What do you do when your world is suddenly completed uprooted, your college classes go on-line and you are told to stay in your apartment and away from people? 

If you are Leah Kelleher, a junior environmental studies student with a passion for telling stories through podcasts, you seize the moment to interview your fellow students and see how they are staying healthy and engaged. 

“There's going to be other situations like this in the future,” Kelleher says. “So for me this has been a great opportunity to practice telling stories of solidarity and coming together.” 

Kelleher started to interview her fellow students, trying to understand how they are approaching this moment. After listening to their stories she decided to put the pieces together in a new podcast series called "Coping with COVID – Stories of Hope and Resilience."

“The purpose of the project is to collect stories from UVM students who are, despite all of the anxiety and confusion and uncertainty right now, moving forward and doing things to stay active and healthy and giving back to their community,” she said. 

Stepping in to work with Kelleher on the project have been several other students with a talent for audio editing and an interest in storytelling including seniors Sam Atallah, Erick Eisenbiegler and Jeremiah Cory. And several students in a video internship project have stepped in to make companion videos. 

Sam LeCompte, a film studies major, tells Kelleher that he is doubling down on his video work and trying to explore the visual emptiness and isolation of the moment in his art.

“I’m exploring inside spaces,” LeCompte says. “I’m working to capture this moment and the creative energies that come from being in a small space, understanding and reflecting on my place in the world.”  

“Normally, you know, we're so defined by time or places we have to go to," says Elena Tall '21, in an interview with Kelleher. "With this, everyone's kind of on a more flexible schedule. It opens up my mornings and I can kind of, you know, go at a pace that works for me. So I've just been more creative with like cooking with like watercolor painting. It's what I need.”

Sarah Robinson, the culture editor of the Cynic told Kelleher she's trying to get in touch with her creative side.

“I enjoy going outside and being kind of alone in it because, you know, it's easy to feel just cooped up in the house. And I've just been seeing the pictures of previously heavily populated, populated places, just kind of re-growing. And so that's kind of how I'm trying to think of it as something giving our earth a break for a second and letting her breathe.”

Josh Katz, another environmental studies student, tells Leah that he turned to gardening as one thing to do.

“We have this like fun garden in front of our house, which was just disgusting and just really not taken care of by any of the people who lived here before us. But like this weekend, a roommate and I decided to fix it up . . . I like having something to do with your hands and working with your hands, at least for me, is a very therapeutic thing. Which is, I think, important in these times."

The video intern students who produced videos as part of the project are Sam LeCompte '21, Emmie Aufderheide '23, Devon White '21 and Aidan Seipke '22.

Listen to the podcast series and see the videos

Learn more about the Reporting and Documentary Storytelling program.




Richard Watts