Interview with Joseph Peters, 11/30/2016

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
Colleen Huston, Interviewer | uwocs_Joseph_Peters_11302016.m4a
Campus Stories Oral History Project (UWO Audio Series 51) |


CH: Okay, so we're recording, and it's traditional in oral histories for you to tell us who you are. So just like your name and when you went to Oshkosh.

JP: My name is Joseph Peters, I attended Oshkosh from the summer of 2011 to the spring of 2013.

CH: Okay, and today is November 30th, right?

JP: Yup, 2016

CH: and we're in your house in Green Bay, Wisconsin

JP: Correct

CH: So just to kind of start things off, where did you grow up?

JP: I grew up in a little city called Reedsville. It's between Manitowoc and Appleton. I graduated from High School there in 2003.

CH: How big was the town? You said it was --

JP: The town, if you blink you miss it. I think the population is maybe 1,500 or 2,000, something like that. My graduating class was like 70 students or less. 68 or 70, I forget.

CH: and can you just, describe your neighborhood?

JP: I lived out in the country, so I was actually about 10 minute drive from 1:00Reedsville itself. I originally grew up on a family owned dairy farm. So that was just like a little ranch style house with a big barn machine shed, and the nearest neighbor was about a half a mile away, down the road. His name was Tony, pretty cool guy. And then my parents divorced and then I moved and I still stayed about 10 minutes outside of Reedsville just a bit farther north and we moved to a two-story farmhouse that was about 100 years old that had an old dilapidated barn, but again our neighbors were pretty far away. We had one that was like right next door that was a new ranch construction but other than that again, nearest neighbor was about a quarter mile, half mile away. So definitely very rural.

CH: And so how many people were in your immediate family, like who did you grow up with?

JP: I had my mom, my dad, and then I had one older sister that was two and half years older.


CH: And what were your parents like growing up?

JP: How were my parents growing up, well, before the divorce they didn't interact very well. My father, under the stress of owning and managing a million dollar farm, was pretty authoritarian and not the most patient of individuals. My mother was alright she always tried to do what she thought was best which, in hindsight, wasn't always the best. But other than that, I mean, I loved them they were my parents. After the divorce my father mellowed out quite a bit, and my mom didn't really change. She remarried right after I graduated High School. Yeah, and that's about it.

CH: Did your parents go to college?

JP: No, both my parents graduated from high school only.

CH: And then so you said your dad owned and functioned a farm, was that kind of 3:00the commonality within your town? Did a lot of people do that?

JP: Yeah, it was more of a dairy community. My mom grew up on a family owned farm. My father traveled a lot when he was younger because he family would move a lot. They were, they didn't own any farms, his father worked on a lot of farms so as part of their compensation they got free room and board and things of that nature. They both came from pretty large families, my father I believe had ten or eleven brothers and sisters, and my mom had 6 brothers and sisters.

CH: So since just only graduated from High School, how important was like going and getting a higher education in your family?

JP: Well, ever since we were young we were told that we could do whatever the devil we wanted as long as we were willing to work and try and succeed at it. 4:00Growing up on the farm and "using my back" to make money was not my cup of tea, I was like there's got to be an easier way to do this which is [dog bark] why - Jasmine, quiet - which is why education, well I've always been bright, but to formulize that education, unlike my father, and to be able to make money off of it was one of my main reasons for wanting to go to college. That and just because I'm curious. So, I would say for myself personally, I always wanted to go to college and get a degree. After High School the big hiccup was financing that goal.

CH: Okay so yeah can you just kind of like describe what your High School career was like? You said you were very bright so what kind of, what was your academic life then?

JP: My academic life was, I took as many courses as I could that were more difficult, unfortunately I didn't find them all that challenging. So a lot of 5:00the pre stuff that I took was like Physics, Chemistry, some Mathematics. Eventually I decided I was probably more interested in the social science track which didn't pan out very well for me because at the time the teacher's union wasn't getting what they wanted so they refused to teach several classes. With that being said I think I graduated 5th out of my class. I was actually doing extremely well except for my freshman year I got a B in Phy Ed, go figure. Other than that I got straight A's except for my Senior Year because as part of my own little protest, well if you're not going to teach me the classes that I want to be taught because you're not going to get what you want out of the teacher's union, then well you'll put me in this class and I'm just going to intentionally fail it. I'm going to sit in the back and I'm going to read a book, I believe that class was calculus because I didn't enjoy that instructor and I didn't see the point in calculus because all mathematics that I was going to be using was 6:00Algebraic in function.

CH: I am not good at math so

JP: It took my instructor at UW-Manitowoc, Professor Sherman, before I realized what calculus was good for.

CH: You said that when you wanted to go into higher education that your issue was financing?

JP: Correct

CH: So then how did you, was it just like an automatic conclusion to go into the military?

JP: No, it wasn't. Well, being younger I grew up during the tail end of the Cold War, so the 80's, so when I was really young and I was just getting on my feet and walking around on the farm and poking my stick in the mud and everything else, my father explained to me that there these things called atom bombs that could just wipe everything off the face of the planet. So obviously being extremely curious I went and, I remember my first purchase I was in third or 7:00fourth grade and I took twenty dollars that my dad or my mom had given me and I went to the school book fair and I bought a college level encyclopedia set that was from 1978 or something, yeah it was because it was before the Iranian revolution. From there I mean, I treated my encyclopedia set like people treat Google these days. If I had a word or a question I would write it down, go to my encyclopedia set and look it up, which was kind of odd because I think I was missing one or two of the letters so that was always kind of a pain in the butt. But, I've always had that thirst for knowledge and because of my background of being interested in like nuclear physics and the what not, I became very interested in World War II and how that history got us to where we are today. I also became very interested in the military because with the USS Cobia in Manitowoc, that's an old World War II era submarine, I'd probably visited that 8:00thing 5 times. My grandfather also served in the Second World War so through these outlets I'd always been interested in the military. While I was going through High School I contemplated ROTC, but I guess I wasn't really ready to leave the area and to springboard and to really do something with my life. I was still stuck in this area in the mud. So, after High School what I did was, I had been accepted to the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, but I declined that and instead I got a full time job working at HC Miller and Co. in Green Bay. I was there for about 9 months, and at this time my sister had decided to take the plunge and borrow a bunch of money to go to school and she was studying abroad in the United Kingdom, and I decided oh well my sister is over in the United Kingdom I've never been out of the country, I got money now because I've been working so I got a passport and visited her in April of 2004. It was that trip 9:00that really spurred me to want to join the military for several reasons. I mean, the education benefits where one another was we were embroiled in this Iraq war which I was against from the very beginning but I was like well if nobody else has got the gall to go and help these people out then I might as well. There was also like housing benefits because of the VA loan and the opportunity to travel across the world, so I mean all those things combined are pretty much what pushed me to go in to the military.

CH: What was your family's reaction to you wanting to go into the military, were they supportive of it? Where the just like a little hesitant?

JP: My mom and dad were both like they don't want me to do it but if that's what I'm going to do, that's what I'm going to do, and that's going to be the end of it.

CH: So where did your sister study when she was the UK?


JP: I forget it was on the northwest coast in England proper. If I had a map I could show you. But we didn't spend any time at her campus we spent time in London and we also went over to Ireland and Belfast in Northern Ireland.

CH: My sister did a study abroad in Galway and spent time in Belfast, so I know that area a little bit. What was your role once you finally got into the military?

JP: I was an intelligence analyst for the most part so that involved basic combat training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for nine weeks, and then I transferred to Fort Huachuca in Arizona for my advanced individual training which is where you get the training for your actual job. I was only in Arizona for about a week or two until Christmas break and then I got to come home to Wisconsin for a week or two, I forget exactly, and then I went back to Fort 11:00Huachuca, Arizona to finish up that study, or that training rather. I finished that in April and was promptly sent to Germany for my regular unit. Once I was in Germany, that was probably about May in 2006, shortly thereafter we deployed to Iraq, which was in September of 2006. Then we redeployed in September of, no I got my dates mixed up. We deployed in 2005, and then I came back in 2006, so I finished my advanced individual training in the spring of 2005 because I went in the army in September of 2004.

CH: Was that what you wanted to do?

JP: After I signed my name on that piece of paper it was regardless of what I wanted to do. I did what I was told to do.

CH: I don't know much about the military so


JP: I mean the military isn't like a lot of people perceive it where everyone is barking orders at you all the time, you generally get like a piece of paper, like a general order telling you where to go and what you need to become a part of and then once you get to your unit it really is kind of like this normal job. I mean if you're a real shithead, yeah bad things will happen to you, but as long as you're doing what you're supposed to be doing it turns out pretty well. I mean, did I want to go to Iraq for a year? Not necessarily, I would have rather have been in Afghanistan for a year, but I go to go there too later during my career in the Army. I guess my biggest thing was I would have much rather have spent all of my time in Afghanistan than between Iraq and Afghanistan because I was against the war in Iraq.

CH: Was your time in the military what you were expecting when you initially signed up?

JP: Yes and no. I mean, yes because I expected the structure I wasn't, it was 13:00probably more laid back than what I was expecting especially when I got to my regular duty station, and then I guess the other thing I wasn't really expecting was that it's not just four years in the military, it's four years of your life too so there's things that happen that are a part of that as well. [talking to dogs]

CH: So when your time was up in the military, I don't know how to phrase that better but

JP: Well the technical term is the estimated time of separation which was September 28th of 2008. Now to be able to get out in time to be able to go to 14:00school, because during this time after my four years I knew I wanted to go to school, because one of the big things in the army is you have your officers and you have enlisted, and officer is like your manager and the only way you can do that is if you have four year college degree. It doesn't matter, it can be in basket weaving for all they care, and everybody else are year enlisted ranks, which get paid a lot less money and still have responsibilities. So, I loved the Army while I was in, and I applied for the Green to Gold Program which is where they'll take an enlisted soldier, put you in reserve officer training core, send you back to school, and then you got to come back as an officer when you're done with your degree. While I'd gone down the Green to Gold Program I decided against it because I wanted to keep my options open because after I got my college degree did I really want to come back into the service? I didn't know. So I stayed another year in the service just to keep my options open and then as 15:00I was getting ready to separate in 2008 I had applied to UW-Madison got accepted and all these things. They were contemplating stop loss-ing me which is where if your unit needs you they can hold you, I think indefinitely, past your estimated time of separation from the service, and I wasn't particularly keen on that, so after some small political battles I was able to get out in early August because I had saved up all of my leave, which is vacation, to get out an extra sixty days early so that I could be back in the states in time to attend school at UW-Madison. When it came time to get out I was ready, I guess is the best way to put it.

CH: What was the application process like for applying to Madison?

JP: Difficult being across an ocean, but manageable via email, via my father 16:00sending things in the mail for me things of that nature. This is right when electronic transactions online were really starting to boom and everything else. So this was early 2008, I think the first smart phone came out in 2007. So I mean, ten years it would have been even more difficult because I wouldn't have been able to order transcripts all that stuff online and be able to submit my application online so, thankfully I did it at the right time.

CH: So you went to Madison, but then you didn't like Madison as much so could you give me like a brief timeline of the universities you attended?

JP: So when I got out of school [military] in August of 2008 I had that month off so transitioning from military to civilian is difficult enough on its own and then having my transition from that directly into school probably was biting off a bit more than I could chew. I also hated the classes I got stuck into at Madison because I was stuck with whatever was leftover for the semester and I 17:00didn't understand any of that because I was new to this college experience thing. So after the first semester at Madison which was kind of weird because I got like an A or an A/B in one class, failed another class, a whole range of spectrum in there. I took a semester off, well what I learned at Madison was its great for graduate work, but not so great for undergraduate work. I started to understand what the difference between the two were and things of that nature. I finished Madison around Christmas of 2008, came home and lived at my father's for that spring of 2009. I applied to UW-Manitowoc because it was close to my father's place and I finally figured out what a two year college was, four year college graduate school and all those things. Got accepted to UW-Manitowoc and started there in the fall of 2009. UW-Manitowoc treated me pretty well seeing as 18:00I was able to graduate with an associate's degree in 2011, and I had decided exactly what I wanted to major in as my 4 year degree and reacquainted myself with Calculus and finally decided there was a use for it, namely figuring out how quickly a lake will freeze over and how quickly the ice build ups. Thank you Dr. Sherman, much appreciated. I had a lot of instructors at UW-Manitowoc that I liked. Looking at schools I wanted to go after Manitowoc I decided that I wanted to major in Microbiology, mostly for my own interest because I thought it connected everything really well. I'd always been interested in Biology, life in itself, I wanted to learn more about that. I think it fit in well with my past with growing up on a dairy farm, I mean Biology especially Microbiology plays pretty keenly in there. I remember being a child and my father telling me that 19:00plants need these little things in their roots to fix the Nitrogen in the air so that the plants can use it and I was like "what are you talking about fixing Nitrogen? What's broken with it? I don't understand." I know much more about that process now. So when I was looking at schools that I wanted to go to for my undergraduate work, a major portion of microbiology is being able to see what you're looking at. Usually you use a light microscope, but that only gets you so far, the next step after that is using an electron microscope. So, where as an undergraduate would I ever get time on an electron microscope? Well there was only three in the UW system; Madison, Milwaukee and Oshkosh. Out of those three where could I actually get time as an undergraduate on the scope, I figured Oshkosh was my best bet. That's where I applied, that's where I went and unfortunately of the way the classes transferred I had to take Oshkosh's introductory Biology class before I could take any other bio class. I actually 20:00started in the summer of 2011 at Oshkosh, and that's where I met Dr. Kostman and was able to finagle my way into his electron microscopy class that fall.

CH: He's one of the co-chairs of the Biology department now.

JP: Yup, him and Dr. Cooper, I believe. I know Cooper, but I never had a class with Dr. Cooper. But I've had two or three classes with Dr. Kostman.

CH: Microbiology, so how did you go from general Biology to going really small with it?

JP: Well, I suppose, viruses. I was interested in viruses and the origin of life, and being able to get, at that point, I would have to study Microbiology over regular Biology. It's also as a part of the dairy process, I just figured I 21:00could do more with a Microbiology degree it would open more doors than a regular biology degree.

CH: You went to Oshkosh in the summer of 2011, what was your first impression of the campus? Probably a little empty considering it was the summertime.

JP: I thought the campus was a bit small, yeah. Just having been to Madison, been to Manitowoc, and I knew Manitowoc was small so I wasn't expecting much there. Given the fact that UW-Oshkosh, I believe has the third largest enrollment in the UW system at about 11,000 I think when I was there 13,000 now, and then everything else, and then when I actually went and looked at the campus I thought it was kind of small because essentially it's just laid out between High Avenue and Algoma. I eventually realized that while it might be thin and wispy, it's definitely long.

CH: Yeah, it just keeps going.


JP: So, that was my initial impression was that the campus was kind of small, but my time there realized that they actually pack a lot of stuff into that small area.

CH: So obviously the summer compared to the fall semester were both very different, what were your first few weeks of classes like?

JP: Oh, my first few weeks were just trying to get on my feet so to say. Just discovering where everything was and figuring everything out, and then you have this mass influx of people thereafter. I always walked to campus every single day, so I bought, I rented an apartment about a block away from the UW-Oshkosh sign, right on High Avenue. So I walked to school every single day takes maybe 10 to 15 minutes to walk to school, so that was something I got used to. I wasn't extremely happy about where I had to live because Jasmine had just been 23:00born, my puppy, and had been born in February of 2011 and I couldn't have dogs where I lived, so she had to go live by my Mom, while I wasn't particularly keen on that, my Mom did live about 40 minutes from me so I could always go visit her on the weekends which was what I always did. Other than that, a lot of time at UW-Oshkosh that first month was just figuring out where my resources were, the veteran's center, financial aid offices, all those office buildings, and then figuring out where my letters and science buildings were. I believe it's, oh gosh I can't even remember the building.

CH: Did you spend a lot of time in like Halsey?

JP: Yes, I spent a ton of time in Halsey. Who could think that I could forget it, but now I got to school at UW-GB (Green Bay) because my employer is helping me get a business degree, so a lot of my names and things of that nature I guess have been supplanted by new buildings.


CH: So what did you want to do with a Microbiology major, you had mentioned that you were at one point applying to Medical School?

JP: Yes, so throughout my two years at UW-Oshkosh and I was looking at everything and so I was getting this nice fancy degree with Microbiology, what am I going to do with it? So, my options were to just take that degree and go into the work force, and from there I guess my options would have been to go work in a lab. That was okay with me, but not necessarily the most appealing. My other option was to go back into the service because at this time I hadn't ruled that out, whether or not I wanted to go back and travel all over the place because I finally had my four year degree so I could go back as an officer. The other option was to go onto professional or graduate level studies. So I didn't 25:00worry too much about just sticking it out with my degree, and I kind of thought about going back into the service, but I decided that since I was already in the academic system that maybe I should explore those routes. So that lead to me looking at masters programs in Neurology and other types of Microbiology at Madison, decided that if I were to go for more schooling that maybe I should go for broke and decide to apply to Medical School because my sister said I might be good at it. After that long arduous process and getting accepted I was ready to go to Medical School in the fall of 2013, but during the summer of 2013 I had an internship to study beaches up in Door County which was under the supervision of Dr. Dormant and Dr. Greg Fleinheims. So, over the course of that internship 26:00in Door County was when I decided that Medical School wasn't something that I really wanted to do because at that point in my life I was 29, I'm sick and tired of moving around all the time because I pretty much moved around continuously since 2004 being in the army and I was like I just want to make some money. I boiled it down to two options, I decided I really loved Wisconsin, the only other state I would consider besides that was Arizona and that was because it was nice, I could ride motorcycles year round. The lack of green really got to me. I like the desert to visit, I don't like the desert to live there forever. At the end of my internship in 2013 I decided that I was going to try to find gainful employment around this area, essentially making about 27:00$60,000 a year, or I was just going to go back into the army as a warrant officer and fly helicopters.

CH: So, during your time at Oshkosh you mentioned you had to take an intro Biology class, but you somehow still kind of weaseled your way into the other classes, what overall were your classes like? Did you continue to do well academically?

JP: Overall I think my GPA was between a B plus A minus range. I think when I graduated I had a 3, just below a 3.5, so academically I still did well, but it's definitely different than High School in a sense that you have to do more critical thinking, which never really bothered me. I was still good at school and things of that nature, it's the confluence of school and regular life; 28:00having to pay my rent, having to get some money for groceries, having to do everything else. If I learned anything in the military it's you need to prioritize certain things. So while school, getting an A was never my absolute number one priority because there are things in life that are much more important getting a straight A or a 4.0. Such as, like I said, seeing my dog, paying the rent, actually having some sort of a life. So, I did do well, academically. My first year was that intro Bio class and that was when I was able to be introduced to most of the faculty. From there I pretty much had almost a different instructor for all of my classes.

CH: Do you have any class that you remember very clearly?

JP: Well I remember pretty much all of them. Microbial Diversity in Ecology by 29:00Eric Matson, he was a pretty good guy, I enjoyed talking with him. He was new to campus when I was first there, so he was just learning how to teach and things of that nature. Beatrice Holton and her husband Toivo Kallas. So I had Dr. Holton for intro to Molecular and Cell Biology which was really really interesting to me because this was starting to get into the nuts and bolts of how cells work. The only thing I didn't particularly care for her was the language you have to use, she wants to be extremely technical to the point where it's like, I already know what you're talking about and you start to enter those short-hands which may not always be the best of practices but we're human and that's just kind of what happens. I still did well in her class, I also met a friend, Avery [unclear], in that class. She was studying to become a medical 30:00technician, and I was studying for Microbiology, so her and I a lot of our classes fit. I helped her get through her Organic Chemistry semester at UW-Madison. She went there because she wanted to graduate quickly and she didn't want to spend 5 or 6 years at UW-Oshkosh. Those were mostly my beginning classes, I also met another student who I knew at UW-Manitowoc who she decided to get her graduate degree from UW-Oshkosh, that was Brooke Kroenig. We had a lot of classes together because a lot of them were the advanced level classes. I'm trying to think of another one we had, Microbial Genetics, I believe, as 31:00well as Microbial, I can't remember it Sabrina Mueller-Spitz teaches it though. But yeah all my classes I think the lowest grade I got was a B or a B-.

CH: In looking at Microbiology obviously it's more human based but you're still going into very minute details

JP: Depends on the course, but yes.

CH: Had you ever thought back to your interests like with you said, World War II and the atom bomb?

JP: And studying Nuclear Physics or something?

CH: Possibly (31:53)

JP: No, because ultimately I don't want to sit and stare at a big pile of rocks and just let them emit heat which is essentially what a nuclear engineer does. I mean, obviously there is a lot more to it than that, but I still keep that more on the fringe of just an interest not really applied, but I mean once we get to 32:00what I've done with my degree. So I guess I mean I kind of thought about it because in 2013 when I was also thinking about the military, I thought about going into the Navy as well and being a nuclear officer, so basically being in charge of submarine and things of that nature. You had to have had a little bit more Physics than what I did, I only had the first semesters of Calculus and Physics that was Calc based I would need the second semester too. I thought about going back to school or putting those classes in but I decided against it because then I wouldn't have graduated on time.

CH: So kind of moving away from the academics aspect of it, since you didn't live on campus, where did you spend most of your time when you were on campus? 33:00Where there any particular study spots that you liked?

JP: I was known for chilling in the hallways of Halsey, I've done that a few times. Mostly because if I got a class that lets out and I got another class that starts in a half hour or hour I mean, it doesn't make sense to spend 20 minutes round trip walking back and forth, so I did spend a lot of time in Halsey. The union hall, Reeve, I spent a little bit of time there, not too much because I mean by this point in time I was already well over 21, I was in my mid-20s, so I probably didn't fit in the best with the typical youngins, the typical UW-Oshkosh student. So, a lot of my time I spent doing other types of things so I mean interacting probably with Avery at her apartment. Brooke at the time didn't live in Oshkosh, but if she needed somewhere to stay she could crash 34:00at my place. I did spend a lot of time at home too I suppose, a lot of time traveling back to my home area to see my mom, my dog, and my family, which was a nice thing about Oshkosh you weren't so far away like I was in Madison that traveling back was completely impractical except for at specific points in time, this was something I could do every weekend was come home and also for the first year that I lived there my best friend had an apartment because he was working at Oshkosh Truck, which was on the other side of the city at the time. A lot of my time wasn't really spent at school, I suppose is really the best way to put it, until I found Model UN, and then during the winter I would walk to, well they had that brand new building that they built on High.

CH: Sage?

JP: Yes, Sage Hall, I remember now. So once I discovered Model UN I spent a fair 35:00amount of my time there as well.

CH: How did you come about to join Model UN?

JP: I think I got an email, I don't really remember.

CH: How did you find that interest like going from Microbiology to International Diplomacy? Was that kind of going back to your interests?

JP: Yes, my original interest as I was saying about the atom bomb and the UN was created from the ashes of World War II.

CH: How long were you on the team? Did you just go until the end of the first semester?

JP: I didn't discover it until probably my second semester, so I was there and I was helping them out probably about 6 months to 8 months until my applications to Med School became pretty overwhelming because that entitled me having to travel to like Chicago and out of state multiple times. So then again we get to that balancing act of time and prioritizing what comes first, what comes second, 36:00what comes third. Unfortunately Model UN started to lose out behind regular academics and my future.

CH: Do you remember anybody specific from Model UN?

JP: No, name wise. Like I can remember the faces but the names I'm horrible with, but then again I'm always horrible with names. I do remember the instructor, I guess I'll just call him the old timer because he'd been there forever.

CH: Still there too, Dr. Grieb.

JP: Wow, impressive. I really liked him because he basically approached it like Vince Lombardi, and really the real world and how much effort are you going to put into this to get better and that's really what it boils down to. I liked it and if I would have had more time I would have kept doing it.

CH: Do you remember if David Cottingham was still there?

JP: I don't remember.

CH: He may have been doing, he was the advisor or something for it, or he was on 37:00the team, either one. Was it hard to make friends while you were on campus? You were saying you had Avery and Brooke who you had met in classes and stuff.

JP: I guess yes and no, depends on much someone's willing to bend. By this time in my life I'd gotten to the point where you don't have to bend as much as I maybe used to when I was younger because I already had a support network. So I wouldn't necessarily say that it was extremely difficult to make friends. I would say I probably didn't have as many as most people, but that's because I've become more choosey with who I'd spend my time with. There's definitely that cultural divide after having served in the military for four years and then as I 38:00was saying, I probably didn't fit the typical campus profile of a student. Honestly I found myself, while I didn't talk with the student body as much I probably didn't relate to them as much, I did find it infinitely easier to relate to my instructors. A lot of student relationship as friends, not so much except for the individuals I have already spoken about, but I do feel like I became closer and more friendly with my instructors than with the student body, which is really kind of what I wanted at that point in time.

CH: Have you stayed in touch with a lot of people?

JP: Avery, I probably talk to once or twice a year. Brooke is now on the East Coast so I don't normally talk to her too much. Whenever I have time I try to stop in Oshkosh and poke my head around. I'm really big into motorcycles, and 39:00one of my motorcycle dealerships is in Oshkosh, it's a Triumph dealership, Team Winnebagoland, it's the closest Triumph dealership so I do actually find myself in Oshkosh more than you'd think.

CH: Do you feel like you were comfortable at Oshkosh? I know that you said you don't quite necessarily match the typical Oshkosh student. Did you feel like you stuck out at all?

JP: I don't think I really stuck out that much, I mean I think I blended in pretty well, and while I may not have fit the typical UW student profile, being able to have my own apartment off campus was immensely comfortable and I mean, it was my own privacy I didn't have to share a room with anybody I did that for long enough in the Army.

CH: You probably miss out on dorming.

JP: No I had enough dorming when I lived in the barracks in the Army, and trust me that stuff got pretty crazy, especially living in Germany where the legal 40:00drinking age was 18 so the second we set foot in Germany we could all drink and party. I have a lot of stories to tell from the Army. I'm still friends with my roommate from the Army actually, it was his birthday yesterday, 29th of November. Vincent Michael Cirossi, he's an alright guy.

CH: So, you obviously are still in contact with him

JP: Yeah I went down, he lives in Kentucky now right off Fort Campbell, and he bought a house, he's actually a postman now, delivers the mail and I've gone down to visit him probably three times or so since I've been out of the service. Not every year, probably every other year.

CH: So you said that really the only thing that you were involved with was the Model UN for the period of time.

JP: It was an extracurricular, yeah. I thought that was the greatest confluence of my interests past, present, and going forward.

CH: How else did you occupy your time? Obviously with academics and everything.


JP: Part-time job and then travelling back to my home in Marion to see my puppy. I mean, that alone round trip was probably two hours.

CH: Did you do anything fun like around Oshkosh, maybe like off campus?

JP: Yeah every now and again me and my friends would probably go and I remember a few times we, well the bar scene mostly. I forget what it's called, but it's more of a sample brewery which is just north on High Avenue right by the bridge where you cross, I can't remember if I had a map I'd be able to do this a little better. I actually met an individual who didn't go to the campus but she served as a certified nursing assistant off campus and she was a part time bartender, 42:00her name escapes me at the moment.

CH: Was the bar scene big back then?

JP: Big enough. We got Kelly's bar at the junction of, I think it was High and 44. My name is on the wall. I'd broken up with a girlfriend, I think it was summer of 2012, and as a way to occupy my time they had a thing where you'd come in and sign in and do that for 100 days straight, and you'd buy something to drink whether that be a soda or an alcoholic beverage, and once you did that for 100 days they would put your name on a plaque, put it up on the wall. So my name is one of many on that wall. I think during the winter there was a roller derby that my friend Jake Heart and his girlfriend were a part of because his sister coached in Madison, that took place up in Appleton, but that was something that 43:00I got into during my time at Oshkosh. I was always a spectator and support like helping them take down the rink and set up the rink. I don't know everything starts to blend.

CH: Did you ever go to house parties or anything like that?

JP: Maybe two or three whenever the Model UN was celebrating something, those were the only real house parties I remember.

CH: Overall, what was your social life like? You mentioned you had broken up with somebody in the summer of 2012.

JP: Yeah, I would say it was the typical things that you would go through in your mid-20s and late 20s. I had a girlfriend from my time at UW-Manitowoc, we were supposed to get an apartment together and move in together in Appleton, but that didn't pan out which actually in the spring of 2011, left me looking for an apartment in Oshkosh, which luckily I found the one on High Avenue because 44:00somebody else had backed away from it. Yeah, socially I would say it was just your regular growing pains, I mean, that relationship came and went and then I stayed single for the rest of my time at Oshkosh because I was busy applying to Med School and things of that nature, regular academics. Socially, I mean I pretty much always stuck to my core group of friends that I had from High School. Casey Mertz is one of my best friends he lives in Brillion so I probably go and see him pretty much every single weekend. He's married and has two children. He's just a regular day laborer. He and I used to walk to the convenient store because we had off campus lunch in High School. We would do that, oh I don't know, two or three times a week. Then, right after High School 45:00we didn't really see or talk to each other very much because he went to study automotive body work, and I went into the service. We just lost touch and now I got out and we reconnected.

CH: Can you recall any major campus issues while you were there? Like any big blowups or anything?

JP: What do you mean? Like differences between me and the administration?

CH: Just like campus overall. Were there any big social issues?

JP: I would say no. I would say Oshkosh was always very accommodating. I know the LGBTQ thing, I would always get emails about that, and I think once a year they do like a night walk, or something of that nature, I think that's in October. No, I think Oshkosh was always very accommodating. I know some of the local residents of Oshkosh were, I don't want to say, the words are too extreme, 46:00like Xenophobic would be too extreme, or Racist would be too extreme, but just people who don't like having poverty and things extend across their city. So those were more like city issues, not campus issues, and I think I was more privy to those just because of the people that I met and that I knew.

CH: And so you graduated in 2013? [dog bark]

JP: I'm sorry what was that question now?

CH: So you graduated in 2013?

JP: Yes

CH: Was that the Spring or the Winter?

JP: Spring. I did not go to my graduation ceremony. I did not have the time. Then when I got my diploma in the mail, I was a bit miffed because I didn't have one of those protector cases so then I contacted the Alumni Association and they 47:00gave me one.

CH: What were you doing instead?

JP: I don't know, I'm sure I had something better to do with my time. To that point it was, I mean I know what I had did, I mean, I got my fancy piece of paper, yay. I mean to me at that point the graduation ceremony was for other people and I'm not one for doing things for other people so much. I figured it was just a waste of my time, I'd rather go do something else. I was probably moving out of my apartment and getting things like that set up back home.

CH: So then you didn't decide to go to Madison after that?

JP: No, over the course of my internship up in Door County, that was really enjoyable. I woke up early every morning, went to all of these beautiful Door County beaches, collected a water sample, came back to a college level lab that they had in Sturgeon Bay which was kind of our focal point. Doing all that and 48:00spending my time in Sturgeon Bay, I realized how much I really really enjoyed Wisconsin and the culture here. Northeast Wisconsin is kind of a special area, I think by being right by the great lakes and having all the water that we have here, all the freshwater especially with this global warming trend rising. [dog whining] Where was I, so over my time in Door County, I realized how much I just 49:00really enjoyed Wisconsin and while I probably wasn't the best tool for getting gainful employment in this area, because we are more heavily manufacturing, I decided that I really wanted to explore that route, and if I couldn't find any gainful employment in Wisconsin I was just going to go back in the service. So I figured, all those things combined was a pretty good plan to move forward with. Ultimately I didn't really want to go $300,000 in debt, just to go to medical school and have to pay 6 or 7 percent interest on that money. I did the math and it ended up that I wouldn't have had it paid off until I was in my 50s. I was like, that's less than acceptable.

CH: How did you feel when you finally did graduate?


JP: About how I felt when I got out of the Army. One of those things where it's like yay something that you've been looking forward to is finally here, but I don't focus on that moment, I focused on "okay, what happens next." It's one of those things where yes it feels good to finally get where you're at, but I don't allow myself the time to dwell on it, I mean, not attending my graduation ceremony was probably the best way to illustrate that. It's just like, we need to keep moving forward, accomplish whatever it is I need to accomplish next.

CH: Did you have any immediate plans for what you wanted to do?

JP: So I mean, going from when I graduated to pulling the plug on medical school at the end of that internship, immediate plans, no. It was just find a job, I 51:00mean at this point I had already worked well over 10 years. I worked all the time growing up on the farm, I worked in the Army, both of those jobs are not the most pleasant thing in the world. I finally had a college level degree behind me, so I was like well, preferably I would do management but honestly as long as the job pays what I want it to pay, I really don't care what it is as long as it's in this area, as long as I can do what I want to do.

CH: What was the job market like?

JP: At that point in time? Really, really bad. At least I think it was bad, because we had the financial meltdown in '07-'08 and we still hadn't fully recovered, and then taking my degree and trying to accomplish something with it, this probably isn't the best area for it, I mean I wanted to stay in Northeast Wisconsin, I didn't want to move to Milwaukee, I didn't want to move to Madison. If I had moved to one of those cities I probably would have had a job working in a lab making between 45 and 50 without much problem. Would've been a very quick 52:00hiring and acceptance process, but since I narrowed my area my geographic area to what I did, the job search became not so pleasant to the point where I worked at Wal-Mart for about a month and half, yeah October and November of 2013. Then I got into Endries which is in Brillion, which is 5 minutes, 5 miles West of Reedsville, and I worked at Endries because it was closer to my dad's house where I was living at the time, and it paid like a dollar more. Then I continued to work at Endries from November of 2013 up until the end of February 2014. The beginning of February 2014 was when I got hired at Schreiber Foods. Schreiber Foods I think was excellence, focus of everything, everything pretty much came 53:00into focus. I found a job that paid decent, it wasn't management unfortunately because when I was going through I actually applied at the local plant in Green Bay, and their management position at the same time, and their management position requires you to move a lot because they have several plants across the country, while the pay was there as a salary position, I think we're talking about $55,000, again I didn't want to move around all the time, so I didn't want the management job, and I actually took the local union worker factory plant in downtown Green Bay. I actually worked at Endries and Schreiber both full time for a month. So, second shift at Schreiber and then third shift at Endries, so that was 80 hours a week, sometimes a little bit more if Endries needed overtime. I would literally get done with work at Schreiber at 10 o'clock at 54:00night jump in my car, drive directly to Endries, and start my shift there at 11, get off at 7, go home and crash for a few hours, get back up and get up to Green Bay by 2 o'clock. Well the main reason I did that was because I had dental insurance through Endries at the time and I was getting a cap put on one, or a crown put on one of my molars and I didn't want to mess up that process. That, and if Schreiber didn't work out I didn't want to have no job anymore.

CH: So what have you been doing, just working?

JP: Yup just working at Schreiber Foods. During that process I was also accepted at Georgia Pacific as a lab functional which was salary, but it was only 40 hours a week with occasional overtime and the pay was only about $40,000 or $45,000, and my price point is more about $55,000-$60,000, and when I looked at 55:00the job at Schreiber between the job at Georgia Pacific, the job at Schreiber was hourly and for whatever reason they are never fully manned so there's always overtime in some shape form or another. Since that time I basically put my nose to the grindstone and made a bunch of money at Schreiber. Little more after than a year of being at Schreiber I bought the residence that we're in right now, in Green Bay, it's a duplex so that was perfect because now my tenants help me pay the rent and I have a roommate and he helps me pay the mortgage. With all these people living here my mortgage gets paid and I go to work, [unclear] I enjoy my life at the moment. I've lived here for about a year and a half now, and the 56:00second I moved here I was able to have my puppy with me again, so that worked out very well.

CH: How do you think college, or at least, like all of your college experience, how do you think that prepared you for the life that you're living now? (56:25)

JP: Had I not had my four year degree, I never would have gotten in at Schreiber foods, not even as a union worker, because one of the first questions that people on my shift asked me, once I was qualified, was "alright so who do you know here?" and I was like "I don't know nobody", and they were like "you just got hired off the street?" and I was like "yeah" and they were like "wow." There was like only one other person on my shift who got hired off the street and he also had a degree, go figure, from UW-Oshkosh. His interest was radio so he had a communications degree, his name was Matt Cook. He was kind of in the same boat that I am except for he's married and got two children. He came from Milwaukee 57:00and he just wants to work and raise his children and have that kind of lifestyle. Me, I just got to the point where I mean, I can't be running around all the time, I really just wanted to establish myself somewhere, and Green Bay was the place in Northeast Wisconsin to do that. I mean, I'm happy, I work too much, but that's how I make money because they don't pay time and half unless I hit 40 hours.

CH: Have you had much involvement with UW-Oshkosh since graduating?

JP: A little bit here and there. I've poked my head in and talk to Dr. Kostman once or twice, Dr. Dorn I've also talked to her [unclear]. I went down to a homecoming, I believe that was last year. I'm not as involved as some alumni, but I'm more involved than others.


CH: Yeah, you're not too far either. So what are your thoughts about UW-Oshkosh now that you have distanced yourself from the university, like looking back?

JP: I think it was perfect for the niche point that I was looking at, something much larger than UW-Manitowoc, something to immerse myself in a little more, but not something as large as Milwaukee or Madison. I really think it satisfies that niche point extremely well, it's more of an undergraduate campus than a graduate campus, not saying that they don't have graduate degrees, they do, but I mean Madison has that reputation of like an ivy league education without the ivy league costs, which is why I always considered that more of a place for graduate school. Looking at Brooke Kroenig and how she's taken her graduate degree in microbiology and now she works with the biodigester, that was the other thing I 59:00did, I did apply to work at the biodigester and I kind of poked my head around there quite a bit, now she works on the East coast and she's being pretty successful. Then Avery has a medical technician job and she lives in Beaver Dam. I would say that the campus and the university fulfills the job it's supposed to do quite well. I think that my interest in microbiology is still on par with where it was before. I know my father serves on a town board [unclear] and we were talking about different process because we have a dump there, and now a lot of the rural farmers are talking about different biodigesters and things of that nature. I mean, I can look at that and actually know the science and the logic things that work behind it, I also find it easier, like whenever I read articles related to health and how things work and why they work the way they do. I find it's much easier to understand things of that nature also the nuts and bolts and 60:00to go in depth with it as well.

CH: [unclear] Have you ever thought about going to grad school now?

JP: I'm always thinking about it, right now I'm working on a business degree at UW-Green Bay, and actually it's a dual major. It's Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance as well as a major in Economics and then a minor in Chemistry because I was so close to finishing my Chem. minor at Oshkosh and the only reason I didn't was because I didn't have the analytical chemistry because I didn't want to stay there for another year. It's only taught in the spring so I wouldn't have been able to graduate until Spring of 2014 and it wouldn't have fit with any of the other classes I had to take that were required for my degree. I just kind of let that sit on the side, but with my employer helping me pay for it now, I'll go to school, I'll go to school forever. That and there's actually tax advantages, I mean from where I was in 2003 not knowing anything 61:00about how the academic system works and how to finance it, I've come a long way to the point where I help other individuals start their schooling if needs be and things of that nature.

CH: With the business degree, how is that working out for you?

JP: I think, well, I only take 6 credits a semester, and I think at that pace I will be done somewhere between 2 and 3 years. If I padded it up a bit more I might take some courses during the Summer, so I would take 6 in the Spring, 6 in the Summer and 6 in the Fall, I think it would be done in 2, but if I skip Summers I think it'll be done in 3.

CH: What kind of, so did just your employer suggest it to you, or?

JP: The employer, it's a pretty large employer, Schreiber foods their main office is in downtown Green Bay they just built it, it looks like a triangle. Then they have a plant in GB which is on Main Street behind the McDonald's, I 62:00don't know how familiar you are with Green Bay, and then they also have a distribution center which is in De Pere, and they have tons of other plants across the country; California Arizona, Missouri, Vermont, Pennsylvania. Since they're a large corporation, they're privately owned, they have ways to improve, they call their employees partners, and they have like an education program for reimbursement and I just signed up to that. No one really pushed it or no one really mentioned it, it was just kind of put in the benefits packet that I looked at.

CH: So, once again looking back at your time at UW-Oshkosh is there anything you would have done differently or maybe nothing at all?

JP: Well I mean, in hindsight being 20/20 there's always things you could 63:00differently, but with that being said, probably the only thing I'd probably really go back and do differently would be in High School and going to a reserve officer training program right off the bat instead of going in the reserve enlistee, but I mean that's way past Oshkosh. Given the circumstances that I had when I started at Oshkosh and how I finished, I don't know there's probably nothing I would do different.

CH: What advice would you give to current students?

JP: Know where you want to be. Have that vision, have that idea of where you want to be in 5, 10 years. Yeah, that's key, you want to know where you want to be that way you can figure out how to get there, because once you know where you want to be, everything else kind of falls into place. At least in my line of thinking it does, because once I realized that I wanted to stay in Northeast Wisconsin everything pretty much fell into place. I knew what I was willing to 64:00do, I knew what I was willing to accept, I knew what I wasn't willing to accept. So, having that end goal in mind is kind of key.

CH: And did you have any final thoughts or remarks that you'd want to add, or anything else you want to be said?

JP: Well, I guess since Walker was elected when I was at Manitowoc and he was there the entire time at Oshkosh and I participated in some of those elections, and he's still our governor, I guess be a little bit more generous with the purse strings and give our UW system some more money. That's about all I've I mean, I wish more funding was there because I think we do have a top notch, not just Oshkosh not just Manitowoc not just Madison, but a system across the entire state, that I think has been defunded a little bit because I've noticed that 65:00some of my tuition bills have become higher and higher and things of that nature. So yeah, I guess that would be my only thing is remember who you're voting for and what they stand for because whether you like it or not, that'll come around and bite you one way or the other.

CH: and so here is the deed of gift

JP: John Hancock?

CH: Yup

JP: So my interview is considered a gift?

CH: Yes, yes you're gifting it

JP: Is it valued at anything, my deductions this year?

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