Conceptual Proposal - Missouri State University

Summary of the Project
Students enrolled in Religion 370: “Women and Religion” in Fall 2008 will develop an online
archive of “The Religious Lives of Ozarks Women.” The centerpiece of this project will be the
oral histories of women who have impacted religious life in the Ozarks. Ozarks women who
have impacted religious life and are now deceased may be included, as well, if we can gain
access to family members or contemporaries who are willing to talk about these women’s lives.
This may also include women who have roots in the Ozarks, but are impacting religious life
outside the Ozarks.
Each student in the class will be required to conduct and transcribe an interview. Primary
sources such as newspapers, photographs, religious organization correspondence and personal
correspondence may serve to supplement the interviews. Students will then write a 2-3 page
narrative summary based on their research. Students, in conjunction with a web developer, will
then determine how to arrange this information in a useful and intriguing way on a web-site they
will build and share with the community – giving back the fruits of their labor. In addition, I
have gained permission for all hard copy material, including tapes and transcriptions, to be
archived in Missouri State University’s Meyer Library Archives, where we will host an open
house as we open the archive. It is anticipated that this online archive will serve as a seedbed for
the development of a more expansive archive as future students, as well as other researchers and
historians, contribute to the site which will preserve the stories of many of the women who have
contributed, formally and informally, to the rich religious heritage of the Missouri Ozarks.
Nature of the Project
1. To give opportunity to develop student-generated content.
2. To provide students an opportunity to produce a project that has a life beyond the
classroom and the current semester.
3. To provide a collaborative learning environment.
4. To capture and preserve Ozarks women’s stories from a variety of religious traditions.
5. To give students the opportunity to enrich the public body of awareness of those women
who have contributed to the rich and varied religious life of the Ozarks.
6. To take advantage of current digital technology (digital audio, digital video, digital
photos, online archival web-site) for the preservation of these women’s stories.
7. To create and build in students and appreciation for others’ life narratives.
8. To enable students to accurately and sensitively unwrap and share the gift of another’s
9. To contribute to the archival material of the university library’s archives.
10. To collaborate with other Ozarks life entities to expand the body of knowledge available
to the local and global community.
11. To host an open house at Meyer library to celebrate the birth of this project.
Those contributing to the development of this initial stage of the online and library archive of
The Religious Lives of Ozarks Women will include the students in REL 370: Women and
Religion in the Fall 2008 semester, myself as the instructor of the course and a student worker
who will be hired to do the web design. Typically, REL 370 has 18-25 students enrolled. I
anticipate this to be the case for Fall 2008. Historically, these students come from several
different disciplines; however, most represent the disciplines of Religious Studies, Philosophy /
Gender Studies, Psychology and Sociology.
Due to my severe lack of ability in web design, I would not be able to build this page from the
start. I had considered having a student in the course let web design be their contribution to the
project, but I want every student in the course to have this opportunity to immerse themselves
into a notable woman’s life. I prefer to hire an able student worker to do the web design to
enable us to have someone dedicated to this project and, thus, more readily available to us during
evening class times and throughout the week as we complete this project in a timely manner and
with a process in which we have all been able to participate. For this position, I plan to
advertise initially in the Department of Religious studies by flyer in our classes and by word of
mouth late in spring 2008 semester. I would like to have the web designer in place by the second
or third week of the fall semester.
In previous semesters teaching this class, I have asked students to do a brief biographical sketch
on a woman in religion. Of course, many report on the likes of Joan of Arc and Mother Teresa,
but I am also amazed at the number of students who come ask if they could talk about their
grandmother or an older woman in their home town who had impact on the religious life of their
communities. Every time I think, “Wow! Who knows this woman’s story beyond her little
circle of influence? These stories need to be shared!” Thus, we now have the birth of such a
This project will serve as the major research component for the course. Students will still spend
the first eight weeks of the course primarily focused on the academic study of women and
religion. However, during that initial eight weeks I will follow a time line in preparation for this
research, as well.
The project will be introduced in the first class session of the semester. Over the first couple of
weeks, we will brainstorm about potential women whose life stories should be told. I will have
my own list of women of whom I am aware, but I would like to draw from the students’
networks of life as much as possible. Through this process, I anticipate students selecting a
number one and number two choice for themselves. The fourth week of the semester, I’d like to
have the web designer hired and invite them in to meet the class. At that meeting, I plan to invite
the students to brainstorm with the designer about web-site content and appearance. Thus, by
the fourth week, the web designer should be able to be begin developing the basic site and setting
up any templates. Undoubtedly, the web designer’s work will intensify during the last six weeks
of the semester. If (s)he can have all the basic work completed and approved by the class before
the final six weeks, that should expedite their work.
Once students have completed the academic study portion of the course (first 7-8 weeks), they
will be assigned to read and discuss “The Belmont Report: Ethical Principles and Guidelines for
the protection of human subjects of research” (http:/,
Chapter 3: “Conducting Interviews” from Donald A. Ritchie’s Doing Oral History, and the
Introduction and first chapter of Robert Wuthnow’s Growing Up Religious: Christians and Jews
and Their Journeys of Faith. Based upon these materials, students and their instructor will work
together to compile a list of oral history questions that will serve as a starting point for their
interviews. Given the fluid nature of oral histories, students will be encouraged to allow their
subjects to talk about their life stories in whatever form the subject chooses, as you cannot
“script” oral history. Students will also be trained in use of the recording equipment, as well as
in introducing the Informed Consent form to their interviewees. Then, armed with a checklist
and a packet containing the Informed Consent form, a biographical data form, an audio/video
recording log, a set of interview questions and their recording equipment students will be ready
to have a conversation with their subject. As they converse with the interviewee, they will be
encouraged to ask about access to other pertinent documents such as photographs, newspaper
articles, religious organization correspondence and the like. To both secure and expedite the use
of such resources, I would like to have the project own a few portable scanners, so the students
do not have to borrow and return materials, but can scan them on location.
Upon completion of the interview(s), each student will transcribe the interview. Then, based on
the interview, as well as other documentation secured from the subject or from additional
research, they will write a 1000 word narrative summary of the religious life of their subjects.
All materials (transcriptions of interviews, interview packet containing such items as a check-list
and permission forms, a 2-3 page narrative summary) will be handed in to me. Each student will
also be expected to allow the subject to peruse the narrative and the transcription of the interview
to determine if they prefer something to be omitted or altered. Based on the permission given by
the subject, all digital material will be given to the web designer based on his/her preference for
that exchange. All hard copy materials will then be placed in an archive in the Meyer Library.
The completion of this early phase of the development of the online and Meyer library archives
of “The Religious Lives of Ozarks Women” will be the outcome. The online archive should
- transcripts of interviews
- an audio recording of each interview
- photos related to each of the subjects
- a narrative summary of each of the subjects’ story
- related materials such as links to other web-sites, links to newspaper articles, other
printed material that illuminates the religious life of each of the subjects, etc.
The Meyer Library archive should contain all hard copy material related to the archive:
- typed transcription and narrative summary
- any audio or video tapes
- any hard copies of photos that do not need to be returned to the subject
- any other hard copy material that contributed to the illumination of the subjects’ stories
Impact of the project
1) on students in the class:
a) This project will provide an educational opportunity they will not quickly forget,
because they are experiencing the subject, not just hearing and reading about it.
b) Students will be creating a product that lives beyond the scope of the semester and
that allows them to contribute to the body of knowledge and research available on a
world-wide level.
c) Students will be afforded the opportunity to gain appreciation for others’ life
2) on the discipline of Religious Studies:
a) This project will produce a body of primary research that may be a resource for
further study of religion in society, as well as in individuals’ lives.
b) Collection of oral history is growing in all disciplines, especially in the humanities.
Certainly, this project contributes to such collection.
3) on the university:
a) Meyer library archives enthusiastically invited this project to be in their archival
b) I anticipate that this Fall 2008 project, exhibited both on-line and in the library, will
be the seedbed for continued development of the project in future semesters. Thus,
both the initial collection phase, as well as the purchase of required equipment through
this grant, will enable this project to have a future.
4) on the faculty member:
a) This type of project has been rolling around in my mind for a few years. Thus, the
support from this grant will enable the project to come to life. Giving birth to a
project like this inspires and motivates me.
b) Involvement of students in the educational process is always stimulating for me.
What instructor is not gratified when we get to fan into flame the spark of enthusiasm
for learning in any student?