The University of Missouri is home to over 30 000 students and hosts 280 degree programs, including medieval and Renaissance Studies at the undergraduate and graduate level. Mizzou, as the university is affectionately known, was founded in the year 1839 in the city of Columbia, and has seen its reputation grow in recent years as a place for students to learn about the medieval past.
In an interview with Medievalists.net, Lois Huneycutt, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, explains “We’ve got a new undergraduate minor in medieval and renaissance studies, and we think we can prepare undergraduates with both knowledge of a discipline and the necessary language skills to be ready to do graduate work anywhere. At the graduate level, we offer PhD programs in Art History and Archaeology, English, Romance Languages, and History and graduate training in Religious Studies. Graduate Students get paleographical training; most do archival research or study in Europe over the course of their graduate careers.”
The undergraduate minor, which started in the last couple of years, has courses in history, art history, religious studies, and English. They include ‘Age of the Vikings’ by Professor Huneycutt and ‘Real Men of the Middle Ages’ by Johanna Kramer. Professor Huneycutt adds, “We are also fortunate to have a Byzantine specialist in art history, Marcus Rautman, and a historian of medieval India and the Silk Road (Michael Bednar as well as a specialist in medieval Russia in the history department (Russ Zguta). Students who want to add a global dimension to their studies at Mizzou can easily do so.”
Professor Huneycutt credites her fellow faculty members for the recent strides the program has made in attracting new students and becoming more prominent as a center for medieval studies. “Students are going to get rigorous training from interested faculty. No one gets out of here without extensive training in medieval Latin and Latin paleography as well as reading knowledge of modern European languages. The graduate program is large enough for student to form a community and learn from each other, but not so big that anyone gets lost in the shuffle. We’re big into professional development; our grad students are encouraged to attend conferences, present papers, go after prizes, and publish. Students are going to get personal attention and they are going to be challenged at every turn. They are also going to find a variety of interesting courses from which to choose to enroll every semester.”
The cost for an undergraduate program at the University of Missouri is just over $21,000 a year; this rises for out-of-state students to about $32,500 per year. A variety of financial assistance programs are available. Graduate tuition is by credit hour and there are required fees. Nearly all of their graduate students are on financial aid packages that offer tuition remission in return for serving as a teaching assistant, grader, or research assistant. Financial assistance is increasing, with the university now awarding $3000 to the Medieval and Renaissance Studies program to bring in another new graduate student in 2011-2012.
Their graduate program currently has about twenty-five students, many of whom are intersted in art history and English. Professor Huneycutt notes, “within the last six years or so we have begun receiving more and more applications from around the country from very highly qualified students; and this trend has been snowballing as our students are becoming more visible and doing things like giving papers at prestigious conferences and winning national prizes.”
Recent dissertations include I was Sick and You Visited Me: The Hospital of Saint John in Brussels and its Patrons, by Tiffany A. Ziegler, and The beautiful woman in medieval Iberia: rhetoric, cosmetics, and evolution, by Claudio Da Soller. The graduate student group, Missouri University Graduate Association for Medieval/Renaissance Studies, has sponsored a number of activities over the past year, including a reading group, practice sessions for conference presentations, and translation groups.
The faculty has been very proud of their continuing growth during an era where humanities education in the United States has been faltering. Professor Huneycutt adds, “We think one reason for this growth is that unfortunately, medieval programs have been contracting in other universities, but at Mizzou they remain strong, even growing somewhat, and people are now picking up on that. So we’ve been putting a lot of effort lately into maintaining our areas of strength as well as developing more systematic methods of recruiting students and teaching them once they are here.”