Interview with Theresa Cain, 05/04/2017 (Transcript Only)

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
Bailey Quin, Interviewer |
Campus Stories Oral History Project (UWO Audio Series 51) |

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BQ: Hi, my name is Bailey Quinn. Today is May 4th. It is 9:34. I am here with -

TC: Theresa Cain.

BQ: And this is for the Campus Oral Histories Project. So, we are going to start off with, um, how about you tell me a little bit about where you grew up?

TC: Okay, I grew up in Central Wisconsin in a small town called Spencer. Um, it's a population of about 1400 people. Uh, one stop sign, don't miss. (laughs) Or, don't blink, you might miss it kind of a town. So, um, attended public school there the last 8 years, 12 years of my life. And, um, we had my senior year of high school we had a, um, former UW Oshkosh alumni who originally attended the Teacher College back when Oshkosh was a Teacher College. Um, left a very generous gift for any Spencer student, um, who chose to attend, um, UW Oshkosh. Uh, specifically I think the amount of 2000 dollars a semester to help cover tuition and books, so, certainly that was very helpful in helping me make the decision to attend UW Oshkosh.

BQ: Um, so you lived in a small town. Did you have a lot of family that lived in town?

TC: Yup. I come from a - I have both my mom and my dads families are within 60 minutes of Spencer and, um, a ton of family, so I have 22 aunts and uncles.

BQ: Wow, that is a lot! Do you have, um, any siblings?

TC: Yup! I have three siblings. I'm - I'm the oldest. I'm the oldest and, um, was the first one to go to college in my family.

BQ: Wow. What was it like growing up then with, uh, three siblings?

TC: Uh, (laughs) so as the oldest I liked to say I had it the worst. (laughs) Um, and my parents were very strict and I had, um, I had a mom who was a nurse and a dad who had his own lumber business and my siblings then followed right behind me two or three years apart, all of us are. And that meant, with both parents working, everybody's really busy. And by default of being the oldest I often was in charge of having to watch the kids or keep them entertained or if something went wrong I was then often responsible whether I liked it or not.

BQ: Okay. And then, so - with the small town was there like, a huge sense of like, community in your town?

TC: Yeah, I mean I think so. I think we were very private, um, but the challenge of being in a small town Bailey, I don't know where your background is, but everybody knows everybody's business. And of course having a large family that was even if not in Spencer directly was within the area everybody knew who my family was so I found that really difficult especially in high school if my opinions differed from my parents or my aunts and uncles or my grandparents. It was very difficult as a teenager trying to separate out yourself, um, and your views might not be the same as theirs but because you are - my last name associates with that family sometimes you gotta associate with their opinions and beliefs as well. And that was very challenging.

BQ: Okay, and then going back to you said your parents worked a lot. Um, what kind of jobs did they like, work?

TC: Yup, so my mom was a nurse. She worked, um, part time night shift and then would sleep during the day while we were in school. Um, but then evenings was often gone because she worked 7pm to 7am. My dad had his own lumber business and still does, um, and rental property so at that point in time the lumber business was very new and starting out so it was a lot of working starting a new business and, um, a very seasonal business, but summers were incredibly busy. Um...

BQ: Okay. And then, so, you went to, um, so you had - you said you talked about a huge family. Did you enjoy having such a large family and having them all so close?

TC: Yeah. Yup, I did. And I still do. I, um, family is very imporant to me, and I have a lot of very positive memories growing up with my cousins. Um, I'm still very close to many of my cousins. Yeah, even though we've all sort of moved in different parts of the country, um, we're still close, and I have a lot of fond memories, a lot of great memories, I've got to spend a lot of time with my grandparents, um, and my aunts and my uncles and still do to this day and I - I really enjoy that, um, relationship. We've had some good conversations. Some good times together.

BQ: Alright, and then, um, what about types of schools you went to when you were living in - when you were, uh, in your youth?

TC: Yup. So, the first four years I attended a private Catholic school, um, and in Marshfield which is about ten miles up the road. And then I went, um, my - my parents struggled to try to afford the tuiton for that private school, and then, um, with the multiple siblings following me it became really difficult to have to drive them - drive us all separately on different schedules. So my mom actually made the decision to switch us over to the public school system in Spencer. So, 4th grade was when I transitioned to public school, and then I attended that through my senior year. And all my siblings, um, as well, followed in the public school path.

Small school, my graduating class was, I think in high school, was probably, you know, 60 kids maybe? Uh, total. So. And we were - at that point in time we were the biggest class that had come through Spencer at that point. Um, in time. But yeah. But now 60 kids seems really small. (laughs)

BQ: Were there, um, so, like this is going to be like a flashforward moment, but, um, were there any similarities that you found though from your hometown compared to Oshkosh when you were starting to look for colleges?

TC: What I liked about Oshkosh - and that was one of the reasons, um, it was on my list was because it - it was a D3 school, it's a smaller school. Um, so it - it had definitely a very smaller vibe to it. And the Oshkosh community as a city was big, but not overwhelming. Obviously, coming from a town of 1500 people, um, you know that - everything's going to be bigger than that! But I knew that I wouldn't have been a good fit for a D1 school like Madison or something in Milwaukee or St. Paul. I knew I needed a smaller, um, type community feel. And I knew that if I wanted to be successful I was going to have to find something that had that same type of vibe for lack of a better word. And Oshkosh was one that was on my list.

BQ: Awesome. Alright. Backtracking again. Um, so, um -

TC: Yup.

BQ: You - on your thing - on your sheet it says that you were involved in, um, the Nursing Society at Oshkosh. But were there anything - other societies or any groups that you were a part of when you were in high school or anything like that?

TC: Yeah, I did everything. (laughs) Um, I - I think I did everything except student council! Um, I was, uh, I did - I was in the National Honors Society, I was in, um, I was in, uh, we had like a sort of environmental club, we - I did forensics which is a speaking, uh, competition. I was in volleyball, I was in softball, I was theatre. Um, we had a, sort of a mentorship program between the high school students and the elementary kids. I, um, did that. I was a Natural Helper which was also a mentor for my own peers. So I was very, very involved in a lot of different activities in my high school.

BQ: Well that's awesome. So then, um, so you were the first one in your family to go to college. Was it pushed by your parents to go to college or was it self-driven?

TC: It was self-driven. My parents would've preferred if I didn't go to college. (laughs) You know, um, my mom's nursing program, you know, was an 18 month program to get a diploma. Um, they both felt that it was foolish for me to spend the money to go away to school when I could've attended a technical college locally and lived at home. And they struggled with the concept of "I'm going to spend this money and invest in a four year degree." They didn't see value in a four year degree. Um, and while they weren't... they didn't try to block me from going, they also were not gonna help me get there. So I had to do the work by myself, and it was expected that I was going to pay for it by myself. Um, so again when you're trying to decide what school you're going to go to I had to make some decisions based on that, knowing that I wasn't going to have a lot of necessarily emotional support or financial support to do what I was doing.

BQ: Uh, so, basically you - what you were putting into it was what you wanted out of it because you knew that this is what you wanted?

TC: Yup.

BQ: Awesome. And then, so, from what it sounds like was right when you were coming to Oshkosh you knew you wanted to be a nursing student?

TC: Yup.

BQ: Yes. Um, so what were some of the reasons why you wanted to be a nurse?

TC: So, um, I can remember very vividly - I was about ten, maybe, maybe twelve. We were at the mall, um, with my mom and the kids and, um, a - a person came up to my mom and she started crying and she - she thanked her because my mom had taken care of her loved one. I don't remember if it was a parent or a spouse or a relative, but it was - it was someone who was obviously close to this person. And she remembered my mom taking care of them in this really dark time, and I thought "Wow, this is incredibly powerful." That we're just in the middle of this public space and this woman just comes up and is just so appreciative and thankful and - and that was a pattern that repeated itself. My mom's, uh, just retired this last year. But was an excellent nurse. And I - I saw the kindness and the caring and the compassion that she had, um, for people, and she could translate that into work. And, um, I think she found that very rewarding. Actually, I know she found that very rewarding.

And so I also wanted a career that - and this is going to sound really bizzare probably to you - but I wanted a career that was not gonna be eclipsed by technology. And even - I would say early in my freshman year in the, you know, in the 90s it was very apparent that technology was rapidly evolving and that there were careers that were likely going to become obsolete. And initially my first career choice path was becoming a travel agent. (laughs) Because I thought "How fun would this be to help people plan trips to go places to do great things!" And - and my husband and I were just talking about this the other day, I can't remember the last time we used a travel agent to plan anything. Um, most of our trip - I mean, I think maybe our honeymoon, which even then I don't even know that that we booked that with a travel agent. I think the majority of our life together all of the things we've planned we've done online. It's all been online. It's all Internet based. And so obviously a travel agent would not have been a solid career choice. Um, and I had a sense of that at some point and decided that I wanted a job that was going to be secure, I wanted a job that could help me with people where I could use that skill, um, and at that point, uh, nursing seemed like the logical choice. Always interested in the medical profession, did very well in high school with the sort of anatomy/physiology/biology background so, um, decided to go down that path and it's worked out very well for me.

BQ: Alright and then so, um, going back to the scholarship that you talked about. Was that one of like, the main reasons why you came to Oshkosh?

TC: I had actually decided, um, that that was - Oshkosh was on my top three list. And before the scholarship was announced that this was going to exist. Because the - the timing of such was that, um, we had to make our decisions about - I was applying to schools, and we had to make the decision, and I believe - I was a little uneasy about - I had to pick, I was looking at Viterbo or Eau Claire or Oshkosh were the three that I had. Um, all with excellent nursing programs in the state at the time. And, so at that point, um, trying - I kind of felt like I just put all my eggs with the - in the UW Oshkosh basket! And I thought, "Oh, boy! This is - I hope this is going to work out!" And I - it was very shortly after I got the acceptance letter from Oshkosh that the scholarship opportunity was announced. And it was - my senior class was gonna, in high school, was gonna have this first opportunity to apply for it. And it was so new that it wasn't even clear how much the money was going to be or how they were going to divvy it up, and there was one other classmate and myself who, um, both applied and they gave us both money.

It was a very generous fund that was set up that I believe is still going to this day. I'm not 100 percent clear, but, um, Lucille Tack was the lady's name, and she felt, again, a debt to, um, what Oshkosh had provided her from her to become a teacher. And her husband had done quite well and that was the way that they gave back to the community. She actually funded also as part of her will a art center to be built in Spencer which is, um, just lovely. And, um, her, uh, her husband, when he died, they funded both the track and the high school auditorium. So, um, they were a very wealthy family that looked at giving back as part of it. And it was nice that in this way she helped not only the community but was also supporting students going to Oshkosh as well.

BQ: Alright, and then, um, so obviously because of the scholarship you talked about how Oshkosh was a Teacher - used to be a college for education. Um, what other things did you know about Oshkosh before you attended?

TC: That they had a nursing program. (laughs) That they were very good. That was about it! I had another, um, Spencer alumni who was attending, um, two actually, I think, Spencer alumni were - were there at the time. And I remember that I came up and they gave a tour of the campus for me. I remember my mom knew their mom or whatever and so then arranged on a day that I could come up and take a tour. Um, but I didn't know a whole lot. My aunt - one of my aunts had also attended at one point, and she was on campus - she told me the story about how there was some sort of like Black Panther riot that had happened when she was attending there and how scary it was and some, uh, group took over one of the buildings on campus and, you know, shot out windows and did some quite violent things in the 60s and so of course when I said, you know, I was going there, um, like, "Oo, I don't know what kind of a shady neighborhood that might be in!"

And then, um, it also became rapidly apparent after I got accepted that it was known at that point as a party school. Um, I heard the phrase "UW-Zero" a lot. Um, and so people were I think somewhat surprised I picked it from a campus perspective 'cause, um, I certainly in high school didn't have a wild party reputation behind my name, so. (laughs) Um, but that was not in my decision-making! "How much beer is there available?" was not part of my college tuition and decision requirements!

BQ: So, um, off of that, what was your first impression then of UW Oshkosh and even the city of Oshkosh?

TC: Um, I thought the campus was beautiful. I - there were - the older buildings, um, you know, the trees... I just felt... I don't know. When I - when I came up, I thought "This is a pretty campus." And I - Oshkosh itself, you know, I had been visiting often. We would take family trips and go down to the EAA or, um, you know the museums in Green Bay or Appleton, and so the city itself - I don't remember thinking was anything glamorous or fancy. It seemed sort of actually dingy! Um, very industrial. But the campus itself I felt right away was just so beautiful. And I just felt like, this is going to be my home for the next four years, so. Very welcoming.

BQ: Mmhmm. I felt the same way about Oshkosh. I fell in love with, uh, just the campus.

TC: Yeah, yeah.

BQ: Um, so based off of that are there anything that like, stuck out, like when you were walking aroud the campus? Even on your first day that you can remember or recall back on?

TC: Yeah. The main - I, I have no idea what the name of the hall was. It's the main - uh, I think - well, in my day, I have no idea what it is now, but it - in my day it housed the alumni, um, sort of the foundation, uh, the foundation center. It was right literally in the center and the, um, top of the building is sort of a - it had some sort of a iconic, uh, not a weather vane, but it had something on the top of it that then was on like, everything that I got. And I should flip back through, I have one in my memory of 'em here. And, um, see if I still have any of my documents. And it was on - it was on the letterhead. Everything that I got sent. Um, yeah. And I can see - I'm looking at it right now, um, and it - there's like a tree and then there was a picture of this top, this steepled part of this building. And it was a brick, it was an old brick building, and I think it had been there as part of the original campus. And it - I just remember thinking that was just such a beautiful building. There were never any classes held in there. I never actually went in the building. (laughs) But it was there and it just seemed to be part of the, you know, the landscape.

The other piece that obviously stood out to, too, were the Scott Halls, which again I don't know if those are still there, um. They were two large high rises, um, for dorms. And all I remember thinking about that was "That's going to be a pain to move in and that's going to be a pain to move out, and I do not know want to be in that hall!" (laughs) So that's the other - the other thing was like, I need a dorm where I'm not going to have to ride an elevator. I don't know. Are those still there? Are the Scott Halls still there?

BQ: Yes! The Scott Halls are still there. They were just, uh, redone, within the last year.

TC: Oh, um, there you go. (laughs)

BQ: So, um, going off of that, so you lived on campus then for a couple of years?

TC: Yup. The first two years I did.

BQ: What buildings did you live in?

TC: I was in Donner.

BQ: Oh, nice.

TC: (laughs) Yeah, it was right close to the - I didn't necessarily picked it looking where some of the nursing buildings were, and it worked out great 'cause the nursing hall was very close by, so that was - that was nice. That's the other thing about the Scott Halls. I'm like, "You have to walk! Really far!" (laughs) I was a wimp. I'll be honest.

BQ: Uh, so thinking back about it, um, are there any like stories or memories you have from like, living in the dorms?

TC: Uh, yeah. My favorite story that people like to hear about was that I survived a dorm fire. Um, that one was - I'm just looking, I have my first year I flipped open my memory book I'm looking at. I forgot I was in choir, too, oh my gosh. Um, so my sophomore year - it was my sophomore year. Um, we were on the third floor of Donner. I had - my roommate's name was Jodie. We were - we had met each other our freshman year and we were at the very, very far end of the hall. We were the last room that you could be in. 301 was our number. And then next door to us were two other good friends of ours, um, Char and Chris, they were in 303.

And we - it was the week Easter. It was that Thursday night. Normally that's a party night. Everybody'd be out or studying would be last on our list of things to be doing. I don't know, again, if Thursdays nights are still party nights but they were when I was in school. And so, um, they had, um, we had tests. All of us had tests that Friday morning. And so we were feisty 'cause we couldn't work and were like, "Oh, we aren't going to be able to do anything fun!" And then many of us were gonna go away back home because that was Good Friday. We were going to go home for Easter. Um, and so there was this "We have to get these tests done, and we have to get out of town," and all of that. So none of us were happy. And we were - the tests were early on Friday morning, um, and so I remember we all went to bed early.

It must have been, you know, 10'o'clock and, um, Jodie and I were in our room. And we get a knock on the door. And it's Chris and Char from next door. And Char is frustrated. Chris says she smells some smoke, and she's like "I told her it's just somebody smoking pot again. Just ignore it and go back to bed!" And we're just like, "Chris, we don't smell anything." We're like, "We agree with Char. Go back to sleep." So, you know, Chris was grumbling to back into her room. You know, we think it's all quiet.

Ten minutes later, knock on the door again. It's Char and Char is really irritated at this point. (laughs) She's like, "Chris is adamant that she smells smoke and that something is wrong and that we need to check this out!" And we're like, "Okay." We're all in our pajamas, we're all like, "This is just ridiculous!" We are all cranky as hell as we get up and we're sitting in the hallway arguing about whether or not we smell anything. And Chris is just adament that she smells something, and none of us could smell it. And we decide that in order to get - the only way to get - Chris is just digging in her heels - the only way to get this girl to settle down is going to be to get our hall - our floor advisor.

And so we go down to the middle of the floor where the bathrooms were. And we pound on Sarah's door. And we say, "Sarah! Chris says she smells some smoke, and we don't smell anything, and you need to come down here and tell her it's just marijuana or whatever it is until she goes to sleep and leaves us all alone." And Sarah's like, "Whatever." And as we're walking back with Sarah towards the end back towards the far end of the hall we, um, smell - now you can smell it. It was almost like you couldn't smell it while you were in it, and then when you stepped out and came back towards it you just went - and it was a very, um, sharp burning acid type smell. And, um, it didn't smell like woodsmoke or anything like that that you would say, "Oh, that's smoke!" It was just this really weird smell. And - and we couldn't figure out - we're all in the hallway sniffing at all these doors trying to figure out where the smell was coming from! And we deduced that it's 305, the one next to Chris and Char, and that she can smell it.

And Sarah knocks on the door, the floor advisor knocks on the door. There's no answer. This is a gal who lived by herself. She knocks again, no answer. She puts her hand on the door and before she can - before any of us can say anything she turns around, goes "Bam!" Hits the fire alarm, breaks the glass! I'd never seen anybody do this in real life before! I was like, "What!" Pulls the thing down and says, "There's a fire, you guys get out now." And there when she - she tells us later that when she put her hand on the door the door was hot. And she said, "I knew right away that there was a fire." And all of us were like just standing there staring at her. She's like, "No, there's a fire, get out!" And so we just all file out in our pajamas like, this can't be really happening, right?

And the fire department shows up, um, they busted through. They went in and they busted open the door. They had to bust this gal's windows in her dorm room. What had happened was she had a curling iron that she left plugged in and didn't turn off again. Now these days you have automatic shut off if you aren't using it, but in those days you didn't, right? And so, um, the curling iron had fallen off of her dresser/desk, dresser-desk thing, and onto a pile of clothes sitting on her couch which had started on fire and it started the whole couch on fire! Um, and, her curtains, everything went - was actually up in flames by the time the fire department got there. Um, and so that meant the whole place really smelt like smoke after that!

I - we slept that evening in like, they had like a study lounge on the floor. And I remember we hauled mattresses or blankets or something and slept on the floor that night which then really meant we were all ready for our tests the next day, um, I don't even remember how I did on the test. I remember just being so foggy and smelling like smoke. (unclear) Everything smelled like smoke. Um, but to this day I always joke - Chris and I are still really good friends, and, um, I always joke, she's like my only friend who has saved me from a fire. And we - we still talk about it! If she wouldn't have been, um, as persistent as she was the fire would have probably gotten a lot further along before, um, the smoke detectors and things went off.

They took the curling iron - the damaged, melted, destroyed curling iron, and they put it at the front desk! Uh, with a big sign like, for everybody to see, uh, they go - "Please remember to unplug your appliances." Um, and then the poor gal, I remember she - the girl who lived there, I didn't know her very well. She, um, she - they yellow police taped her door. Um, and then Sarah put a big note on it "Please see me when you get in." Because she had gone out! It was Thursday night, everybody goes out, right? So I said, you can just imagine when she gets home at like 2 or 3 in the morning and she's drunk and - (laughs) - she's got her whole room has been trashed! Um, I just, you know, can't imagine what that was like! But, um, boy that was an experience from living in the dorms. That's one I - I obviously will never forget. 'Cause it was pretty - not your average dorm life experience, for sure.

BQ: That is too funny. Um, so, off of that then, um, anything about like, classes that you remember? Any like, nursing classes? 'Cause I know those are a lot more hands on. Are there any like, memories from those that helped you? Um.

TC: Yeah, I think, um, there were two - two that were really interesting for me. My - or maybe three. My senior year we did a rotation - we had, I had two things which were rotation. One was sort of a community health rotation where we different places and you had to - for your clinical that week you spent time at that place. So, a Boy's and Girl's Club. We did a, uh, a battered women's shelter. And I remember having to search for lice; there was some concern about lice outbreaks. I remember doing that very vividly, and - and, um, but we also did - we spent one week at the Salvation Army.

And that to me was incredibly eye-opening because it was homeless people which I always, you know, small town, always kind of raised with that smalltown mentality of "People are homeless. They can get a job, and they're just not - they're lazy." Right? And talking to some of the people there and hearing about the difficulty and that - when you have to find a job you have to have a phone number. And they're homeless; they don't have a phone number. So how do you call and set up an interview? Um, you have to have an address. You know? And again, you don't have an address. And how do you have clothes, you know? How do you present yourself to be hired? Um, and so that was huge for me. That was just - I had never - it was a complete mind shift to realize the challenges of once you get down that path how do you get yourself out? Um, and watching how these people were trying to struggle against the system that wasn't really set up well to help them. And - and I think that gave me a lot more compassion for people in difficult situations.

Um, the internship we had, uh, while two other things in my senior year. One was - we had a six week? Nine week? Rotation at Winnebago Mental Health. Which was absolutely terrifying from the perspective of, um, that place gave me the creeps. (laughs) I'll just tell you that. It still does to this day. Um, they took us on a tour - they have a museum there. I don't know if they still do, but back 20 years ago they did. Um, of various things that they had collected from inmates, for lack of a better word, patients. Um, 'cause they had a combination there, uh, throughout the years.

And I remember the one story was about a patient there who kept telling the doctors that he ate people. And, so they assumed he was a cannibal. And they had spent all this time trying to get him to do determine who his victims were. And he kept saying he eats little men, he eats little men, he eats little men. And they were struggling in Oshkosh at the time - and this was years ago - trying to find out where - where his victims were. And, um, he, in the meantime became very sick and ill. And, uh, ended up going to the hospital and they had to go into his stomach. His - he was having all this peritonitis, uh, abdominal pain. And - here when they opened up his stomach they found 27 dollars and 53 cents, all of which was in the museum. He was eating money. The little coins. The pennies and nickels, which all have little men on them. And so he was eating these coins and saying that he was eating the little men. Um, and they just hadn't connected that. And that story I found was a really insightful story to think about when someone tells you something, you know, it's not always cannibalism! (laughs) But, you know, with patients - trying to remember patients, trying to think about the different perspective of what really is going on. So I remember that experience was great.

And then the last part of my nursing college - I mean, I had tons of great experiences, um, but they offered us the opportunity the last, um, boy, I'm trying to think. So the semesters must have been fourteen weeks? Or, I can't remember how long they were - how many weeks. January to March? January would've been interim. February, March, April. So it must have been the middle of April. We would go for a month - I want to say it was a month or something - to have a clinical experience, an internship. And, um, you could go wherever you wanted. And, um, most of my classmates chose their hometown. Like, they would just go back home, you know, for a month and live at home and work for their hospital settings, or some stayed in Oshkosh. Um, whatever, the instructors were willing to hook you up with whatever hospital you wanted, but the idea was you would partner with a nurse on the floor. And - and take care of patients, you know, as you're - and that was - there was no classes, it was literally working on the floor hand-in-hand taking care of patients for the last month of the nursing program.

And I went to my professor at the time and I said "I want to see the best. I want to see the best healthcare system." I said, "I want to go to Mayo." And she said, "Really?" I said, "Yeah." I said, "I can - you said we can go anywhere." I said, "Get me into Mayo." I said, "I want to spend time there seeing how a really large hospital system works, how the best healthcare in the country is delivered." And she did. She got me connected to someone at Mayo. Um, and so I ended up going over to Mayo. I lived in Rochester in a - it was actually a hotel that a whole floor of it was set up for medical residents, so my roommate was a, um, she'd actually been a surgeon in Santiago, Chile, but was coming back her to get her medical degree and was, um, practicing as a resident. Um, so most of them were physicians. I think I was the only nurse at the time on that floor.

Um, but then worked at St. Mary's, um, which is the main hospital campus for Mayo, um, for four weeks. And again that was a great experience. Fabulous experience. Um, seeing how a large healthcare system operates, how it was designed, and just again that challenge of "I could do it!" I could go somewhere really big and - and thrive. So. I found that incredibly valuable, and I think that was one of the best parts of the, um, the nursing program was that willingness of the professors to make those connections for you, and if you wanted to dream big they said "We'll help you." And I - and I love that. I felt very supported in my nursing program there.

BQ: Uh, is there anything else that you, um, had to say about working at the Mayo Clinic for that, um, that clinical time?

TC: Yeah, you know, it was great. I think, um, what had helped me - what had helped me decide. My mom was a surgical IC nurse. Um, and I knew was likely going to come back to ths area 'cause my family was here, um, and work at probably St. Joseph's in Marshfield was my targeted employer. But I really didn't - I had an angst about following my mom's footsteps. I did not want to be just like her. And so therefore I was not going to be a surgical nurse. I had made up my mind somewhere along my second or third year that I was going to do medicine, medical nursing, um, either coronary ICU or a medicine floor.

And so at St. Mary's I had the opportuniy - that's what my professor targeted. I did a medical endocrinology floor, so that consisted of very large obese patients, um, many of the rooms were designed and configured to -

(mumbling echoed interruption)

Yeah, I see that. Sorry, somebody just showed up and is dropping dirt off in our yard which is um, unexpected but very awesome.

Um, so (laughs) the medical endocrinology - large, overweight, obese patients with - with rigging in the ceilings to help move these people - these were people who could not - get slings and pulleys and lifts to get these people moved. Um, I was exposed to I think three different cases of tuberculosis. Um, never converted thankfully, but, um, because a lot of these people would come in with a cough and they thought they pneumonia and they would put them on the foor and then oop! the next day I would come back and oop! it's really tuberculosis! Um, they've been moved to a different floor.

And I think that was just, um, you know, cemented the lots of rooms, lots of chronic long problems. Things that weren't going to go away. And what it helped me learn about myself was that the surgical path is definitely something I'm better suited for, um, I like surgery. You fix people. You get them better. You move them forward. You're decisive. You make a decision. You don't debate about it. And you see instant results. Well, not always instant results but you see quicker results than some of these longer term health problems, and I just didn't have the patience for it back in my early 20s.

So I ended up as a result of that internship determining that I was going to apply and did end up going and workig in the same IC as my did. Um, which was very weird for many of my work colleagues who had known my mom when she was pregnant with me and then here I come back to work on the same unit all grown up. Um, but I - I credit that internship with helping me learn that about myself. That I was much more suited to that surgical fast-paced high pressure environment than I thought I was. Um, and so I found that very, again a very rewarding part of working at the Mayo system.

BQ: Sounds like that one of those another eye opening experiences that you had -

TC: Yup.

BQ: Where you were faced - where you wanted to go with it.

TC: Yup. Yup.

BQ: Awesome. Um, so I'm going to kind of backtrack a little bit. So, um, when you were - you said back in high school you were involved in everything and then in college you, um, it says you were involved with the Sigma Theta Tau or the nursing, um, society?

TC: Yup, yup.

BQ: What was that like?

TC: Well, I think what we as a group kind of struggled, you know, again the nursing classes - what was really interesting was when I first started and declared a nursing major I think my counselor my first week, whoever, was working before we were on campus to help set up our classes and curriculum, told me very clearly that at that point in time there was over I think 400 or 500 declared, quote-unquote "nursing majors" that were coming in that freshman year. And she said "The nursing college only takes the top 75." Um, and so she was very clear that if I wanted to get in and accepted to the College of Nursing to pursue that which was I had to apply midway through my sophomore year, that I would have to have a high GPA. And, um, anything less was probably not going to cut it. And so I felt a tremendous amount of pressure my first, you know, 18 months of college to make sure I was pulling, um, high grades in to the point of - I had qualified for honors classes and didn't take them because I took the - I took the lesser classes so that I could get an easy A. Um, and I think - I don't know, but that was the decision I made at the time. But then as a result I guess I built a strong enough, um, baseline GPA then that my sophomore year once I got accepted into the College of Nursing and completed my first semester my GPA was high enough to be a candidate for Sigma Theta Tau.

Now, you know, as an honors society I think we struggled to figure out what were going to do besides be a bunch of nurses with a high GPA. Um, so we did do some fundraising things, um, to try to support both our College of Nursing classmates, but also some charities. Um, but we weren't, um, again I think that pressure of trying to perform at a high level - there wasn't a lot of bonding. I don't remember like getting together and having picnics or parties; it was more about helping support each other through study groups. So it was kind of - it was kind of boring. Huh, but you know, um, I'm proud that I performed that well that I could, you know, and again, it was a nice way to meet people. Um, that was one of them.

Like, I said, I did, um, college choir. I really enjoyed that. All four years. Um, simply because it was - it was fun. I enjoyed music, I knew I wasn't going to pursure - to continue my instrument that I played through high school, but I felt like choir was still something that I could do while continuing all of my other responsibilites.

BQ: So, do you owe any of your successes in the nursing program and with any of your classes to, um, Sigma Theta Tau, then?

TC: No, I - I don't. (laughs) I think that I, um, I'm a naturally driven person to begin with. And so well I appreciated that Sigma Theta Tau was there, um, and they - I think the piece that I also appreciated about it is that it recognizes and rewards people who work hard. And so that's where I find that valuable. I think sometimes, um, you know it's easy just to work hard and - and no one pays any attention to it, but that - basically through that program I felt that, um, it recognized and highlighted those people who had really put in extra effort and were succeeding really well.

BQ: Alright. And then going on, um, so you were in college choir for all four years. How did you - what did you enjoy about that the most?

TC: Um, it was fun to be with a group of people that weren't nurses. You know? 'Cause so much of your life - once you got into the nursing program so much - and especially by the time you got to your last, you know, junior and senior years, so much of your life revolved around - everybody went to classes together, um, I think, you know, there were 63 of us I believe, when the time came for the 75 there was actually only 63 of us who applied and all of us got in. Uh, so so much for that GPA thing. (laughs) But what - the prerequisites, the chemistry requirement and the anatomy and physiology which were required your freshman year, completely weeded out tons of people. They took it, they failed, they were like "Okay, obviously not going to be a nurse." So, those of us who were, I guess - those of to stick it out and then apply (unclear) so then you had the same group of people and you saw them every day! And then a lot of times you saw them at night or you were studying or you were out! And especially my senior year because our schedules were such with our clinicals and stuff - that's who you went out to bars with! So, um, you know, you had - it was nice to have, uh, a program or something I could go do that I was, um, able to just connect with other people.

I also ended up volunteering at the Opera House which again I don't know if that still exists, um, in downtown Oshkosh. And so, um, and I did that my senior year, so again I was an usher. You know? And you got to pick performances and they - you could just - and I got to see the performances for free! And I got to usher and I was in the top balcony, that was my section. Um, but again it was a way for me to continue to do something, um, that helped support the arts which has been, again, you know, a positive part of my life and something I feel very strongly about advocating for. Um, but still find that balance of - I'm getting hammered with science and, um, you know other things, so choir and that volunteer work at the Opera House helped, you know, give me a - again, some balance to my school programs.

BQ: Alright, um, then, so I'm going to hit on it because it's very much known for Oshkosh, and it's drinking culture, but um, so what was that like and when you were here in school?

TC: Um, so, (laughs) um, I think that - so I must have came - my senior year was the year they had the riot - my senior year of high school they had the riots downtown, so again I don't know if those were in anything of recent memory, but back in the day, you know, um, that was - the fact that college students got rowdy and went downtown and smashed windows and damaged businesses was, I mean, state news. And of course, again, when people are like "You're going to school there? With these people?" I'm like, "Well, I can't imagine that's everybody..." Um, but it certainly I think opened up my eyes to the fact, I think, that this was there.

Um, I think it was just expected. And again, I don't know what it's like now but at that time I think it was just expected that everybody drinks. And that it's okay. Um, the amount of drinking was extremely excessive, but again - I guess I'm of the mindset that that's part of your growth as a human being and you, I feel like everybody should go through it just so they can say that they've gone through it. Better to go through it in your 20s before you have kids and you're, you know, have a job and you can't, you know, show up hungover at your job.

Um, so I think, you know that was not from a - from a woman's standpoint, I um, I think we were very conscientious, especially as a group of nurses, knowing that, you know, we see people that have been sexually assaulted. Um, understanding that risk there. So I think having that professional background, you know, we were as a group very cognizant of where each other were at. And where people were at, making sure that people were safe. Um, if we were walking on campus at night, um, especially if I was down in the Scott Halls, um, my other Spencer alum that went down - that was - that lived in the Scott Halls, and if I would go down to visit him, um, and come back to Donner either him or his roommate would walk me back to Donner. Um, they wouldn't let me walk by myself as a female.

Um, one of the things they taught - um, literally the first night on campus was how to hold my keys that could stab somebody's eyes out. So again - (laughs) - when you're coming from a small town of 1500 people where I could wander around the streets at 2'o'clock in the morning and nobody would do anything, and maybe I'd run into cow, um, you know coming to this and having this kind of have to be my set of "Where are you? Who are you? Where - who's around you? People could - could try to hurt you." Um, was very unsettling to me I think the first few months - just became used to it by the time I got to my senior year.

And I think the bar culture just sort of supported. I remember once going out with my - one of my, um, friends who was a college business major. And the bar downtown - which I can't remember one of the names of it - or, by the campus area, had a - a four dollar - she bought a cup. Um, a Bacardi limon cup. And for four dollars then you could refill it for the whole night. It was a little plastic cup; it wasn't very big. But you - whatever, you just pay four dollars and then however much you wanted to drink. You could just keep going back to the bar and whatever they - as long as it was Bacardi limon, they'd mix it with whatever. And what a fabulous deal this was, right? And so like, every time she'd do something (unclear) "Oh, that's costing me two dollars a drink! Now it's only costing my 50 cents a drink!" So she got just completely hammered because she was just so focused on how cheaper it was getting the more she drank!

But, you know, we - you didn't see it as "This is an unhealthy behavior" or "This could really - I could throw up and get sick and die." It was just this is what you do. And, um, there was always someone that probably - when I lived in the dorms there was always, you know, Sunday morning someone had thrown up in the shower. And, you know, if you're lucky there wasn't any vomit in the hallway.

Um, you know the other thing that we did talk about as a dormfloor was because there was - because of the drinking it was not uncommon that people would pull the fire alarm. Um, on Thursdays night and - just to get, you know, it was a false alarm, they just did it to get everybody up and get out. And I can't remember how many times we had false alarms. But the time we really then had that real fire I would say there was probably 20 percent of our floor that never went out. They stayed in the building because they all thought "It's a Thursday night. It's 11'o'clock at night. Someone's pulling the alarm to be funny." And the danger of that, you know, now is really clear. And at the time we talked about it, like, again the next morning there was several of my nursing classmates who were like "We never - we just ignored it!" We're like, "That was a real fire you guys!" And so I think, um, the dangers of that type of, uh, behavior was certainly not anywhere near the front of my mind, uh, outside of that it related to me as a female and keeping myself safe. But excessive drinking was considered normal, something that everybody did.

My friends to this day will still say - all of my nursing friends can drink anybody under the table. Um, and I don't know if that is just a mindset that goes into the nursing program. (laughs) I have no idea if the nursing program's a day, if those gals can - or guys - can still drink, but, um, certainly, um, my - certainly hold their liquor. And it was not uncommon for us to be out a lot, especially my senior year with the way our schedule was set up. So.

BQ: Okay, and then you kind of hit on it slightly, but what was it like, um, being a female in college at Oshkosh? Was there anything different that you had to do because you talked about how there was slighty changes from your hometown that you had to make.

TC: Yeah. Yeah, I think outside of the - the recognition of safety, you know, there was drugs, roofies and things like that were just starting to come onto the scene at that point. Um, and still not very well known, and I would imagine now it's much more talked about and discussed about people putting, you know, drugs in drinks and drugging people. Um, the sorority piece was something that I was somewhat used to. Again, small town. You had popular kids and they were always clique-y. Um, this - it - but coming to Oshkosh and you had the different sororities and the fraternities.

The sororities so much were that there was such a regimented requirement with them. I found it really puzzling. Um, at that time. I (mumbles) know idea what that was. But at that time, um, I remember that one of my friends that was rushing had to wear a specific band of jean and she had to buy a Gap white short sleeved t shirt with a v-neck collar and, you know, her whole week her wardrobe was chosen by the sorority that she was rushing for. And it was very specific, brand-name items. And as, again, someone coming from a poor family who is trying to fund her college by herself, I mean, my choice to not join a sorority was based solely on I can't - I can't afford this! I can't afford trying to finance five different outfits and the pieces, I mean, this is insane! And then, also that concept of "Why do I want to dress like everybody else?" You know, this is... you know, "I'm my own person" kind of a thought. So that - watching - having friends go through that, watching, um, them choose that path was really... odd for me, really bizarre. Um, as the outside.

My senior year, I think, I became much more understanding of why, you know, the sorority family, and why people are drawn to that and need that to help support them. Um, and I had a couple offers to rush for - people wanting me to rush for some of their sororities, but you know, I - I said I can't, you know? I said I just can't do it at this point, and the financial implications were significant. One said "I'll fund you, I'll sponsor you," and, you know, the great thing was that I was still able to maintain friendships with people that were in sororities. Some of them were very, very clique-y, and - and if you weren't in that group or circle they didn't want to talk to you. Um, but luckily the ones that I was friends with, you know, accepted me and my decisions for what I was and - and, um, dealt with that as such. But, it was really, you know, a different - a different environment.

I also ended up my freshman year, um, I had a sophomore roommate and she, um, she was... - this is another bizarre story - she was sleeping with her step-nephew. Um, so her sister had married, um, a gentleman and he had a child from his previous marriage who was older and - and she and him got into a relationship and started sleeping together. And he was also, um, unfortunately abusing her. Physically abusing her. And, so here I am my freshman year with this roommate whose got issues and introduces me to her boyfriend, and then I find out they're quasi-related, and they're sleeping together and he's beating her - she has bruises. And, again, coming from a small town, and I'm like "What the heck do I do with this?!" And I can't condone this! This is not a healthy relationship, but you know this girl is older than me! You know, how do I handle this?

Um, and so again had to work through that experience. Had to work with her friends. We staged an intervention to try to get her to... recognize his harmful behavior. I drew the line and said "I will not be in the room with the two of you together. I can't support this relationship." And spent, um, many evenings and nights sleeping on other people's - other people in the dorm - on their floor. Um, you know, just bring some blankets and a pillow and sleep on somebody's foor because I wasn't gonna stay in the room with them. And, um, never brought in the floor advisor because I felt like that was like tattling. Never told my parents that I was spending money but not staying in my room. Um, you know, it was just - it was really sad. She ended up dropping out of college the next year; her junior year.

Um, but it was a really sad experience, but again it just was very opening coming from, again a small town to realize there's a lot of people with issues out there. And some of these are really bizarre, so.

BQ: Um, what I've got from like most of us is as you like, got older and more older you seemed to move away from viewing things as different as more of accepting, like, what, um, can you say about that?

TC: Yeah, I would agree with that Bailey. I think, um, what - what college helped do for me and what Oshkosh helped provide me with was perspective. And I think when you are in a situation - this applies to almost anything in life, and I use this today still in my job - when you are in the middle of something and there's a crisis and what have you and you are living it it is very hard to consciously, you know, you have to make a consicous decision to step back outside of it and - and look at it for what it is and see it for what it is. And when I was living in a small town and living, you know, in a smaller community, I was exposed to basically a - one way of thinking and one way of how things were. And I think the college experience allowed me to step outside of that, you know, recognize and appreciate that for what it is, you know? It gave me a good foundation, it gave me great roots, it gave me some - obviously a strong - strong enough to leave, you know? Um, and that respect for history and what my parents, you know, did and carry and compassion and all of those great things, but also allowed me to grow and understand that, um, there's a lot of different - there's a lot of different things out there, and there's a lot of different people who have been through different experiences and who can bring different perspectives and you can learn from that and grow from that and, um, I wouldn't trade my college experience for anything. I think that the decision for me to go achieve a four year degree was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. Um, I certainly would not want to go back to living in a 9 by 12 foot space (laughs) - our dorm rooms were really small! Um, but - but more the fact that, um, I got to meet great people with diverse backgrounds, have fabulous experiences, um, you know, that are still with me it - it was worth every penny. I - I look at it as an investment that has been paid back to me 100 times over.

BQ: That sounds awesome. So, you feel - so going off of that then, you finished college and you feel like you're in the right spot, you don't feel like you have any regrets?

TC: No! Um, I - you know, my nursing degree, I no longer practice with direct patient care. I've moved into a leadership position so I'm not taking care of patients directly anymore. I - I took care of patients for five years, um, did a certified (unclear?) of nursing, but what the - what my nursing degree did was, you know, give me some very strong foundational skills that are translatable to a lot of different professions. And it opened up a lot of doors for me. And so currently now, um, I just - I've been in this role for about a year now. I'm the - I' a Risk Manager for a tertiary care center here in Central Wisconsin. And, um, you don't have to be a nurse to have my position, but my nursing degree and the experience that I've built, um, I have worked up in the cities for twelve years, again, doing other, um, healthcare related management positions. Having that background, that diversity, helped me get this position, and I think those skills from nursing - which is talking to people, um, you know listening, understanding, translating, um, documenting - all those pieces translate very well in the future, so I have, um, no regrets at all about my nursing degree. I think it was a perfect degree for me, and I think it opened up a lot of doors for me.

Um, now my biggest challenge is "What do I want to do with my Master's?" Do I want to pursue that avenue, and if so which one - which way do I want to go with that? That's my biggest challenge, um, now, that I face.

BQ: Um, so basically going off of that then you feel that Oshkosh really set you up well for life outside of college? Obviously you've made some huge advances through your career.

TC: Yup, absolutely, absolutely. Very well supported, um, and the College of Nursing is incredibly important. Um, one of the things you have to do in order to practice as a nurse, you have to pass state boards, um, and so again, their program, their study program, the support, the curriculum that I had definitely set me up to take those boards and pass them, um, you know, and be successful.

Then the other piece that I really appreciate about Oshkosh is that I feel like they've done a good job of maintaining connections with their alumni if you want. So, again, you have newsletters, electronics, paper, um, you know, I feel like there's resources there? So that if I did get into a situation where I needed to connect, I could, you know, reach back out to Oshkosh and say "Here's what's up. I need help."

And also from the perspective of connecting with alumni. So in my current role now that I'm back in Central Wisconsin - I spent 12 years up in the cities working - but my boss is a UW Oshkosh nursing alumni. Um, she graduated about four or five years ahead of me in the program. Our nurse - one of our nursing supervisors is a UW Oshkosh alumni from the nursing program. So, again it's been great to see people who are proud of their nursing background with Oshkosh, and again I think that's been fun to make those connections out there.

BQ: And so, um, have you ever had any, um, like, have you ever had to, um, go back to Oshkosh and like seen how like well they reach or anything like that you have to add about that?

TC: Um, I haven't been back on campus. It is on my list of things to do. Um, I would like to take my children back. Um, you know just to show them where mom went to school. I think they're a little young right now, but, um, both my husband and I are both strong advocates of a college education, and we feel it is worth your investment to do that both from a growth and a career standpoint but also from an emotional growth and - and a maturity, we think that comes from that experience. And so we feel very strongly we want our children to pursue, you know, advanced degrees when they're done with high school and right now they're very small, but I think as they get older that's something I'd like to do is bring them back and show them the campus and talk about my experiences and, um, hopefully they'll see that as valuable. And hopefully we can support them in their degree studies with whatever they decide to do, so.

BQ: Um, and then is there any even other, like, advice that you'd give to current students?

TC: Um, well Bailey what I would tell you is, um, take the opportunities that you can. When they're in front of you, take them. One of the things that the program - the nursing program, I forgot about this too - they offered an opportunity, ah, what is 1999 to 2000? No, '98-'99 was when I went because my mom was like "If it was going to be Y2K I wasn't gonna let you get on an airplane!" Um, back then (unclear). Um, they offered a nursing - comparative nursing in France and England.

And so I have a whole binder on that! Where we went, again nursing all four years, anybody from that, could pay to go, um, chaperoned by two teachers - professors - and we went to see the healthcare system in England in London and then in Paris, both their private and their public healthcare systems. And of course they have socialized medicine there and wow! Wow, I had an amazing experience. One, just to be in a foreign city and travel and - and be in a country where people don't speak English, in the case of Paris, but also from a perspective of getting to see what a different healthcare system looks like. What an amazing opportunity! And it cost me money to do it. I'm so glad, again, that I did, that I decided to spend that money. Um, and I - I just could have said no to that opportunity, but it was there and I took it. And so that would be my main advice to college students that are coming in.

Um, I did a new resident orientation program, um, you know, for the freshman. I remember being on the orientation committee and - and, um, doing that as well at some point. Great experience. It just helps you, um, all of those experiences help you learn about who you are and they also help you develop skills that you can translate into a career. Um, so, that would be my advice.

BQ: Alright, well. That will conclude then the interview. Alright...

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