UM Launches History Internships Focused on COVID-19

Public history interns meet with UM faculty members via Zoom.

MISSOULA – The Department of History at the University of Montana is creating a new certificate program in the vitally important field of public history. As part of this initiative, a group of UM undergraduate students, doctoral students and alumni recently completed a six-week Oral History Internship, led by three history department faculty members.

The purpose of the project was for students to gain knowledge and experience in the practice of oral history and to contribute to the public-record testimonies about how people, businesses and organizations in western Montana experienced the coronavirus pandemic during the lockdown and phased reopening in the spring and summer of 2020.

“This oral history internship experience really allowed our student scholars to partner with this place that is Missoula, Montana, and the greater Rocky Mountain West,” said Kyle Volk, chair of UM Department of History. “These internships provide students with professional, hands-on experience that make the past relevant and accessible to the wider public.” 

Student work produced a collection of 20 recorded and transcribed interviews that will be donated to Archives and Special Collections at UM’s Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library. Entitled “University of Montana COVID-19 Oral History Project,” the interviews will be available in the library’s digital collections.

Both the interviewees and the interviewers in this project come from diverse backgrounds and offer different perspectives on recent COVID-19 experiences:

  • John Stefanek is a doctoral student studying modern U.S. history. Having personal interest in Greek life, exotic pets and video games, he interviewed two fraternity presidents at UM and Montana State University, the owner of an exotic pet business based in Helena and a married couple from Helena who stream video games on Twitch.
  • Michael Larmann is a doctoral student studying early American history. His interviewees were concentrated in Missoula and include retailers, a restaurant, the Missoula Paddleheads baseball team and the local music band Letter B. Larmann also conducted interviews on behalf of the Downtown Missoula Partnership, including the Missoula branch of the International Rescue Committee, which works with refugees.
  • Sophia Etier, a Montana resident, graduated in this spring with a Bachelor of Arts in History and is currently enrolled in a public history graduate program at Southern New Hampshire University. Because of her involvement in public history, she interviewed the executive and assistant directors of the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, as well as the Missoula historic preservation officer. Also having an interest in health care during the pandemic, Etier interviewed the executive director of the All Nations Health Center.
  • Riley Erion is a recent UM graduate who received an undergraduate degree in history. Her interviews included the co-owners of Hype House, a spin studio and the executive director of the Poverello Center.
  • Madeline Hagan is an undergraduate student studying history, philosophy and African-American studies. She interviewed a single-mother student, an environmental studies professor and a Black Lives Matter protester.

For more information email Volk at More information about UM public history internships is online at


Contact: Kyle G. Volk, chair, UM Department of History, 406-544-5787,