English professor to pursue new passions


Sam Schauer

Nicole Flynn assists some of her students during one of her classes. Apart from teaching, Flynn has been involved with English Club, the faculty council and research projects at SDSU.

Sam Schauer, Reporter

​​Nicole Flynn isn’t afraid to try a new path.

That’s the kind of thinking that led the East Coast English professor from Boston to South Dakota State University nine years ago. And that’s the kind of thinking that has prompted Flynn to retire from teaching and leave SDSU after the fall semester.

Flynn is moving to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to start a writing and consulting business called Writing Connections. It’s a freelance business for writing, editing or both. She also will coach others on how to write and edit.

“After teaching many students for many years on reading, writing and editing, I wanted to start a business where I can do all of that for a company,” Flynn said. 

In 2012, as Flynn was searching for a job after finishing her doctorate, she used an academic job finder website. It’s “an experience” she would not recommend, but she did find SDSU through the website. Flynn was selected out of 100 candidates.

“I was nervous, but excited,” Flynn said. “I was in grad school for eight years. I was so ready and in love with the work.”

Flynn has taught a variety of classes at SDSU, but her favorite was modern British drama.

“She would make us read a passage and then we would have to act out scenes from the passage,” said Daniel Spangler, a graduate English student who had classes with Flynn. “She really made it easy to understand the concepts through acting.” 

Flynn was a faculty council representative throughout her time at SDSU, and was one of the important figures in reworking the curriculum and incorporating AHSS 111: Introduction to Global Citizenship and Diversity to SDSU.  

Flynn was also an adviser to the English Club since 2013.

“She helped revive the English Club, which, prior to the pandemic, was a vibrant and active group,” said Jason McEntee, department head of English and interdisciplinary studies.

Outside of SDSU, Flynn was involved with the Brookings Community Theatre. The first play she did with the group was “Radium Girls,” which is a play about World War I women in factories who painted watches and were told to point their brushes and ingest “harmless” radium paint. 

Overall, it is about standing up for workers’ rights and uniting against corporate leaders. Flynn got the lead role, and she was set to do a second play before COVID-19 shut down the production.

Flynn also switched her focus about this time from research to public humanities. She observed how certain groups were treated during the pandemic.

“Many immigrants and refugees were told they were essential workers, yet not citizens,” Flynn said.

Currently, Flynn is working on Conversation Across Communities with Sharity Bassett and Christi Garst-Santos.  

Conversation Across Communities interviews people across different communities in South Dakota and talks about their experiences living in the state. The group’s goal is to use this platform for anyone to interpret and respond to ideas like citizenship and membership. Their website will launch soon.

Flynn attended Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, for her undergraduate degree in English and theater.

“I could have graduated with two undergraduate majors in English, but decided to push more into theater,” Flynn said.

During that time, Flynn took a study abroad experience in London to delve further into theater and was a part of the Shakespeare program. The Shakespeare program is a study abroad program for theater majors to study and dramatize Shakespeare’s texts and plays.

Flynn showed up a day before Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997, and she watched it live while in London.

She also went to many plays because students of the Shakespeare program received free tickets to each theater event.

“We always got three free tickets a week, but sometimes we were given tickets from other people who weren’t going to a certain play,” Flynn said. “Our final week, we actually went to Stratford, (the) birthplace of William Shakespeare, and watched theater plays there.”

After graduation, Flynn returned to Massachusetts to work for a small publishing industry for a couple of years before leaving for Los Angeles to work for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios until 2004. Her job was in international marketing distribution, which was creating the marketing and advertisements for films internationally.   

The most popular production that Flynn helped with was the James Bond franchise. She worked on the set of “Die Another Day” with Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry.

“I saw Pierce Brosnan mostly passing by my office,” Flynn said.  “I also helped Halle Berry with a screening for one scene during the movie.”

After her time in Los Angeles, she went back to school at the University of Chicago where she earned her master’s degree in English. She then went back to Massachusetts to get her doctorate in English at Tufts University in Medford. She also met her husband during grad school because they were both graduate school English instructors.

Flynn’s best memory at SDSU came in 2014 at commencement.

“It felt amazing to see my students I taught walk across the stage and get their degrees,” Flynn said. “I am also going to miss wearing my robes for commencement. I might wear them around the house once in a while.”