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Institutional Memory

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by Sarah Magill Mueller
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Graduate researchers in Vicki Rosser's history of higher education seminar are working with MU archivists to shed light on the 'hidden' history of the University and its former students.

Bullet holes riddle the walls of the top floor of Jesse Hall. Visitors to the building's dimly lit, slightly musty, upper warrens can still run their fingers over the craters.

Most date from a fusillade launched in 1921, the year the women of the University of Missouri took up arms in a support of a peaceful, yet passionate, revolution in women's athletics.

The Missouri Musketeers, who practiced in the venerable hall's attic, were one of only a handful of women's athletic teams competing in the first part of the twentieth century. And their exploits weren't just pioneering, they were successful: The Musketeers went undefeated in only their third season.

The pockmarks in plaster notwithstanding, these and other small monuments to MU's past often go unnoticed beneath the feet and fingers of current students. Vicki Rosser, an assistant professor of education leadership and policy analysis, thinks that's a shame. She's determined to help today's young scholars to learn more about, and from, those who came before them.

Bringing the long-silent history to life again isn't as simple as just goading more freshmen into introductory history courses, she says. It takes a rigorous process of academic struggle and self-discovery to make university history relevant to 21st-century students.

One student who found herself immersed in an historical adventure is Melissa Everitt, a master's degree candidate in Rosser's department who also serves as MU's director of volleyball operations, a job involving community relations, marketing, promotions, and keeping the alumni and booster clubs connected. In part to satisfy the requirements of Rosser's higher education history course, Everitt found herself immersed in the nearly forgotten world of the Musketeers.

Rosser requires all her students to do a primary source research project using the historical archives on campus; Everitt decided to learn the history of women's athletics at MU that led to the establishment of positions such as hers. She had played volleyball at the collegiate level and coached in high school, but working inside the university sports program had its own new challenges.

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