The Humanities Truck is an interdisciplinary platform designed to facilitate collaborative community-based research, scholarship, and exhibitions.  These collaborations take time and can take many different forms. The Humanities Truck Project Fellowship program provides a year for the Truck Fellows to be able to use the truck to develop these community relationships.  Truck Fellows are expected to build a collaborative process that involves community partners in each phase of their projects, from research and documentation, to interpretation, and scholarly creation in the form of accessible exhibitions and performances.  Throughout the year, Truck Fellows meet together to reflect upon the effective practices of community-engaged scholarship, and also to share the findings of their own projects.


The Power of Play

Loneliness and social isolation among seniors (ages 65 and older) is a well-documented health disparity in the United States and can often lead to reports of depression and poor ratings of quality of life. Intergenerational playgroups are a way to foster community connectedness and reduce social isolation, loneliness, and ageism by bringing together seniors and families with children who are birth to five years old. Play is universal and provides a commonality between diverse groups of people. The goal of the proposed project is to bring awareness to the lived experiences of DC’s aging community which are often overlooked and go unheard. Additionally, the project will highlight an intergenerational playgroup as an innovative community activity that promotes the health and wellbeing of seniors, as well as build community and reduce ageism among young families

Alison Chrisler

Alison Chrisler

Professorial Lecturer, Department of Health Studies

Alison Chrisler is a Professorial Lecturer in the Department of Health Studies. Dr. Chrisler is a Certified Child Life Specialist with over a decade of experience in community-engaged research and evaluation. Dr. Chrisler’s research and evaluation expertise focuses on working with children, youth, and families that are often overlooked, with a special emphasis on community-based interventions that enhance the wellbeing of community members and reduce health disparities. She is currently a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Faculty Fellow developing a measure to capture critical thinking among public health undergraduate student. Additionally, Dr. Chrisler currently serves as the Executive Editor of The Journal of Child Life.

Shannon Clark and Aaron Howe

Shannon Clark and Aaron Howe

PhD Students, Department of Anthropology

Shannon Clark and Aaron Howe are both PhD Candidates in the Department of Anthropology and co-founders of the unhoused support collective Remora House, which provides material aid and advocacy for unhoused residents of Washington D.C. Shannon is currently completing her dissertation research on petrochemical manufacturing, regulatory science, and environmental policy in the U.S. Aaron conducted their dissertation research about Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and the management of public space with the unhoused community living in the NoMA neighborhood of D.C., and has published several opinion pieces with the Washington Post and StreetSense advocating for the city’s unhoused communities and for decreasing the power of undemocratic public-private partnerships that drive gentrification. Together, they do weekly supply distributions at unhoused camps around the city, provide material aid to other unhoused outreach and support groups, help neighbors transition into stable housing, and advocate for the right of unhoused people to live in public spaces.

Documenting Displacement: The Impacts of the CARE Pilot Program on DC’s Unhoused Communities

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, the New Jersey Avenue and O Street NW (NJ & O) Park, on the west end of the historic Shaw neighborhood in Washington DC, became home to 20-30 unhoused people attempting to limit their risk of exposure to the virus running through DC shelters. In early December 2021 the NJ& O camp was evicted and the park was fenced off for redevelopment. The eviction of the camp was part of the Deputy Mayor’s Office of Health and Human Services’ newly developed CARE Pilot Program, which is a “housing first” program that housed some residents of D.C.’s largest unhoused camps, while evicting the rest of the residents, and permanently establishing the former unhoused community space as a criminalized no camping zone. After the M & L Street underpasses in the NoMA neighborhood, the camp at the NJ & O Park was the third camp evicted as part of the CARE Pilot Program. There was an array of outcomes for residents of the camp, despite the data put forward by DMHHS that claims that most residents were housed and those that were not had refused services. Some received adequate housing, some a one-year bridge housing funded by the city while they completed the Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) Voucher process, and others were forced to pack up and find a new place to camp. Our project will document how the eviction impacted camp residents, their perceptions of the housing first model used by the Pilot Program, and where they are one year out from the eviction. This will help offer a counter narrative to the one being pushed by DMHHS and provide data that helps better evaluate the impact of the CARE Pilot Program. One of the main focuses of this project will be the impact of displacement – how did being removed from the park and park community impact people’s lives?

Remnant Reflections: Dress Codes and Hair Policies in DC Schools

Remnant Reflections has two components: a documentary series and a podcast series. The documentary series will consist of three short films that will feature a Black girl exploring the impact of dress/hair code violations and/or infractions around dress at school, two experts (one of which will be included in each series), a community advocate, and school administrator.  The podcast series is a collection of the interviews and focus groups to provide another media of expression and education around this issue. Each of the three girls will host and curate their episode in the series. Both the documentary and podcast will cover two critical areas that make these policies biased and steeped in racial injustice – culture and economics, as well as one of the major effects is psychological trauma. Remnant Reflections will engage subjects and the overall community in the larger conversation which is the oversexualization and adultification of Black girls under the guise of school policy. Within the context of the DC culture, the project will explore through the stories of these Black girls how that adds another layer of stress as they work to stay true to themselves while attempting to navigate school and family. Remnant Reflections: Dress Codes and Hair Policies in DC Schools will capture more stories to spark and continue conversations about the hyper-policing of Black girls and women in America starting with an institution central to society – School.

Carletta Hurt

Carletta Hurt

Adjunct Professor, Film and Media Arts, School of Communication

Carletta S. Hurt is an educator, producer, and youth advocate. An adjunct professor in the School of Communications, she is passionate about all things Black girls and women. Her award-winning documentary, Clothed Minds, was a catalyst for this project as she works to amplify the voices of Black girls in education and beyond. She also produced NOISE, a short about a young black male teen’s struggle with mental health, and the award-winning short, The Catcher, based on her experiences as a school counselor supporting homeless students.  


This Georgia native comes from family of activists, entrepreneurs, and creatives. Her desire to tell stories started when she became a Teen Reporter for her local paper, The Macon Telegraph and News. Since that time she published over three dozen articles and produced nearly two dozen media projects.


A self-proclaimed SUDOKU champion, wordsmith at Scrabble and Words with Friends, she has worked as a teacher, administrator, and currently works as a school counselor in Washington, DC. Hurt is pursuing her doctoral degree and is a mother to the most amazing little person, William. 


Jane Palmer

Jane Palmer

Associate Professor, Department of Justice, Law & Criminology

Jane Palmer has more than a decade of experience working in community-based non-profit organizations with children, youth and adults as a social worker, advocate, community organizer and manager, with an emphasis on the eradication of violence. In addition to her Humanities Truck project with DC Action, she is engaged in community-based research projects with Trans Lifeline and the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence. All three projects are grounded in her belief that the people affected by an issue should inform the solutions to that issue. At American University, she is a term associate professor in the School of Public Affairs, the founder of the Community-Based Research Scholars program, and the faculty advisor for the undergraduate certificate in community-based research. She teaches courses on research methods, gender violence, transformative justice, and child & family policy.

Youth Power/Youth Voice

in Washington DC

The Youth Voices–Youth Power Humanities Truck project is a collaboration between Jane Palmer and DC Action, whose mission is to make the District of Columbia a place where all young people grow up safe, resilient, powerful and heard. Working in collaboration with DC Action’s youth advocacy coalitions, we will use the Humanities Truck as a platform to encourage young people to share their experiences and the stories of their communities as a means of claiming their power. The audio-visual tools of the AU Humanities Truck will help us document the voices of youth to create audio and video recordings and compilations to be shared widely across multiple channels. Elevating and amplifying young people’s own stories will enable us to more effectively advocate for them by illustrating their lived experiences. Policymakers consistently say that hearing directly from young people helps them better understand what young people want and need, and sharing these stories will enable DC Action to do just that.


Guide to Indigenous DC

Through the Humanities Truck Fellowship, the Guide to Indigenous DC will engage in community partnerships to collect and present oral histories that correlate to the sites of Indigenous significance included in the Guide to Indigenous DC mobile app and digital mapping project. These oral histories will be conducted with Indigenous members of the DC community and DC-based subject material experts, and will prioritize the collection of Indigenous knowledge. The project team will furthermore create an exhibit within the Humanities Truck to be shared with public audiences around Washington, DC, including on the National Mall.

Elizabeth Rule

Elizabeth Rule

Assistant Professor of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies

Elizabeth Rule is an enrolled citizen in the Chickasaw Nation) and an Assistant Professor of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies at American University. Rule’s Critical Indigenous Studies research has been featured in the Washington Post, Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien, The Atlantic, Newsy, and NPR. She has also released articles in American Quarterly and the American Indian Culture and Research Journal, and has two forthcoming monographs. The first, Indigenous DC: Native Peoples and the Nation’s Capital (in production, Georgetown University Press), analyzes historical and contemporary sites of Indigenous importance in Washington, DC. Rule’s second book project, Reproducing Resistance: Gendered Violence and Indigenous Nationhood, links reproductive justice and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women; this work received the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities’ Julien Mezey Award in 2020. Rule is the creator of the Guide to Indigenous DC (2019), Guide to Indigenous Baltimore (2021), and Guide to Indigenous Maryland (2022) digital map and mobile applications. Rule’s work has received support from the Henry Luce Foundation, MIT Solve, Ford Foundation, Center for Black, Brown, and Queer Studies, and more.

Melissa Scholes Young

Melissa Scholes Young

Professor, Department of Literature

Melissa Scholes Young is the author of the award-winning novels The Hive and Flood and the chapbooks Guinea Pig and Scrap Metal Baby. She is a Contributing Editor for Fiction Writers Review and Executive Editor of Grace in DarknessFurious Gravity, and From the Attic, anthologies by women writers. Her work has appeared in the Atlantic, Ms., Washington Post, Poets & Writers, Ploughshares, Literary Hub, and Believer Magazine. She has been the recipient of fellowships from the Bread Loaf Bakeless Camargo Foundation, the Center for Mark Twain Studies, and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Born and raised in Hannibal, Missouri, she is a professor in the Department of Literature at American University and serves as Director of Undergraduate Creative Writing. 

Grace & Gravity: D.C. Women Writers

The Grace & Gravity Project was established in 2004 as a space to publish and to support the creative work of women writers in the D.C. area. We’ve published hundreds of writers in nine print volumes, including the award-winning books Furious Gravity and Grace in Darkness, and our online series, From the Attic. We partner with Politics & Prose Bookstore, Loyalty Books, and The Inner Loop Reading Series. With support from American University, Editor and Professor Melissa Scholes Young, has paired the Grace & Gravity Project with a craft class entitled Literary Editing & Publishing where graduate and undergraduate students learn by doing in a literary lab. With the help of the Humanities Truck Fellowship, we’ll be creating a podcast of author, artist, and bookseller interviews, showcasing student book trailers, and visiting local independent bookstores with a pop-up of digital assets for the national Independent Bookstore Day as a launch for our tenth volume, Grace in Love. 

Scroll to Top