The idea of founding a student-run creative arts magazine at Mississippi State University started during my freshmen year. However, the task seemed too daunting and I did not have the confidence to pursue it becoming a reality. Two of my fellow freshmen friends living in Griffis Hall, Will Hager and Maurice Duplantis, and I stayed up late at night in Griffis Hall during our freshmen year – with all the time in the world on our hands and no idea what to do with all of it – and would think of catchy names to call the magazine. I remember I was set on “Bulldog Bards,” but Will Hager was not. “Too cheesy, man,” he would say, “just too cheesy.” Hager, on the other hand, would read through Allen Ginsberg’s poetry and write various abstract phrases of Ginsberg’s work on the board of one of the Griffis Hall Study Rooms and say, “What’d you think of that?” I did not think any of them were better than “Bulldog Bards.” We never came to a conclusion, and I do not think we ever cared to: we were just having fun messing around during our freshmen year. Maurice said he had talked to a professor who “would get back to him,” but we were never sure how well Maurice knew the professor or what exactly transpired at those meetings, so we all waited around like Vladimir and Estragon hoping that somehow a plan for a creative arts magazine would fall right into our lap.
Will, Maurice, and I stopped talking about the possibility of starting a creative arts magazine the next year. We gave up on our dream. Deep down inside, we knew a university with over 20,000 students needed a creative arts magazine. There were just too many creative minds out there who did not know each other. We needed to coalesce into a powerfully intelligent cohort on this campus that would sharpen one another to reach our full potential. However, we had not even come up with a title or acquired a faculty advisor in a year. The first semester of my sophomore year came and went with no mention of a creative arts magazine. However, the new Dean of the Honors College, Dr. Christopher Snyder, held an interest meeting about funding a student-run creative arts magazine during the last weeks of my sophomore year. All he wanted was dedicated students that would promise him to put out a high-quality magazine. I jumped on the opportunity to lead the project. Dr. Snyder was happy to see my enthusiasm, but another student had shown interest before me in a one-on-one meeting. Dr. Snyder compromised and said that since we were the only two people that had shown such enthusiasm about the project, it would be best if we led together. During the end of my sophomore year, we held an interest meeting for all students interested in helping us start this creative arts magazine. In my mind, more than half of the battle was already won. We had a faculty advisor, and we had funding. All we needed now were eager students, which I figured would not be that hard to find.
At the interest meeting, only four students showed up – and that is including me and the other co-leader. The other two “prospective members” were boyfriend and girlfriend (both engineering majors) that were not sure how they could help, but they figured that helping to found something like this would look good on their resume. So the four of us brainstormed for a good name (I was still persistent about “Bulldog Bards”) and talked about other future possibilities. Though we did not get much done at the meeting, we exchanged emails and promised to keep things going over the summer. At the end of my sophomore year, I was hopeful that by the beginning of junior year we would be on our way to truly seeing the first edition of our creative arts magazine coming into fruition. However, there was another setback. Nobody would respond to my emails. I gave up after about three or four tries. I was back to ground zero.
At the beginning of my junior year I told Dr. Snyder about the setback. He told me not to worry. He would send out another email about the creative arts magazine, organize an interest meeting and tell them that free pizza would be there, and personally recruit some students that he thought might be interested in getting involved. I also began talking to a good friend of mine, Hannah Humphrey, who I knew would be great at helping to found this new creative arts magazine. Hannah was all on board, and she became a co-editor-in-chief of the magazine. Hannah, along with Dr. Snyder, recruited a great group of people who began to help get the ball rolling. By the end of the first semester of my junior year we were holding meetings regularly in the Shackouls Honors College. Ten to fifteen faithful members were attending.
Hannah and a few others helped to come up with a title to the magazine, The Streetcar, which paid homage to the great Mississippi playwright, Tennessee Williams, who was born about thirty miles away from Mississippi State’s campus. With over 250 submissions by our deadline, we were more than happy that so many students on campus wanted to be published in our new magazine. By the end of my junior year we made our final selections and planned on having our first edition published as soon as possible. “As soon as possible” ended up taking a while longer than we expected, but by the time I graduated I was able to hold the first edition of The Streetcar in my hand. I was proud to have played my part in its creation. Many other people came along and played bigger roles than I did (Hannah Humphrey, Daniel Hart, and Kylie Dennis most definitely being three of them), but I will always be able to say I played a part. I hope that when I come back on this campus many years later, I can see a new edition published by a new generation of students.
During my senior year, I had a very serious conversation with a freshman who was very frustrated with the community of students involved in a particular branch of chemistry or physical science. He wanted to start a club, but he did not know where to start. He even asked me if he should transfer to another school that already had a great community in place. My response was, in essence, the story of The Streetcar, and I started at the very beginning. I went all the way back to the conversations with Will and Maurice during my freshman year, and my obsession with “Bulldog Bards.” I then posed to him a question: “Would you rather perpetuate the problem by leaving the university, or help be a part of the solution by fostering an environment that would enable future students to have an even more enriching college experience than you have had?” I then told him that there are Dr. Snyders out there on this campus willing to help, but he must seek them out and find them. Will, Maurice, and I were lucky. The Streetcar did, in a way, fall in our lap. His dream might not become a reality as easily, but I urged him to, at least, give an honest try before he threw in the towel. If he does not, I assured him he would regret it. The fact that I was able to give that advice to a freshman during my senior year sums up the significance of the The Streetcar’s founding. Sure, I learned about the world of editing, publishing, and graphic design in the process of co-founding this magazine, but I learned much more than just that. The story of The Streetcar is one of caring faculty members making sure that driven students have their intellectual desires fulfilled. That, after all, is what college is all about, and that is why out of all the things I have done at Mississippi State University, The Streetcar holds a special place in my heart. I hope that all Streetcar members who come after me will have the same experience.
Best wishes for years to come,
MSU Class of 2014
Co-founder of The Streetcar