• In Dr. Mellis’s office.

Johanna Mellis

Dr. Mellis’s primary teaching goal is to help students develop their capacity to become global citizens by finding ways to connect to individuals’ stories in the past. Her courses emphasize the need to understand the different and difficult contexts that influenced people to make certain decisions and behaviors in their time. Only through this constant contextualization - and with a dose of empathy - can students truly understand the necessity of valuing and incorporating all people’s perspectives in the world. 

Dr. Mellis uses three lenses in her classes to achieve this goal: oral and public history, and sport history. Listening to people’s voices, studying how and why people remember, and engaging with the community about historical topics - the hallmarks of oral and public history - form the foundation for students’ livelong engagement with histories and communities around the world. Dr. Mellis received her training from the prestigious Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at UF, where she was led oral history internships that created the collections “Sport at UF” and “Beer in the Sunshine State.” Her personal involvement in sports - she was a Division I swimmer at the College of Charleston from 2004-2008 and coached club swimming for 7 years - undergirds her belief that sport is a window into people’s daily lives, beliefs, and identities worldwide. She is always seeking ways to incorporate oral, public, and sport history in the classroom, regardless of whether she is teaching a course on European nationalism and memory, World War I, or colonialism/postcolonialism.

Dr. Mellis’s research focuses on the interactions between Hungarian athletes, socialist sport leaders, and the International Olympic Committee as a microcosm of relations between society, the socialist state, and international organizations during the Cold War. Her work focuses specifically on the influence of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, which saw a mass defection of hundreds of Hungarian athletes to the West, on Hungarian socialist sport policy and the IOC. Her work demonstrates how an emerging set of norms of cooperation emerged within the context of Cold War international sport, during a time that is typically characterized by fierce competition and polarized geopolitics. A tacit understanding of these norms proved crucial to the everyday lives of Hungarian athletes, socialist cultural policy, and the development of the Olympic movement. Hungarian athletes in particular sought to assert agency and shape their lives after 1956 by choosing to work towards (and not in defiance or ambivalence to) the goals of their socialist sport leaders. For this work, she interviewed 30 athletes, coaches, and sport leaders in Hungary, as well as 6 additional athletes who defected to the West between 1948-1989.




  • PhD, History, University of Florida, 2018
  • M.A., History, University of Florida, 2012
  • B.A., History, College of Charleston, 2008


Fall 2019:

  • HIST-250 Oral History: Collecting All Voices
  • HIST-350A: A World at War: A Global History of World War I

Spring 2020:

  • HIST 102: Empire, Patriarchy, and Race: Power and People in Modern Wold History
  • HIST 150: Who is a European? Defining Identity and Borders Since the Enlightenment

Fall 2020

  • HIST-103: GOAL! Sport in World History
  • HIST-377: Cold War in Europe: Gender, Workers, and Immigrants
  • CIE 100: Common Intellectual Experience

Professional Experience

  • Co-host, The End of Sport podcast, https://theendofsport.podbean.com
  • Co-chair with Dr. Kathryn Julian, Innovative Pedagogy Working Group, Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (https://www.aseees.org), group proposal in progress
  • Time and Site Committee, North American Society for Sport History (NASSH, https://www.nassh.org), 2019-2022.
  • Editorial Board member, The Oral History Review, spring 2018-present.

Research Interests

World/Global historyEuropean and Central European history
Oral history
History of Sport
Memory Studies
Everyday Life

Recent Work

“From Defectors to Cooperators: The Impact of 1956 on Athletes, Sport Leaders, and Sport Policy in Socialist Hungary.” Contemporary European History, Vol. 29, No. 1 (Feb. 2020), 60-76. http://bit.ly/2QpNb3W

“Cold War Politics and the California Running Scene: The Experiences of Mihály Iglói and László Tábori in the Golden State,” Journal of Sport History, Vol. 46, No. 1 (Spring 2018), 62-81. http://bit.ly/2QVUleQ

Review of The Olympic Games, the Soviet Sports Bureaucracy, and the Cold War: Red Sport, Red Tape by Jenifer Parks, Olympika: The International Journal of Olympic Studies, Vol. 26 (2017), 99-102.

Review of Playing for Equality: Oral Histories of Women Leaders in the Early Years of Title IX, by Diane LeBlanc and Allys Swanson, Sport History Review, Vol. 48, No. 2 (November 2017), 202-203.

Review of Between the States: The Transylvanian Question and the European Idea During World War II, by Holly Case, Alpata: Journal of History, Vol. VIII (Spring 2011), 112-113.