– StoryCorps Military Initiatives visited the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus on April 5 to record the stories of student veterans at the UMSL Veterans Center.
PHOTO: Ryan Barrett is interim director of  UMSL’s Veterans Center and one of the veterans interviewed by StoryCorps during their campus visit. Photo by Leon Devance for The Current ©

By Cate Marquis, Editor-in-Chief for The Current

StoryCorps Military Initiatives visited the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus on April 5 to record the stories of student veterans at the UMSL Veterans Center. The non-profit organization StoryCorps aims to preserve the stories of a broad sample of Americans by creating audio recordings. The recordings are kept at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Selected recordings by StoryCorps have been on National Public Radio stations and animated versions created using the StoryCorps audio have been broadcast on Public Broadcast System YV stations across the nation.

StoryCorps representatives were in St. Louis from April 3 through April 5. The StoryCorps recording sessions were part of an event, “Creative Conversations: Uniting Veterans and Community through the Arts,” coordinated by the Warrior Arts Alliance and VSA Missouri from April 3 to April 6. The artistic events focused on the power of storytelling and its potential for engendering change and on the individual stories and storytellers.

The StoryCorps event at the UMSL Veterans Center ran from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. At about 3 p.m., there were about four veterans present to participate in StoryCorps.

“Story Corps is an independent non-profit oral history project,” Jill Glaser, a facilitator with Story Corps, said. “So we travel around the country recording conversations between loved ones and this specific initiative is for military families and friends.

“We’ve had a wonderful response and some great stories and participants,” she said about the UMSL event. “We had a full recording day today so it’s about six interviews altogether in pairs. Everybody has been very open and helpful with us today.”

Glaser described the StoryCorps recording process, which they were doing in the office of the director of the UMSL Veterans Center. “They come in, we have a little bit of paper work about their personal information and where they come from, for the archive at the Library of Congress, where all of our stories are archived. And then they come in, we do a little sound check and we do a forty-minute interview. Afterwards, we take some pictures, and then they’re good to go. They go away with a CD copy of the recording,” she said.

“We were just at the Regional Arts Commission yesterday. We’re not just at universities; we have different partners all across the United States. So we’ve had three recording days total. Two were at the Regional Arts Commission and with the VA hospital ad today, here on campus,” Glaser said.

Ryan Barrett, Interim Director of the Veterans Center at UMSL, spoke on how StoryCorps came to the Veterans Center. “Actually it was Gender Studies who approached us and let us know about the opportunity, that StoryCorps was coming to the St. Louis area,” he said.

Upon learning that StoryCorps would be visiting St. Louis, Kathleen Nigro, associate teaching professor of English and program advisor for the Gender Studies Program, worked with Deb Marshall, Director of Warrior Arts Alliance, to bring StoryCorps to UMSL.

“Because we have a new Veterans Center, it seemed a natural fit for StoryCorps to visit our campus,” Nigro said

“They thought it would be a good opportunity to get some veterans to get them to speak about their experiences,” Barrett said. “We linked up with them and went ahead and made a call out for student veterans, who were kind of our target, and got responses back and so here they are.”

“Turnout is good. I think we have about eighth folks that are here.” Barrett said. Barrett is a veteran himself who served in the Air Force. “And I did give an interview,” he said.

“It was pretty good,” he said about the experience, “It was good to sit down and explain my experiences, because I’d never really done that before. (I) kind of explained how I got into the military, the reasons why, what I did while I was in and why I eventually got out.”

“The StoryCorps project helped to encourage communication between the UMSL veteran and civilian communities as well as to highlight our new Veterans Center,” said Nigro.

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