LU: Okay, so we should be recording now. My name is Lexie Uffenbeck, I amconducting this interview. It is April 2016. Can you please introduce yourself?
ML: Hi, I'm Michael Lizotte. I'm currently a sustainability officer for theUniversity of North Carolina Charlotte and I was formerly staff/faculty at UW Oshkosh.
LU: Okay, great. So I want to start by asking you a few background questionsjust so we have a feel for your background, where you're coming from. So, when you were growing up, what would you consider your "dream job" to have been?
ML: [laughs] I think growing up, I kept talking about being a veterinarian butthat changed when I got to college.
LU: So did you always love animals?
ML: Uh, yeah I liked them a lot. I liked being outside a lot going fishing,and was just outside a lot. That was the only sort of thing I knew about but 1:00then I got to college and found out about, you know, environmental science and all of these other things people would do and just kind of went from there. You know, a lot of colleges didn't [inaudible].
LU: Yeah, a lot changes.
ML: You know, you have childhood dreams but they're based on a smaller world
ML: Ialso didn't really like the sight of blood that much, so that was thebiggest reason. Even when I did go into science, I worked mostly with plants, chemistry, so..
LU: yeah, no I feel that. I don't do very well with blood either [laughs]. Allright, so what was the neighborhood that you grew up in like? Did you move around a lot or did you stay in one place throughout your childhood?
ML: Uh, no it was mostly one place. I grew up in Massachusetts. Kind of a medium2:00city but I lived on uh, near the edge. It was mostly apple orchards and small dairies, lots of wildlife, lots of water.
LU: Probably had an effect on your love for the environment and the outdoors I bet.
ML: Yeah, yeah. My parents like to camp out. And just, you know, grandparentsdid a lot of gardening.
LU: So is your family all in Massachusetts?
LU: Who was all in your household?
ML: Uh, my parents and two younger brothers. Later my grandparents moved in withus when I was in like high school. All my uncles and aunts lived nearby in 3:00towns. So it was a pretty tight family.
LU: Yeah, so you guys all got along for the most part?
ML: Oh, yeah.
LU: Oh, good. What type of work did your family do? Your parents, what was their occupation?
ML: Blue collar, I was the first person to go to college
LU: Oh, really? Okay.
ML: in my family. In fact, out of all my cousins even. So it was very bluecollar. People worked in factories. My father was a toolmaker. My mother was a hairdresser. They didn't know much about college
LU: Yeah, you were kind of on your own [laughs].
ML: Yeah, but my father, you know, told me from the start one of my oldestmemories was just that, you know, I was gonna go to college and he built his 4:00own house, and he would always tell me that he would sell that house to help me go to college. And I think he meant it. It definitely gave me a strong work ethic and made me realize that other people are willing to sacrifice a lot for me to get ahead and [inaudible] very well supported.
LU: So, do you feel like it was your dad that was pushing you to go to collegeor did you have that goal for yourself as well?
ML: Yeah, yeah. Um, it was curious that well, let me tell the story.[Inaudible] so they take me to the doctor and think there's something wrong 5:00because I'm just asking too many questions. And I keep going "oh, maybe I'm driving them crazy or something." And the doctor says you know, "don't ever discourage this kid" and I must have shown some, maybe some, some little test they do for IQ or whatever. And my dad is like that, when somebody gives him really good advice, like the doctor told him "you're in great shape, don't ever start smoking" and he would never do that. When he gets good advice, he sticks to it. He would always tell me stories, that's why he he makes these commitments and he sticks to them.
LU: Do you feel like you inherited that trait?6:00
ML: Um, I think so. I mean I'm kind of almost honest to a fault. There are timeswhen I gotta tell people what I'm thinking,and I think I'm also very loyal. Been married 20 what is it now, 27 years.
LU: Oh wow, yeah.
ML: It, a lot stuff works the way they say my parents are still together andshowed me how it's done. So yeah, a lot of it is that kind of commitment. I worked hard. It was a little weird growing up: on one end, I loved growing up in 7:00a strong, blue collar neighborhood, environment family and all that kind of thing and great work ethics. But there were weird things that went on like in high school, I had counselors tell me that when I told them "oh yeah, I'm trying to go to college" they'd say "well why would you want to do that? There's plenty of good jobs around here." Though, it was real interesting for me to connect to Oshkosh a bit. You know, when I moved there, I actually really connected a lot with the students. UW Oshkosh has a lot of first generation college students. It has a really strong blue collar community and so I loved living in Oshkosh. To me, it felt very comfortable, normal, to live in Oshkosh. And I think I related well with a lot of students because they were going through some of the same pressures. Their families were wondering why they were spending money on 8:00college. Even today, there's still very strong blue collar manufacturing. As much as people play it down, it's still strong there. So, we still have students there whose families don't quite understand this whole college thing.You know, Northeast Wisconsin's one of the least educated in the whole country. I remember, a previous chancellor one time in some planning things and he said this is part of our struggle, it's that we're selling this product but it's a lot of people don't quite understand it. But if Northeast Wisconsin were a state, it would be competing with Mississippi for the least educated. And now, now that's not a bad thing that's not saying they're dumb, just they're able to get good jobs without college, a lot of college. Which isn't the case in 9:00Mississippi. But it's an interesting little corner of America where the world still works the way it used to [laughs].
LU: Right. Yeah, a whole other world here, right? [laughs]
ML: Yeah, so a lot of times I would talk to students and I would tell them someof these same stories I just told you because [inaudible] where they would be like, "yeah I'm having trouble explaining to my parents why I want to be an artist or a scientist or…" So I was lucky, my parents, they didn't understand what scientists do and why I wanted to do it. They just trusted me.
LU: Very supportive.
ML: They knew that I worked hard and trusted that I would succeed and they stillthink it's amazing that I make a living doing what I do. 10:00
LU: All right, so we jumped around up there. I want to go back and just get somemore information on your background we'll come back to some of the things you mentioned.
LU: So you talked about your family being very honest, very committed, andhardworking… What other values were very important in your family?
ML: They were very frugal. That may be why I'm a sustainability officer todaybecause I hate wasting anything. Partly because my dad had a lot of skill; he built his own house, he was a machinist, he fixed all of his own cars. So that was, you know, a strong ethic. You fixed things, you didn't throw things away and you took care of your own stuff and so it was a lot of that. Wasn't that 11:00strong on religion, I mean we went to church but it wasn't, like, that strong at home or anything. It was just part of your education, Sunday school.
LU: So was that like Catholic or Lutheran…?
LU: Catholic, okay. So I'm sure that's a lot of where you got those values fromtoo, although it wasn't a huge part of
ML: Yeah, some of it some of it's pretty well reinforced there. I've had aninteresting time trying to explain it, now that I'm living in the south. Less trouble in Wisconsin because there's some similarities but Massachusetts has a real strong community ethic, like I don't know, people call it socialist or 12:00something but if it wasn't unusual to expect that your government and your community were going to take care of you. A lot of it again just came from good schools to go to, and little leagues, and just there were all these great social structures, public libraries, all this stuff that everybody kind of took for granted. Just, in any town in Massachusetts, it's really just a whole state full of small towns, more or less and you'll find the same thing over and over and over again. In the south, everybody here just had to do stuff for 13:00themselves, so it's all about family wealth and there's a lot of racial issues and things like that I said that's why I think in Northeast Wisconsin for almost 20 years was that it just felt very comfortable. Well I guess a better phrase for it is that it's communitarian. It was okay, nobody thought it was weird to think that the school district was going to provide good schools for you, it was just expected. In that case, it didn't matter so much whether your family was wealthy or not.
LU: Because the public schools were for everyone and they were
ML: Yeah. So my family was very frugal and my father always had a savings14:00account and they would do Christmas, they did all of these things but I never felt poor but I don't think they made much money.
LU: They budgeted well where you didn't feel the effects of that.
ML: Yeah, and I don't remember there being much segregation at school either byincome levels. I mean yeah, you knew the kids that were really rich but not so much the other end.
LU: Tell me about the schools through your elementary, middle, highschool what were they like?
ML: They were all public schools. Most of them were pretty white, there was alot of first, second generation immigrants, especially from Canada. So a lot of 15:00French Canadians, I'm French Canadian. My grandparents didn't speak English. Two of them did not speak English even when I grew up, like I never had much of a conversation with one of my grandmas that here all the time. She spoke French and my parents never taught me French so that's a little weird [laughs] and three out of my four grandparents were born in Canada. So there was a lot of that, you know, maybe it was a little bit of an immigrant experience but I don't know.
LU: So they all moved with the family?
ML: What was that?
LU: Did they all move with you? To around your neighborhood?
ML: Yeah, well they all lived like a town away or something. It was right on theborder of the islands so they lived right across the border so we'd see them all 16:00the time, like holidays, weekends, whatever. And so, we had big family parties and cookouts, all that kinda thing. Nobody had moved very far away. And so, it was a real little pocket I was born in a town called Central Falls, Rhode Island. And Central Falls was at one point was the densest population in the United States. All these French Canadians moved in there, filled all of these three story buildings, and it actually had more density than New York City, this little square mile city. They all worked in factories there. So my grandparents on my mother's side still lived there and because this all happened in the depression, like the 30s, 40s, 50s, she couldn't get around. The storekeepers 17:00are all still spoke French, so she never had to learn English. So you know, she said the grandchildren were the problem. I think she was like chewing out my mother once in a while [laughs] like didn't you teach them French?
LU: Yeah, I'm sure that would be a frustrating family dynamic where levels ofcommunication just aren't there.
ML: You know, and your mother is being your interpreter. It's strange, like I'mseeing this woman all the time but I still don't know why I never learned.
LU: Yeah, that's a weird situation. So, since your family is so hardworkingand, you know, very committed to what they're doing, did you have a job yourself throughout high school?
ML: Did I I'm sorry did I do what in high school?
LU: Did you have a job throughout high school?
ML: I worked in factories. There was lots of small factories. I mowed a lot of18:00lawns until I was old enough to drive and then I worked in this one factory. I actually kept working for them even the first couple years of college. I'd just drive home on the weekends and put in a day and get a paycheck. And the owners of this little factory made electronics and stuff, um, kind of took me in. It was kind of fun, they just hired me to do whatever after school. Sometimes I'd be making deliveries, I'd always be sweeping up at the end of the day. But if they had orders, they did want to bother the machinists I knew how to run the 19:00machines and so they had me doing anything. At one point, he said "how's your math?" and I was like "you know, it's pretty good" I was in calculus. I'm not sure but I think this guy's ripping you off and so they would send these little tiny parts out to get goldplated and so it was just like an Archimedes problem. So he had me take the blueprints of the drawings and recalculate if it had a layer of, whatever, gold on it how big should it be. And he had me measuring a bunch of these and weighing them. So basically it was a big math problem to figure out if he was getting ripped off on gold plating. So I did that, and then he made me do like for every design they had, which was like a hundred designs of these little tiny metal pieces. I spent one summer , I just remember and this is how old I am: so there were these new things called 20:00"calculators" and they cost like threehundred dollars.
LU: Oh, wow!
ML: And so this guy had a calculator and I had never seen one of these, like myschool never had them you know, a scientific calculator, the kind you can get for fifteen bucks now. And so I just felt so privileged to be able to work with a real calculator and not [inaudible] or have to do long division by hand
LU: Oh yeah, times have changed. So what kind of grades did you get in high school?
ML: Sorry, what was the last part?
LU: What kind of grades did you get in high school?
ML: Um, A's and B's…. mostly A's. High school was pretty easy.
LU: So it wasn't so much that you were a dedicated student as far as it being21:00more easy than anything?
ML: Yeah, kind of easy. You know, a few teachers were challenging. The scienceteachers were, I think that's probably why I went into science because it wasn't boring. I took every science course I could, took the highest level of math that I could. It wasn't a challenge that much. It was one of those things that Massachusetts had I didn't even know about this, this is how clueless me and my family were about college: how you pay for it, how you get there, and all that sort of thing. So they just said "hey, you gotta take these tests, these SAT tests. And so I get my scores back and I have no idea what they mean and we're in this calculus class the next day because you know, you took it the same 22:00day. So the next week we're in calculus class and there were a couple of kids in there and they were sort of known as being the "smart kids". And I'm sitting there with my buddy who's like a farm kid and we're supposed to be, like, the dummies even though we're doing just as well as but, you know, there's these perceptions, like who's voted smartest or whatever.
LU: Yeah, high school is very judgemental.
ML: [laughs] Yeah, the whole high school thing. So they're bragging about theirscores and I look over at my friend, Keith, and I was like "I got a higher score than them." And I don't remember what score it was, but 800 was like the highest score and they're talking about "oh yes, I got a 710" and I think I got a 730 and I look over at Keith and Keith and he says "I got an 800" and we was quiet in the corner. And we didn't brag about it, but still that whole thing sticks in 23:00my head about the difference between people's perceptions. Keith and I were just these quiet kids who got it done and so the next thing I know, I get this letter in the mail from the University of Massachusetts saying "congratulations, we just looked at your scores and we want to give you a free ride to the University of Massachusetts."
ML: And I didn't even apply, nothing. So I got the applications going andapplied to the University of Massachusetts and they gave me a free ride… just off of SAT scores. But that's sort of the way that place was run. So yeah, people paid taxes, but then wonderful things happened to kids. 24:00
LU: Yeah, if you work hard.
ML: [laughs] or rest! So yeah, then I got to college I don't know if that's yournext question.
LU: Yeah! Yeah, that's actually the direction I'm headed in here. So you went tothe University of Massachusetts, how far away was that from home?
ML: Uhh, it was about 90 miles. So good or bad, I still had a girlfriend fromhigh school, who was in high school so I would tail it home every weekend and work at the factory and make some money… go out with my friends one night, go out with her the other night and that was pretty much all I did for the first couple of years. So I didn't get into college life very much.
LU: Right, just travelling back and forth and not being really established.
ML: Right. Had a bit of a scare my first year. So I had this free ride but it25:00depended on you keeping your grades up.
ML: I first went in there, I think as I said, I'll be a biology major and then Iwent to a career counselor, the career counselor says I say, "well what can I do with a biology major?" and this was terrible, this was how bad it was back then. It was in this, like, trailer at this big university and it's in this little trailer thing and this woman in there with a bunch of books. She reaches back and grabs some gigantic thing, blows the dust off it, opens it up, and says "biology. Let's see. You can… sell [inaudible] or you can be a forest ranger." She closes the book shut and turns around. That was career counseling in 1978. 26:00[laughs] so I walked out of there like I don't think I want this major. I'm not interested in doing either of those things
LU: So did you come into your first year of college thinking that you wanted togo into biology?
ML: Well it was still that veterinary thing and obviously she left that off thelist and, you know, I knew that was still a possibility. And I was taking biology classes that were just sorta soso, kinda boring. And I thought oh, what should I do. So I actually started looking at a lot of what today we would call [inaudible] technology I learned about this stuff called "solar panels" that were coming out and I thought well this is pretty cool, who does this work? And I found out that it was engineers and so then I switched over to the 27:00engineering program. Well, I think I had taken the first semester of like calculus for life scientists and it was easy, just my high school calculus again. And so they said "go ahead, take this calculus for engineers second semester. I think you can do it" So I got in there and I had my doors blown in. Calculus for engineers was a completely different language subject. So I was just scrambling, working so hard and failing the course. And the professor says "What can I do?" and I said "I'm going to lose my scholarship over this" and he says "well, I'll tell you what. I can tell you're working hard, so whatever you get on the final exam, that'll be it." And so somehow I got a C. So saved my 28:00scholarship. I think that's what it was, I wasn't allowed to get D's or anything. But then I went looking shopping for another major and I found this weird little department that had just started called environmental science. You know, a decrepit building in the back of campus and that ended up being my home, great place. The professors really wanted to work with you and we had a blast. We had crappy buildings to work in but they let us do anything. We really got to experiment and build stuff.
LU: So did you ever study abroad when you were in your first few years ofcollege? Or was that not something that was even accessible?
ML: I'm sorry, can you say that again?
LU: Did you ever study abroad or was that not something that was accessible to you?29:00
ML: No… and I don't think I ever even looked at it because even though I hadkind of a free ride, there were still bills and stuff and girlfriends and whatever. So, you know, I worked pretty much every weekend, I worked at the library for a few hours, I had work study. So I wasn't poor. And then I'd work in the summer. And you know, it could be one of those first generation things, I didn't know to even look at that stuff.
LU: Yeah, I feel like they make it a lot more wellknown today than they everdid in the past.
ML: Right. I think colleges do a much better job of letting students know what'savailable to them. But, yeah so I have vague remembrances of some of it. But no, 30:00I don't think I went outside of North America until like graduate school.
LU: So, speaking of graduate school so once you finished your bachelordegree, where did you move onto next? What made you decide to pursue your higher education?
ML: It was mostly professors were encouraging, so I was doing a lot of researchas a junior or senior and actually my last couple of summers they helped me find jobs like working for private companies that were developing housing around lakes. So I was doing a lot of lake surveys and just doing a lot of biology and chemistry on the lakes and writing reports. And the university loaned me all of 31:00the equipment and helped me get the job or nominated me for it or whatever. So that was a lot of fun for a couple of summers. And so we were always talking about graduate school. I was taking graduate courses by the time I was a senior so they had me sitting in on seminars. I had a real good taste of what graduate school was. I was in an honors program, we had to write a thesis. So in a way, I kind of had done almost everything you'd do for a masters degree before I even left. And they were really good, it was a new program but the professors were really good about coaching us through it was a small enough group. The environmental cohorts of six, seven people and I remember them really just 32:00sitting down with us and actually tried to spread us out. Like "you should apply to this college, I think you would be a good fit for that school." You know, they really felt us. And I think they partly were doing it for, it was partly self-serving. They wanted their graduates to go to the best schools and go out and make a reputation for them.
LU: Right. Well especially for just being six or seven students in the wholeenvironmental program, right?
ML: Right. So they were working off, in their opinion, these are the top fivegraduate schools and we want to try and get our best students in there. So I ended up going to Virginia Tech which had one of the best water pollution programs in the country. And I ended up working on a big, giant polluted river 33:00in West Virginia for a thesis. I was learning the southern culture. It was a bit of an adventure.
LU: What kind of grades did you get in graduate school?
ML: What kind of what?
LU: What kind of grades?
ML: Uh, graduate school for scientists is usually pretty like, it's a littleunusual. One of the things I always had to coach students was that you had to have B's to stay in graduate school. A C was failing but they never really cared for what your grades looked like. So the real art in graduate school was to do just enough work to get a B and put all of your effort into your research.
LU: Ahh, okay.
ML: In the sciences, other than that every [inaudible]. I told that to a34:00sociology professor and he just looked at me horrified. You know, "how did you get a job here?" horrified. Like "how did you get to be a professor if you got B's?" and I was like "'cause it doesn't matter in science." And everybody knows that. What matters is what did you publish, what did you contribute in the field.
LU: What did you do on your own, right.
ML: Right. So the agency just sees that you took the course and you passed it,that's all that matters. So it was always unusual in the science department. Like I said, I went to the University of California and it was the same thing. Students would come in and they were really good at taking classes and taking tests, they were not good at research. And they would fail in the long run 35:00because they might get good grades but they can't hold up on their scrutiny of exams and they're not productive in the labs, they're not contributing science. Until the professors would just say "I think you need to go find something else to do. No matter what your grades look like, you're not gonna be a scientist." So it's really a weird field because you have to become a practitioner. It's not accumulating grades like in quite a few other fields.
LU: So since you had your full ride scholarship during your first four years,how did you pay for graduate school?
ML: Again, science is really great that way. So you could pay for it, but almostevery good graduate school has a lot of courses to teach and teaching assistants 36:00are graduate students with lots of If you're really lucky, you'll get in a lab where there's research money and you will be paid to do your research so that's like getting a double score, right. You're not even distracted with teaching. I was lucky, I got a Master's and Ph.D. a hundred percent research funded by grants. So I never had to, you know, they would raise tuition but I would have as much of a paying job as they can give you and they would always figure it out so you would get just enough to live on. When I went for a PhD, I 37:00lived in an extensive city, Los Angeles, and they paid better but I was a little worried about it. And before I even got there, my prof had put my name in for a dean's scholarship so I got like an extra fivethousand a year. And they said, that's why you gotta take those SAT scores seriously. They said it was because the graduate SAT scores were so high. He said "oh yeah, I showed this to the dean" and he said "oh yeah, that's good enough to get a dean's scholarship. Here ya go, this guy's getting an extra fivethousand dollars a year." Which in today's dollars would be like tenthousand a year.
LU: Yeah, which is pretty unheard of.
ML: Yeah, so I was very well taken care of or lucky or both.
LU: Yeah, which definitely helped contribute to your success.
ML: Yeah, so like I didn't have to worry about money. Again, if you go all the38:00way back, growing up frugal and letting the bills flow. So I lived the bachelor life in the most strict version you could imagine and so I never worried about money. And luckily back then, they didn't give college students credit cards and stuff so there were very few ways to get yourself in trouble.
LU: Right, not like the student loans today [laughs].
ML: Yeah, oh it's treacherous today. But kids in college today, so far theydon't have credit cards. Don't go there until you're ready, you know [laughs].
LU: Yeah. So what made you decide to be a professor? I know you were reallyinterested in, you know, the whole research aspect and environmental science, 39:00but what about the whole teaching aspect?
ML: Well, let me mention one other thing that was important. I graduated fromcollege in 1982 and employment terms, that was the worst recession since the depression. The unemployment levels that your generation just saw, the last recession , it was that bad. So the economy was not quite as bad, the stock market wasn't quite as bad, but the job market… I actually went back and looked at statistics for this because I was trying to relate to what students and my kids
were facing in the last recession. And in 1982, the 1982 recession was just asbad. So I came out, and you know, I graduated with honors, with one of these shiny new degrees in a hot field, and everything else. I was looking around and 40:00was like, boy it's ugly. I think even our professors were saying if you could go to graduate school, you won't have to go live with your parents. You can take care of yourself, you'll be making progress. So to be honest, the reason I went to graduate school was 'cause one of the best job offers I had. And it wasn't a whole lot better in 1984 when I got done with a master's degree. So I kept going. At the time, I was a little bit worried because I thought, you know, the courses were starting to get redundant and I was a little worried. And I said okay, I'm going to go to a place well I'll go to a marine program, water salting or something different. At the same time I had one of my professors from UMass [University of Massachusetts] had a project in Bolivia with the peace corp. So I applied to the peace corp and so I had to decide between the peace 41:00corp and going to get my PhD. And Bolivia sounded really cool, and so I thought that this would be really great. So I only applied to one graduate school for a PhD and it was for the University of Southern California because the professors told me "oh these guys go to Antarctica." And I okay, am I going to go to Bolivia or Antarctica. So I applied to the University of Southern California and they get on the phone and it was the professor and he says "Mike, we really liked your application. I want to offer you a full ride, whatever. And I got a great project here, you're the perfect person for this with all the work you've done on polluted rivers. We've got this project on this gigantic sewage outfall in the Pacific Ocean for the entire city of Los Angeles. [laughs] and I just 42:00I think I paused and I said, I'm only coming if I'm going to Antarctica. Like, I am not working on sewage, no. I've done enough of that in my life, I've got that experience down. So, it was classic California "OH! That's cool too. Okay, thank you. And you're going to Antarctica." Like he must have had more students on the list, like the next guy will get the sewage project. So I guess the lesson there is
just don't be afraid to ask for what you want. So anyway, that's how I endedup I think that's a pretty interesting, like, little pattern of how I got through graduate school. Like if you ask me, I am not your 'cause it has to 43:00do with like 'well let's hope there's a really horrible recession, that'll help you make your decision really well. And then do foolish things like only apply to one school and tell the professor you only want to work on one project.'
LU: Well hey, it worked out for you!
ML: That'd be terrible advice! But… it worked.
LU: [Laughs] So then once you went to Antarctica, what happened after that?Where did that take you afterwards?
ML: Well some really great things happened in my life down there. It was likefour years, I got a lot of good experience, experience on ships and working in bases, airplanes, all kinds of different stuff. We went to Australia, Chile, 44:00Argentina, Antarctica all different parts of it. Near the end, the professors well this happened to me quite a bit, sometimes I'd get hired and then after a while I was kind of operating at a level kind of above. So by the time I'm done being a PhD student, I'm actually running projects and doing what they call "postdoctoral". But I still finished my degree so I got a good deal. But it did set me up well in science at the time, and I think today, you have to do one or two jobs after that projects or jobs being what they call being a "postdoctoral researcher" to try and get more publication, to try and build that resume that maybe you'd want to be a professor. So I did one of those in Montana state, that was working on lakes like in Antarctica, that was like 45:00three years on Bozeman, Montana. It was a great place to live. And then we had two kids, so I had these babies and the salary pay is really bad for researchers. So I started looking a little broader and I ended up getting this job that was administrative and it was great money. So I was working at NASA headquarters in Washington D.C. and they wanted a biologist, a scientist in charge of all the they called in "Mission to
Planet Earth" and it was the coolest business card I've ever had in my life."Hi, I'm Mike Lizotte. I'm from the Mission to Planet Earth." It was all the 46:00satellites looking down at Earth and building computer systems down here, analyzing it, building science teams. So my job was to review these big science teams that NASA was funding to do climate change research, ocean circulation, volcano monitoring, all kinds of stuff. And so it was like two years of that, going around the country, reviewing science projects, seeing what's good science, big expensive satellites, so it was a really huge money opportunity. The guy I worked for was more of a physicist and he told me he could use some biology and chemistry [inaudible] but there were times trying to figure out, spending days talking to these people who study clouds. And like, I have no idea. I've never taken meteorology even but I've gotta like, assess how they're 47:00working as a team. And a lot of it even, I later realized it was more psychology, sociology of teambuilding and things like that than it was science. So that was great experience and then near the end of that, NASA offered me a job, two years job. It would've been two years as the head for all the ocean, they call it biogeochemistry, basically all the ocean biology programs for NASA. It was a good offer and it probably would've been the start of a career for them, and I even liked Washington D.C. a lot. Still, I had been applying for professor type jobs all along. And finally, that year I was starting to get interviewed. And I got an interview with Oshkosh. They made a good offer. And I remember going out to a bar with the guy who was going to hire 48:00me at NASA, and I said "yeah I got this offer from a university" and he just looked at me like "you're not going to turn that down for our job," he goes. And so he basically just said you'll be an idiot if you hang around here. And my former boss, who, the person I did my PhD with, at USC [University of Southern California], we crossed paths in Washington D.C. because he got hired to be the head of all polar programs, so like Antarctic programs, for the government. And so he's there and I called him up or some advice, you know to vent to him, and I said "what do you
think of this?" and he said "Mike, NASA's offering this is Washington D.C.and he's offering you a job here. It's time to get out. Get out before they 49:00don't want you here." [Laughs] and I said "Uh, are you having a hard time right now, Neil?" And he's like, "yeah, I'm getting a little pressure." He's been there like four years and he's like ready to leave but that was his advice: leave while they still want you around and if you ever want to come back, they'll probably hire you. But if you leave because they're tired of you, then that's the end of it.
LU: Right. So you got out of there!
ML: So that got me to Oshkosh.
LU: So when you started teaching at Oshkosh, what kind of classes were youteaching, or what was the department that you were in?
ML: So that was 1994 and so there was a lot of transitions going in, trying tohire faculty who did more research. So they were kind of transitioning from a 50:00more teaching college to kind of a more modern you know, not a high powered research college, but every professor would have took research. If you had grants and a good plan for research, then you could teach one less course a semester, you'd get a break so you'd have time to do it. We had a really good dean then, he was a biology ecologist, so he understood what I was doing. I was bringing in a lot of money and I approached it different. Some professors that would bring in a lot of money, tried to use it as a wedge. Like bringing in money to use it for a bigger office or more equipment or whatever. And I never did that, I always went to him and said I've got a lot of money but I want to do good things with it, like hire more students, so can you hire and by this equipment for me. He loved that, he just ate that up. I always went in there 51:00saying I wanted to do more for students, I want to get more students on my team to go to, you know, on this cruise to Antarctica whatever. So I always had real good relationships with them. So I liked it a lot, it was kind of cruise to tenure, did a lot of things along the way that It was a lot like graduate
school. Again, what I was supposed to do if I was just doing what I wassupposed to do, it would've been okay but I was doing a lot more. People started saying "oh, well why can't he be the head of this program" and the dean would say " because he doesn't even have tenure yet."
LU: Just so far ahead of the time already.
ML: Yeah, and it was nice; I knew I was doing okay. But one interesting thing,since you're an environmental studies mi 52:00
LU: Major, yeah.
ML: Yeah, so I get hired and I guess there was some so the dean knows you'recoming in and a lot of people in your department know you're coming in. I was about three weeks from moving and I get this call from a guy who's in the religious studies department, his name is Bron Taylor, and he calls up and starts this conversation and he says "I've got a grant to develop an environmental studies minor and I can't get any scientists on campus to work with us." And I say "oh, well I'm really interested in that stuff." And he says "yeah I noticed you were an environmental science degree" which was actually pretty rare because a lot of people didn't have it then. And the biology 53:00department would only hire people with biology degrees, and the chemistry department would only hire people with chemistry degrees so it was a little bit unusual that I even got hired because I actually didn't take a lot of biology courses that they considered "basic". Anyway, so I'm talking to this guy and he was doing this workshop, and they were doing the workshop like the week before classes start. And I said "well, I am going to be in town." Anyway, it was down to like hours. I drove there, dropped my wife and kids at the house, and I turned around and said "bye, I have to go to work," and I went to this workshop for a couple of days. So I was the only scientist there, and I wasn't even getting paid because I wasn't really an employee yet but I thought it was 54:00important enough for me to do this and get involved with this thing. So I was basically doing environmental studies before I was even hired. Eventually they
paid me a little bit off the grant. But it was fun, I ended up being one of thefaculty that helped write a lot of referrals for all the core courses. I ended up going in my department and asking if these courses could become environmental science courses for E.S. We got the minor going and it was probably three or four years later it was popular enough, up to a hundred students but they said "oh let's try a major" and soI helped write that and we had to work it through a lot of companies that had all these questions about whether there was enough 55:00science. I think I helped a lot because it's not clear they ever would have passed it, all the reviews were, you know, the reviewers and I think they're right, sometimes they were not scientists, they were philosophy professors, but they would say "this program is not strong enough in science, how employable are these students?" And the program, I think, has always had that issue: whether it had enough science, enough economics in it. I think it may still be like that, you know, it's difficult. But I always enjoyed, I would say it was one of the best things about it, I could compare myself with other biology professors and a 56:00lot of times, they only knew the people in their departments and here I had instant friends and contacts across the whole university, which I think it made my life a lot more interesting.
LU: Well yeah, and to establish yourself on the campus, so to start the program,you had some credibility from many different parts of the school.
ML: Yeah, I mean they'd even come up several times later in the big '90'sreunion in probably 2006 when the chancellor's trying to decide if he wants a sustainability plan and he's taking nominations like who should run this. Suddenly I get this call from him like "we're doing this plan and several people mentioned your name as somebody as the best representative of the faculty. So 57:00I'm wondering if you'd sign up to be cocaptain of the team, the head of facilities?" And I think some of that just came from building that reputation across the whole university, not just staying in my department.
LU: So once you got the whole environmental studies program started, what kindof classes were you initially teaching?
ML: Early on, there were a few of us who did most of the teaching. Early on, weall kind of tried to teach the seminar: the first seminar was environmental studies 111. The first offering of that was actually really interesting. I hope 58:00it was interesting for the students, but half of the people in the seats were professors. So it was part of the grant, we offered the seminar in environmental studies and then we all took a section of it. So I taught like three or four days worth of sciences, the way we thought it should be taught or covered. Then Bron Taylor took the values from religious studies, so he took the values piece. There were a couple of people that were polisci and sociology that taught the social side. And we were teaching each other, I was taking notes the whole time trying to learn these other pieces from experts. And then later, when we taught the seminar on our own, I was using some of their material as well as my own. Later, everybody morphs it a little bit differently. We developed other formats 59:00for it, like taking one gradebook to work through students [inaudible]. Then I had the core course in science which I liked teaching because I had always conceived a very different kind of science course. The students had to take traditional science courses anyway and they would get content in there about the science. But the ES environmental science course was always supposed to be, it was originally supposed to be about science and the enterprise, science as a perspective, science as a way of looking at things. So for ES minors or majors, what we wanted them to be able to do was to understand the way science works so 60:00that they can work with scientists even if they weren't a scientist. The other two core courses were the same way, so the value courses were the same way. So that if somebody didn't understand how ethics works, how people figure things out would understand the value of religion or anything like that. The same with the social course, you understand how social scientists think, their perspectives.
LU: Right, and we still have some of that today too where it's differentsections of environmental studies where you have to take courses to get the full, rounded education.
ML: Yeah, so every once in awhile there would be a professor in there teachingand I was on the faculty curriculum committee for years afterwards and it's always tricky because you hire a professor and you say "here, teach this course," and the biggest problem we had with the science course was, in my 61:00opinion, sometimes we would hire new professors and they would say "oh, I know how to teach that and they would pull out some standard environmental science textbook and then we would have to talk to them and say "no actually, that's what biology 104 does, they teach that already, we don't need to do that, we teach them something different better." [laughs] But it was always a struggle, especially if the professor was sort of knew how to teach that other course and we had problems with some of the other it wasn't just the science course. The other courses had similar problems where professors would teach what they knew instead of teaching them what we wanted our students to learn. And that's just the constant sort of struggle that's going on behind the scenes. 62:00
LU: Yeah, with just getting the whole program started and working out theknots just kind of something that goes along with that. So what was your relationship with your students like? I mean obviously, you had a lot of connections on campus with other professors, had a good relationship with the chancellor, the dean, so what about the students themselves?
ML: So I got to work with lots of students in kind of many different ways whichwas good. So the environmental studies students in those courses were, first we always tried to keep the class sizes small, we tried to keep the classes discussionbased, writing dominated. So I actually really enjoyed those courses, I got to know those students very well. In biology, I taught things like freshman biology. So you know, you're up there on a stage just lecturing 63:00for a hundred people and that's just performing, I don't get to know anybody and it's a whole different deal.
So I would hardly ever get to understand or know them at all. Then I might teacha small course for myself in my specialty and get to know some students there. But then I also had the other extreme, biology had a strong graduate program and I always had graduate students so I'd be teaching a seminar with them and that was a really small group, discussionstyle. Plus I had students in my labs, I'd be doing research with them. So I did almost get to see a full spectrum from the 64:00faceless professor on the stage go all the way to the oneonone mentor of a graduate student. So in some ways, I feel like I needed that balance instead of all one or the other… although I could have done without the stage.
LU: [laughs] Well it keeps things interesting, right?
ML: Yeah, I mean somebody has to do it so. And then later I had this sort ofweird career pickup where I got tenured and I had a lot of recent [inaudible] where I started getting very successful, had papers in all the biggest journals and all that stuff. I had a lot of longterm career mentors around the country 65:00and the consensus was that if I were to ever try and shoot for the big time, that was it. So I actually went out and started applying for jobs and got a couple of job offers and I took one in Maine. So it was a research director for an oceanography institute in Maine. So we moved to Maine, never sold the house in Oshkosh, just rented it for the time being. Went to Maine, did that for like three years. It was really cool, fixed up a couple thousands of barns, had a blast, but in the end, I didn't really like the job all that much and I missed the students. It was the coast of Maine and it was pretty remote and there were no colleges around. And I was mostly hanging out with a lot of middleaged people complaining about research funding. So I had a couple of grad students who hadn't finished and some of them were employed and maybe they would never 66:00finish. But I told them when I moved away from Wisconsin that if they ever wanted to finish, I'd come back on my own dime and we'd do the committee thing, get them their master's degree. So suddenly one of them calls up and says
"I'm tired of this job, I want to go to teaching, I want to get my master'sdegree finished." So okay, I promised them. So I go back to Oshkosh to be his defense, and this dean, Michael Zimmerman, that I was kind of friends with, I said "I'll just check in with him." So we went out to dinner and we're sitting there and Zimmerman says and I'm kind of half complaining about my life [inaudible] and he goes "well you know, your old department keeps well, we 67:00built this building on the river," I don't know what it's called now, it was called Erics for a while, it was an aquatic research lab while I ran it. "But this building on the river, we want to fix it up, and we want it to be research center. And your whole department keeps telling me we need to hire someone to do this don't stick it on them." And so he basically offered me a job at dinner. And we had to work out all the details and all that kind of stuff, but he said it was an easy thing for him to offer me the job because I used to work there, you know, he wasn't breaking any rules. So we worked something out, and most of it was teach for environmental studies, teach maybe for biology and then run this research center and get grant money and do all that sort of thing. So I ended coming back to Oshkosh, right back into my old house after being gone for 68:00three years.
LU: Because you never sold it, right?
ML: So I had a second career at Oshkosh. The cool thing was that I wasn't aprofessor then so I didn't have to go to all these meetings, they were kind of boring. I had my own thing and I could be on committees if I wanted to. I was more just like a freelancer.
LU: Were you still working with the students though?
ML: Yeah, and I had the same classes. I actually taught a lot of well, oneof my favorite things was to teach environmental studies 111 during interim. And a lot of professors didn't like teaching during interims, but I always loved doing it. I liked the intensity of it, especially for like
reading a book together. Like the students aren't forgetting where we left off,69:00I'm not forgetting where we left off. It's a lot of work but it was the best way to do that class.
LU: Mhm, you really get a lot out of it.
ML: Yeah, I don't know if you've ever taken an interim course.
LU: Yeah, I have. I actually took that class over interim.
ML: Yeah, so that was one of my favorite assignments. I'd do that every Januaryand every May, I'd love to do that. Then during the regular semester, I'm not teaching as much. And then out there running the lab, I got grants. One of the better things I got done, I don't know if they're still doing it, was I got ahold of the DNR and [inaudible] and we do. And at first we thought it would be things like lab testing, testing water, and things like that. But they started telling me they had all these programs for volunteers and they needed people to 70:00organize them. And well I said "have you ever thought about using college students? They're pretty cheap and they want the experience and we can make this something that's fun, we can make it a summer job for them," and so on. So we ended up starting several programs to monitor the lakes for water clarity and things like that with lots of boaters and fisherman. So at one point we trained like 120 boaters and fisherman to take water measurements for us that summer. The best was the state was having a lot of crisis around invasive species so I said put more money into it. But they also said the DNR couldn't hire anybody to 71:00do work. So the DNR turns around and says "we have to give this money away. They basically just gave us this pass and told us 'fix this problem but don't hire any people.'" Classic . So the only way they could do it was to turn it into a very big grant program. So I was just sort of standing there and they came right to me and they said "Mike, what can you do for us?" So I put in grant proposals and hired lots of students and we, at one point, were something like twenty percent of the invasive species contacts in the state. We were more than the DNR wardens, and they loved it because this was the biggest most valuable
water resource in the state and it didn't typically get that kind of attention.But because I was there and we had that center at UW Oshkosh, we were able to 72:00really do some great things for the state. A client and I got into some really great stuff testing wells and he got a whole bunch of other microbiology and things going. But it was the same kind of theme, you can come to UW Oshkosh… we're ready. And we're sitting on this big resource we really need to protect. So that was a lot of fun, I had students from all kinds of programs, mostly from ES but also a lot of education, geology, biology. You know, a lot of people who were contemplating outdoor careers, maybe even thinking about if they wanted to be a warden. And that summer experience was really good. Quite a few of them learned that they wouldn't want to do that work which is a perfectly good thing to learn. And other one said "oh I love this," and they work for the DNR now or 73:00some other thing or help them decide graduate school. So that was one of my favorite sort of successes there, was getting that invasive species stuff. I hope it's still going, like I tried to hand it off to somebody when I left, put it in good hands.
LU: Yeah, and that's something I could look into too. So while you wereteaching, what were some of the demographics of the students like and how did that change over time? Because I know it was a lot more traditional students and you mentioned Oshkosh being, like, a lot of first generation students coming in, where they're any
ML: Yeah, well it's always been very white, right. And pretty much for my whole74:00career it was very femaledominated. Biology in particular was probably close to two to one female. The biggest change I saw that I remember, I guess you could call it demographic, is somewhere around early 2000s. I think it was the high school started trying to do more career orientation, or do a better job with students. And this may have been more biology, it might've turned out well in many other fields but in biology what happened was, they got very good at convincing that almost every student in biology that they had to go into 75:00medicine, they had to go into healthcare.
We got swamped. I think a number of majors doubled in a few years so our courseswere really full, overscheduled. At the time, and in the 90's I had invented the course, a two credit course for biology majors to sort out their career paths, and actually write an education plan for themselves and do career planning. Just spend a whole semester getting your life on track and having a plan. We had a lot of luck with that and career counseling, course counseling, so students would walk in with plans in their hands. And it worked really well, but when I invented that, biology was a pretty even balance where a third of them wanted to 76:00be outdoor biologists, about a third wanted to be an indoor biologist, just labcoat biologists, and one third wanted to go into healthcare, medicine, veterinary, stuff like that. A nice balance You take a class of thirty biologists and you'd have this really nice mix. We'd explore careers together and how students would feel about stuff they hadn't thought about. And suddenly these courses gained like 80, 90 percent healthcare. And these healthcare students were pretty ruthless, it's almost like when you get too much of a super majority, they started getting nasty towards somebody who wanted to work on a plant, or be a microbiologist, or anything that wasn't medical was like smirked at. And we actually, in biology, had to create an entire new class and isolate 77:00those people. They called it healthcare careers. We just had to get them out of the way, the whole thing broke down. So demographically, I think that might have been in biology and chemistry and a few other fields that happened but the sort of healthcare craze was just really bad. And the worst thing about it was the careers actually weren't there. The way the students understood them. So almost all of our students thought they could get a bachelor's degree and go into these careers and it turned out that what they were talking about in high school almost half the jobs didn't require a college degree at all. They were changing bedpans and stuff, these healthcare jobs. Almost all the rest of them require an advanced degree for nursing. So there are actually very few jobs for people with 78:00just bachelor degrees in biology or healthcare or whatever. Yet, they
just flooded us. So that made me, for a few years there, I tried to go over inthe ES courses and work over there because biology was just a trainwreck of healthcare aspirants.
LU: Right, just totally not in your field and all.
ML: Yeah and I have to say, the other part that made me jaded was so many ofthem just seemed to be interested in the money. I mean we'd get ridiculous things like UW Oshkosh at the time only placed one student per year in medical school so I'm sitting there in a classroom with 35 biology majors and everyone's telling me they want to be, like, a brain surgeon. I'm sitting there in the back 79:00of my head like "none of you are going to grad school." We did have stuff in this course about your plan B, like if you don't go to grad school or whatever, but they wouldn't hear of it. And I got so tired of hearing, of listening to people who wanted to be pediatricians. Like what a lot of female students wanted to do was be pediatricians. At one point we even made a unit about gerontology, because I think I taught for like three years in ES, something like 300 hundred students went through the course and not a single one of them mentioned gerontology. Well a hundred of them wanted to work with babies and children. And it's like, what planet do you live on? I live on a planet where half the healthcare is going to people over 65. It's not about babies. They're cute but 80:00that's not who needs medical care. It was just too unreal, like surreal. [laughs] and I have to say, I got really jaded about being around those students because they weren't the science and I think even our whole department, we were built to handle people who wanted to be scientists, not people who wanted to get rich in healthcare.
LU: Right, the passion needs to be there, yeah.
ML: Yeah. And you know, every program has those issues. Like in ES, I think wealways struggled with students who wanted to be extremely political. Because it's hard to train you to do that. Barnhill tried, he taught a course on advocacy or something like that, but to be honest, if you just want to 81:00rabblerouse, you don't need a college degree [laughs]. That's probably
something you'll get hired to do based on your degree. So we would get studentswho wanted to do that and they would complain that we were wasting their time with science or law or something else.
LU: So what other big social changes did you notice the school itself or thestudents going through while you worked there?
ML: I'm sorry, that was the change in what?
LU: The change in any big social changes? You know, you talked about thewhole medical degree and a lot of those students coming in, what were the other 82:00social changes that you noticed?
ML: Well one that I thought was really good was in the 90s, I noticed I had alot of female students who this was in biology who seemed to be dealing with a lot of oldfashioned ideas. From family, sometimes it was boyfriends. So I remember talking to my wife a lot about just the pressure that some of these female students seemed to be under, especially if they were first generation. They were expected to go into these sort of "female career paths," like a nurse, and school children, and school teacher. And so when they wanted to be scientists or artists or executives or whatever else they might think of being, they would get this blowback, or pressure from their family. Like I had a 83:00student, she was very promising, and she was working hard in my lab, and I got a new grant so I said "okay, you're the first one I'm going to offer this to, I'm going to Antarctica, we've got a [inaudible] to the fall, and I want to offer this to." And it's like, this is a once in a lifetime thing, right? I mean how many other people will give you a free trip to Antarctica? And I guess I was kind of just figuring it would be this slamdunk. She wanted to be a scientist and she was working hard at it. Anyway, she comes back and she says, and she turned me down. I mean we went back and forth a few times, but eventually she just flat out turned me down because she said she just couldn't take the pressure from her boyfriend and
her father and her mother. And so this is in like the mid90s. So I'd say one84:00of the positive things was those stories kept getting rarer and rarer until they were pretty much gone. By the 2000s, I don't think I was hearing those anymore. But that was shocking for me. At the same time, we had just started a women in science program, and had gotten a grant to hire somebody so we were doing middle school programs for girls. We were working really hard and it was an actual conversation at the time of women in science and engineering and they called it the "pipeline issue." They'd start off being just as interested as the boys, and somehow we're losing them. And that was described as the nation can't afford to lose half it's brainpower. So that was I'd say, it was a very sort of tentative 85:00revolution, but watching that happen, I was very concerned about it and wondering what it was going to be like to run a lab and eventually society kind of got over that, stopped.
LU: Yeah, it was just a more progressive era, more accepting
ML: Yeah, so just to show you how far this went [laughs] maybe too far. So I hadthis chance in 2008, it was the last chance I had in my life probably to go to Antarctica. And it as a project, they actually called me up and said "Mike, you made all these measurements in the 80s and 90s, and we want you to come with us again and do the same measurements on these lakes." And I said, "the same 86:00thing?" They said, "yeah, the same thing. And all the other scientists, they're going to come in with all these cool molecular biology tools and all this modern stuff. And they're gonna measure right alongside you so we can finally get a more complete picture, but you're the guy who did this originally so we want you to come and do this again." I thought "oh, this is great! I'd love to go back there." And I had built this camp on the side of a lake and so it was a lot of nostalgia to go back there after almost 20 years. But my memories for, well when we originally went down there in three years, we had one woman. And typically we'd have like five people on the team and in only one of those years was there a woman on that team. Those four
out of five were men. When we went down in 2008, we had bigger teams. But it waslike, I think 12 women and 2 men. 87:00
LU: Oh wow! Just the total opposite.
ML: Yeah, and it was very different culturally, I can tell you that. A lot ofstuff that used to go on, well I don't know if that'd be okay. We did not have disco night or dance parties, I can tell you that was not happening in the 80s but it did happen in 2008. So it is really amazing to watch that. Yeah, and it was a good generation mix too. We weren't there with just the grad students who were in charge of projects. So that's probably socially, the most satisfying I saw happening. Other things in Oshkosh was probably interesting to watch Oshkosh 88:00in modern political turns pretty much went from red to blue… or purplish while I was living there. It was so solid, conservative, republican when I got there but it changed in a whole bunch of ways. But the downtown was just this abandoned wreck that just came back to life. And people moved in and then it was always a cheap place to live so all the shop artists moved there. It really recovered well as a city. The environmental interests were always pretty strong on the hunting and fishing side, but I think they got broader and more sophisticated and not losing that natural, conservation streak that was always 89:00there. So I liked it, the one thing I still feel bad about was that made me leave was [governor Scott] Walker. It made me leave the state. I mean I took a ten percent pay cut and it was permanent. And if you're a state worker, you only get like zero to one percent raises. So I calculated it out and I could work the rest of my career and I would never make as much money as I did last year. I was 52 years old, so I'm going to work 'til 70 and never make as much money?
LU: It's very discouraging.
ML: Yeah! And so I went on the job market and it's sort of too bad because I90:00liked it there, had really strong ties with the community.
LU: Well yeah, and you did a lot, I mean with the environmental studies program especially.
ML: Yeah, yeah. You know there were a few things that happened in Oshkosh thatreally pushed me out the door, but I was already out there applying for jobs when it happened. So I can let that go [laughs]. You know, and I still bumped into people like Feldman, Jim Feldman and I still teach one course online for the business school. It's interesting to still have these little string ties. 91:00
LU: Yeah, so what are you doing now? You're in North Carolina, how did you endup there?
ML: Well so near the end of my career in Oshkosh, I was telling you that I wascocaptain of the team that wrote the first sustainability plan and we created a really great document. I lot of schools looked at it and copied it and everything but one of the things I did really well at that point was we actually said not just what we wanted to do but we put things in there that told the chancellor to do. Like you need to hire a director, you need to create a budget, you need to create a certificate. We built the structure to make it all happen and a lot of people didn't to do that at their universities. So I think that's 92:00the reason why I think [inaudible] number three last year. Our university does so many things well that according to chancellor Wells for a long time. I don't know if you know this background but Barnhill was a sociologist. We wanted to do stuff environmental studies, sustainability related and we had a great chancellor who understood everything we talked about. So after we basically made up this really nice plan, they hired a director and a bunch of things went wrong. She wasn't happy and she left after four months. So the chancellor turned to me and said "Mike, you wanna give this a try?" and at the time I remember 93:00kind of trying to help the new director so I took a little time to think about it because I did have research grants and I had to stop paying researchers and put stuff on hold. But I eventually decided that it could be an interesting career change. It would be full administrator, no more research projects, and definitely not much teaching. But I decided to try it for a year,
that turned into two years, that turned into three years. And eventually theuniversity decided, they made me compete for the job and they ended up not hiring me [laughs] permanently. And that was the discouraging part, because we basically had just gotten stars gold and Princeton reviewed top 21, and a lot of 94:00that was just me documenting stuff that everybody else is doing I'm not saying I did it. But we got the university in a really good position and then they said "oh, you don't have that job anymore." They gave me a different job, but it…. I don't know.
LU: Itjust never felt the same after?
ML: Yeah, and I think they just wanted to, I think they had other ideas, maybeI'm being a little bit egotistical but I might've been too well known, too senior, too expensive. I had been at Oshkosh for so long, I knew how everything worked. So I think there were some administrators, not the chancellor, but some 95:00administrators who thought "let's bring somebody new in here, we can we'll mold them into what we would want them to do." I think Brian Kermath may have surprised them, he's a kind of thinker, he gets stuff done. You know, if I'm gonna lose a job to somebody, he's as good as anybody. I don't hold anyone against him. But I did kind of like this job. So anyway, I said I got a three year resume here for holding down this job and getting all these successes so I actually didn't have much trouble pulling out and getting more interviews. My wife and I looked at making a big move in our lives, where did we want to go. So basically it was either going to be the Carolina's, Western Carolinas, or 96:00Oregon. Those were the places I was interviewing a lot.
LU: So, just to wrap it up here, if you had any advice to give current students,what would that
ML: Um, well I did give advice [laughs].
LU: Yeah, you gave plenty of advice [laughs]. But what would you say is the onebig thing that really helped you get through school yourself and for you to find a job and really figure out what
you wanted to do if someone is struggling to, kind of, figure out whatdirection they wanted to go, what would you tell them?
ML: Well, assuming they're asking me because I'm a sustainability expert, thatkind of thing, the main piece of advice I find myself giving students now is to 97:00not make sure you understand the job market, especially with corporations because they're moving so fast and I think that most of it is very serious, honest, earnest work. They are really going to do this sustainability thing. And a lot of our students, for some reason, feel very jaded, they're reading old stuff on the internet.
There seems to be a lot of bad attitudes, so they still think WalMart is badfor some reason. And it's like, WalMart did a ten year review of its sustainability plan how can you, you can not like something that they're 98:00doing, they're not perfect, but don't give me stuff from 2004
LU: Yeah, you have to stay updated on your information.
ML: when they were kind of really a nasty company. And maybe it's becausethey don't understand how these things change. But I mean the same way that if somebody were judging Oshkosh, I mean I just told you stories from 1994 about a woman not having equal opportunity. And if you were still quoting that back to me like "Oshkosh is terrible to women!" well no, they're not anymore. The world changes. So I think for some reason, and I'll just blame the internet, that there's this old information and it's so easy to find the new stuff, and the 99:00latest reports of many of these things. So I think a lot of students really feel weird about this because I teach in a business school program and I've got students who are badmouthing corporations and it's like "you do know you signed up for a business school?" We kind of hold you to a little higher standard of understanding of the world than this. But I don't think they know they signed up for a business school [laughs]. Anyway, so that's, as advice, make sure you understand the world as it is today because stuff changes so fast, even just since the recession. You really can make career decisions and choices 100:00based on the best view you have of it. And also because it's
changing very fast. For a long time, this is kind of one of my messages in theuniversity world, is that for a long time we've been patting ourselves on the back about these things. We're the leaders in sustainability and the few schools, like Oshkosh, have a right to continue to say that but as an industry, we are quickly fading in comparison to what big corporations are doing. They are moving so much faster than us and so we need to stop saying that we're the cutting edge or we up or game.
LU: Right, yeah actually do something about it.
ML: Right. Like stuff they're doing is stuff like carbon taxes. Their level of101:00purchasing is [inaudible] credit, they're getting way out ahead of everyone else. Even the way they treat the workers is improving so fast right now that I will say that that's one of the exciting things about being in Charlotte. It's just a bigger city, it's growing fast and it's headquarters to a bunch of big companies.So naturally, in Oshkosh, there's a few big companies but they tended to not, like, mix. I didn't actually know the sustainability officers from Kimberly Clark. And no one ever suggested that I could or should. But here, tomorrow, I go to lunch with the sustainability officer from the 102:00largest energy company in the United States, the largest bank in the United States. And then they have lunch with me and they treat me like an equal because that's the way people network here.
LU: Yeah, it's like a different culture almost.
ML: Yeah, but it's also what's making me realize how out of touch some of thestudents are. You don't realize that every serious company has sustainability officers. The energy company I told you about, Duke Energy, they must have eight here. And I don't think the vice president who's in charge of them all, but I bump into all the other ones all the time. I had one of them here on a career panel on campus for Earth week. So anyway, there's just an awful lot going on 103:00there so the other flip side of that is sort of understanding what they're looking for. So they actually do like a [inaudible] not a big surprise but for an environmental studies student, it might be like yeah, if you look at where the jobs are, and you look at what you'd like to see, then there are some things on your resume that they're looking for.
LU: Yeah. Alright, well I really appreciate you so much taking the time out ofyour day and talking with me. I'm sure this is going to be very helpful for the school as well. So I just wanted to take a moment and say thank you.