• In front of Olin Hall, August 2021.

Johanna Mellis

Dr. Mellis is a teacher-scholar who blends together her pedagogy, research, and public scholarship. She believes that for people comfortable enough to do so, sharing what we have learned and researched with public audiences is a necessity to create better informed societies that resist traditional, discriminatory structures and attitudes that aim to harm people. The College recently acknowledged her blending of research and public scholarship as making her one of multiple ‘game changers’ in its 2020-2021 Annual Report.

Her 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. Only through deep contextualization - including showing historical empathy and accountability for past actors - can students truly understand the necessity of valuing and incorporating people’s perspectives all over the world. Dr. Mellis uses three lenses in her classes to achieve this goal: oral history (interviews), 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 was a D1 swimmer at the College of Charleston from 2004-2008 and co-captain of the team from 2006-2008. She was the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) conference champion in the 400 Individual Medley in 2006, and a bronze medalist that year in the 200 butterfly. She later coached at High Tide Aquatics and Gator Swim Club in Gainesville, FL while getting her MA and PhD at the University of Florida.

Dr. Mellis’s research focuses on Cold War sport. Her manuscript, Changing the Global Game: Hungarian Athletes and International Sport During the Cold War, examines Hungarian sportspeople’s interactions with the International Olympic Committee from 1948-1989. Changing the Global Game shows how Hungarian athletes, Socialist Hungarian state sport officials, and the IOC gradually realized by the 1960s that sporting cooperation with one another - and not East-West political clashes nor resistance - was the way to achieve their respective aims of sport success, career and financial stability, and political and institutional strength. Hungarian athletes were not the doped-up victims nor wily resistors that we typically think of (think of Rocky IV and East German swimmers), but creative individuals who could gain success and financial stability by cooperating with the state. To keep athletes happy - keep them from defecting to the West, like over 300 Hungarian athletes did after the 1956 Revolution - socialist states like Hungary geopolitically situated between the USSR and GDR used what I call Middle Bloc diplomacy to cooperate with the IOC to shape the organization’s policies to meet their ends. Yet Middle Bloc diplomacy also required Socialist Hungary to contribute to the IOC’s cultural imperialism over the forms of sport and sporting rules that people used all over the world. Socialist Hungary did this by supporting the IOC’s Amateur Rule against athletes in capitalist countries. By reinforcing the IOC’s ban against Olympic athletes monetizing their labor through endorsement deals, Socialist Hungary helped the IOC’s imperialist, discriminatory rule against working class athletes in capitalist societies worldwide.

Dr. Mellis is also a cohost of the End of Sport podcast with Drs. Nathan Kalman-Lamb and Derek Silva. They interview athletes, critical sports journalists, and fellow academics to explore all the ways that people use sport to harm others - i.e. through racist mascotry, the NCAA and higher ed’s exploitation of Black and Brown college athletic workers, sexual abuse and harassment, transphobia, and more.

Through the End of Sport, she has co-authored pieces for public outlets such as The Chronicle of Higher Ed, The Guardian, Time, The Baffler, and more. She also has sole-authored pieces with The Washington Post and Arizona State University’s Global Sport Matters.




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

Fall 2020

  • HIST-103A-B: GOAL! Sport in World History (2 sections)
  • HIST-377: Cold War in Europe: Gender, Workers, and Immigrants

Spring 2021

  • HIST/GWSS 102: Empire, Patriarchy, and Race: Power and People in Modern World History
  • HIST-450: Global Migrations (History Core Capstone)

Fall 2021

  • HIST-103A-B: GOAL! Sport in World History (2 sections)
  • HIST-277 Martyrs, Victims, and Perpetrators: Nationalism and Memory in Modern European History

Spring 2022

  • HIST/GWSS 102A-B: Empire, Patriarchy, and Race: Power and People in Modern World History (2 sections)



Professional Experience

Research Interests

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

Recent Work

Academic Publications

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.

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.

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.

Selected Public Publications

Nathan Kalman-Lamb, Derek Silva, and Johanna Mellis, “‘A Slap in the face’: College Coach Cash Grab Alienates Athletes,” Sportico, December 22, 2021.

Nathan Kalman-Lamb, Derek Silva, and Johanna Mellis, “Beyond NIL: 5 Areas Where the Fight for College Athletes’ Rights Continues,” Global Sport Matters, December 14, 2021.

Nathan Kalman-Lamb, Derek Silva, and Johanna Mellis, “Op-Ed: How can colleges afford to pay outlandish salaries to Lincoln Riley and other coaches?Los Angeles Times, December 1, 2021.

Johanna Mellis, “Athletes Deserve Better in Retirement: Inspiration from Socialist Hungary,” Global Sport Matters, September 7, 2021.

Nathan Kalman-Lamb, Derek Silva, and Johanna Mellis, “Race, money and exploitation: why college sport is still the ‘new plantation’” The Guardian, September 7, 2021. 

Johanna Mellis, “By taking care of herself, Simone Biles may transform sports,” The Washington Post, August 2, 2021.

Nathan Kalman-Lamb, Derek Silva, and Johanna Mellis, “‘I signed my life to rich white guys’: athletes on the racial dynamics of college sport,” The Guardian, March 17, 2021.

Johanna Mellis and Matthew Hodler, “Klete Keller is not an aberration. USA Swimming has a racism problem,” Tropics of Meta, February 6, 2021.

Nathan Kalman-Lamb, Derek Silva, and Johanna Mellis, “College Football Feels All Too Normal During the Pandemic,” Time,  October 22, 2020. 

Selected Media Appearances & Assistance

Joanna Hoffman, “Athlete Ally responds to USA Swimming Trans Athlete Policy,” Athlete Ally, February 2, 2022 (quoted in it).

Mara Keire, “In the aftermath: reflections by survivors of gender-based violence,” Tasteful Rude, November 30, 2021 (editorial help).

Jonathan Crane, “Clothing rules for female athletes: ‘Taking control over the outfits,’” Deutsche Welle, July 30, 2021 (quoted in it).

Naji Ali host, “Does USA Swimming Have a Racism Problem? A Conversation with Dr. Johanna Mellis,” Crossing the Lane Lines podcast, April 2021

Dvora Meyers, “The Podcast ‘Heavy Medals’ Examines how the Karolyis Built a Texas Gymnastics Powerhouse,” Texas Monthly, July 29, 2020, (quoted in it)

Beth McMurtrie, “Teaching: Getting Creative with Course Assessments,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 27, 2020 (quoted in it).