“You wouldn’t think that history would have anything to do with business, but the businesses in downtown (Joplin) are full of history,” says Hannah Silvey.

A history major who will graduate this spring, Silvey says working with the Downtown Joplin Alliance gave her a firsthand look at the city’s historic preservation needs. She found the opportunity through the Hire-A-Lion program at Missouri Southern.

Offered through Career Services, Hire-A-Lion allows students and alumni to find full- and part-time jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities.

The alliance is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the revitalization of the downtown community.

“It was a lot of clerical work, but I would also drive downtown and take pictures of buildings that are falling apart and then contact the owners,” says Silvey.

She would talk about preservation grants available to assist them with restoration efforts. She also had the opportunity to tour some of Joplin’s older buildings, including the Oliva Apartments. Built in 1906, the Olivia was heavily damaged in a 2020 fire, but new owners are working to restore it.

“I was one of the first people to tour there after (the fire),” Silvey says. “You could still smell the smoke.”

Her love for history began at a young age. Obsessed with Route 66 and the Fire in the Hole ride at Silver Dollar City, she wanted to know everything about their past.

“My dad was always there to supply that information and encouraged me to dive deep into history,” she says. “He’s what got me started.”

She now plans to teach English as a second language in Japan before applying to grad school.

“My end goal is being a professor,” she says. “Working with the Downtown Alliance taught me to think outside of the box. There are other things out there other than being a museum director or teacher … I want to show my students that.”

Dr. William Fischer, assistant professor of history, calls Silvey “extremely self-motivated.”

“She sought out challenging opportunities for herself without anyone prompting her to do so,” he says.

Silvey says the faculty and staff at Missouri Southern have had a major impact on her.

“The History Department is absolutely phenomenal. Students have the ability to connect to these wonderful professors and that’s what makes Missouri Southern unique. If I went to a different college, I don’t think I would get that same experience.”