquisitive culture lover will dig deep into anything he pursues.

Other notable spring graduates from the School of Languages, Cultures and World Affairs include:

Madeline Leibin, a Rotary Global Grant recipient, will study Peace and Conflict Studies at Tel Aviv University. As a triple major, Leibin will leave the College with degrees in international studies, religious studies and philosophy.

Katherine Murchison, an international studies major, has a full ride to law school at Washington University in St. Louis. She is a graduating Huge Scholar and has done several internships and had some remarkable summer experiences, including working for the Children’s Defense Fund.

Posy Olivetti received the 2018 national award for the Critical Language Scholarship Program. She has been taking Chinese language courses for four semesters. As a math major, Olivetti plans to use the scholarship to enroll in a program in Shanghai this summer to apply her language skills to work with numbers used to calculate currency exchanges, money transfers between businesses in China and the United States, or analyze the data of the Chinese and United States economies.