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Discovering Drexel's History: Meet University Archives Assistant Sophia Stutte

by Rachel Weidner

Sophia Stutte, Drexel Archives co-op


August 2, 2023

During their six-month co-op with the Drexel University Archives, history major Sophia Stutte has been working to create a comprehensive resource guide tailored to researchers interested in studying the Archives' collection of materials from Drexel student organizations and clubs. The guide is a valuable resource organizing fundamental information on many individual student groups. Providing an intriguing timeline of organizations throughout Drexel's history, the guide also highlights the presence of groups led by and representing historically underrepresented communities.

Before joining Drexel, Sophia resided in the Washington, D.C. area, where their fondness for archives and libraries blossomed through countless visits to the renowned Smithsonian museums. Now, they have brought that passion to Philadelphia. Sophia also has an interest in the preservation of video games and various forms of media, including TV, vlogs, and music — pursuits which complement their support of the University Archives.

This article was originally published by Drexel University Libraries.

Q: What attracted you to this co-op and why did you apply? 

One of the big things that attracted me to this co-op was being able to work for Drexel, and especially with the Libraries. I knew I wanted to be involved with the University and library work. Seeing that the University Archives was offering a co-op position was definitely a big draw.

Q: Describe a project you are working on as part of your co-op.

My primary project [during my co-op has been] crafting a library guide to assist people who are researching student organizations and clubs at Drexel, including performing arts organizations, educational clubs and recreational clubs, as well as Greek life. The guide serves as a starting point for researchers who are interested in looking into that topic. A large part of the project entailed familiarizing myself with the [University Archives'] collections and identifying important collections that would be pertinent to someone researching Drexel student organizations and clubs. Then I would use that information to build the guide, for example providing information about how many clubs there are or which collections feature what club (if you're looking for a specific group for instance). So a lot of a lot of my project is directed towards making as much information as accessible as possible without losing the nuance of the different collections.

Q: What's your favorite thing you've discovered while working for the Drexel University Archives?

I discovered a lot about the community at Drexel. For instance, in studying the history of student life through my project, I learned about student organizations and Greek life organizations that have existed, whether they're still operating or not. It was really interesting for me, as somebody who isn't really a part of a lot of organizations, to be able to see how these clubs affected the University throughout its history. I think some of my favorite clubs I found out about were Indian dance clubs. They're not as well promoted on campus — you see a lot about the Dragon Jedi and the a cappella clubs, but you don't hear so much about [these other groups]. Knowing that there's performances like that is really meaningful to me.

Q: What have you learned about Drexel's history and the University's impact on the community during your co-op?

In my time working for the Archives, I've learned a lot about how Drexel has changed its internal infrastructure and about the history of the buildings and the different colleges. I also learned a lot about the impact that Drexel has had on the West Philadelphia community and the impact Drexel's expansion has had on neighborhoods like West Powelton (for instance, Greek organizations using the Powelton neighborhood for housing). It's also interesting to see evidence of these groups organizing civic engagement opportunities and community events.

Q: What are some of the most valuable skills you'll take away from this experience?

I think one of the most valuable skills I honed is the ability to network with other people in the archival world. Since this is my first co-op, I haven't done anything like this before and having hands-on support through this whole experience and meeting new people has really helped me better understand what's going on in Philadelphia archives. Other skillsets I'll take away from this experience include technical skills like working with metadata, as well as working with physical collections. Being able to use primary sources firsthand was definitely a helpful experience that I will utilize in my career.

Q: What interesting resources or facts would you want to share about the University Archives that fellow Dragons might not know?

From things like scrapbooks and pictures to letters and other correspondence, the artifacts that I've come across during my time in the University Archives have revealed such a wide variety of resources available to learn about Drexel. This is the history of the space students are surrounded by, the buildings we’re spending time in, the classes we're taking — that's something that a lot of students could look into and benefit from. I think at least personally I've gotten a lot out of learning about Drexel's history, and it makes me feel I like I understand the school more, the way everything works, and how the community has developed. I found that I was pulling items out of the collections that weren't necessarily for research, but just because I was interested [in them]. I feel like there is such a connection between past students and me as a student now. Being able to see pictures of old clubs, events, and classes is fascinating. I think a lot of students would find the history very interesting if they explored the University Archives in their own time.

Q: How will this co-op experience help you consider a future career?

This co-op really solidified that I do enjoy working in archives and working with libraries. This experience has enabled me to boost my career with all the connections I've made and has confirmed for me that this type of work is what I want to pursue in the future.

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