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Oct 18 / Christine Illichmann

From SIS student to University Archivist – Alison Stankrauff returns to Wayne State

University Archivist Alison Stankrauff (MLIS ’02)

“Relationship-building is critical to any type of archive – you cannot build an archives without that. It really smashes the stereotype of the archivist as being an antisocial person who hoards over the records, never to share them with anyone. Getting out there and then – once you have the materials – getting them out to an even wider audience is key, and critical.” – Wayne State University Archivist, Alison Stankrauff.

Alison Stankrauff is, first and foremost, a people person. As the new University Archivist, she is responsible for maintaining 150 years of institutional memory for Wayne State University. However, Alison understands that behind every document, video, photo, and file, there is a person on campus who was there in the moment that each bit of history was created. And one of her primary goals is to know each of those people.

The effectiveness of Alison’s philosophy of outreach has been proven over time. Prior to coming to Wayne State, she spent thirteen years at Indiana University, South Bend, where she held the position of Campus Archivist and Associate Librarian. When she began at IU South Bend in 2004, there had not been a professional archivist on campus in more than ten years, and she quickly went to work building relationships with departments and creating processes and procedures to preserve university history.

“As an archivist – particularly as a University Archivist – it’s really all about relationships. During my time particularly at IU South Bend I made sure to ‘get out there’ on campus and out into the wider community,” Alison explained. “In thirteen years I was able to really establish strong relationships to grow the archives there. And I very much want to do the same here at Wayne State for the University Archives.”

Prior to her work at IU South Bend Alison was an archivist at the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati from 2002 to 2004. However, the move to Detroit was a homecoming of sorts for Alison who graduated from the Master of Library and Information Science program with a focus in Archival Administration in 2002. Changes and growth in Detroit as well as on the Wayne State University campus have come as a pleasant surprise.

I love the city of Detroit. When I was in the SIS Program I lived in the city – just a few blocks from campus (at Second and Forest). And I now live in the New Center area and love it! The University has grown so much since my time fifteen years ago – and I see the changes as really positive. Campus is so lively all hours – deep into the night.”

Alison brings more than just immense professional experience and a talent for relationship building – she also brings experience as a mentor to other archivists. In 2016 she co-wrote Stankrauff, Alison H.; Sommer, Tom; and Ganz, Michelle (2016) “The How and Why of Mentoring,” Journal of Western Archives: Vol. 7: Iss. 1, Article 2. Available at:

I’ve been both a mentee and a mentor. I’ve found that helping others in the profession – whether peers who are practicing archivists or budding archivists in archives programs – has been really rewarding. I’ve served as the Chair of the Society of American Archivists Mentoring Program. And the people that I’ve mentored I can now count as colleagues in the profession as well as friends. As a mentee, my very first mentor was the Reuther’s very own (awesome) Mary Wallace, Audiovisual Archivist, while I was a student worker here at the Reuther Library. And now she’s a colleague!

As Alison settles in to her new role as University Archivist, she has one important project in mind – in 2018, Wayne State University celebrates its 150th anniversary.

Celebrating 150 years is a big deal – and the campus’ historian has an integral role in that. I’ve been doing much research on various aspects of the University through time, including its vibrant diversity through the decades: the many different groups that Wayne has given an opportunity to. I’m working on the 150th exhibit here with colleagues that will kick off the entire Sesquicentennial for the University here in January at the Reuther Library. I’m also on the University-wide Sesquicentennial Committee.

When the anniversary passes, Alison will ensure that the mechanisms are in place to capture the next 150 years of university history. She will continue to build important relationships and work with each school and department to ensure their milestones are preserved and recorded. Alison is ready to meet the challenge, and you can be certain she will continue to reach out to the campus community to build key relationships.

I’m also doing my utmost to do lots of outreach to as many portions of the Wayne State University campus community as I can to let them know that I’m here to help them, and I’m interested in their records. Meeting people across the campus has been fun – and I plan to do as much of it as I can to grow the University Archives!”

Welcome back, Alison!