Meet a Lucerna Author: Olivia Steely

What is your Lucerna project about?

My project studied the powerful rhetoric of St. Louis native Dorothy Roudebush. I was enamored with her ability to take a difficult topic of abortion, one that was clearly dear to her, and express her opinions in a way that was empathetic and nuanced. I chose her speech at the Manchester Christian Church because she was addressing an audience that, as a whole, had different opinions on the topic than Dorothy. In a time where the cultural conversation seems polarized and loud, Dorothy’s speech is an example of how individuals, especially those who would like to see positive change in their community, can engage in conversations about difficult topics such as abortion. I argued that Dorothy used empathetic rhetoric to find common ground and understanding from both sides in such a personal argument.

Why are you interested in this topic?

I find controversial and sticky topics to be the most fascinating. I love topics that include lots of nuance and layers and, while often overlooked, these layers are valuable and relevant to the conversation. I like to educate myself and others who love to study people who are passionate about a topic and express that passion powerfully and elegantly.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

One of the challenges of this project was putting my emotional reactions aside when analyzing her documents. Since I enjoy studying and writing about topics that I am passionate about, I expected some of my own reactions to the subject. Another challenge was taming my curiosity. I spent lots of time in the archives on the UMKC campus studying Dorothy’s documents and artifacts. I had to make sure that I stayed focused on my argument, but also allow myself some time to explore and learn about Dorothy’s work in a more informal manner. I had lots of benefits from this project. I learned that I loved looking at manuscripts in archives and to not be afraid to research in ways I was not familiar with. I also gained fulfillment from learning about an individual from my local community who did such interesting and difficult work.

What is your advice for students who are interested in publishing their work in Lucerna?

My advice would be to find a project or work that you are very passionate about. Then, you just have to submit it and get it over with! If you are passionate about the work you want to publish, then you are proud regardless if you are accepted or not.

What are your professional plans or goals?

My current professional plans are to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education (English emphasis) and a Spanish minor from the University of Missouri-Saint Louis. I then plan to complete a master’s degree in educational administration. I would like to continue research and write about little known individuals who enacted change in their communities, as well as work in creating a more inclusive and modern educational system.


The Lucerna Symposium, at 5 p.m., Thursday, March 5, will feature most of the contributors to the latest edition of the undergraduate journal. This event is free and open to the public. Click here to RSVP.