Interview with Aggie Hanni, 09/12/2022

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
Transcript
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Index
Search this Transcript
X
00:00:00

´╗┐GL: This is Grace Lim interviewing Aggie Hanni on Monday, September 12th, 2022 for Campus COVID Stories. Campus COVID Stories is a collection that oral stories from students and staff at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, about their experiences in the time of COVID. Thank you for sharing your stories with us now before we get started, could you please state your name and spell it for us?

AH: Aggie Hanni A-G-G-I-E H-A-N-N-I.

GL: And now for the purposes of getting good audio recording, tell us again who you are and what your title is here at UW Oshkosh.

AH: Sure. I'm Aggie Hanni, and I'm currently an associate Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management.

GL: OK. And before we dive into your campus COVID story, we would like to get to know you a little bit better. Just tell us about where you grew up and just a little bit about it.

AH: Sure. I grew up in Poland, so I was born and raised in Poland. I moved to 00:01:00the US when I was 17 and have been living here ever since.

GL: And your parents are, you know, tell us, what was, what did they do and what was their highest educational level.

AH: They both have technical skill sets. My mom worked as a nurse in hospital and my dad was an entrepreneur.

GL: OK. And where did you earn your degree or degrees?

AH: I have a bachelor's degree in psychology from Elmhurst College. I have a masters degree in psychology from National Louis University. I have a pH D in community psychology from National Louis University and I just finished my educational specialist degree in higher education leadership from National Louis University.

GL: And I'm sorry, it's national.

AH: Lowest university LOLOUIS. Sorry.

GL: And where is that?

AH: Chicago, IL.

GL: OK. And also Elmhurst College is in Chicago also.

00:02:00

AH: It's actually an Elmhurst, IL.

GL: OK. All right. All right, sounds good. And how did you come to work at UW, Oshkosh?

AH: I was actually recruited to come here from National Louis University, where I worked at the time and enrollment.

GL: And when did you come to your UW, Oshkosh?

AH: August 12th, 2019.

GL: And what was your role then?

AH: I came in as assistant Vice Chancellor for enrollment management.

GL: OK. And right before COVID before March 2020 tell what was your position here at UWOsh, and you know, just tell us a little bit about that.

AH: Sure. So I came in right before COVID started. Really. Yeah. And in August of 2019. So my role was at the time as Assistant Vice Chancellor for enrollment management responsible and most broad terms for recruitment and retention.

GL: Well, who was under you? I mean, who were you in charge of?

00:03:00

AH: I had several departments reporting to me, most of which still report to me, so I had admissions. So the director of admissions, Financial Aid director of Financial Aid, career and Professional Development Director off that Unit 2. And then I had additional staff that were not interrupted, roles that were reporting to me.

GL: And at that time, before COVID, what were your biggest challenges then?

AH: Umm, that's such a short time frame that my biggest challenge really was just understanding what was needed for my role within my role and how we can propel enrollment. When I came in here in that right before that September 2019, our incoming class grew, but our retention was sliding. So this was something that I was acutely becoming aware of that retention was going to be something to really pay close attention to. Of course then when COVID happened. That strain 00:04:00our incoming population as well, but at the end of the day was retention that I was worrying about, more so at that time and again, just kind of getting to know the campus, understanding the culture, understanding student behaviors that specifically related to Nebraska.

GL: So when September 2019, that was a whole semester of pre COVID that we had. Do you remember our numbers then? Do you remember what our student population was at that time?

AH: I remember incoming population was just under 1600. It was 1560 or and that was 70.

GL: And then the do you know what the numbers were? You said it was in increased from the previous year, is that what you're saying?

AH: There was an increase from the previous year and the incoming population, yes.

GL: OK, So what was the one previous year like in 2018? Do you do you if you remember?

GL: OK, that's OK.

AH: I don't remember that one. I'm sorry. I do remember a graduation rate went 00:05:00up in that year, which was also unexpected. So we graduated more students in the same in 2019 than we expected.

GL: So he said 2019 to 2019, the academic year 2019-2020. Or are you talking about, OK, OK all right.

GL: OK.

AH: Yes. Yes. Umm, well, it would have been. Yeah. So at the incoming class of 2019-2020 graduating class of 2018-2019.

GL: Ah, OK, OK. So that was the main you're talking about the May graduation.

AH: May graduating class from 2019, yes.

GL: OK, OK. OK. So let's move to the early days of COVID. I mean, when do you do you remember the first time you heard about this virus?

AH: I've been hearing about it on the news for a little bit. I wasn't paying too much attention. Obviously, at the time it was just something that was happening elsewhere in the world and something to be aware of.

GL: And and at what point did you think this is something that we may need to think about or be concerned with?

AH: I think there were some pretty extreme videos that were popping up on social 00:06:00media of things happening in other countries, specifically China at the time and in my opinion at that point it was it was just something to get garner attention public's attention to. So I still didn't think it was really anything that was coming to all of us. But at the same time it was it was starting to feel a little different than anything I've ever experienced.

GL: And then you know when when you start seeing that, you know, other campuses are start starting to. You know react to this virus. Did you still think that this is something that we can stave off, or is this something that? OK, well, now we gotta start to pay attention to this.

AH: I I think when we started talking about temporary closures that that's was one of those moments where you know it was coming. That was I definitely felt 00:07:00like, OK, it's going to it's going to get here too. But I do remember very distinctively thinking 2 weeks maximum and everything go back to normal.

GL: And who did you work with? close to us to in your in in executing your response to COVID-19. I mean, what which among which staff people.

AH: Sure. So I at that time, I was not a cabinet member yet, so I worked closest with the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at the time, Doctor Cheryl Green, to determine what our response was going to look like, what communication to those who reported to me, but that just in General Cross our division was going to look like.

GL: And do you remember what happened? You know, when it became a reality that we are going to? Send everybody home. I mean, what? What? What happened in your department?

AH: I think everyone just was still processing through all of it because I think 00:08:00a similarly to me I'm assuming. We all thought it was going to be temporary. I can tell you for me especially not having grown up in this country, I came here in 2001 and I came here two months before 911 and I bring this up because that was. That was another moment in my life where my family at the time said you now have to come back. You can't stay in in the United States because it's so dangerous. There's going to be war. And I remember it's 17 years old thinking to myself, I don't feel safe for anywhere else. And if there's going to be war again, this is at the time 911 just happened. That I felt safer being in this country and than anywhere else in the world. So I bring this up because that was the moment to me too, where again, it was a temporary thing. It was serious, but it felt like it's going to be over soon and I felt like my direct reports and other staff, you know, we were all kind of just like, this is new territory. No one knew what to expect. Like, we're really going to close the campus, but it 00:09:00was, it was. It just felt felt like it was one of those things. Like, we're going to regain control, so to speak. Understand the ground that we're standing on. And from there manage obviously that didn't happen quite that way, but that those were the feelings I had, and it seemed to me like as as uncomfortable as all of the staff was with all of this too. It was the uncertainty in it, but also feeling for most of them from the way I would interpret that, that this was going to be temporary.

GL: And then once when after you know the Chancellor sent out the memos that to everyone that, OK, we are actually going to go fully remote. What, what, how did you, what did you do? I mean, did you? Yeah. Just tell me what? How did you manage to do your job?

AH: Sure. Those first two weeks were really interesting because there was one of those things that was like not knowing what we do. Most of my rule was being in meetings for better for worse than and and seeing people and then working 00:10:00collaboratively. So it was one of those like now what situations and I think we all kind of scramble to figure out like, OK Monday for Friday, 8:00 AM like what do I do first? So I definitely went through that a little bit of just like, OK, I'll just. Keep plugging along looking at different systems, but when no one was meeting, really not like we were before, because everything was in person, so it took some time to kind of get into that rhythm of, OK, this is going to be longer than two weeks. We need to continue operations. Now how do we do that? And then for me specifically because admissions reported to me.

All of admissions work was in person, was interaction with students, with families, so they're definitely starting to be wary of, like, what does that mean for future? Because if this continues too long. We can't. We can't continue our regular operations. What does that mean for those operations that we still have to continue in a different fashion?

00:11:00

GL: So the yeah, I know the answer to this, but I need you to explain something. You know some some employees roles were deemed if essential. You know in that they had to come to work in person. Were you among that group?

AH: I was not Umm. Some of the operations that were performed where on campus only. So for example, someone still had to come in to get the transcripts or to mail that comes into the admissions office. The same for financial aid students fell off, filled out forms and had to mail them in. So someone still had to come in and manage that. And we did have that in place. There will be one or two people that would choose to volunteer for that purpose and we would rotate them. But I was not required to be on campus during that time. And most of the staff that reported. He was not required.

GL: So during the early days of the pandemic, I mean, after you got through the trying to get, you know, meet with your staff or, you know, conduct. Your business as usual. I mean, what would you say were your biggest challenges 00:12:00during those early months of the pandemic?

AH: Umm, I think the first challenge was again kind of determining you know, how do we continue operations knowing that they're different now and for all of our my units actually that was the case because they did so much in person work with, with different stakeholders. That was the first piece. The second piece was adjusting to expectations, managing staff, checking in. This was something that was really a big one on the level of check check-ins. Just when people's Wellness, to see how they were doing. On a personal level too, because people have health conditions and family situations and all kinds of things that they were managing and and how they were getting their groceries and at the time there was still a lot of, you know, sanitizing everything and those kinds of things. So that was different. We always have regular check-ins. We have regular meetings that happen. But this was something that we spent a lot more time 00:13:00discussing how everyone was, just how they were feeling, how they were doing.

GL: And during So what? When did you first come back fully in person?

AH: Summer of 2020.

GL: Summer of 2020. OK, at that time, we still didn't have the vaccines yet. How how? You know, what were your feelings when you came back to campus?

AH: We came back and masks, of course there were required campus will still densified at the time when I came in, so it I felt safe. Actually, I was a mask. Uh, knowing that most of the interactions were going to be limited and they wear, although I also had the dichotomy of feeling like, well, we're here because because that's that's the way universities operate. But on the other hand, the interactions were so limited. Of that, it almost felt like why are we here when there's no one else here or we're not allowed to be in people's 00:14:00spaces? So at the time, I do remember, still, like, we didn't go into other people's offices and we kept our doors closed. So I felt pretty safe again because masks were required and because it's interactions were limited.

GL: The tell us about the challenges you faced in the fall of 2020, when when the campus actually was open. You know, for in person instruction, but we still didn't have those, you know, we didn't still didn't have the vaccines yet.

AH: Yeah. The biggest challenge was enrollment, honestly, because it was, it was such a disruptive year for high school seniors. Umm. And you know COVID just in general.

We we had enrollment challenges and this is by we, I mean higher education, right? We we've been hearing about the enrollment Cliff, the demographic changes.

All kinds of opinions on how that did or did not affect Wisconsin, but at the 00:15:00end of the day, you know COVID really I I think just. Contributed to A to further scrutiny over what a college experience is, not even necessarily the value proposition of a college degree, but the college experience. We had a lot of uncertainty from students who felt like why would I be coming to campus or this residential experience? Why would I be paying when this experience is going to look different, right. So we have students that change their mind, not enroll anywhere else. We had a really high number of students that just took a gap year. And this is not specific to UWO, just in general, but also we had students that decided to start and it was not what they expected. And again, for better for worse, right. It's not necessarily all negative in my opinion, because we had a such a traditional traditional deal of what college experiences. But in this case, it really it may made things difficult for students to see beyond 00:16:00that. And and maybe that's for the worse, right? The students that took that gap here, many of them have not returned even until this day. So. So that's the tough, tough reality because. You know, economic conditions, social conditions, conditions change all the time and hopefully we will not have a pandemic or situation like that in our lives lifetimes again. But that really does shape people for their life. So that was a really hard, hard, hard thing to deal with. Being able to predict what those enrollments were going to look like.

Her on the personal and professional level, believing in a value of higher education and being the product of it myself, but then not being able to convey that to students that really just had it in their mindset that they need to be on campus and have that full college experience. And if it's anything other than that, that's somehow they're not getting the full value proposition for their experience.

GL: Do you recall the the enrollment? The incoming student numbers that that fall.

00:17:00

AH: They were very low 1440, I think maybe.

GL: OK, so uh almost 200 less the fewer than the than the than the year before. OK, all right, so I mean, yeah, absolutely. That was that was incredibly challenging. UM, do you recall any, any high, any bright spots in your your years and your departments COVID response? I mean I'm I'm actually talking about from the beginning of the COVID to December the fall of 2021. I mean we're that's the that's the area the time frame that we're talking about. So is there anything that stands out to you as a positive?

AH: As a positive. Umm. Certainly I I think just just the collective. Umm I why would I even call it? Umm, coming together and and processing through things. 00:18:00And again this is kind of an interesting one because it's for better for worse. As a as a population, we were experiencing these these the situation at the same time, which is so unusual in our history, and I think there there's been so much reflection that has happened for a lot of people of, you know, where they are in life, whether what they're doing gives them the passion and the satisfaction and and and all of those things or whether they they are reconsidering again, kind of where they are in their space. So I I think there's positives that came out of that for a lot of people and. This is kind of going back to, you know, students deciding to go to college or not. Again, decisions happen in this time frame on a collective scale that has have really had kind of seismic shift, seismic shifts in people's lives. And we're still seeing those consequences today in, in my opinion. Umm, you know, kind of coming together to help women out there. You know those those were all positive. Umm, reshaping how we 00:19:00function as an institution. I think there that I think that's positive. You know there's a lot of talk about remote work and whether or not it's.

You know the right thing or not the right thing and and different different opinions having to do with that at the end of the day, we learned that our students now are expecting to have a level of flexibility when it comes to work, life balance or school life balance that was not ingrained in them before. I think that's a good thing for society. I think that's that's great that we're we're now we've we were forced to cross that threshold and are thinking about things differently. On the other hand, obviously there's a lot of. Transition that has to happen to gas to that place. So we're still struggling to figure out, you know, what all of that looks like. I mean, obviously labor shortages and and something, you know, some of the things that are happening in the labor market currently, those are all things that we are not happy with because they're impacting people's lives to such a degree. But I'm kind of thinking 00:20:00maybe that's going to be for the better 10 years from now, 20 years from now.

GL: OK. And how has your job changed because of this, the, the the pandemic?

AH: Well, the biggest change is that students behavior became even more difficult to predict. And even now you know. So for this recruitment cycle two years later. We are still surprised by the the ways students make their decisions to whether or not to enroll in, not enroll. So for example, we see students deciding to come to college 2 weeks before college starts, and that's totally fine. We've just never had as many students aren't our last Titan takeoff. Our orientation for students incoming students was almost packed to capacity because because so many students were still interested in coming that late. So those are some of the things that we have not quite seen to this degree.

00:21:00

At the same time, I think some of the things that happened in the UW system as their response to enrollment challenges and how we increased access so through things like no application fee for incoming students and test optional admission policies. Some of those things are just happen to align with this timing, so I just want to be sure to say this. For example, our covered application fee of free application campaign that's ongoing on a system level right now just happened to align with this time frame. It wasn't because of COVID, but we increased access to education at the same time, while students were really in this mindset of you know, is this the right time? Is college degree the right, the right thing for them that now? The consequence of that is more choices for students because they've they they are applying to more institutions, keeping their options open. Sometimes they don't roll at all, sometimes they they they 00:22:00you know, decide to enroll somewhere. But the way they make those decisions has become much more unpredictable for us. Whereas before we could really kind of hone in on OK, the financial aspect happens at this stage. If we attend to that, we can guide their experience. This way. The residential experience signing up for housing happens. At this stage, you know now everything is either very condensed or widespread with, you know, students who are doing things very early but have this really long time frame of making a decision and then ending up changing their mind. Sometimes at the last minute or students that make decisions very late and everything you're going so condensed. We just don't know if they're going to come. We're not come. So there's some of those things. Are happening now still and I don't know if we'll go back to the way things were before.

GL: So the when, when, when did we start the? Uh, no application fee.

AH: We started that in 2020. Actually that was the first year.

00:23:00

GL: OK.

AH: And we, UW Oshkosh was the first institution to propose this, and we were proposing this before we knew about COVID.

Umm so yeah.

GL: OK. And then how much money is that we're, I mean, how much did the the university? How much do you usually take in that you're not taking in anymore? OK.

AH: Umm, so so the fee used to be $40 and in 2020 that fee dropped to 20 as the dropped to $25 and now it's temporarily $0.00 for incoming first year students and transfers.

GL: And then usually get how many students applying and then and then how many people actually come here from the from the.

AH: We used to get about just short of 6000 applications at this point, like every year since then, we've been hitting a record numbers. This year. We went over 8000 applications and about 1500 or so. First year students start plus 00:24:00additional several 103 hundred 400 transfer students.

GL: That's not an insignificant number, I mean. Amount of money, I mean that's. Are we hurting the? I mean, I don't, I don't. I can't do my math.

AH: No, I as an institution, we're not hurting. Who was hurting? Was the student that had to pay the money. So I I think you know prior to prior to the pandemic. Umm. And again, it's just the timing aligned. It's not because of the pandemic side. I get one, just be careful, be clear about that. But there was a time where you know $40.00 so. So the reason why students have to pay the $40 was because there was processing time, people powered that wasn't involved in how we handle the applications, mailing things and and reviewing things. That process has changed significantly with everything being digitized. Highest. So there's 00:25:00less people power that goes in less time to review applications, so it made sense to lower that fee. And I came from an institution previous to this one that was in the same spot we used to charge $56 for an application fee. And it got to a point where this the population of students that we were serving, we were hearing more and more from students saying they can't afford it. We we took away the fee and and applications went up. What we gave up with that though is is the certainty that would come with. The commitment level so.

GL: Sure. Yeah.

AH: yep, Yep.

GL: Correct me if I'm wrong. I mean, you know earlier, it used to be $40 and you said that we would get about 6000, I mean back in the earlier days, I mean that's about that's almost a quarter million in fees.

AH: Yeah.I don't know how those fees were used before because they want to system so the system collected that fee and then a portion of that would come to 00:26:00the institution. So it wasn't, it wasn't something that we were collecting, UW Oshkosh, it's system was collecting it for all of the Yep.

GL: Do you think there's anything about your job that has changed? Permanently. The way you do your work because of COVID because of the pandemic.

AH: Yes, I think so. Because we we describe ourselves as there was an initial campus, which we still are, but we realized COVID covered helped us realize this faster that we cannot just rely on one population and it's a traditional residential population that we really have to diversify our subgroups of students that we recruit to the university. Rightfully so, we delivered the grease that that are appropriate for all students from all kinds of backgrounds, students with. Previous college credits adult students and and as a result of 00:27:00COVID where we're doing that better.

GL: OK. And then? I don't know if you can speak broadly on this. You know, prior to the pandemic, our student population, I mean what what was our largest student population group? You mentioned the subgroups now but.

AH: Ah, well, our total student population was just over 14,000. I think that was our highest. That includes our full complete student body. So of course we have incoming students subgroups, we have continuing student subgroups. We have students that are coming for second bachelors degrees like our accelerated nursing is an example of that. Our graduate population. So again, we have students in all of those buckets.

GL: OK. But that as I I'm trying to understand what you said in in response to 00:28:00the previous question that you you have now changed your focus from the residential.

You know.

AH: Yeah, we didn't change our focus. We expanded our focus. So it used to be that we were mostly concerned and as a matter of fact how our enrollment reporting was structured was what's the size of the incoming student population. And that tended to be too subgroups incoming first year students and incoming transfers.

Since then, and when I started here in 2019, we already we're talking about, that's not as sufficient scope of of of how we approach enrollment because that's same here even though we increased the incoming first year students, we decreased in retention part of which was a good reason because we increased graduation. So that's a good reason. But our also retention rate was sliding to was starting to slide. So that was kind of one of those times where we we were already coming to a realization we need to pay attention to the entire.

Population that is made-up of all of these subgroups that I mentioned. So our 00:29:00scope is just a lot broader this and this.

Up at this time.

GL: Can do. Do you have a group that that has expanded group greatly since COVID?

AH: I would, Sarah say our online focus has increased probably the most out of any other subgroup. We were paying attention to our graduate numbers.

We're paying attention to our transfer numbers, but the online piece is really where we saw the opportunity, not necessarily only from the perspective of growing online. True 100% online enrollments, but also how we facilitate it. The Greek completion through online options for even in person students. So this year we launched an actual initiative called UW Plus, which is a suite of online programs that are designed in a very particular way. There's seven, all of the programs. And the delivered in seven week courses. And the the target audience 00:30:00for those is adult students who may have already some credits who are not giving up their employment or their family commitments to pursue a college degree but who have a desire to do it. So we launched this actual initiative for that population. But as a result of that, too, students who would fulfill fit into the category of traditional residential students on campus are partaking in those courses by their own choice. Again, that's not our target population for those courses. But we have a very high number of students who are actually taking those online courses in addition to being on campus and taking traditional 14 week courses. So that's a big change for us.

GL: Did that program grow out of, you know, as a response for the pandemic, or was it something in, in, in, in play already prepandemic?

AH: There's been conversations in play about growing online, online presence, and that's just naturally what has been happening in the landscape of higher 00:31:00education. So, but but the pandemic, speed it up. And I will say the reason for that is because it removed the. Umm, you know, the students used to have this. The online classes used to have reputation, but somehow they're different or not as comparable to in person again for better. For worse. Our online classes were more expensive. Actually some of them still are in this UW plus initiative. They're not. But some of our online classes are more expensive. So I think there was always this this scope me that still applied to online courses. And the pandemic helped to overcome. And because now every student basically had to experience some online education. And this goes even back to, you know, K12, my own child, who was at the time in four K did a full year of of virtual 4K. That's just unfathomable to me to even think about that, that we went through that. So that removed kind of that, that scrutiny, I think, or the level of 00:32:00scrutiny that related to online education. Having said that, of course, there was a lot of criticism. With how our mind education was, the leverage during COVID for good reasons and bad and maybe maybe not so good reasons, but some good reasons. You know some some. Umm, some online education was literally just moving the curriculum online, and a lot of scholars would say, you know, that is not how online education works. And we certainly have plenty of examples of that. So they're where those bad experiences, but also the level flexibility that everyone experience as a result of it is something positive that has carried beyond into now. And I think people are just more open to online education as a result of it. Umm.

GL: You mentioned earlier that the we had some classes that are more expensive. Why? Why was it more expensive than and why is it cheaper now or why is it not expensive now?

AH: Sure. So. Uh, I'm different. Institutions have a have approached online 00:33:00education in different ways and it used to be just. Historically and more convenient way to deliver education. But with that came higher cost. There were fewer specialists and online education that really understood how to deliver that curriculum and how to make online programs work for students. With the proliferation of online degrees. Come cost started to drop and institutions realized the opposite scenario may be more financially feasible for them and that they could decrease the cost of education for all by maximizing the opportunities of online education and different collaborations across different schools by building delivering curriculum that's that's applicable to multiple schools and those kinds of things. So with that, I think that that just started to shift that landscape. The UWO Plus initiative is priced at a lower price 00:34:00point because we know that there's many factors, many reasons we're leading to it. One the population that we're focusing on is nontraditional students who want to continue to work and and or maintain family commitments. It could be argued that on one hand, maybe they have higher financial resources because they are in in the workforce. On the other hand, the opposite could be true. They're raising a family, attending to other commit financial commitments of their personal nature while trying to work, while also not meeting the requirements for most of grants in Wisconsin because they make higher income. But then, having that income devoted to those other things, giving them less flexibility to pay for education, hence keeping them stuck in a place where they can't progress in their career sufficiently. So that's that's one of kind of the multifaceted reasons why that initiative is, is a little bit less expensive to students than some of our other online classes right now.

00:35:00

GL: Tell me how? How are you involved in that? UWO? Plus, isn't that curriculum under the Provost?

AH: Yes. So it's so that that one is a lengthy explanation because that particular initiative was kicked off by an idea of a partnership with an OPM online program management company. And some institutions have gone that route, including some within the UW system where we hire company that does recruitment for us, that does marketing for us and that takes care of the coaching or academic success aspect. The the challenge with partnering with an OPM is that it comes with a cost and usually it's a pretty hefty investment on many of those companies have a revenue share model of 5050 percent, 50% of the institution, 50%. You to the company or some variation of that. I have experience with 00:36:00working with one of those from my previous institution too. So so that's what kicked off those conversations and enrollment was involved because there were, there were a lot of promises made about how that was going to affect enrollments and just some of the things that we have to think about also with my previous experience from my previous institution, I'm working with an OPM, I could bring practical experience of both onboarding as well as. Type setting the contract actually and and what that could mean for UWO at the end of the day, through shared governance conversations and many other conversations, we ended up not partnering with an OPM for this purpose and decided to do this in House instead.

GL: So hold on.

AH: And hence how I was involved.

GL: OK. So did we go with the OPM to develop UWO plus or not?

AH: It did not. OK.

AH: We did not. No, we did not. We decided in the as part of this process, we decided that we could do this in House. We were not necessarily going to do it to the same level as what was promised by the OPM. But with that, we did not 00:37:00have to share the revenue either. So we did not need to actually achieve the same enrollment projections that the company was offering to us. Then what we decided to do in House because we got to keep all of the revenue.

GL: And when does this program start again?

AH: You had already launched actually, so it started it. It was officially approved by the Board of Regents. Or do you know system I should say? And June of 2020 22. So just a couple months ago.

GL: So it it's going on right now.

AH: It's live for this fall, yes.

GL: What are your numbers? Do you have any numbers to speak of?

AH: Yeah. So we have about 20 students coming in for programs for just those program specifically for this fall, which is actually where we would expect to be for the first term, especially with two months of recruitment for that plus we have just under 200 continuing students who are taking care to who are taking advantage of those courses to progress through their degrees here. That's 00:38:00actually doubled. The number can be doubled. If we look at the number of classes that these students are taking. But as far as unique. That count, it's just under 200 students that are taking advantage in addition to the brand new incoming students that are specifically coming for those programs.

GL: OK, so let's talk about fall of 2021. Do you have the numbers for the incoming students for that?

AH: Uh, yes, we were at 1467.

GL: OK, so yeah, you went up a little bit from we went up a little bit from the year before.

AH: And I gave you the wrong number, father. The number for 2020 was in the 1380, I believe.

GL: OK, OK.

AH: Yes. Yeah, let's correct that.

GL: Alright, OK so.

AH: Because we went up quite significantly actually for fall 2021.

GL: So in the fall of 2021, are, you know, vaccines were readily available and 00:39:00we had, you know, the the administration, CDC. All in search everybody together. I mean, what were your initial thoughts about the vaccines? Your personal thoughts?

AH: Personal thoughts where? They're new. And that I hoped that they were what they were supposed to be, meaning that there was enough research that went into how effective specifically how effective they were. I wasn't as much worried about, like, the some of the conspiracy theories related to vaccines in general, but just the effectiveness. And one of the things that I do remember standing out to me was this idea of preventing COVID versus preventing deaths from COVID. And I remember very specifically one that when the vaccines came out first and I don't know if this was just the public generating this or if it came from other sources. But I remember people talking about like, well, this this is exactly 00:40:00what we needed. And now COVID is going to be done with because these vaccines are going to prevent it.

GL: Right.

AH: And that obviously then changed the rhetoric changed into their preventing death from COVID and and not, you know, not 100% preventing it, right, but preventing it to a degree. So I I definitely felt like we were making progress. I definitely felt like there was light at the end of the tunnel life by then also fell different mask wearing and those protections were a little bit that we were taking were a little bit more normalized too. So it was like, OK.

Progress in the right direction. We're again, we're getting more. We need that to get to even though it has taken a lot longer than we expected.

GL: So I mean, we're we're out. We're now over two years past, you know, when we were sent home. I mean, how do you feel? How much do you feel like it's still it's getting back to normal or what does normal feel like to you?

AH: Umm yeah, and I think my my perception may be skewed too because Umm, as as 00:41:00you know, I mentioned to you on. Private realm. I'm expecting another child right now, so I'm. Still taking more precautions than I probably would be otherwise. I also have a child, currently a 6 year old that has specific health conditions, especially respiratory issues are of concern with him, so I you know, I don't mind having some of those precautions still in place. My 6 year old is in school in a mask right now because my delivery due my delivery date is my. Excuse me is is right around the corner. So that's something that we feel comfortable with. But. I you know, I I to me normal is basically acknowledging COVID is here to stay. Coronavirus infections have been around for many, many years, which is something I never thought I would learn about, but here we are. We learned if we lined up with what sort of COVID that coronavirus infections or 00:42:00viruses have been around for a lot longer. So I think at this point, to me it's it's, you know, the virus is continuing to mutate, hoping that, you know we we get to the state where these mutations are no longer as dangerous to people and. I've acknowledged that at some point. You know most, and I I don't know what where we are with percentages, but most people would have gotten it by some point and will fare OK and immunity will start being a little bit more prevalent for everyone and and helping us to fight this off until something else comes up. And now we have monkeypox right, so it's. Yeah.

GL: So, knowing what you know now, I mean, was there anything you have done differently regarding your work here at UW Oshkosh in, in?

In relation to your your what you did at work.

AH: You know, I I don't know if I think that assuming that this was going to 00:43:00literally take two weeks before things went back to normal was helpful or harmful in all of that because I felt like I've, I've continued to hold on to like it's going to be done with it soon. You know, by this month we're going to be over all of this. So I feel like that just kind of prolonged this state of. Like, how do we go about our day today? Like, what does that mean? So I I I wish I would have gotten to that point sooner, assuming like, OK, this is here, it's going to be here for a long time. How do we get ahead of it? That was not possible for really for anyone to predict, right. Or at least I don't think it was but.

Umm, that's one thing that I wish I would have. You know, and like I said, I've taken. I've taken the very serious. It's not that I haven't, but I just remembered that experience that I described with with 911 and and like in my mind as a 17 year, 17 year old feeling like this is the safest place to be in the world. So that's why I feel like I have this level of.

It can't. It can't continue for that long. Right. I even now thinking about it like.

00:44:00

This is crazy. It's taken this long and and like I said, my my kid is still and I'm asking school. So yeah, that that I wish I could have had the foresight.

GL: So now we're we're looking at.Umm, we're in September of 2022, I mean. Do you have new challenges or the same challenges from the previous two falls?

AH: I mean, our challenge continues to be the conversation run the value proposition for a college degree. Umm, there's just so much that has. Come in and cover. Just like I said, because it was this collective state of everyone evaluating. I think where they are in their life and what's important in life. In coming to conclusions that. You know, if they're not happy with something, they can always. To something different, right? That's why we had the massive 00:45:00resignation or in the workforce and and some of those things happened. Looking at new opportunities. That are offered elsewhere and you know that's does it have to be college degree or, you know, why wouldn't a high school student? Start working for $25.00 an hour. There's opportunities to do that. How do we weigh that option over acquiring student loan debt or debt in general to go to college and then actually amplifying that by not helping students to be in the workforce because they can, they can't do both full time. Some students do. I I respect that. But but students will either go to school or they will work full time one or the other usually not both together. So I think. I think that that just became more difficult it it's just a helping students see. That value, while the competing choices are. Good choices.

00:46:00

GL: And. I mean, I don't know if you had a time, any time to breathe actually, to to think about. You know all the time that has passed. I mean, what has, you know, this pandemic and on and working remotely for part of this time and all the things that we went through, what has it taught you about yourself?

AH: Well, because we my family moved here shortly before COVID. It's been an isolating time, right? Our both mine and my husband's families are in another state.

We haven't quite had a chance to really get to know our new surroundings here, make new friends or connections to a level that. Would maybe help us all get through. Help us both get through this pandemic to a different degree so you 00:47:00know it was an isolating time. Now I'm I'm an introverted heart so but even for me it was one of those things that, you know isolation was a really was something that stuck out and and you know certainly also contributed to me wondering am I in the right place and am I am I here for a reason am I fulfilling. Umm am I fulfilled in my career but also my fulfilling my responsibilities and and those kinds of things. So just a lot of reflection that stimulated by this time. Umm. Just losing a sense of control, right? Because you've, you know, some of these stories that we've heard about. Family members and loved ones just not being able to survive this disease, you know, just being scared and worrying about all kinds of things. Umm, extreme things like it's in the air. It's everywhere to, you know, to just. Well, some people are getting 00:48:00it. Some people are not getting it. Like maybe there's some truth to like. I want the conspiracy stories, but like, you know, just a lot of this rhetoric being fueled by all kinds of things in the media. So you know, just being more skeptical. Very much being more family oriented as a result of that and I always have been anyway but but really feeling like. Wow, I have to protect my family in a way that I never thought I would have to protect my family. But then feeling like. But what can I do other than wear a mask and wash my hands, right, and stay away from sick, sick people? So. Yeah, lots of those feelings.

GL: No, I I I I think I learned that. I I need people I need. I need your interaction with people, not just on the screen, but I need. Yeah, I complain about my students a lot, but I, you know, I love my students too, and I need them. Yeah.

AH: Absolutely. Absolutely. Mm-hmm. Yeah.

GL: OK, so if you don't mind, just going to go a little bit into your personal 00:49:00life, your private life during COVID.

AH: Yes.

GL: Umm, you were living with your husband and your son at that time when you were sent home. OK. And you were following, you said earlier, I believe you said you were following all the safety, the CDC guidelines regarding the masking hand washing and social distancing. That's all. OK. I mean we all in agreement with that you and your husband. Was there any no?

AH: No.

GL: OK. OK. What happened there?

AH: No. My husband likes to plan for the worst and I'm an optimist at heart. So. So no, I would cling to. I would cling to positive stories that I would hear or read about, and he would cling to the opposite stories of just extreme.

Precautions and you know, don't open your wind. I mean, I'm. I'm exaggerating here. But you know, COVID is everywhere in the air. So, like, you can't go outside outside. We did go outside, but we were we were on the different 00:50:00spectrum there for sure.

GL: How are you all handling it? You talked a little bit about the, you know, the fact that you just had just moved and really didn't know. Get to know your neighbors and make friends because you had to shelter in place at the whole time. I'm how are you? You and your husband and your child doing at that time?

AH: we I think by spring of 2020 late spring of 2020, early summer we were we were better because the weather changed and naturally with the weather weather changes.

We we just, we couldn't stay indoors anymore, so we spent a lot of time outdoors.

Our next door neighbor happens to be a a DACA COVID doctor's hospitalist, so you know, seeing her be outside with her children and interacting with the neighbors while distancing that helped us feel like, OK, she knows more than we do. She sees this every day. Clearly, we can go do things. And and that was, you know, 00:51:00we we did start to go out, and we wrote our bikes every day. And and we did not go to restaurants quite as much at that point yet. But just branched out a little bit more at that point, so things started to look up.

GL: Did anybody you know did you get COVID or did anybody close to you get COVID and?

AH: No

GL: Knock on wood.

AH: Yeah. Not only surprised and I was like, that's the face that I make. I actually, as a matter of fact, because I'm expecting another baby right now. I use that opportunity to have my my doctor request the tighter test for me because, to be honest with you, I was in disbelief. And I assumed I have had it and did not know it. There were certainly times when since COVID started when you know, allergies or whatever else it might have been, and I've always tested with, with, with tests at home and never tested positive, but I actually was in disbelief that I the tighter seemed to have confirmed that I have not had it. Umm so.

00:52:00

GL: The I'm sorry. The what the what confirmed.

AH: A TITER test for COVID. So basically you can you can test your antibodies.

GL: Ohh.

AH: Umm, so that's I just used the opportunity right now that I'm expecting another child and requested up my doctor orders that and she did. It's a blood test and it can you know it it has some level of uncertainty because it can only go back so far. But it appears that in the night last nine months at least they did not have an active infection so.

GL: Did I mean I you don't have to answer this, but did you get the vaccine?

AH: I did, yes.

GL: But doesn't that show you the antibodies that you have or would that show that that your vaccine has some sort of antibodies to the to the COVID-19?

AH: Because I've had it so long ago, it would not have picked it up anymore because the tighter only goes to nine months and it actually has stages, apparently. So like the last. So it confirms that in the last three months you haven't had COVID with a 90% certainty or something to that effect the last six 00:53:00months, it's a 60% certainty, the last nine months 30% certainty.

GL: Wow, how do you how do you spell that? That word that that name of the test.

AH: Ohh, so a tighter test. So it's TI TER. That's just a general name for a block test that can test for certain infections. There's a specific name for the actual tighter that I had, but I couldn't tell you what it's called.

GL: OK. OK. No, no, that's cool. I I I mean. My husband had it and my one of my sons got it and my my son's mother, son and I. We haven't had it. But. We could have and had been asymptomatic, you know, and we just don't know, you know.

AH: Exactly. Exactly. Well, and I that's why I wanted to know, because to be honest with you, my theory was maybe I'm one of those lucky people, that there's something about my genetic makeup or whatever and. I didn't get that confirmation but but I was really skeptical that I did not have it. Granted, again, we've been we've been careful. But I do remember there were two or three 00:54:00times where I had allergies that can I put it in quotes because. It wasn't positive on the test, so I'm assuming it was something contagious. My son actually had RSV during this time and ended up in the hospital with RSV. So and again, we were in the hospital with him and we would assume we would catch. We traveled out of state on the plane and masks. But you know we we did all of that. We've we've been going to restaurants since. So I don't know. Yeah.Knock on wood, you know.

GL: Yep. Yep, that's right. So so I I think we covered a lot, but is there anything else you want to let you wanna add in regards to the work that you did for UW Oshkosh during this time? Was there anything that we missed?

AH: Now I think you know that the one time the point that I wanted to highlight is just.

Called it getting us to this stage of I brought up the enrollment Cliff and the 00:55:00demographic shift and all that. We knew that was happening and and some of us were attending to those fears more or less. But I think COVID just pushed, pushed all of us into that space. Right. And and many institutions really just.

Suffered as a result of that, while very few still did fine. So I think that was one thing that I wanted to just highlight that in the collective effect that that reflection had during COVID time on people wondering if their life is where they want it to be and if they're in the right place and they're happy with their family life, career life and those kinds of things. So those are some things that stand out to me that's I will be reflecting on for many years.

GL: do wanna ask you something else. Uh, frankly, I I don't think I've ever met you in person. OK, but I've seen you in the zoom calls the town meetings with the with the chancellor. So I feel like I've seen you. OK, so that was a role 00:56:00that you really you're kind of was was was sort of thrust in, right when you had to make your reports. Tell us about that a little bit. You know what were you asked to do when the Chancellor would just hand yesterday Aggie? Tell us about this, you know, So what did you have to do?

AH: Sure. So most much of what I do is is basically predict enrollments with with some controllable factors in some uncontrollable factors. Umm yeah. And I would say, you know, the fall let me back up or right after COVID started, that was the hardest point of having to estimate them because estimating enrollments at that point was just a shot in the dark. And that was for everyone. And I definitely was very susceptible to what was happening in the landscape of higher education. Just hearing about how bad it's going to be. So we were, we were being conservative in our projections, which ended up being better than what we expected. And that allowed us to kind of position their institution in the 00:57:00financial. Position that helped us to overcome some of our struggles. I don't know if you remember. We had farlows at the time they affected different groups differently, but that was that was one of those situations where like. Leadership was looking to me and and others to to help us understand where we're going to be so we can make those decisions. And like I said, it was one of those situations where it was a shot in the dark. No one could have known where we were going to end up. So you know, typically what I do in those situations and this is this is just what happens in enrollment anyway. We look at, you know, while we control and what we can anticipate from that and then try to cover for the uncontrollables and the number of uncontrollables during COVID were just was just really high.

GL: Prior to COVID, did you ever have to? I mean, they're in the town meetings sometimes we have, you know, 500 people or, you know, which is huge for, you 00:58:00know, usually opening day. We don't have that. Many people show up, you know, so you'll also on you have to, like, make a report to all these people. And did you guys feel like you were Umm, being the bearer of bad news.

AH: There's always an even now I think there's always a level of of, you know, something coming up. I remember my first year here. It was a question that was asked about why we're not part of the common app. So our students can only use the system application to apply. We're not on the common app application platform and and that was one of those things that kind of threw me off because. And I remember this very vividly because what I wanted to say at the time is getting more applications actually wasn't necessarily part of our challenge and was getting those students to come here. So having another platform for students to apply. Wouldn't necessarily have that impact. So sometimes those things, the questions that come up are. I guess the context of them were the impression that 00:59:00people have like, well, if we just get more applications, we get more students, right? Not necessarily, because we have to think about wireless students applying the common app platform, in particular, attract students from other countries, especially international students, which is a good thing. But also, we don't have a strong international student presence on our campus. It's continuing to grow again. But that was one of, you know, so, so those things come up when when those enrollment reports are put together. I welcome them and frankly I don't have all of the answers, so that always generates extra conversation. I would say enrollment is not one person's job and it truly is not. I am not driving the ship on my own and nor would any other enrollment person. I believe that's my personal belief. Maybe others would disagree with me, but I I can only impact so much as a person. It's it's the people that are doing the work really that are making the difference, but also, you know, 01:00:00accounting for all of those factors that are contributing to enrollment. Is very, very difficult because there's just so many of them so. Yes, I was. Yep.

GL: When prior to COVID, I mean part coming UW Oshkosh were you and enrollment person too at another institution. OK, all right so.

Prior to that, I mean, did you ever have to make an A report to so many people at once before?

AH: I have. Yes, I have had to do on the best, but that was a much smaller group because I worked prior to this role. I worked for a private institution, so our enrollments were much smaller than they are here. I've been at two other public institutions prior to that, but in in different roles.

GL: Well, I just, well, I was telling you about this. When you do your your usual report, do you use the report to the faculty and staff or do you make your report to your administration or your your supervisor prior to COVID?

AH: I do. I hope it's for both, because the report that I usually share has not really shifted at all that much, and it usually accounts for all of our 01:01:00enrollments. So it's it's the continuing student population as well as the incoming student population. I break it down by campuses.

GL: No, no, no. What I meant was, did you make the report? I mean, like, actually present the report. I don't think I've ever seen a report from an enrollment person before COVID. But during COVID, I saw your face at every every town meeting. OK. And then you always made a report. Is that is that something? I mean, that was just new, right? And that was new for because of COVID. I mean you don't usually make up a personal report to the faculty and staff as it calls a call a meeting and say, oh, I guess not going to speak about our enrollment numbers. I don't think I've ever seen that before.

AH: I you know what you're helping me realize something, grace? Yeah, because I actually was never told. Like, for example, when when Chancellor used to have those town halls more frequently, right now they're going to come back. But when we had very frequent townhalls during COVID, no one has ever said to me like you 01:02:00actually have to be in all of them. But inevitably, enrollment was always covered in one of them. In all of them. So I ended up being in all of them as a result of that, because someone would send me a question afterwards or I have to respond to something. So I I do think that was new. Yes, I think that there was just such a level of uncertainty and so many questions as a result of that. I don't think there were many enrollment questions prior to those things that would come up in those meetings.

GL: yeah, I I gotta say that that. It's the first time I've heard of them in in, in in such a in concrete way, you know. Yeah. So I I just want to bring up ask you about that, OK.

AH: You know Grace still? I wonder if it's a result of more of that mentality shift that enrollment is not one person's job that we all need to care about enrollment. And I remember when I started here, we talked a lot, leadership talked a lot about recruiting students everywhere. Faculty and staff go. If 01:03:00there's an opportunity to recruit students, do it right. And now the conversation is much more about retention because we're suffering with our retention and it's the same thing. What is our individual responsibility and our current role on our campus. So I wonder if part of it is Joe's dad. It's just getting people's buy in like it's all of our job.

GL: Do you have? I know you're going to have the baby very soon, but Umm for the campus COVID stories book, I would like to have. I mean, I'm sure one of my students will probably reach out and I want to who's who, which one of your your staff people. For the numbers. I'd like to get our numbers like pre COVID to during the COVID years of of of our enrollment and then our retention numbers can we get those for like the you know like like like 2 years before COVID and then up to now.

AH: Yep, yeah. We can do that.

GL: And then I how how much time are you taking off, I mean?

AH: Six weeks.

01:04:00

GL: OK all right.

AH: I'll be off for six weeks and then six weeks remotely from there.

GL: Sure, sure. No, I I did something similar with my with my. I had to save up all my vacation. This is an industry I was not here, but it doesn't seem long enough. But it is what it is.

AH: It's no and you know, being born in Europe, in Europe and Poland, you know that that's a year long maternity leave fully paid for by the government.

GL: Wow, that's amazing. Ohhh my gosh.

AH: So yeah, so we we are not very lucky here in this country we've added, but you know there's other benefits.

GL: Well, that's that's that's aspirational, yeah.

AH: Yes, yes it is exactly.

AH: Thank you, grace. It's a pleasure.

GL: Alright, Aggie, thank you so much for sharing your stories with us. We appreciate your contribution to campus COVID stories that UW Oshkosh. Thank you. Alright. I'm. I'm just going to stop the recording for a second here. All right.