Godly Miracle Coupons and ad-libbed odysseys: Brain Stew enters its 26th year of publication

by | Nov 10, 2016

Meagan Burwell, Zachary Lee and Nicole Gevers continue the student publication's traditions of satire and irreverent humor.

Meagan Burwell (at left), Zachary Lee and Nicole Gevers believe serving as editors for Brain Stew is always more fun than work. (Photo by August Jennewein)

English major and E.E. Cummings enthusiast Zachary Lee describes Brain Stew as the The Onion of college newspapers.

Operating with an edgy, satirical lens, the University of Missouri–St. Louis student-managed publication tackles subjects like the pros and cons of bacon, the finer points of playing Pokemon Go! and in-depth reviews of campus eateries.

Along with undergraduate publications such as The Current, Litmag and Bellerieve, Brain Stew provides a unique outlet for voices on campus. Housed in the Pierre Laclede Honors College, its claim to fame is a focus on absurd, playful humor.


Since 1991, Brain Stew has made itself known as a community-building tool integral to the culture of the Pierre Laclede Honors College. (Image courtesy of Nicole Gevers)

“Brain Stew is just kind of cattywampus,” Lee said. “It’s like a back-home mom-and-pop’s version of a publication, crammed full of homegrown, locally sourced jokes.”

Lee, Nicole Gevers and Meagan Burwell comprise the all-new editing team that is leading Brain Stew into its 26th year of production. The trio keeps a busy schedule, each writing up to three articles per issue, curating submissions, creating layouts and cover art, and working to ensure the publication’s spirit of fun and intellectual rebellion lives on.

Brain Stew was founded in 1991 by alumni Thompson Knox and Dennis Hall, who made it their mission to create a more conversational and comfortable atmosphere in the honors college. Under the auspices of Fred Fausz, the dean at the time, the duo set to work, drafting the publication in Knox’s basement with the aid of a photo scanner and Photoshop.

Over time, Brain Stew, named after a purported Greek hangover cure, became a key component to building culture in the honors college by combining lessons learned in the classroom with a unique camaraderie.

“Things didn’t have to be one [way] or the other,” Knox said. “You could have learning where, in the classroom, things are really serious but entertaining, but out of the classroom, everybody [was] hanging out and friendly and comfortable.”

In an effort to create a closer community through humor, the honors college faculty are often part of Brain Stew’s satire. In the pages of each issue, they take on over-the-top personas, expressing unhealthy obsessions with their pets, wine and physical fitness.

A vegan chef and lover of buffalo cauliflower bites, Burwell believes inside jokes and jabs at the faculty are essential to bridging the gap between students and faculty.

“It’s not every day you get to lampoon your professor,” she said. “It’s just all in good fun as part of the sarcastic attitude of the publication. What would college be without a little playful contempt for the establishment?”

Gevers, a civil engineering major and the cover artist, thinks the faculty’s willingness to play along indicates a rare level of respect for the students that aids higher learning.

“I wouldn’t say they’re easy targets, but everyone on south campus knows who they are, so it’s kind of fun,” Gevers said. “We’re a very serious group of students and faculty, so it’s nice to not take ourselves too seriously every once in a while. Being able to mock each other only adds to our camaraderie.”

Dan Gerth, interim dean of the honors college, finds the characterizations of faculty and staff to be one of the publication’s strong suits.

“I think the caricatures that they’ve created of us are really funny and so good — almost too good sometimes,” said Gerth. “One of the editors wrote a letter promising unlimited comfort puppies in our student lounge and signed my name to it, and it matched my voice so well that many people thought I really wrote it. Different groups of editors seem to embrace different aspects of the publication more than others, and the current group has really made faculty and staff parody a highlight.”

Gerth noted that Brain Stew is part of an important tradition of creative efforts in the honors college. The literary journal Bellerive and the art show Celebrating the Arts both recently hit 15-year anniversaries.

“I think continuity like that is one of the things that helps keep alumni feeling at home in honors, even when the faces have changed,” Gerth said.

As Burwell, Gevers and Lee move forward in adding their marks to the Brain Stew tradition, they urge students to lend their voices and help them indulge in a bit of scholarly mischief.

“We really encourage people to submit whatever, and we’ll make a home for it.”

The UMSL Experience

Ron Austin

Ron Austin