By: Caroline Newman, Missouri Miner Editor-in-Chief
“There are two fundamental ways of conducting research,” notes Dr. Larry Gragg, “either you ask a question, then delve into source materials to try to find answers, or you just dive on in and see what questions present themselves.” Gragg has chosen the latter method as he reaches a midway point in his research into the history of the S&T campus. He is slated to publish a book based on his findings during the university’s sesquicentennial celebration.
Dr. Gragg presented insights into his research methods, as well as campus anecdotes, during the second installment of the Research on Tap series, a monthly event held at Public House Brewing Company in Rolla, where researchers at the university, particularly those from the CASB, can showcase their research in an informative and approachable way.
What was most surprising to the large audience (which included current S&T students and faculty, former faculty, and Rolla residents)? The number of source materials already available to Gragg to aid in his research. He has read many histories of the University of Missouri system, as well as books detailing the history and traditions of the Rolla campus, such as 1983’s UM-Rolla: A History of MSM-UMR, written by Jack Ridley (a former UMR professor in attendance at the lecture) and Lawrence Christensen. Gragg also plans to consult other historical texts, from Missouri Miner and RollaMO archives to the local newspapers and even the alumni magazine. If that wasn’t enough, Gragg has been conducting interviews with former deans, faculty, alumni, and even Chancellor Schrader.
As a result of this research, Gragg has noticed four emerging questions.
- How did MSM/UMR/S&T fit in the national debate over curriculum at mining and engineering schools: Should the curriculum be focused upon mathematics and science, or hands-on activities and design experiences?
- How did the relationship between the Rolla campus and the Columbia campus (as well as the rest of the UM-System) change over time?
- What prompted the push to change MSM/UMR from a primarily undergraduate institution to one more focused on research and graduate programs?
- What were the challenges in developing a more diverse institution?
After detailing his research methods, Dr. Gragg took the time to answer the audience’s many questions. Kelly Pachowicz, a Civil Engineering major, asked if Gragg would include a history of campus buildings. Other questions included “What has surprised you the most while doing this research?” and “Has your research provided any insight as to whether the 2007 name change was a reflection of tensions in the system?”
Elmer Ellis, former UM-System President, once wrote that “Rolla had unquestionably been an unwanted child of the university,” and many on the S&T campus feel that this stigma still exists. Perhaps through his research, Dr. Gragg can help the S&T community show our big sister in Columbia just how significant our campus has been.
Research on Tap is organized and sponsored by the S&T Graduate Student Leadership Council, and spearheaded by Nicky Gomez, a graduate student in the Biological Sciences department. Events take place the second Wednesday of each month in the Loft at Public House Brewing Company in Rolla at 6:30 pm. The April edition of Research on Tap will take place on April 12.