Dr. Alison McMahan
2016 Florida Commencement Speaker
Union Institute & University is pleased to announce that alumna Alison McMahan (Ph.D. 1997) will be the 2016 Florida Commencement speaker. Dr. McMahan is a testament to Union Institute & University’s mission to transform lives and communities. She is recognized for her commitment to lifelong learning, her abilities to use her education to shine light on forgotten but important figures and movements, and her dedication to education.
As a Ph.D. student at Union, she researched and wrote Alice Guy Blaché, Lost Visionary of the Cinema, about the first female filmmaker and a key figure in the development of narrative film. Blaché had been left out of the history books and her work had been forgotten. McMahan’s research led to retrospectives of Alice Guy’s work at the George Pompidou Museum in Paris, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and at film festivals all over the globe.
McMahan’s award-winning doctoral dissertation at Union was also the recipient of the Circle of Scholars award in 1997. Published in 2002 by Bloomsbury, the book was translated into Spanish, adapted into a play, and is being produced as a documentary by Hollywood.
An expert in early cinema topics, Dr. McMahan is often called upon to do research for and appear in projects by other filmmakers, such as the documentary The Lost Garden: The Life and Work of Alice Guy Blaché, the Emmy-award winning program Into the Light (State of the Arts series), and a documentary on early woman filmmakers, Reel Models: The Women of Early Film, which aired the American Movie Classics Channel.
McMahan is also the author of The Films of Tim Burton: Animating Live Action in Hollywood, (Bloomsbury, 2005) and an award-winning novel, The Saffron Crocus, a historical mystery for young adults, published by Black Opal Books in 2014. She is a regular contributor to the magazine The Big Thrill.
Dr. McMahan’s film work includes numerous award-winning screenplays. Through her company, Homunculus Productions, LLC, she produces non-fiction films. Her film work includes: an industrial film and PSA for Pensamento Digital, an NGO in Brazil that provides computers and internet access to poor communities; the educational film, Living with Landmines for the World Rehabilitation Fund; and the documentary, Bare Hands and Wooden Limbs, narrated by Sam Waterston, which is now in general distribution.
Dr. McMahan held a Mellon Fellowship in Visual Culture at Vassar College from 2001-2003 where she built a virtual reality environment with a biofeedback interface for CAVEs (computer automated virtual environments). From 1997 to 2001, she was an associate professor, teaching film history and theory and new media at the University of Amsterdam.
A committed lifelong learner in the Union tradition, she graduated from the Catholic University of America with a B.F.A. in drama/playwriting, and, in addition to her doctorate from Union, holds two masters degrees, an M.F.A. from New York University in film production and an M.F.A. in creative writing from University of Southern Maine.