Delaney Zuver

2020 Summer Stories: Personal Narrative, Sensemaking, and Memory during the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 2, 2021   /  

Student Name: Delaney Zuver
Major: Communication Studies
Advisors: Nii Kotei Nikoi, Ahmet Atay

Critical Digital Engagement Award

The summer of 2020 contained many important historic moments that have impacted an entire generation of people. My Independent Study aims to analyze the ways in which people remember this period of time and how they structure their personal narratives. I also investigated how these personal stories and memories are influenced by media and cultural narratives. To do this, I interviewed 13 individuals that spent their summers all across the country. Each person had their own unique experience and shed light on many different aspects of the summer’s events. From uprisings for racial justice to climate disasters to everyday life in a global pandemic, each person offered an important piece to the puzzle that is our collective memory as a country. I then compiled these interviews on to a website in order to preserve them for future generations. My hope is that this project will exist as an early account of the summer of 2020 and will begin the work of adding nuance to our memory of this time as a country. I also hope that this project will encourage people to see this time from a different perspective, and critically examine their own experience. Finally, I hope it leads audiences to recognize the importance of their own stories and inspire them to share them with the world.


Delaney will be online to field comments on April 16: 2-4 pm EDT (PST 11am-1pm, Africa/Europe: evening)

94 thoughts on “2020 Summer Stories: Personal Narrative, Sensemaking, and Memory during the COVID-19 Pandemic”

    1. Thanks Dr. Johnson! Unsure! I’ll take some time to do some service in my community through AmeriCorps this summer, and then I’ll probably pursue something in radio/audio/podcasting! Or baking! Who knows!

  1. Laney, this is such a cool project and such a contribution! I remember when you were pondering a topic of some kind related to radio or podcasting. Are you contemplating a career in this area now? Congrats on your award–well deserved!

    1. Dr. Bostdorff! Your words mean so much. I would definitely be interested in something in that field! I have a lot of experience there, so it would make the most sense. Thank you for investing in me and being such a supportive individual during my time here!

  2. Laney, you did it. Remember when you were mulling a topic about narratives, political and social engagement, and podcasting? You brought it all together and created something amazing. Congratulations on the award!

  3. BIIIIG congrats lovely Laney. I loved listening to all of these voices and stories. I love the way you have animated the usually textual side of storytelling through interpersonal communication. Sound and music and tone are all palpable, great job my sweet!

  4. What a terrific and timely project, Laney! Once preserved, this will be a meaningful part of the college’s history that I could imagine an I.S. student “digging up” in the archives, 50 or 100 years from now!

  5. Super Awesome!!!! Congratulations on creating an amazing IS and not stressing too much in the process !!! Well done 🙂

  6. Heck yeah! It is so important to look at this time and you did it in such a fascinating way.

  7. Well mooooooo moo moo! Lookie here! Do my little porcelain eyes deceive me, or did Laney Zuver finISh? I am so proud!

    This is such an important project. Speaking for myself here, spending a year listening to news coverage and statistics and CDC releases has really contributed to my pandemic fatigue and anxiety, and hearing others’ stories always helps us feel less alone, so this project is such a good, healing resource for remembering this time. Laney has always had a gift for listening and uplifting the people around her, too, so she makes the project shine.

    I can’t wait to listen to all of these stories – thank you Laney for putting this together and always inspiring me to listen deeper and love fuller!

    What more can a little porcelain cow say?! *plays sick riff on the sax*

    1. Mr. Buster (The Baby) Jones, thank you so much for your kind comment. You inspire me every day and I want to be like you when I grow up!

  8. Laney! You are incredible. Thank you so much for your work and preserving peoples’ voices. So important!

  9. Hi Laney, I am looking forward to spending time reading these stories. Thank you. Warmest wishes always, April (p.s. Socks today?)

    1. April, I wish I could send you a picture ! Yes I am! You’re the best ever. Thanks for all your support!

  10. Such a cool project Laney! So proud of you and all the hard work that you’ve done. Congrats!

  11. I love your project just as much as I love you! Thank you for making my four years at Wooster so much more fun.

  12. What an amazing collection of stories, Laney! I could spend hours getting lost in all of the material on your website! I’m curious – prior to the pandemic, were you interested in collecting and preserving people’s stories? Where were you headed before the pandemic, and would you have gotten to where you are today without the pandemic experience? Nice work!

    1. Hey Dr. Pollock! So great to hear from you! Yes, stories were always at the center of this project. The pandemic experience was integral to this project. Originally I wanted to work with middle school students. However, they were going to be inaccessible due to COVID guidelines and I wanted to be as safe as possible! When I was deciding what to do next, I really focused on what mattered most to me: sharing people’s stories as a way to disrupt harmful narratives and power dynamics! So this project was born. Thanks for your interest and for checking out the project!

  13. Laney Laney, my dearest! You are thoughtful and kind, and I love the way that you created a space to preserve and share others’ stories from the summer. What did you enjoy most about working on this project? I am honored to know you and grateful that we shared the I.S. process together <3

  14. Oh my, what a walk! I truly love this. The website, the layout, the content… such an amazing curator!

  15. Wow, Laney! This is truly one of the most creative and wonderful IS projects I have ever seen. I am so impressed. As the years go by it will be so cool to return back to this and reflect on it all. Huge congrats 🙂

  16. Wow wow Laney! I absolutely love the concept of the project. I still remember us having a discussion about coronavirus right before spring break 2020, not realizing how much it would alter our lives and other people’s lives. Thank you for giving this space for people to talk through their experiences and for others to relate to them. (It’s giving me This American Life vibes). You’re kindness and friendly demeanor shine through in this project.

    1. I remember this convo too! Such a pivotal moment. You’re the best ever. Miss you!

  17. Such a timely and thoughtful project. It is easy to imagine how extremely useful this information will become in the future. I especially appreciate how you have highlighted a variety of experiences and stressed the value of each individual’s story. Kudos!

  18. Laney, Congratulations on completing IS & your project! This is such an awesome project! Are you considering continuing this project/documentation post-grad?

    1. Hey Monét! Yes, absolutely. I would love to keep adding people’s experiences, as its been so amazing to meet so many people and having a larger number of interviews would provide so much more necessary detail! Thanks for leaving a comment, and I’ll talk to you soon <3

  19. I adore how you embraced storytelling and archiving to preserve and honor this time and experiences during it. This is so needed and wow I am deep into the website and getting emotional under my mask in the pit. This is important and historic and beautiful. What advice do you have on cultivating storytelling sharing and sharing in families and communities?

    Retweet what Marloes said about “This American Life” vibes. Your podcast would be at the top of my spotify playlist.

    1. Lia, thank you so much for commenting! I think allowing participants to lead the way as far as what they talked about and how much they wanted published was really important to the quality of interviews I received. I wanted the process to be really collaborative, and for everyones voice to matter even AFTER I had recorded it. Making spaces where people can leave their own mark as opposed to using their story to make a mark of your own is key! I hope that answers your question, and I’d love to talk about this with you more! Maybe even in the pit sometime!

    1. Thank you so much Patrice! I couldn’t have done it without you and all of your support.

  20. What a relevant and important project Laney! Absolutely awesome. So proud of you! 🙂

  21. Congratulations on this terrific achievement and the critical digital engagement award, Laney! This is such a timely project, and I see that your I.S. and the companion webpage will be frequently used by the interested future researchers on this topic.

    Wishing you the best in your future plans!

  22. AH! I couldn’t imagine a better person to head up a project like this. Talking to you in vulnerable spaces and with honestly in mind is easy- I’m sure each of your participants know exactly how much they mean to you. This is an amazingly ingenious way to document such a diverse group of trials and triumphs and I am feeling very grateful to observe it after it’s come to fruition (even though it sounds like you’re looking to continue!). I’m so proud of you and the way you use your gifts to create.

    1. Annie, you are the light of my life. Thanks for supporting me and for being my dear friend. I learn so much from you about how to interact with others every time we’re together, and I can’t thank you enough for that! Love.

  23. Laney, this is such an important project! Not only did I enjoy hearing the narratives you captured, but it is so significant that you did so. As a comm student that also loves digital archives, I find this crazy fascinating! Thank you for using your talent and passion to capture this moment in history, I think this is a project people will come back to for the years. Incredible work, you’re the coolest!

    1. Thank you oh so so much! You’re the best and this means so much coming from you!

  24. Just looking at this, I have a feeling this project will be looked back on by many students in the future, the website database is very innovative. Really interesting material and congratulations!

  25. Congratulations on your award, Laney! Such an innovative and important project. I have not visited your website yet, but is there a particular story that you will always remember?

    1. Hi Dr. Weller! Thanks so much for your comment. I think I’ll always remember my interview with Tea and Dean Fraga. It was so interesting to see how narratives could be co-constructed, and they had some pretty incredible experiences. I also really appreciated how open and generous they were with their story.

  26. Laney, we are soooo proud of you. You have done a fantastic job on your I.S.
    Not only have you shed light on how others have navigated their own COVID seasons, but you have shown grace in your own navigation of 2020 and beyond.

    1. YOU GUYYSSS! Thank you so much for all of your support over the years. I’m so blessed to know you!

  27. I love the storytelling focus of this project. I look forward to exploring the rest of these stories – they’re forcing me to critically examine my own experience.

    What were your main focuses during the selection process of your subjects?

    1. Hey Anna! You’re the best. My main focuses were for geographic diversity. I wanted to make sure I represented as many parts of the country as possible!

      Thanks for commenting!!!

  28. Amazing job, Laney! It has been wonderful to know you these past nearly 4 years and you are such an inspiration to me!

    I think it’s amazing that you’re saving these stories for future generations to look back on, especially during such an important time in our lives. Do you feel that this project will aid in future narratives/studies on social aspects of 2020?

    1. Thank you for all your kind words Sydney! My hope is that it will, in that we’ll have a more nuanced understanding of the time!

  29. I enjoyed listening and watching your clip above and reading through the stories. I was wondering if you were up to answering a few questions about your project?

    1. Were there any manipulation checks run?
    2. Was this a field or lab study?
    3. Are there any 2 specific finding from your project?

    1. Hey there Rondo! I didn’t do a quantitative IS, so I didn’t really focus on the manipulation checks. I guess you could consider this a field study, and I think that I came away learning more about how we structure our personal stories and how other narratives (like conspiracy theories) influence them!

  30. BRAVA, Delaney! So timely and so much truth here. It was my privilege to announce your award for critical digital engagement. Very well deserved!

  31. Laney,

    Amazing work, as always! This project will truly be a historians DREAM some day. You are the best, keep doing you. It has been the most fun working alongside you these past few years. You are a gem of rare quality and I am so proud of you!

  32. This is so meaningful! I feel like you definitely acted as the participants’ therapist/friend and you did a great job with it. It is so nice just hearing you basically talk to yourself, while Ella just says “yes, of course” every now and then. I loved hearing your voice and your video is so calming. Great job!

  33. What a fantastic project this is…I really do love that Wooster students were able to base their research on such a current topic. You’ve done an amazing job here, Laney! In 20 years from now, how would you want future researchers to use your work?

  34. Hi Laney, I enjoyed reading about your IS. The intertwining of autobiographical and collective memories with the ups and downs associated with the pandemic is such a fascinating topic. Thanks for sharing, and congratulations!

  35. This is amazing Delaney, narrative is really important and storing that narrative even more important. Congratulations Delaney keep up the good work. Yes you can

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