The University of Missouri was founded in 1839 as the first public university west of the Mississippi River. The school is a major land-grant institution and is the state’s largest public research university. The College of Education, then known as the “Normal College” was established in 1867 to prepare teachers for Missouri’s public schools.
When MU was awarded land-grant status in 1870, the school grew and opened its doors to what is now known as the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, and soon after, the Schools of Law and Medicine were added. In 1892, a disastrous fire destroyed the school, but the school rebuilt, and by the beginning of the 20th century, acquired the nickname, Mizzou.
In 1908, Mizzou established the world’s first journalism school and began using its famous Missouri Method of teaching students in real media outlets. In 1950, the school began admitting African-American students. The school officially added Columbia to its name in 1963, and then voted to drop it in 2007, though the school retains the name for business purposes. Today, Mizzou has about 28,000 students and 12,000 full-time staff members.
Mizzou’s 1,358-acre main campus is a state-designated botanical garden. The academic buildings are split into two sections known as the Red Campus and the White Campus. The Red Campus is made up of historic academic buildings and takes its name from the red bricks that make up most of the buildings. Newer, neo-gothic buildings have been built east of Red Campus, and this section is known as the White Campus. The most prominent feature of White Campus is Memorial Union, the community center for Mizzou, which hosts many special events.
The athletic facilities are south of the main campus, which includes Memorial Stadium, home field for Tigers football. South of the athletic facilities is the MU Research Park, which includes the Research Reactor Center, home to a tank-type nuclear research reactor with highly enriched uranium. Residence halls are spread out on the main campus, and are currently undergoing comprehensive renovation and construction. The majority of the Greek houses are on College Avenue on the east side of the campus, with fraternity and sorority members occupying historic residences in what has come to be known as Greek Town.
Columbia is the fifth-largest city in the state of Missouri and is located in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. This college town is politically liberal and is known by the nicknames “Athens of Missouri,” “College Town USA,” and “CoMo.” Half of the 94,428 people in Columbia possess a bachelor’s degree, making it one of the most highly educated municipalities in the United States.
Just feet from campus is downtown Columbia, known as The District, which is full of local shops, restaurants, and small music venues. Just feet from the Journalism School are Chipotle, Starbucks, and a local pizza parlor, Shakespeare’s.
The District always has something fun going on - in the summer the Blue Note hosts an outdoor music series, the True/False Film Festival takes over The District for a long weekend in early spring, and the entire city of Columbia heads downtown for the Roots, Blues and BBQ festival in the fall. Columbia has a thriving progressive music scene.
Outside of downtown, students frequent the mall for stores like Express, Target, Barnes & Noble or the Gap. Since Columbia is right in the middle of Missouri, trips to Kansas City and St. Louis are less than two hours by car. During the late spring, summer, and early fall students drive about an hour to the Lake of the Ozarks for parties and general relaxation.
The homecoming tradition actually originated at Mizzou, with the age-old rivalry between the University of Missouri and the University of Kansas. In 1911, Chester L. Brewer, the director of athletics at that time, envisioned inviting alumni to “come home” for the game in order to intensify the atmosphere of rivalry and competition. There was a spirit rally and parade as thousands of fans packed the stadium that is now known as Stankowski Field.
Homecoming is still one of MU’s largest events. Every year there is an annual parade and spirit rally, as well as emphasis on community service, decorations, talent competitions, and other activities for students to get involved in. MU’s Homecoming also includes the largest blood drive on a college campus. The week-long event is organized by a prestigious and exclusive steering committee that manages campus decorations, spirit, merchandise, the parade, blood drive, service, royalty, talent, and other special events.
Greek houses also compete to “win” Homecoming through their participation in community service and the blood drive as well as their performance in talent competitions and campus decoration. The themed talent competition includes skits and dance as well as props and costuming.
Six iconic columns are all that remain of Academic Hall, a building destroyed by fire in 1892. Now, they are the traditional symbol of Mizzou, and a place for students to study, nap, or eat on a sunny day; they are also the site of several traditions, including Tiger Walk and Senior Sendoff.
Tiger Walk takes place in August before classes begin. The freshman class meets at the Columns and walks through them towards Jesse Hall to symbolize their entrance into Mizzou. Similarly, Senior Sendoff, also known as Tiger Prowl, is when seniors walk away from Jesse Hall back towards the columns to symbolize the enduring connection they will have as alumni. One fun fact about Senior Sendoff is that it is one of Mizzou's only university-sponsored events where alcoholic beverages are served. Mizzou’s official ice cream flavor, Tiger Stripe, is served at both of these events.
Switzler Hall is the oldest building on MU's campus. Historically, this building's bell would signal the beginning and end of class periods. Now, the bells of Switzler ring only on three occasions: to honor the death of a member of the Mizzou family, on Tap Day, and for the Mizzou '39 Ceremony.
First held in 1927, Tap Day is an annual spring ceremony that is held at the base of the quad’s columns that honors and thus reveals the members of the six secret honor societies at Mizzou. The societies include QEBH, Mystical Seven, LSV, Omicron Delta Kappa, Mortar Board, and Rollins Society. One notable member of QEBH is Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart. A society that has a rivalry with QEBH is Mystical Seven, a group that taps seven outstanding seniors for good deeds and selfless service to the campus and university. LSV honors women who have completed a year of secretly serving by doing community service. Both Omicron Delta Kappa and Mortarboard are societies that juniors or seniors can apply for. Membership is based on campus involvement, service, and leadership. The Rollins Society is for graduate students.
The Mizzou ’39 Award honors 39 outstanding seniors for their leadership, scholarship, and service to the MU community. The ceremony takes place on the quad at the steps of Jesse Hall. Candles are lit along the sidewalks as the recipients’ names are read. There is also a special reception, banquet, and moment of recognition at the day’s athletic event for the honorees.
The story goes that, years ago, two students were talking under the Journalism School archway about having cheated on an exam. Their voices echoed and the Dean heard them from his office and failed both of them. Now, legend has it that when walking under the archway students should always speak in a whisper, otherwise they risk failing their next exam. Most students choose not to speak at all.
There is a statue of former governor David R. Francis stands northeast of the entrance to Jesse Hall. It is said that when a student rubs his nose, they’ll get an “A” on their next exam. Since it has become one of the more popular traditions at the school, the governor’s nose has needed replacement a few times over the years. It is far shinier than the rest of the statue.
Right outside the Engineering Building is a stone shamrock, the symbol of the engineers. If you walk across this shamrock, it is said that you are destined to marry an engineer. Some students avoid this stone, while some students just can’t seem to stay away!
A tradition for Mizzou’s incoming freshmen is a service project where they paint the M at the football stadium together. Created in 1927 with rocks left over from the building of the stadium, the M is located in the middle of the hill beyond the north end zone. The tradition stems from when Nebraska, one of Mizzou’s main athletic rivals, tried to change the M to an N before a football game. Dedicated students worked to turn the N back to the symbolic M. Now, freshmen repaint it before the first football game every year.
— With special reporting by Anne Christian '09, Erynn Hesler '10, and Rachel Kuo '10
Sheryl Crow (1984) is a famous singer. She was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, a sorority, and Omicron Delta Kappa, a secret honors society.
E. Stanley Kroenke (1971) is a billionaire entrepreneur who owns the NFL’s St. Louis Rams, NBA’s Denver Nuggets, and NHL’s Colorado Avalanche.
Claire McCaskill (1975) is the junior senator from Missouri.
Chuck Roberts (1971) is an anchor on CNN.
Ike Skelton (1953) is a US Congressman representing Missouri’s fourth district. Skelton, a Democrat, is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
Elizabeth Vargas (1984) is a co-anchor for the program 20/20 and an ABC News correspondent.
Mort Walker (1948) created the Beetle Bailey comic strip. A life size bronze statue of Beetle sits in front of the Alumni Center.
Sam Walton (1940) is the founder of Walmart. He was a member of Beta Theta Pi and QEBH at Mizzou.
The Missouri Tigers are members of the Big 12 Conference and Mizzou is the only school in the state where all teams compete at the Division I level. These sports include men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, cross country, football, golf, gymnastics, lacrosse, swimming, and wrestling, among many others.
Although sports are generally popular at Mizzou, the real crowd draws are basketball and football. Mizzou’s football team is nationally ranked and as a result, Mizzou gear has been flying off the shelves at the team stores. In the final Associated Press Top 25 college football poll of the 2007 season, Mizzou was ranked fourth in the country – its highest finishing position in the team’s history. The men’s basketball team boasts 2 NCAA tournament appearances and 15 conference championships.
Thomas Jefferson’s original tombstone is located on Mizzou’s campus. Jefferson’s heirs gave it to the school in July 1883, because it was the first state university in the territory of the Louisiana Purchase.
Mizzou is one of only six public universities in the nation with medicine, veterinary medicine, and law all on one campus.
Mizzou is credited with establishing the homecoming tradition in the United States.
In September 2005 Sports Illustrated rated the Mizzou Student Recreation Complex the best in the nation.
Dorms at Mizzou are spread around the main campus in four main areas – Bingham/Mark Twain, Dobbs, Pershing/Johnston/Wolpers, and Rollins/Virginia Avenue. Dining facilities serve the different clusters.
Mizzou is in the process of carrying out the Residential Life Master Plan, which will improve and replace aging residence halls on campus. For instance, Cramer, Stafford, Defoe, and Graham are in the process of demolition for a set of newer, more modern suite-style dorms. The Respect, Responsibility, Excellence, and Discovery dorms are brand new suite-style dorms and the College Avenue, North, South, and Center residences are new as well. Mark Twain is located on the northwest side of campus and is an older, suite-style dorm.
All of Mizzou’s dorms are co-ed except for Wolpers, Jones, Johnston, and Lathrop. Wolpers is the only all-male dorm on campus while Jones, Johnston, and Lathrop are all-female. The balconies on Lathrop are said to be one of the best places to watch a Tiger football game since they overlook Faurot Field.
Freshmen of one major or another are typically located in the same dorm or dorm complex due to the FIG (Freshman Interest Group) Program. In FIGs, students are given an introduction to college life and their major by a student PA (Peer Advisor) and a Faculty Advisor. The FIG system is a great way to meet people and explore the campus as well as downtown Columbia. Since the program is optional, students are placed on a first-come, first-serve basis.