Interview with Marc Nylen, 04/20/2018

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
Mason Merckx, Interviewer | uwocs_Marc_Nylen_04202018_uc.mp3
Campus Stories Oral History Project (UWO Audio Series 51) |


´╗┐MM: I'm here with Mark Nylen for the interviewing him for the campus stories oral history project. Today is April 20th of 2013. And Mark would you confirm that it's April 20th 2018? All right so when I'm interviewing you about your college experiences and stuff and for that I'd like to start a little bit before college like, what was it like where you grew up?

MN: Yeah definitely. I grew up I'm a Wisconsinite through and through. I grew up on Lake Michigan in Algoma Wisconsin that's where I spent my childhood years from birth to age 12. From there I went to a boarding school. My parents made a decision to send me away to a boarding school and that was in Mount Calvary Wisconsin which is close to Fond du Lac and I was there in a residential capacity for four straight years. So it was somewhat like a college environment. We had dorm prefect's. It was a long history 150 years the boarding school had 1:00been around. So it was a very unique opportunity. And then from there I came to UW Oshkosh right from that boarding school.

MM: Is there anything in particular that made you choose coming to UW Oshkosh?

MN: Yeah definitely. It was academic major at the boarding school. Most of my teachers had been missionaries in Nicaragua El Salvador Guatemala Mexico most of Central America. And I really fell in love with studying languages. I studied Latin for four years Spanish for four years. The German was also taught there I did not study German until I got to college. But I knew at that point when I was doing my search for colleges that I was going to be a foreign languages major and Oshkosh had an incredible program. When I came here and met the faculty even as an 18 year old you know still really young fresh the world's my oyster. I met 2:00the faculty and knew there was no other campus and I had looked at others some that were missionary schools where I could continue really down the religious road. Some that were Catholic colleges and universities. So it was a little bit I guess maybe odd that I came to a public university because I had been admitted to a couple other schools and then basically rescinded admission or said you know no and in one case it was a full ride. Wow. So it was. But I really felt the calling to come to Oshkosh when I met the faculty and knew and I'll tell you after the four years that I was here I knew that I made the right decision.

MM: That's really cool. Do you have any other like family who would have gone to college or in the area or are you the first?

MN: Yeah I was technically I was first generation. My father oversaw radiology 3:00for his career so he was a supervisor of X-ray technology. He had gone to a technical college out of the Navy and so he did have real formal education the Navy that each and then translated into a technical college degree and then launched his career. My mom went directly into her career which was very successful. But it did her particular career did not require her to go to college. So I guess I was truly a first generation in this respect. It's really interesting.

MM: So like all the faculty really like you to come here. I made a point of that.

MN: Yeah definitely International. My mentor main faculty mentor was from Alicante Spain. And it was incredible. And he spoke seven languages. He was legendary in the foreign language field not only because of his history 4:00knowledge and teaching ability in the Spanish language area Iberian literature. I mean he was a world renowned expert. There were other faculty. There was a gentleman here that that faculty name was Vincent Almazan another faculty member who was John Stone although he was a U.S. citizen. He had spent significant amounts of his life in Mexico led study tours there every year for UWO and this will come back to some other stuff. But when I would travel in Central America people would see my UW Oshkosh sweatshirts T-shirt shorts and they would say do you know John Stone said. You know you are known when you're walking in a different country. People see what you're wearing and they ask Do you know this person. And that's the type of faculty we had here. They were brilliant researchers but even better teachers. To me that's what I wanted. You never 5:00overvalue a good teacher.

MM: So when you came here Did you live in the dorms or--?

MN: I did.And that was I would say a fairly easy transition for me. There was a maturity that I had to have when my parents said you're going to go to this boarding school. At first I resisted that. But then I fully when I got there I saw the wisdom of my parents sending me there. I fell in love with the campus during the summers I stayed and worked on the Mount Calvary at the St. Lawrence seminary. So when I came here living in a residence hall being paired with a roommate. Ironically my roommate was from the same boarding school and we knew each other and you know we could live together. That made the transition so easy. His home was in Fond du Lac Wisconsin so being able to go home with him on 6:00weekends I knew his family. I knew his parents his siblings. So yes I lived in Donner Hall. I think it was room 227 Donner for my first year and we had a wonderful experience.

MM: So what was the environment of the dorms themselves like around when you were here?

MN: Yeah. It was really neat being in Donner and I didn't know it at the time that I selected that hall but there were a lot of upperclassmen many athletes so I had known about the UW baseball program. My dad was a college baseball coach and the mean at that time in the 80s late 80s and early 90s and even the 70s. Oshkosh was they ruled the world in baseball. So imagine living across the hall from some of these baseball players who were you know some of the best in the United States. As a youngster again I didn't really appreciate it until my dad's 7:00like you know this you know you know you're living with these people who are incredible baseball players in a program that at that time had won a national title in 86 they won another national title I think in 97. They were runner up number of years so I think that part of it I loved athletics being sort of a child of athletics being that environment. And those students really took care of us as freshmen seniors. They knew they had to be good students. There was an accounting a gentleman who was an accounting student. Never forget him. Another gentleman who was a biology student and they basically sat me down and others on the floor who were freshmen and said hey we don't mess around here. You're good. You got a study you got to put your nose to the grindstone. You want to be able to graduate in four years. You want to get involved in a culture of the campus do fun things what you want to graduate. And they were incredible role models for me. And I keep in contact with some of them now. It's so interesting.


MM: Did you get involved? Like on campus with activities and stuff like athletics?

MN: I did. There are three main areas. Firstly I was involved in Oshkosh Student Association. Having been a student senator from the College of Education sort of the College of Letters and Science from undergrad. It was a wonderful experience. I've been involved in student governance at the boarding school I was my student body president. And so to come to a college and say I could continue that. That was something very important ran track and field just my just my first year.

Mostly because my roommate was a very talented track and field athlete and said hey want you come out. And I did and I enjoyed that very much. Being a college athlete versus a high school athlete it became very clear to me early on. It was fun but there was no way I could compete at that level. So from there on out I sort of live vicariously through a lot of other athletes and continue. The other thing I my second year I became a community adviser through the Department of 9:00Residence Life. And that was fully because my CA. His name was Mark. He pulled me aside after a floor meeting and said Hey I know you lived at a boarding school. I know that you were involved in student governance. Why don't you apply for this position. And I did. And the sort of again the world is your oyster. You get involved in that in that realm and it can change the course of your life which it had which it did for me. So I think those are the three the athletics student governance and then involvement with residents Hall management going back a bit to the student governance what was it like to be like them kind of leadership position on campus. Yeah I enjoyed that a lot. I enjoyed the formality of that structure where you have an assembly that met I think on Mondays Senate that met on Tuesdays. The fact that you do that in my case I was a representative from my college. So you're elected to represent Pierce. And you 10:00know it was a little bit a little bit daunting because again I came from a boarding school that had at that time 140 kids. So my graduating class was 41 people I think. So it was pretty small and coming to a school at that time. Oshkosh probably had around 9000 students but then the daunting part for me was you're going to represent a college that at that time was the largest college at UW. And how many majors were represented. So I knew when I was literally sitting at the table those governmental meetings you know this was important work. The president of the Oshkosh Student Association though the year that I was involved. He's gone on to do amazing things. And in governance and so I look back and say you know I was really studying under someone at that point who knew that they were a political scientist. They wanted to go into this as a field. And I reveled in that. It was also a good chance to meet other people. And I 11:00think for me that social connection I have that a lot of that at the boarding school because we lived in residence halls there we had four roommates in that like little suite area social connection was a real part of my life. So I found an identity in that student governance like I did in the community adviser role and also on the athletic role. But it was it was not only a lot of fun but it taught me discipline.

MM: And so how did you think your experience shaped by being with OSA?

MN: While my whole life has been there and I look that simple conversation that Mark had with me and he was an amazing human he went undergrad school and I think microbiology. He was a really brilliant student and I wouldn't tell him this a lot. I have sense but you know I would study his habits. What time did he get up in the morning? How many hours was he studying a week? He was very 12:00accessible to me as a resident. You know if I had a personal issue if I wanted to just talk about, you know I'm struggling with homesickness or you know I'm not doing as well my algebra classes I would hope to do. His door was always open. So when he told me I think you could do the same thing. It really gave me a boost of confidence in where I say it changed the course of my life. I knew it was not going to deviate my academic plan because I knew from the beginning I was going to be a Spanish major. I added International Studies in European Studies partly because faculty said hey I think you should take classes and other these other areas it would really compliment your major. But partly also because of my connection with the community adviser he said you know take as many credits as you can. You're not paying for anything past 12. And you know you'd be foolish not to. And I've looked at his you know he's been a Star reported that time. I remember what it was called. It basically looked at his report and said if he's doing it why can't I. The way it change of course of my 13:00life is I eventually I went on from my sophomore junior and senior year I was a community adviser. I stayed on as a community adviser during the summers because it helped pay for my education. I was able to take some additional summer classes. I did distance learning in areas like creative writing one summer poetry class and other summer things maybe a compliment and round out my academic experience because in my junior year I've made a decision you know I think I really want to want to go on to graduate school either for Spanish language or for something else that's something else happened to be in the field of student affairs in higher education administration. So where it changed the course of my life is that it's that simple conversation led me to the CA role and then I became an assistant Hall director while I was working on my graduate work. And I've been employed with the Department of residence life continuously since 1988 and you know my my life has been so rich in so many ways because of 14:00my job. I mean it's just been an incredible experience. How do you think that the the whole residence life like department has been changed through your time here because yeah there's been a lot of changes. I think simple things like when you look at the ice started in the fall of 87 at that time I think it was late 86 spring of 86 maybe your spring of 87 the drinking age changed. And it used to be 18. And so you look at some of the that just the first year my coming to college. It was grandfathered that year. And the culture back then. I mean people were very involved like they are now. I wasn't involved in that scene but it was interesting to just be part of that. I think what has remained constant is the involvement piece how engaged our student leaders are. The value that we 15:00place on when you're living in a residence hall you need to take care of each other you need to follow standards and rules but you need to have great programs within the building. I think the types of programs have changed. You know at that time I remember in 87 we had a computer lab but I think it was maybe the year before when they had a computer lab. It had two or three computers most of my coursework that I did was on an IBM Selectric X or a typewriter. So I would you know like my English class my first English class I'll never forget that professors Richard because Dr. haiduk James haiduk he was incredible professor really a disciplinarian in the classroom but he gave you the ability to write a paper could only be two pages so if you'd handed in it was two and a half pages you'd say start over. And so doing on a typewriter versus a computer that was literally all my gosh we got 12 15 20 times. But I think you look at the 16:00practical application of that. There wasn't a computer lab to do it and whereas now we have computer labs we have wired connection in every room we have cable television. We didn't have it at that time in our residence hall rooms. There were game boys those kind of things. So we had to entertain ourselves and you know do things in the community. What also hasn't changed is the camaraderie within the building. I love that and I love that's why I stayed in this field. I love connecting to students. I want our students to know that their residence hall is their primary affiliation when their student. So when I come back from class they want to feel comfortable they want to make sure that they know of the resources of the building that they're partaking of the programs and that stuff for me has remained constant over the last 30 years. We've solidly performed in that area. The other thing that I think is just unique or just although the 17:00rooms are the same size what people bring to fill them. You know I had a little black and white TV 13 inch. Now you look at it like a 40 inch TV. They like the Gameboy systems the the the Xbox 360 is all those kind of things and I don't even know the most recent generation. The fact that there's sometimes two TVs in a room that kind of stuff and it's just the stuff has changed the element of people their contributions how people get along. That stuff has remained constant. That's you mention being like we weren't too involved with you did it. You didn't know a lot about when it changed the drinking age.

MM: What are your opinions on that [changing the drinking age] at the time?

MN: Yeah for me I was one of those young guys are young people who said I had no interest in that but I was I always liked studied. Why are people doing that. 18:00And you know sometimes it was impacted by their behavior. Someone would come back under the influence. I've never been a person who can really keep my opinion to myself. My parents really instilled in me and the boarding school instilled in me. You've got to be your own advocate. You've got to be. You've got to have a voice in the world. And so you know some conversations of people to say Hey remember what the CA was saying to us. You got to put your nose to the grindstone. If you're going to graduate from this campus. So I think the thing that I always like studied the culture of that environment and you know why people chose to drink versus not choosing and then trying to be one of and there were many of us who would say let's do something else. And that's how we try bars. What now is the bar in Oshkosh that opened up that wasn't a nightclub and it was called Stage 2. And again in the late 80s early 90s these were coming 19:00into prominence and they were great places for college students to hang out. And you know it was like real good electronic music format really popular DJs at the time. And that's that's the world that I became really I enjoyed. So we would do that we would go to movies downtown the downtown Oshkosh in the late 80s when I came here. It was thriving. The only movie theater was downtown. There were a number of restaurants. I mean that's where we went and you didn't have to drive. You could literally walk the four blocks. So typical Friday night even Thursday night would go down and enjoy sandwich at a local establishment. Like there was a place called Heroes sandwich shop. You'd go across the street to enjoy a movie. You may go to a dance bar afterwards. I think that that time there were probably three or four in the Valley. Two of which were in Oshkosh. One was by Nina and then there was a another one in Appleton. So I think that was a long 20:00winded answer but I I felt that I wasn't really impacted by it. I was more intrigued by why people would do that now without making a judgment but saying Hey let's go to a ballgame let's go to a movie let's go to a house party.

MM: Yeah. It was all really nice answer. So like as a student we're like some of your larger challenges and difficulties academically?

MN: Yeah I was never strong in math and I had great great teachers at the boarding school so I was able to get through the you know the advanced mathematics there. Yes but it was because of their caring their tenderness. They're saying you've got it you got to know this you've got to do this. So when I came here that was my anxiety. I knew that I could excel in foreign language. I knew that I could excel in writing and the reading portion of it. It was 21:00something I really loved. But I was nervous about taking my first couple of math classes when I did the testing. I tested into like the second level of math and I felt like Gosh maybe I should have scored lower intentionally on that.

And then I get this Professor. Professor Laborde Ron Laborde and it's amazing after 30 years I remember their names and the first thing I remember him coming into the classroom and he taught here and I think he also taught at Marion and Marion college. And he said folks I know that everybody has math anxiety. Oh maybe not everybody who would say I don't. Because you know I'm a professor but most of you let's be truthful about it and got anxiety. He said this is like a language. And he said this on the first day. So pretend that you're learning English or maybe a foreign language. And I was like whoa. I can relate to it because he's speaking my language literally and figuratively. And I went up to him afterwards and I said you know I'm one of those kids that you're talking about. I'm really fearful that I'm going to flag this class. He said I can 22:00guarantee something. You will never fail my class and you're going to get a B plus or higher. And from that point on I felt I didn't want to let him down. But I didn't want to let myself down. And I did I did very well in the class. And he said this can be a springboard to the science classes you're going to be taking additional mathematics courses which are going to be required to take. And he said I'm not going to guarantee that you're going to love math when you finish my class but you're not going to hate it. And it's been truthful. I mean even with my own kids as way of doing helping them with their math I'll reflect on those conversations and try to teach them in a way that he taught me. So I think that that was my biggest coursing piety. And again it was a springboard because then at that point I just said I want to be on the dean's list. I want to be on the honor roll. I want to bring pride to my boarding school. I want to feel great about my college every semester. I want to be able to call my parents and say hey you know I did this and my parents were were hands off in the way that they were coming to visit me during college because they hadn't done that during 23:00the boarding school. They would call and they would say How are things going they would send packages. When I would go home for a break period like a holiday Christmas break you know the grades would arrive literally at the same time you were there in the mail and they were they were never the type to open the mail they would say you looks like he got some from UWO and I would open it and then we'd sort of celebrate you know if I got lower grades in a class that I thought I had or hoped for. I talked to my parents about it and they'd be like hey you're doing great to keep it up. And so I think I have the support at home about that being a first generation. They were like I can't really tell you what it's like because you know I wasn't there. But let's just keep plugging away. I think the other anxiety I had is again going back to that I was from a small town the town I grew up in Oklahoma. I absolutely loved you know some people look back in their small town environment. I would never want to do that again. I wouldn't have changed a thing. I love people in my hometown and B Growing up on Lake Michigan. It's like growing up in the ocean. It defines who you are when 24:00you hear waves when you see the beauty of the Lake Michigan. You know and I fished eight, nine hours a day as a kid. So that piece of it. Small town at that time like thirty five hundred people then going to an even smaller town 550 people in my boarding school and then coming to a city of 50000 people. In my mind it was like moving to Milwaukee or moving to Madison. So I think I overcame that anxiety by just saying I'm going to explore. I walked everywhere I got to know people in the community although my employment was on campus I did some of my internship experiences off campus. I'm getting to know community organizations I volunteered a lot just took my personal interest and translated those into how could I develop friendships out of this and that really lower the anxiety. Now I look at Oshkosh and I say this is sort of a small town of comparative to you know when you go to a Madison or you go to a Chicago or 25:00Milwaukee or Cleveland, Ohio or wherever you're traveling to. I feel very comfortable in my surroundings now.

MM: So really what kind of places did you volunteer at? Like how did that shape your experience?

MN: The one- now this was really significant for me. There's a place still in existence called Father Cars Place to Be. At that time Father cars. He was literally father Car was running it and he was a pretty young guy. I would venture to say probably in his early 40s and he ran in downtown Oshkosh and coming to Oshkosh to see that there was a homeless population again. Was it surprising to me. Partly it was but partly I'd come from an environment where the the missionary priest they had been dealing with poverty. They had taught us you give your shirt to someone if they needed if you got more food than you need 26:00you'd give it to somebody else. So that part of it I really believed in and I espoused and you know was hopefully living that. But to come to a community to see how much need there was and that when you're developing a homeless shelter that says that there's a lot of people who need a place to stay and a place to eat and. I immediately gravitated and I still remain in close contact with Father Carr as many times and as often as I can. It may be something as simple as just stopping in and saying I'd like to give you some money or I'd like to bring food over. If students are looking for an affiliation for volunteering I'll always give them the go to other cars. You can really do meaningful change here. I've hired many students who in our environment here who volunteered of other cars because and I see that on a resume and go These are people who want to serve other people. That's that's important. I think the other organization for me that sports connection. I loved going to rec basketball games and 27:00watching you know Oshkosh has got a rich history in sports and particularly and in basketball the city of Oshkosh like Oshkosh West Oshkosh North the university has always had a strong team. But then you look at we used to have at that time it was called the Oshkosh flyers a professional basketball team that played their games in college. So as part of that I could feel fulfilled. So I volunteered as a ref and then got some paid opportunities you know where during break periods that there were tournaments going on I would go and ref and I love that because it fulfilled a personal need I could make some money doing that during break periods but I could see and be involved in the culture of basketball and the community. So I think those are the two areas that I did. I also worked for or volunteer at United Cerebral Palsy. I've always really enjoyed working with individuals with disabilities. Now translated that to working with Special Olympics, so those are the three.

MM: That is really interesting because my sister has cerebral palsy


MN: Yeah its a great- Judy Britton from Oshkosh. And again she I met her in sort of a happenstance situation and she said hey your community adviser when you're not working as community adviser when you get break periods I need I need respite care. Can you come in and do overnight shifts. And I would do that and just fell in love with it and Judy was one of my most significant mentors. Just amazing person.

MM: Yeah. So for like some of there's some controversial issues like I had read in the events and you get involved with the race when you like your panel member on the celebration of Black History Month beyond the dream. What was that like for his experience like participating and stuff like that?

MN: Yeah definitely that was a part of the, And there's been research by faculty members here that I've attended I've only been a panelist a couple times. But throughout my time I've gone to many of those events because it has really not 29:00only intrigued me but it's a part of our history that I'm too young to truly I wasn't there. But I'm I guess old enough to be just on the cusp of that. And there was a panel that was wholesome literally in this building in Gruenhagen conference and I remember like yesterday where I'm sitting next to a gentleman we struck up a conversation and I said you know what brings you back to campus beyond you know clearly your interest in this topic and he got emotional when we were talking I didn't know how to respond to that and he said this is the first time I've been back to campus since I was expelled. And he said this is a very emotional. And just to be part you know this is a student who is here. And to hear his life story and to understand the the emotion of that it just it was overwhelming to me. I didn't even know how to respond to that. And it's just 30:00been an amazing journey. Because as part of that I've kept in contact with people I've met the time I was a panelist and then other times where I've attended to hear the panelists speak who are literally students here just to be affiliated with that has been such an honor. And I I've always just again going back to my seminary days in the 80s I've followed some of those individuals who literally walked with Dr. King. I was involved in the organization from 83 to 87 called People United to Save Humanity that was headquartered out of Chicago. And like Reverend Jackson I mean I would go to his rallies and you know as a youngster I mean 13 year old kid to be able to be in the same room as individuals who were friends colleagues activists in the same way that Dr. 31:00Martin Luther King was I mean it was it was awe inspiring. And so then to come to UW Oshkosh and know that there was a history here on our campus and chapters that literally were being written about you know about our experience with race relations. And you know how we're researching African-American students. So it was it was an honor to be part of that.

MM: So did you get involved when you were like on gender issues at all.

MN: No I have not. I have not done that.

MM: So like going through academics like what it was like getting towards like the New Years and looking like graduation and what you're going to do after college? What was that experience like?

MN: Equally as anxiety producing is when I was just starting. So there was a lot of I had a tremendous pride in knowing that my degree was going to be from UW 32:00Oshkosh. It's just and I feel that same way now when people I mean I wear Oshkosh clothing everywhere I go because I want people to know this is where I graduated from. And without exception every person I talk to they're like No that's a great school. I know you guys are good in this. You know people know about Model United Nations. They know us for our history and athletic success. They know about our College of Business. They know our nurses are like the best in the United States. I just I take great pride in that. For me when I was the daunting part when you get to the end of your undergraduate and you have that short window to determine okay I'm going to apply to graduate school do I have what it takes to get into these graduate schools. Well I'd be able to articulate my skill set to prove that I can be a solid graduate student. So I did that you know I cast the net really wide universities in California like university the 33:00Pacific, shooting for the stars and some in some cases of schools that financially I knew were were possible like Middlebury College and others for for foreign language. But then also saying I could see myself going to UW Milwaukee UW Madison UW Eau Claire or UW Oshkosh because I knew at that point they had a tremendous college education and furthermore a counselor education and higher ed program. So at that point I did this dual search and it came to be that I actually remained at UWO for my graduate studies. I took some I guess some may call it now the gap year. I didn't do a gap year but when I graduated from UWO in 91 then that summer I went abroad and studied at a university in Spain. The University of St. James and that too fueled my fire for all I can do this I 34:00excelled in my class work either because I was paying a lot of money and I said I'm not going to do anything but Chief the highest scores that I can. And then I return that fall to graduate studies here at UWO and I feel the same way about my graduate degree. I mean I'm connected closely the College of Education. Every opportunity I get if a professor says we'd like to have you come in and maybe speak to our class or we're being accredited would you like to come in and talk about how your degree has prepared you for your career. I've never said no to that. I love those opportunities because I'm very bright filled in by degrees from here.

MM: You mentioned some life overseas like studying abroad experiences. How much did you do, like of that as a student?

MN: Yeah how much did I do?

MM: Yeah

MN: yeah quite a bit at that time. So the study abroad in 91 was my first 35:00experience with traveling abroad. I've been to Canada and stop what you know is that it is done abroad because it is.

But it's not the sameright. So to go to Spain really fueled the fire. So when I came back from there during my graduate days my two years of graduate studies then I went back and taught night school English in Guatemala. I studied at the Latin American Language Institute a couple of times. My second year of graduate studies I wrote for some grants to be able to travel a summer and apply my coursework in a setting in Quetzaltenango Guatemala and it so I did that and in doing so I did a lot of promotion from 91 to 93 of studying abroad. So I would present at our campus a lot I would travel to statewide conferences and regional conferences. The Wisconsin college personnel Association and other organizations that I was affiliated with and almost exclusively I was presenting on the topic 36:00of the value and benefit of studying abroad. I was a big believer in that still am and now in my job here I get a chance an opportunity daily to work with international students behalf of the Department of Residence Life. And so I went to meeting with them I'm saying what brought to UWO? And then when I'm meeting with our domestic students hey why don't you travel to China. Why don't you head to Korea. Just today I was doing that floating an opportunity a very very good opportunity to five of our UW students and working with the Office of International ed this morning to say this is going to be a great opportunity. So that piece has remained with me throughout my whole career

MM: so how do you think all that has shaped your college experience?

MN: At the time like in that late - in that late 80s early 90s was the term multinational was just starting. We had at that point what we called the twin 37:00plant concept where you would have Sony you would have a plant in the United States and then we have a plant in Mexico and Seoul and so NAFTA was just starting at that time. So in my travels in my studies I was in some of those cities. So I would cross the border from El Paso and go into- And so you literally see the twin plant concept come to fruition in a both a positive and negative. There we toured some of those plants and as of still a relatively young person. I felt it was really important to see the world and to really understand it gave me a broader context to it not only the language acquisition but how did people live their lives? What was different in terms of their culture. Just the different customs the way they ran their government a couple times when I lived in Guatemala,. When I was living at the Latin American language too I looked to the family they were actually from Germany but they 38:00lived in Guatemala. Their last name was Mull M-U-L-L And in that city at that time as an American they had a they had a base a military base. I was not permitted to walk on the side of the street that that military base. And there were times you know I was not I was never going to test that. But sometimes you're you get distracted you're walking and then a guard would come up and say you know you need to get to the other side of the street you know. And then you realize I did. Number one your your political freedoms and liberties. I never valued by citizenship more than when I traveled abroad. There was one occasion where I was a victim of a robbery in Guatemala my wife and I were there together along with a student group from UWO

MM: There was the -Your backpack- Yeah that was in the advance titan

MN: yeah yeah. You saw that.

MM: Yeah I was reading through the archives and I saw a pop up. What was that like?

MN: It was - You're talking - We were with a student group at the time. All UWO 39:00students and this situation happens. This is a country I'm familiar with. So I had said the study abroad program up convinced my wife appropriately so you know it's safe and secure and we get there and spend one night and the next morning we're in basically the equivalent of a Kentucky Fried Chicken having breakfast. And our passports are stolen. All of the money we had was stolen. So it was it again you know having to work with the consulate and they were incredible and never forget that the guy's name was Derrick. He was sort of the code ambassador for that. He came about with my wife and I said you were here for a purpose what you're doing is good work. We want. We don't want to get in your way we want don't get a bad impression of this country we're going to get you back to the United States. We want to get you back to your group. But I think again it's shaped. I didn't leave the experience and I never would have I. I don't think I would ever would have had an ill will. I love the country so much it's a land of eternal springtime. The people of Guatemala are beautiful people. The culture is 40:00beautiful but it at least in the back of my mind I'm saying you know what would this have happened the United States if we had done a tour to Chicago or New York City? maybe it would have let it in and went back to my citizenship and said you know I'm very privileged to live where I do. And I count my blessings every day. The other thing about that is really I think taught our students that you don't want to make judgments of a whole culture and the way they rallied around that situation. I've been very close contact with several of those students. How many years later from the mid 90s. They are they're very deep friends of mine. And one of them was here for a titan football game in the fall in early December and we were talking about that experience. And he's like you know I don't remember the bad of it. That was an awesome trip you know and he's now living in Australia with his family. You know also he you know he took to travel abroad and literally you know he's been living there next week that I saw 41:00he was going to be spending like two months in a different country. You know he travels all over the world. So I think that was the biggest takeaway for me.

MM: Awesome. So going back a bit what was it like transitioning from a graduate student like postgraduate and graduate student to eventually becoming a faculty member here?

MN: Yeah. So I think for me the biggest transition was sort of seeing myself differently. When you go from your undergraduate experience to graduate you're still a student and you're called to something different your studies are going to be in a very more confined discipline if you're choosing graduate studies in that realm you're going to be taking classes that you know you're going to love and you should be excelling in if you're committing yourself to it. When you make that leap from graduate studies to then your full time profession. You don't have - I will say this - Sometimes the discipline that you had as a 42:00student you know these are the class hours. These are the number of hours they have to do to support your homework. These are the deadlines that you have to meet. So I knew at that point I needed to find people who were going to be in similar roles to me as role models and I did. I found and one person still keeping close contact now works at UW Whitewater and I basically studied under him for almost a full summer and I almost lived in his office and he never once said to me Oh you can do this on your own you should be. He's like What do you need today. What can I help you with. You know you're doing great. Let's let's let's keep this up. And when I saw him recently which was back in November I said you know Alen you made that transition possible for me. And without that I could have gone in a totally different direction. I could have been not aimless but really struggling. And I think you picked up on my nervousness regarding 43:00that. And he was busy this guy he still to this day busy. He works at the UW Whitewater campus. He spent almost his whole career there he worked at another campus Milwaukee school of engineering for a number of years before he left. He was here then he went to MSA and then he went to whitewater. So you know he could have easily said Sorry I don't have the time to do that. He never did that. And that has always stuck with me. When people come to me and I can either pick up on the fact that they're nervous or that they need guidance. I always go back to what did they. How did Allen treat me. What did he do for me that I need to do homage to him and say I'm going to pay tribute to what you've done for me. And it really was the launch pad for my success. I don't want to say I hit the ground running. I was newly married at the time. So there's other my wife we were balancing we made a decision when we first started dating we knew what our 44:00we thought were long term path was going to be together. But then also she was one year younger than me wanting to go on her master's. We knew we couldn't afford to do it together. So basically we did my grad experience. She was working full time. She kept her fulltime job and then went to graduate school. So she was maybe one year later she finished than I did. And there was sacrifice to that. And you know she had to take her grad school when she was working full time plus in a corporate environment. And I always admired that about her. You know she was willing to make a big sacrifice to allow me to follow my dreams. And I don't feel like my sacrifice was nearly what hers was. Although she may disagree to that. But so I think that was the biggest the biggest transition finding a mentor and having that person really be behind me.

MM: As your role is like like an adviser and stuff over the years what you think of the most changed with campus and like regard like the culture and community?


MN: Yeah I think there's some real apparent things the size of the campus and I share with our students today. I don't ever feel our campus is too busy but it's a lot more busy than it was when we had 8000 students here back in that time in the late 80s again. We had enrollment management so the UW System was stating you cannot exceed this number of new students per year. And I remember like yesterday there were some campuses that say they defied that. But I would I would read articles and say OK the class size are going to be UW Milwaukee is going to be this. I thought we were enrollment management. You know we followed those regulations pretty consistently from what I what I was understanding. And so the campus was it was smaller. We didn't have some of the buildings we do. We didn't have the alumni welcome center. We didn't have a student recreation 46:00center. The new classrooms that we do in Clow the new developments and renovations to Reeve. Blackhawk was different. But nonetheless when you go from roughly like 8500 or 9000 students to maybe at our precipice of maybe 15000 students that's a big jump in a pretty short period of time. So I think that that was the most apparent change. I think the buildings to reflect the need of the campus or the purpose of the campus literally being able to have enough classroom space the way the labs books some of the chemistry labs you know the whole Halsey renovations those kind of things. I always walked into those and went Wow this is this is big. These are big changes. I think the other thing that has changed is throw it in the realm of perception. And I can only define this through my experience and the limited as it is sort of the perception of the campus back then versus now. There was more negativity in the town gown and 47:00it wasn't overt. Sometimes it was very subtle you know because again I would wear my UW apparel and back in at that time people would say oh UW slosh kosh in that kind of stuff that I hate it I hate it. Now if I ever hear it or hear it I'll just say that that's very disrespectful. Where were you going to say anything it's UW outstanding. That's what it is. OK. Because I'm an alum. I work here and I'm going to defend it and I always will. But I don't hear that anymore.We we have evolved and we have gotten to a place where our alums protect our image our faculty defend it our students defend it. And I think one thing that I've tried to do throughout my career is to say there's a reason why you as a student have gotten here. Sometimes you may say was it the best choice or is it the first choice in all cases that may not be the case. But you're here now. 48:00Make the most of it in most cases it is that you know I was meeting with a student from Illinois this week. He's like I dream the coming to UWO and im like that's really cool. His parents are like this is the only campus. He's from Illinois. I mean he could have gone to a lot of different places there. I marvel at that and say that's dedication. I really respect somebody who's doing that when I go wild shopping now go to the mall go to Pick N' Save go to Target Wal-Mart. People see my Oshkosh jacket like hey what do you do there. If I wear my shirt and it can see my name badge oh what do you do what does what is director of conference services. And I take every opportunity. Yeah we we welcome groups we do Badger girls we do special effects and that's really cool I didn't know that the campus did that kind of stuff. So I think we've really done a nice job of telling our tale in integrating into the community. A community that we've been a part of for almost 150 years. I think that's what we should be 49:00doing. And clearly we are. The other area that I think has been, that's different is the city's gotten bigger and the resources that our students have now you look at the highway 41 quarter. there was a lot of farm fields. It was still it was almost all farm fields. You had EAA and that was it on this side of town by the pick and save. When I first started here that was the fairgrounds. So there was no taco bell. There was no Pick N' Save. I mean all the Walgreens that whole corridor over there. None of those things existed. So our students you went downtown there were a few businesses that maybe you visited on the west side. There was no Festival Foods. It was County Market you walked across the bridge that's where you shopped. There were no other shopping outlets in the community. So I think that what we offer to our students the way the city has grown in terms of, not explosive growth people wise but at least resource wise, 50:00to support the people we have. I guess I marveled over a period of 30 years roughly what we have now. It's amazing.

MM: So as we're wrapping up, is there anything you'd like to additionally say about your college experience.

MN: Yeah I think in two last things the reference this whole thread of pride. There are so many alarms and I keep in contact with a lot of them. At first I resisted Facebook. I was one of those that I saw it as a tool for just people who are putting stuff out them like white people need to know that I'm on. Now I see it as how I can send a message like 10 messages in one day and reach out to people who we're we're are students or people were former staff here people who are alumnus and with the exception they are soul filled with joy of their 51:00experience here. And I've taken it a step higher that if I have an opportunity of a football game there's a basketball game there's a play there's a cool event in the community like a G league game for the herd. I'll send a message out hey let's go and do some. You want to come back to Oshkosh. You want to stay on campus. In my job I have the privilege of saying hey if you're coming. Why don't you stay on campus for 30 bucks. And then you spend your money. You know let's go in and take other things in. That to me is something I take great joy in that our alums love the fact that they graduated from this university and through thick and thin they will defend it. And I truly believe that that's what alum should do. That's it. You got to have pride in where you come from. So I think that's the first thing the second would be, When you look at what we have to be proud of this this campus our faculty their talent their research breadth I am 52:00honed for reading so not only in the standpoint of like journals publications. If I hear that a faculty member has a research interest in it may be something that I know nothing about. I will just be hound and read. And then if I have an opportunity I'll I'll e-mail back to him and said You know I have no background in this area but I just find it fascinating. And they'll respond and say Hey thanks for taking an interest in my research. And that to me we are very very fortunate to have the faculty and staff that we do on this campus who love teaching, love research. They're very good and some of the research interest that goes back to my day when I was an undergrad student I took a six credit undergraduate symposium in research and there were four students and four 53:00faculty members. So there was an environmental studies professor. There was a religious studies there was an anthropology professor and there was a sociology professor so we could basically say who do we want to be our one on one. And that shaped my experience. I was tied to the sociology. He knew that I wanted. I was going out of grad school need to need to learn more on the research methodology qualitative research assessment strategy and I soaked it in. His name was Professor Jerry Starr and he was amazing to me and he was, He gave me more time that he probably had available and it launched me in my career and in my graduate school career. So I think the other thing that I'm really proud proud of is our faculty and their pride. And when I see faculty in and many of them I have friendships with over the last 30 years. When I see them out and 54:00about when we go to events together. It's a common bond. It's what we would call a fraternity or a sorority an affiliation whatever word you want to describe it. It's a brotherhood for me and a sisterhood that I know that these people have walked the same journey that I have. We have a common purpose. We want our students to succeed. We want them to look back as alumnus and say That's my university. So I think that's what I would say in closing.

MM: is there any advice you'd like to give to students currently?

MN: Make the most of your experience. Not to the point you were getting involved in everything but pick those things where you think you can make a difference or areas that you like outside of the box maybe couldn't see yourself getting involved in. And then you try it and go wow my life is so different because of 55:00it. And simply volunteer if you've never volunteered before. Go to a sporting event event, even if you're not an athlete or you weren't an athlete. Go to a community event at the grand. You know, try something different but put an emphasis on your your academics do not compromise getting your degree. I don't fully believe that the bachelor's degree has replaced the high school diploma. I think that's it's not a bit of an overstatement or it's not an overstatement but I think ultimately the bachelor's degree will be your launchpad for success. There are many companies there are many organizations, When you have a bachelor's degree in whatever area it is you will have a ticket to success if you decide to go on for a Master's go on for a Ph.D. that's awesome. But I always tell our students here get your degree get your degree do well academically.


And I think the other thing for me is when you tell your story you want to focus on what you prioritized. So we're entering a good period here for job opportunity. But still employers they are going to differentiate. Do we want you or do we want someone from another school. Tell our students you want it to be you. You want to be the teacher you want to be the attorney you want to be the nurse. You got to be able to articulate that experience and skill set in an employment setting. So I take every opportunity to prepare. Talk about the how do you be good at interpersonal communicator. How do you public present how do you effectively do research. Because all those things are tied to your classroom experience. But some of them are outside your classroom that you got to develop on your own. So I would say round your experience out and clearly and concisely 57:00articulate it.

MM: All right there's nothing else to say. Thank you for the interview.

MM: Yeah thank you Mason I think it's great meeting you too.

Search This Transcript
Search Clear