History Interns

Curious about what a history major can do after graduation? Just talk with history intern Dylan Cade or intern supervisor Professor Henry Kamerling.

“Students often come in thinking about history in a very narrow way,” Professor Henry Kamerling said, “but I tell students to think more broadly.”

Kamerling, history internship supervisor, places students in organizations ranging from the ACLU and Starbucks to immigrant rights activist groups, law firms, museums, and nonprofit agencies where “they use their background in ways they couldn’t anticipate when seeking an internship.”

Dylan Cade ’18 spent months working at Seattle’s Holocaust Center for Humanity. Begun 30 years ago by a group of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, the center has a museum and educational resource center to assist teachers in curricula around genocide and bullying. In any given year, members of its speakers’ bureau reach as many as 20,000 students in more than 100 venues throughout the Northwest and Alaska. The Center has had four interns so far.

“One part of my job was to engage with primary sources, old documents, old pictures, and old testimonies and find a way to put those together into a format that we could use when presenting to groups,” Cade said. “We create a presentation that is clear and authentic.”

For Laurie Warshal Cohen, Ed.D. ‘88, who is in charge of special projects and development at the center, history interns have not only the high tech skills needed to create presentations but essential research and documentation skills to vet information and take oral histories. They help with outreach and teacher training. They assist with the speakers bureau, meeting with speakers and staff to examine documents, map out the survivor’s journey, and construct a timeline.

Sometimes, though, pieces are missing from the story. Cohen recalled meeting with a child of a survivor and hearing for the first time about a Swedish program that took women to Sweden after they were liberated from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. To verify the information, a history intern delved deep into the vast archive of Holocaust documents and learned that Swedes first came to the camps in Germany to bring Swedish and Danish citizens home. Then they returned to Bergen-Belsen and took about 700 women suffering from typhus to Sweden to recuperate, saving their lives.

“Our intern found the photo of a white Swedish Red Cross bus,” Cohen said. “We were able to explain to the daughter what actually happened to her mother and used the photo as an example of the type of buses used to transport camp survivors to Sweden.”

Especially when working with those who experienced the Holocaust as young children, interns fill in gaps and validate experiences through extensive research to document what actually happened.

“What we give back to them is something vetted, checked, and professional,” Cade emphasized.

This is exactly what Kamerling expects of history interns—to take what they learn in the classroom about research and use those skills in a real-world setting. At Starbucks, for example, interns work in the legal division using their history research skills in archives and document management. An intern at Operation Nightwatch, an organization dedicated to reducing homelessness and poverty, took oral histories of men who were homeless and successfully used them in a grant application.

Kamerling also emphasizes the value that students get from learning to work in a professional environment: “There are important differences between working in a professional environment and a college environment. Internships transcend the discipline of history and offer vital experiences so students are successful once they graduate.”

Cade summed up his experience this way: “I’ve learned so much– lessons about accepting other people, lessons about how diversity truly is strength and how similarities bring comfort and that’s how we can identify with one another, lessons about how you can find something to be passionate about, and lessons about caring about what you do.”

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