Archive of Interviews Collected by Clarkson University Professor, Students Published on New York Heritage

May 10, 2023

While the yearslong impact of COVID-19 was endured by the global community, each person remembers their own unique experiences with the pandemic. Thanks to an archive of interviews on New York Heritage curated by Clarkson University Associate Professor of History Laura Ettinger and her students as a collaboration with the Clarkson Libraries, many of those experiences are now documented.


a cloth face covering is wrapped around a microphone
A cloth mask on a microphone.

New York Heritage is a portal for learning more about the people, places and events that contributed to the making of New York State.

Between 2020 and 2023, students in Ettinger's courses conducted audio interviews with relatives, friends, and fellow students about how the COVID-19 pandemic affected their families and communities. The majority of the interviews were conducted in September 2020 and in late January and early February 2023 by students in her History of Public Health in America courses. Two were conducted in late January and early February 2021 by students in her History of the American Family course, and two were conducted in December 2022 by first-year students in her Clarkson Seminar course.

The collection also contains an interview that Ettinger conducted with her mother in May 2020. With the permission of the interviewees, Clarkson University students, along with Ettinger, shared their interviews with this project so people in the future can learn about what it was like to live during the pandemic.

Natalie Romano, a junior biomolecular science major, recalls being intrigued when Ettinger announced the project in her History of Public Health in America class.

“Initially, I was excited. I was also slightly puzzled as to what questions I would ask and who I would interview. I had never interviewed anybody for a college course before and was curious as to how it would go,” Romano said. “I was definitely nervous that my interviewees would not be chatty and I would have to talk a lot. However, I knew they had interesting experiences to share and was eager to complete the assignment.”

Romano conducted two interviews for the project. Her interviewees included Kara Vormwald, Account Manager 2 with the American Red Cross for St. Lawrence County and Jefferson County, with whom Romano works to plan blood drives on Clarkson’s campus and Emma Blaiklock, Residential Housing Manager at Clarkson University, who oversees Romano in her role as Resident Advisor. While some of the questions she asked each subject differed based on their profession, many inquiries into how the pandemic affected them on a personal level were similar.

“The main takeaways I learned from the project were the importance of community and that even though two people’s lives can be vastly different, the COVID pandemic was truly a globally shared experience,” Romano recounted. “These were key points that both my interviewees discussed. Emma mentioned that she got through the pandemic by continuing to push through and to remind herself that students were relying on her (and on the university as well). Kara mentioned how important and touching it was to see the community come together and risk getting COVID to donate blood. Emma and Kara live two different lives and live in different places, yet both emphasized the importance of coming together and being there for one another. It was truly touching to learn that community was important for all and was a driving force during the pandemic.”

The interviews allowed Romano to reflect on her own pandemic experiences, and to learn more about two people she had come to know quite well. She also found there was a significant historical importance to the project.

“These interviews will allow people in the future to access primary sources on the pandemic - to hear from real people who lived through COVID talking in depth about their experiences and perspectives,” she said.

Visit for the full archive of interviews.

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