Statement from Project Director

A statement by the project director, Lora HobbsProject Director Lora Hobbs

The idea for a project such as an online archive about the religious lives of Ozarks women had been rolling around my head for a few years. In previous semesters of REL 370 (Women and Religion) at Missouri State, I had assigned students to present a brief biographical sketch of a woman in religion. I expected to hear about the likes of Joan of Arc and maybe even Tammy Faye Baker. Certainly, that happened. However, every semester there were students who talked about a grandmother or an aunt or an impactful woman from their various corners of the Ozarks. Every time I thought, “This is probably the only public setting in which this woman’s story has been, or will be, told.” Thus, a project of this nature began developing.

Throughout the spring of 2008 I was able to gain funding for the project from an Incentive Grant offered by the College of Humanities and Public Affairs, as well as from a curricular grant offered by the Office of the Provost, both at Missouri State University. These enabled the purchase of needed equipment, as well as the hiring of an amazingly capable and passionate graduate assistant, Nathan Dunn. Nathan was been the technology and web guru of this project, until his untimely passing as a result of leukemia in January 2011. His skill and passion have been a vital – and I do mean vital — element in the development of this project. In the spring of 2011 Julie Wrocklage, a fine Religious Studies major at MSU, picked up the technology mantel so this project can continue. Her organizational work on the online and library archive materials has been amazing!

The other vital part of this project has been groups of undergraduate students who enrolled in REL 370. Most had no idea they were going to be invited to participate in such a project. Honestly, I approached that first “selling and vision-casting” class session with my trepidation. I told the students…

In this class you have the distinct privilege of not simply doing some online or library research, typing a long research paper, turning it in for your instructor to read, then placing it in some file (REL 370 or Women or Religion or Wastebasket). Rather, thanks to two grants, one from the Office of the Provost and another from the College of Humanities and Public Affairs, you get to have a very different research experience in this upper level undergraduate class! Your research will not be impersonal online or library research; rather, it will be primary field research. Your research results will not just be read and graded by your instructor, but it will be preserved through both an online archive and a Meyer Library Archive. Our class gets to give birth to the Archive of the Religious Lives of Ozarks Women! The various steps of this creative process in which we will all collaborate will unfold over the next 16 weeks. Then, your hard work will live on beyond this semester, beyond this classroom, beyond this campus and even beyond the Ozarks!

They caught the vision! Each semester I watch these wonderful students with absolute amazement, delight and gratitude as they work through hours of human subject research training required by the university, develop their interview plans, learn (and fear) how to operate the recording equipment, deal with interview scheduling difficulties, and transcribe their interviews for many tedious hours. And after all of that, some plan to continue contributing interviews (and the subsequent materials) in future semesters! Their diligent, passionate, and courageous work is showcased throughout this web-site.

Though I anticipate future students (and others) contributing to this site, deepest gratitude and much congratulations goes to this group of students who have given birth to the life of this web-site. Students in the Fall of 2010 and Spring of 2011 have continued to build beautifully on that initial foundation.