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MI Diaries project documents experiences during mass shooting at Michigan State University

MI Diaries project researchers
Posted at 8:48 AM, Mar 06, 2023

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The shooting that happened on the campus of Michigan State University was an event that many people will never forget. A team of researchers in the sociolinguistics lab at MSU are doing their part to help those in the Spartan family share their experiences with their Spartan Strong collection.

"This really was a statewide trauma," said Dr. Betsy Sneller project lead for MI Diaries.

MI Diaries is a projectthat was created to document the changes to people's lives and languages as they went through the historical experiences of the pandemic using audio diaries.

"We really quickly realized that there was interest in talking about people's lives beyond just the pandemic. And so the project has grown since then to really just be a project about documenting people's lives in Michigan," Sneller said.

Every once in a while, there is an event that happens that impacts a wide range of Michiganders.

"We'll create a special collection. So that's kind of exists outside of a normal weekly featured stories. Our very first special collection was 14 months ago after the Oxford High School shooting," Sneller said. "We got some diary entries from teenagers who were there as well as community members across the whole state kind of reflecting on this traumatic event."

They have also made a special collection for overturning for Roe v. Wade.

"We are in the process of creating a fourth special collection that I think touches really close to home to us about the shooting that happened at Michigan State," Sneller said. "This is our second special collection in 14 months about a mass shooting."

Diarists who are not only students and employees at Michigan State University but beyond are sharing what it was like for them during the mass shooting.

"My students who were on campus, you know, hiding in their dorm room on lockdown, hoping that they’re not next," said one diarist who was reflectingon everything that was happening.

Another diarist got emotional during their audio diary entry. They described what it was like going to work for them and taking the exact road the shooter took to get away from MSU.

"I live just down the road from MSU. All night, I could just hear the sirens, and I could hear the helicopters flying overhead," the diarist said expressing their feelings.

Other diarists describe what it was like for them watching the news and worrying about those close to them.

"Some of the people that I love most were barricading themselves in classrooms as an active shooter killed three people, injured five more, and was on the loose for four over four hours," the diarist said.

For students who are a part of the MI Diaries project as undergraduate researchers, this special collection also helps them process their emotions and feelings.

"This is something that impacted the Michigan State community, but it's something that really heavily impacted students. We were the ones most directly experiencing that, and this sort of thing that's coming out of this this Spartan Strong Collection. This is also for and by students," said project manager and junior Caroline Zackerman. "Hearing all of these diaries come in from our participants to just realize that they were also feeling the same way as I'm feeling. Spartans here at MSU and Spartans across the whole state, they're going through the same hard things that I'm going through."

Zackerman says this collection is a way for people to see that they are not alone in this tragic event.

"It's still something we're all going through, and we can all lean on each other at this time and just hear other people's stories," Zackerman said.

MI Diaries has released the first batch of the Spartan Strong collection.

"We've got 13 stories. That represents only a part of the stories that we've heard because some participants don't want their stories featured online," Sneller said.

They plan to release another batch about a month from now.

"We are a long-term project, which means that whenever people want to tell their story, we're available for for them to submit their stories. So if somebody wants to wait a year and submit their story, then we'll still be here. We'll still be listening," Sneller said. "I hope that getting these stories out there can help whatever pushed towards a change is possible."

MI Diaries wants to hear from you! They are putting out a call to the community tosign up to be a participant and be a part of the Spartan Strong collection.

"We have go to our website, that's the best place to to learn more. We have a special landing page specifically for the Spartan Strong collection," Sneller said. "You can include in the story, which includes a little brief introduction to the project, explanation for how to sign up, and then a list of questions to get them started if they don't know where to start."

Their mobile app makes it easy for diarists to record wherever they are in that moment.

"We have a mobile app, so people can download it to their phone or to their tablet or whatever and record their voice and that gets sent back to us," Sneller said. "One of our main product values is authenticity we really want people to feel free to express themselves in however is most authentic to them, so you don't need to be an English speaker to participate. You can submit your story in whatever language you feel most comfortable in."

MI Diaries also has a partnership with the Library of Michigan.

"When sign up, they can choose whether or not to opt into this partnership. If they choose to opt in, those stories will be anonymized, but sent to the archive of the library in Michigan, sort of as a historical resource as well," Sneller said.

For more information on MI Diaries, click here.

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