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New UW-Eau Claire partnership offers history students internships in Michigan national park

| Denise Olson

Photo caption: UW-Eau Claire master's student Shane Carlson (center) worked for two months with Keweenaw National Historical Park staff like park archivist Jeremiah Mason (left) and park historian Jo Holt (right).

This fall, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire proudly announced an exciting new partnership between the history department and the Keweenaw National Historical Park (KEWE), a unit of the National Park Service system in Calumet, Michigan.

The KEWE-UWEC Research & Intern Fellowship will fund two annual summer internships for Blugold undergraduate and graduate students in history and public history. Each will spend two summer months working and researching in the park, collaborating with National Park Service (NPS) staff on daily tasks such as visitor engagement, while also working on specialized research to expand public interpretation of the multifaceted social, environmental and cultural history of this region known as Copper Country.

“Our students will receive invaluable training working at an NPS site,” says program developer Dr. Cheryl Jimenez Frei, assistant professor of history and co-director of the public history program.

“We are grateful for the support of the NPS, which has allowed us to provide such a unique opportunity for our students. We are also thrilled our students can use their skills as historians to help the Keweenaw Park in a larger goal of expanding, diversifying and uncovering more of the rich histories of the region and sharing those with the public.”

The student interns will conduct in-depth research on topics central to the mission of the park and interpretive priorities. These include Indigenous history, women's history, histories of gender and sexuality, environmental history, ethnicity and immigration, and many other facets of the region’s history.

Learning deep in the heart of Copper Country

During the last few summers, three UW-Eau Claire students took part in a pilot of this research fellowship, setting the stage for the final agreement reached in November. These student interns are:

  • Emily Martinsen, a May 2023 graduate with a master's degree in public history. Martinsen’s research project examined the Italian Hall Memorial in Keweenaw National Historical Park. The monument has a contested and traumatic history in Calumet. Martinsen is now employed by the Old World Wisconsin Historical Society near Eagle in Waukesha County.
  • Sylas Neville, a public history master’s student from Eau Claire, is set to graduate Dec. 16. They conducted research about gender, sexuality and queer history in early 20th-century Calumet.
  • Shane Carlson, a public history master’s student is expected to graduate in May 2024. Carlson researched the roles of women in seminal early 20th-century labor movements in the copper mining town of Calumet. Carlson currently works as an alternative education teacher in the Eau Claire Area School District.

These students had access to archival and museum object holdings at KEWE, Michigan Technical University Archives, the Copper Country Historical Collections in nearby Houghton, Michigan, and the Finnish American Heritage Center in Hancock, Michigan.

On Nov. 9, their findings were presented to campus and visiting members of the KEWE staff at an event marking the official launch of the partnership.

students, faculty member and a Michigan Park Service employee posed for group photo

From left, public history students Sylas Neville, Emily Martinsen and Shane Carlson were joined by National Park Service historian Jo Holt and Dr. Cheryl Jimenez Frei at a November event to announce the intern fellowships.

“My internship centered around how people learn about history in public spaces while my research investigated working-class women’s concerns and involvement in the 1913 Copper Country strike,” Carlson says.

Carlson says the KEWE internship introduced him to an interesting variety of career opportunities in the field of public history.

“As I complete my 10th year as a teacher, I found it refreshing to see the ways I can promote public history and facilitate historical engagement with my students,” Carlson says.

“The work of this partnership asks in part how we can help the public interpret the past, and importantly, how the public can see themselves, their families and communities as contributors to the story of humanity.”

For Neville, the summer internship offered a chance to both dive into a topic of personal interest and experience a sense of “trailblazing,” as a thorough gathering of information on the topic had never been done.

“It was clear that my research question relating to LGBTQ+ history in the Keweenaw National Park had not been examined much, if at all,” Neville says. “That’s when I knew that this is what I’ve been training for in my studies at UWEC.”

“My intersectional critical analytical lens comes from my minor in race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality studies, which has only enhanced my ability to see and interpret the past. I learned that I am more than capable at being a historian.”

Neville also appreciated the reminder that places like our national parks offer rich histories beyond the geology and geography of their majestic landscapes.

“When we think of national parks, we tend to think of rocks and natural history. The KEWE has geology for sure, it’s coined Copper Country for a reason, but there is so much more that needs to be studied, like rich social history that begs to be explored,” Neville says.

Jimenez Frei says she is excited to open up this extraordinary internship opportunity to more interested students.

“The goal of the program is to provide high-impact practices, research experience and hands-on job training for our history and public history students,” Jiminez Frei says. “The interns will also assist the KEWE park in expanding interpretation to reflect equity, diversity and inclusion goals set by the National Park Service.”

Learn more about this opportunity 

Students interested in applying for one of the KEWE-UWEC Research & Intern Fellowships can find full program details, eligibility, requirements and application details in this KEWE-UWEC Fellowship call for proposals.

The application deadline for summer 2024 internships is Feb. 1, 2024. 

Research support will be provided by the student’s cooperating professor, who will work with the student to refine their proposal and plan after moving beyond the application stage. UW-Eau Claire faculty who have currently agreed to serve as mentors for this fellowship are: