Interview with Alayne Peterson, 06/03/2022

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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´╗┐GL: This is Grace Lim interviewing Alyane Peterson on Friday, June 3 2022. For Campus COVID stories. Campus COVID Stories is a collection of oral stories from students and staff at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh about their experiences in the time COVID. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. Before we get started, could you please state your name and spell it for us?

AP: My name is Alayne Peterson, a l a y e n e p e t e r s o n.

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

AP: I am an associate professor of English at the Fond du Lac campus.

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

AP: I'm originally from Sagamore hills, Ohio. I got a bachelor's degree, Cum 00:01:00laude, in philosophy and English literature. I went on to get a master's degree at the University of Toledo, also in Ohio. And then I went on for a Master of Fine Arts in writing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

GL: And what did you learn? Or did you earn your bachelor's?

AP: Bachelor's was from Hiram College? In Hiram, Ohio? H I R A M.

GL: Okay. And how did you come to work at UW Oshkosh?

AP: I started in the UW system at the Waukesha campus of what is now UW Milwaukee, which is one of the access campuses. It was the former University of Wisconsin colleges. And I worked there for a couple of years, and then a 00:02:00position opened up on the Fond du Lac campus and I moved up this way.

GL: And when was that? And what was your position there?

AP: I moved to the Fond du Lac campus in the fall of 2004. And I was instructional academic staff. So an adjunct at the time, and then a tenure track position opened up and I interviewed for it in and I started on the tenure track in 2005. So I have been at Fond du Lac for nearly 18 years of the 20 years I've been in the UW system.

GL: And you are now tenured,

AP: I am tenured. I was tenured in 2011. I just went through my post tenure review through the College of Letters and Science just this spring. Good to go.

00:03:00

GL: Okay, and then pre COVID. So we're talking early spring of 2020. What was your position then?

AP: Teaching mostly sections of the writing-based inquiry seminars, which are now just Writing 188. And I taught a section of it was called Literature of Nature in the UW Colleges catalog. It's now English 243. And I was teaching a section of creative writing, Intro to creative writing at the time, so I had 95 students. Total.

GL: Total. Okay. All right. And let's move to the early days of COVID. Down do call the first time you heard about this virus.

AP: I would say beginning of February, I started to hear news. I was starting to 00:04:00hear news reports of something that was similar to the SARS 2 virus that went around. But that it sounded like it was going to be a little bit more contagious. And I started to make preparations. Actually I teach science fiction and with a focus in dystopic and post-Apocalyptic lit. So there's a lot of post-Apocalyptic literature out there that starts with a virus and things go sideways fairly quickly. So, you know, we started to pay attention to making sure that we had cleaning products and hand sanitizer and there was a point where we went out and there was nothing on the shelves, everything was gone by 00:05:00the time the beginning of March rolled around because people were starting to become more aware of how serious this was.

GL: So you were actually preparing before we got our official word that we were going to go remote.

AP: Yes. So many years ago, when I lived in Chicago and was going to school, I read an essay in the New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell about the thawing permafrost in Alaska. That was they were finding 1918 flu pandemic victims who had been buried just beneath the permafrost. And as it was melting, they were bringing them up. And what they discovered was that that virus was still alive in in the frozen corpses. And so this would have been probably 1998 or so. I thought, 00:06:00well, all right, that's a little creepy and scary. And so when this started to come around, I started to read news articles. I'm not a historian by training or by trade, but my mother was a middle school and high school English teacher, or I'm sorry, History teacher. And so I'm interested in history. So I just started to read what happened during the 1918 pandemic, and how long did it go on? And to my surprise, it lasted three years. So I, when this started to happen, I thought well, maybe you know, this was entirely a possibility, because it had happened this way before. So yes, I was sort of preparing ahead of time, mainly 00:07:00just because I am interested in. In emerging diseases in a world that's out of balance.

GL: Tell us a little bit about the camp, your campus.

AP: The Fond du Lac Campus is on the eastern edge of Fond du Lac. It is on the prairie. It's a small campus, at our highest number of students, I think the one year may, we may have had a little over 700 FTE. And that was probably 12 or 13 years ago. So we've we're a very small campus. And our class sizes are small they are we don't have room, we don't have classrooms that can seat more than 35. Really. So not densely populated, I guess is how I would characterize it.

00:08:00

GL: So that spring, how many students were taking classes at that campus?

AP: Oh, that I don't know. My classes were three of the four of them were at capacity. So they were full. And so I think we had a pretty good enrollment, maybe 400. I would have to get back to you.

GL: That's fine. And then, so tell us about, you know, what happened when you got official word, um, Who informed you that this is, you know, we're going to go remote or go that would send everybody home.

AP: The email from the chancellor, so I had been watching. Also news coming out 00:09:00of the out of the system. And what was going on with the Board of Regents and because I was supposed to travel, the week that the week after the announcement came was my annual conference that I go to every year in Orlando. And there was still some question as to whether or not they were going to allow travel or, or and whether or not the conference was even going to go forward. Because by that point, we knew that it was spreading and we knew it was spreading from close contact in you know, in large groups and so things like getting on an airplane moving through an airport, just so I was not going to go without a mask and hand sanitizer. I had I had a contingency plan in place, but my conference decided that it wasn't going to go at all on the same day. that the chancellor announced 00:10:00that we were going to have to shift to virtual. And I was teaching my creative writing class that afternoon. And I went in and I said, I'm really sorry. But this is going to be our last face-to-face class this term. And I had a student who just let out a wail. Because and when I said, or what's wrong, and she said, this, this class is the only thing that makes my life bearable right now. Because work sucks, and you know, everyone, all of my other classes, everything's hard. This is my fun class. And I really look forward to coming in here two days a week, it's a relief.

GL: You told your students that it's going to be the last face-to-face for the term, even though the chancellor had written we're going to go offline. Oh, I 00:11:00get it. Okay.

AP: Yeah. Because we were going to do that work over the over spring break, to shift everything online, because we weren't sure how, how long it was going to take. So I may not have said it was for the term I actually don't remember exactly i or all I can remember was telling them that we weren't going to be having face to face class for a while. And this, this student was extremely upset by that, you know, not because she disagreed with the decision just because my class was a safe place for her to come and be creative and have some fun. So.

GL: So at that point, you were teaching three, or four, four classes, man, what was going through your mind regarding how to do this virtually.

AP: I, as part of the UW Colleges, I had had training in online pedagogy and 00:12:00hybrid pedagogy. So I was already I would say fairly well prepared to have to shift some things over. I'm not very good at making videos. But no one had to, that wasn't the primary thing was just making sure that we could get our materials in into an online format. And it had been my habit for Well, since 2008, to post my lecture materials, or outlines, and the assignment sheets and documents and things into weekly modules for my students, so that if students missed a class, they could just go to the course website and find the things that they missed, and then look it over. And then if they had questions that could come to office hours or email me. So I already had a lot of my materials 00:13:00posted. The trick was coming up with alternative assignments, for projects that I had had that were going to involve small groups, and that kind of small group work that I do a lot in writing classes. So that was what I spent Spring Break doing was rejiggering those, those last couple of assignments and figuring out how to accommodate students that I knew, lived in rural areas and did not have access to broadband internet, and they were going to be trying to log in on their phones where they could get a Wi Fi signal. So there, there was a lot of that, trying to plan for that and try to trying to figure out how to accommodate them. So that they would pass so that they could feel like, you know, even 00:14:00though things were greatly disrupted, that there were still some things that they could count on that would be solid and clear. And that was my classes,

GL: how to deal students. You know, do I mean they, you know, technology wise, you know, if you don't have Wi Fi you can't get on canvas. I mean, you can't do anything really.

AP: It was it was difficult for some of them. One of the things that I was really grateful for was the material that was coming from CETL, the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning with what you know, websites for Wisconsin Public broadband access, like where could you go, where were places to send people so that they could access the internet if they didn't have really good connection at home because the thing .With going all online was that everyone 00:15:00did it. So our students who had younger siblings at home, you had, where you had Internet access for maybe one or two devices that were streaming things at a time, you now had four or five people who were all trying to. So I did as much as I could to make the rest of the term asynchronous. And then I kept class time sacred, I guess, so that they could log in, and I would be there. So it wasn't I wasn't trying to conduct class that way, because I knew that there were. And I had a lot of students who emailed me and said, Well, my work is bumping up my hours. And now I can't come to class. And I said, don't worry about it. You just check in when you can ask me questions. And honestly, the students who were 00:16:00doing all right, before everything went sideways, did find a number of them brought grades from, you know, they were floating in C and D territory, they brought their grades up to B's, and in a couple of cases and A's because they stopped having to go to campus and find parking and do all of the stuff. They could just log in, look at the module on. I think, where are we still on camera? No, that was the first one that was also the first semester of Canvas, right? So they could log in and find the week find the materials and move through it. And I made deadlines. A lot looser than I normally do in a non COVID semester. Because I knew that a lot of them were struggling.

GL: If you had to compare the instruction that you gave, doing that this way 00:17:00versus what you do in the in the physical classroom in the you know, in person, I mean, are we measuring? Is the content? I don't know, I'm trying to say, you know, what I'm trying to say is, is it the same?

AP: Um, I don't think it's the same. I don't think one is necessarily worse than the other. I think that there are a lot of things that you can do in an online classroom. That are, it's somewhat more difficult to do them in a face-to-face setting. Because with a face-to-face setting, you have class at a set time, and you have students who will show up totally unprepared, they haven't done the reading, they're, they're just they're coming because you have an attendance 00:18:00policy. And with an asynchronous online format, they can get the work done in their own time, as long as they meet. You know, I still had deadlines, like you had to have your discussion done by x day and you couldn't do it late. They did the discussions like I had 23 creative writing students and all 23 of them did the discussions and have their and gave their peers feedback on work as we continue to move through the term and work on the final project. And the only difference was that instead of having my students present during the last class, which was kind of the final, everyone posted their work, and then we could all look at it. So so it was different. I know that many of my colleagues may think 00:19:00that online education is a like a poor, distant third to the ways that we work with students, especially if we got into it, not ever thinking that we were going to be sitting in front of a computer screen trying to teach and I will be perfectly honest, that when I got the training, I was not really planning to use it as much as I ended up using it because my personality comes through in a face to face setting when I have the give and take and the and the and the visual micro expressions on students faces when they're getting or they're not getting whatever I'm trying to talk to them about. You feel if I look out on a sea of blank faces, I know that they're confused and I need to back up. That doesn't 00:20:00happen in the online setting, except where you will have students who will just put in the chat. I'm sorry, I don't understand. Can you go back and do this thing? Yes, I can. And so there are ways to do things that are interactive, and, and that students actually enjoy. And they're because they're so used to using chat technology. And, and that kind of thing. I don't, I don't see why we can't leverage that. Like, I think it's a good thing that we are flexible with our modalities. Because our students need it. Their lives are a lot more complicated, I think, than ours were when we were going through school. I mean, I was in undergraduate and graduate school in the 1990s, you know, the world was 00:21:00a different place 30 years ago.

GL: So, um, you know, the feedback you got from students for that that spring semester? I mean, where are you getting emails from? are often students about something outside of work? Or?

AP: Do you mean, like, were they emailing

GL: me about concerning concerns? I mean, what kind of feedback are we getting from them?

AP: They were very stressed out. And part of that had to do with some of them were living at home, the Fond du Lac Campus is different than the Oshkosh campus, because the majority of our students are commuters. And the end, they do live at home, or they live with a significant other, or they're just a variety 00:22:00of situations that we have with students. And a lot of our students work 2535 Some of them work full time jobs and are trying to go to school, either full time or as close to full time as they can manage. So I was I would get emails, just, you know, and some of them were starting to get COVID because they were working and exposed and the mask mandates being, you know, challenged and expiring. And like even with a mask mandate, there were a lot of people who refuse to wear them. And so, you know, I was navigating having students who were getting sick, and that and that actually happened a lot more in the fall of 21. Even though we had really good vaccination rates among our students, they were 00:23:00still getting sick. And so it was, it was tricky to make sure that they were able to get the work done so that they weren't having an incomplete hanging out there are and other things. So my Yeah, a few of them. I had one who was helping her boyfriend take care of his developmentally disabled younger brother. And so she would log in, she would log in, from, you know, from the little basement room where they were and you know, he would wave and he was very excited to see what is college like, and what is this class like? So there were some there were some bright spots. In all of this. I got connected to some students in ways that I don't always get connected with them when they're, they come in to a 00:24:00face-to-face class. And then they kind of wander out I had for most of the end of spring. And then through the fall of 21 I had students who would stay five or 10 minutes after class just to chat and about nothing. Like not even about the course itself just they wanted to talk to someone.

GL: So tell us about the fall of 2020 were you teaching in person or online or hybrid?

AP: I was teaching fully online. And so three sections of writing 188 And my English 270 which is a British lit survey. And that that's a mat it's monsters on the fantastic so all Have the reading selections have some kind of fairies or 00:25:00dragons or, you know, crazy things happening and British lit? So, yeah, and I should probably follow up I was when I said Fall of 2021, I meant fall of 20.

GL: What made you fall 20, the administration said we could come back in person we gave the faculty, I guess a choice, what made you decide to teach remotely

AP: the Spanish Flu of 1918. Combined with the political atmosphere, and the challenges to the governor's mask mandates, I did not want I wanted to keep my kids, I kept my kids home, because there was also the option for in person schooling through the Plymouth School District, which is where my children go to 00:26:00school. I did not want to teach face to face, I didn't feel like it would be the safest option. And because I was already comfortable doing the online in the online environment, I had three synchronous classes and one asynchronous class. And it turned out to be the best choice because I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in the second week of fall 2020. So in September, in the second week of the semester, I was told that I had an aggressive form of breast cancer and was going to require treatment, chemo chemotherapy infusions every three weeks through February, and that those 00:27:00treatments would get I would get progressively sicker from them. Because it is a very tightly controlled form of poisoning. And so it worked out okay, that I was online because I was able to continue to teach and do my job. Even as I was getting sicker and sicker. I did tell my students early because I was going to lose all of my hair. And prior to prior to the diagnosis, I had a huge mane of wavy, wavy brown hair that I was going to lose. So I told them, and I told them that I would do my level best to keep everything as normal as possible. And I 00:28:00think I only missed one class because I was too sick to be on camera. I started the class and was unable to continues. So I just emailed everyone and said, Here's what we're going to we're just going to do this asynchronously today. Here's what I would like you to do. And my students went and did it. And my student surveys, the student opinion surveys, the SOS forms were the responses were when students were really generous. I am very grateful in a weird way that we were online because if we hadn't been I would not have been able to continue teaching. For as long as I did. I made it to the end of the fall term in 00:29:00December of 20. And I ended up having to take the spring of 21 off because I was too I was too sick to get out of bed in January, February and March. Pretty much so

GL: Do you mind? My asking? How was your cancer discovered? Was it a routine checkup or?

AP: No, I just found a lump in the shower and I thought it was a cyst and but I called my I called my OBGYN office and said I found a lump and they got me in the following morning. And my she said yes, that's definitely a lump. She sent me down. I got in for a mammogram the same day and they couldn't tell what it was and If I had not I had been due for a mammogram in February of 2020. And I 00:30:00had was going to have it done in March over spring break March of 2020. And the hospitals all shut down all non-essential, and that was deemed a non-essential and non-essential appointment appointments. So, I just pulled it off, and then all of a sudden, here's the lump. And I went in for a biopsy. The following morning, and two days later, the diagnosis was back that it was cancer, and it was it was hormone negative, but her two positive, which is, it's a fast growing, aggressive form of cancer. So

GL: What stage was it?

AP: Two A.

GL: Okay, so you finished the fall of 2020? And were there any challenges aside 00:31:00from your, your health that you encountered with your teaching and your in dealing with the students?

AP: Yes. So the synchronous writing 188 classes, I would have saw a challenge was that I would have students who would log in. And then because I did not require cameras, because even there were days where I wasn't able to use my camera because I live in a rural area. I didn't require cameras, so I would have students who would log in, and then just it's dead space, I know. And then when I'm ready to end the class, and I would ask for questions or what and start to go to end the session, everybody's logging out and saying goodbye. And then there's, you know, three or four students who are still in the session, clearly 00:32:00not paying attention. So there was an there was definitely a correlation between the students who approached the class that way. And then their final grade for the term because they weren't engaging with the course the way that I had designed. And so that was a thing. It was also unexpectedly difficult to teach to a sea of little black silhouettes. I had never had that as an experience. And it was it was unsettling. It felt a lot like I was pouring energy and my love for my subject. And what I my love for what I'm doing, I felt like, there were 00:33:00times when I was pouring all of that into a black hole that was in the shape of a student. So that was so that was a challenge. Another challenge with the asynchronous class was that a lot of them signed up, and then didn't do any work and didn't respond to emails. And I do Early Alerts every semester for every class. And they weren't responding to me. And when I reached out to our to student, student services, folks, who are our student advisors, there, their response to me was, we're not getting through to them, either. We're leaving messages we're emailing, they're just they just vanished. And I don't know, what 00:34:00research is being done on why that happened. I'm not I don't know. But the disengagement was a major factor for me. But the students who engaged Did, did well.

GL: Did you find that the disengagement of the students, were they higher during this time of COVID? Or it was about the same as pre COVID numbers?

AP: It was not the same as pre COVID numbers, I don't think. So. One of the things that I do just for my own peace of mind is I keep track of my own drop failing withdrawal rates. And I have since I started in the UW system, because I want to make sure that the reason that students are not getting through my class is not me and what I'm doing. Is it something else that is going on in the students lives and that rate of drop or fail or withdraw in the fall of 21. In 00:35:00the asynchronous class was much higher than it was in the synchronous classes, I still had some students who kind of just fell off or were overwhelmed. Or were working, like I had students who would log in from class, like, I'm on my break. And they're, they're logged in. And you can see there's a storeroom and stuff behind them, and they're there in class. And then they're like, Okay, I have to go, my boss is coming to work. So they had a lot of challenges. And so I'm, I'm unsure whether or not it's just that the world is insane. And they, this was 00:36:00just the straw that broke the camel's back that they just could not keep going with the work. Or if or if they just weren't ready, because I think the other thing that happened with the pandemic was that those students that we got in the fall of 21, had had an abrupt shift that they were not prepared for, and their teachers weren't prepared for my kids, teachers. were suddenly having to teach through Google Classroom. And it was. God bless them because it was a nightmare for them and for the kids. And so there's a it just as kind of a rolling disaster, I guess.

GL: It talks about the challenges of, you know, the way you did your work. I 00:37:00mean, what was your engagement with the students? And what are there things that you were able to do that you're incredibly proud of, in regards to your, what you do here at the university? During that time,

AP: during this time? Yes. I managed to keep my students engaged and showing up for class synchronously, online, like my attendance was, I would say, attendance in the online synchronous sessions was better than my average attendance during a regular face to face class, I can have anywhere from, you know, 10%, to a quarter of the missing on any given day because of car trouble, or they didn't wake up in time to get to class because they don't live on campus. They, I had 00:38:00class at 9:10am and 11:30am, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, synchronously. And they my students were waking up, rolling over rolling out of bed and turning on their computers logging in showing up for class. Some of them were staying late to talk to each other, like I would leave the I would leave things open for them, because they would be engaged in the discussion, like, Okay, I'll come back in and close it down later. So in some ways, it was just like it is in face to face where they started, they talk to each other before class, and they talk to each other after class. And that is something I'm very proud of that I set it up so that the room would open a few minutes ahead of time. And it will, and then I 00:39:00figured out how to set it to close like 15 minutes after the session would have ended in the face-to-face class. And they took advantage of it. They helped each other which was awesome. I don't give tests. So mostly it was they would give each other help with the assignments or clarify or, you know, one student would ask another about something and they would say, Well, why don't you ask Peterson she's still here. And okay, yes, you're on the right track or no, you want to go back and reread this section. And so in some ways, I was able to keep the sorts of things that make a face to face interaction with students possible. So that that's that is definitely something I'm proud of.

GL: Tell me What did you do during the summer of 2020? Is that right?

00:40:00

AP: Yes, in summer of 2020, I worked with the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. And Jordan Landry organized a series of workshops to help all of our colleagues figure out how to move their courses into a fully online format, either synchronous or asynchronous. And I helped with those workshops. And I also did course reviews for instructors who had applied for the stipends to do this kind of reimagined a reworking of a particular course, for that they were going to be teaching in the in the fall of 2020. So I think I reviewed close to 30 different courses across the college of nursing College of Business College 00:41:00of Letters and Science and the College of Education and Human Services. So I got to see courses from colleagues all across the university, and it was impressive, it was a Herculean task, to take materials that you were not used to presenting in an online format and making a plan to accommodate students and change your mode of teaching to a way that a lot of a lot of my colleagues were not familiar with the online format at all, they've never taught hybrid, and many of them weren't familiar with Canvas, or, or any kind of online teaching platform. And so it was it was a very, very heavy lift for these people. And, um, I've just 00:42:00want to say that I'm really proud to work with people who care this much. It meant a lot.

GL: How were you? How did they come to you to assist in this project?

AP: I knew Jordan is in the English Department. And Jordan was aware that I had some online pedagogy experience and I think also Caroline Geary may have forwarded my name, and also Martin Rudd, who is the Associate Vice Chancellor for the access campuses. Like, the advantage of being very small campuses is that we all know each other, and we know who has, I guess content experts has expertise in certain areas, and I happen to be available in the summer and 00:43:00willing to do it. So that was the why. Basically, volunteered to help. And it was in place of working on my novel, I just shelved that. And then I had to shelve it for last summer. So that's what I'm gonna do when I get home today.

GL: In the fall of 2021, were you teaching in person or hybrid or?

AP: No, I went back to full time in person. Okay.

GL: And, and how did that go?

AP: It went really well. I wore a mask all the way all the way through until the chancellor said that we didn't have to anymore and my students did not give me a hard time about wearing masks. A couple of them grumbled a little bit at the start. But after that, everybody it was just a matter of course, we all everybody wore masks and I was able to go back to doing things the usual way. 00:44:00However, I will say that the disengagement and drop off was significant. In person person in a spin this law is in the spring of 22. Definitely. At least for me, I don't and I think that was why CETOL and the USP and a couple of other I think academic supportive, inclusive excellence. We had that roundtable discussion about the disengagement that we were seeing in the classroom and this was across colleges and it's it's national, it's not a it's not an Oshkosh problem, or, or an access campus problem. It is. There's something going on culturally. And I would say that its COVID has opened up a lot of cracks or at 00:45:00least shine the light on where the worst cracks are in our social safety net and the systems that we depend on for things to function smoothly. And I think that the students are just there. I think they're overwhelmed endlessly.

GL: Like when they just move on to, you know, when you heard about the vaccines, I mean, what were your initial reactions to the vaccines?

AP: I got vaccinated on March 10, of 2110 days after I had surgery to take the my tumor out. As soon as it became available. I went and got one and as soon as my because I was a university employee, we got access earlier than some other folks did. But as soon as the vaccines became available, everybody in my family 00:46:00got one because that I get a flu shot every year, because I don't want to get the flu. The last time I had the respiratory flu was actually in spring of 2019. That was the other reason that I took this virus very seriously. Because I had gotten a flu shot. And I got the flu anyway. And I was sick for three weeks. With I think it was influenza A it was whichever one of the flus that year that the vaccine didn't cover. And when I finally went in, when I got back from a trip because I came down with it while I was away, and I got home, and I went to urgent care. And they said, Oh, you know they did and they did a test. And they said, Oh, yeah, you have the flu. I said, Well, I got the shot. And they said, 00:47:00Well, if you're this sick now, you wouldn't be you would probably have been hospitalized if you had not had a flu shot. And I said, Oh, well, that's an argument for getting a flu shot every year, even if it doesn't cover the version that is currently available. So I am not vaccine hesitant. I guess you I'm a person who has looked at the fact that we eradicated polio. And we did a lot. We've done a lot of other things that make it possible for us to live through diseases that might otherwise kill us. So as soon as they became available, I went

GL: How much do you feel like times, you know, it's been a little over two years, that things are getting back to normal.

AP: Normal, is relative. I'm still not comfortable around large groups of 00:48:00people. And I probably am done going to concerts. I actually I flew to Los Angeles, right after this. May I flew out May 18. To visit friends and see an exhibit I was one of probably five people on the plane wearing a mask and I had I wore a KN 95 The entire time from I walked into the airport with a mask on and I didn't take it off again except to drink water and have a snack until I got to Los Angeles like six hours later than I should have. And it was really 00:49:00interesting because the recorded message on the flights that I was on reminded people that though the mask mandate had expired or the you're not required by the FAA to wear a mask, some people would choose to wear a mask and don't bother them. And conversely, if somebody if the person next to you chooses not to wear a mask, don't bother them either. So I don't know normal relative and I'm still trying to get my brain to work properly after chemo and the I met with my oncologist this morning just before this interview and he said that it can take more than a year after your last infusion for your brain to recover from the 00:50:00damage that gets done because it is taking place on a cellular level. So I want things to be normal, but I'm not sure that they that they will be. And I think we're going to see trauma from this for a number of years. You know, my, my son, my daughter is starting college in the fall, and my son is 13. And he is still nervous about being around large groups of people. And we encourage our children to continue to wear masks in the fall, and my son was bullied at school for wearing a mask. On the day that I took him and his supplies into the middle school. And this was back in late August of 21. There were probably 300 people 00:51:00in the building, and he and I were the only ones wearing masks. So I normal is now I look at the people in my town and I look at and I just wonder why. Why are you like this? Sorry.

GL: Um, I'm gonna shift a little bit back to your the work? I mean, what do you think, you know, working through the, during the pandemic has changed the way you do your work. I mean, it hasn't changed some aspects of it permanently.

AP: Ah, we so on the on a more macro level, my department meets via teams now, or zoom, I actually don't remember, I think it's Teams were doing more work 00:52:00visually, virtually visually. That makes it easier for me to attend department meetings. When we were first merged into one big university, the department meetings were face to face. And so it is, for me, it's a 35-minute trek up here from my campus, find parking, you know, hoof it, wherever I got to. However far that is 15 minutes. So a meeting that takes an hour and a half is now a two hour plus proposition because then I have to turn around and go back to my campus or go home. And for me home is an hour and 15 minutes from here. So I have been very happy about being able to join meetings and the strategic planning 00:53:00committee meetings have all been virtual via teams. And, and that makes things much, much easier. In some ways. I know that a lot of people remember the old way of doing it, which was every you know, all 25 people who are on the committee are in one big room and you have a board with post it notes. And there's a lot of moving around and talking and you know, split off in your groups that way. But we, my group created, we created documents, Word documents, and took notes and kept track of things. And it was, I think, a little bit more efficient that way. So I'm hoping that that virtual meetings continue, or at least the option to join meetings virtually continues because it makes the 00:54:00participation of folks from the access campuses much more likely and less onerous. than it otherwise night.

GL: And what has a living and working during a global pandemic has taught you about yourself.

AP: I'm more resilient than I ever gave myself credit for. I can plan and carry out a wide variety of tasks and also manage my house. And my kids, I was also managing my kids learning. My daughter left so because she's a motivated self-starter but my younger child online was very difficult for him because he didn't really care Want to pay attention? So I'm really a better manager than I 00:55:00than I ever thought I could be. And I don't know, trying to try to come up with something good. And everything just sort of went out.

GL: That's all right. And, you know, again, we're two and a half years, a little over two years pass, when we were actually sent home, knowing what you know, now, is there anything you will have done differently in regards to the way you're doing your work?

AP: No, I don't, I don't think so. I worked really hard to be student centered in my teaching. And that didn't change. The circumstances that were surrounded 00:56:00like what all of us were having to deal with, because I was I was also scared, and worried and anxious. I mean, I'm an anxious person anyway. So this just dialed everything to 11. I worked to remain cognizant of the challenges that the students were facing, that were new as new to them as they were to me. And the main guiding principle was to extend as much grace as possible, still have deadlines, still have work that needs to be completed, I still had rubrics, I still had standards. But as far as I was able to extend grace when they needed it, I gave it and then in turn, when I needed it, when I couldn't keep up with 00:57:00the grading load because my brain just stopped working properly. And I would apologize and say, I'm really sorry, I haven't gotten you feedback on this. And the response that I got in, in a wave was, it's okay, it's okay. Don't worry about it. We're fine. We're getting things out of the class. We really were learning all about, you know, Victorian England and the way that poor people lived and I, we're fine. We're okay. And it was really good.

GL: You mentioned that you have two children at home, or were you living with other people?

AP: We have, it's me and my husband Tony and our daughter Katie and our son Xander. And then one of my friends who was teaching in western Pennsylvania at 00:58:00the time. We weren't sure if they were gonna shut everything down. And she was all alone in western pa her family's in Arizona. So we just told her when things started to close in March. And her school shifted to online as well. We just said come on, come stay with us. So because we have a guest room in our basement. And so Aunt Carrie came and stayed with us for six months.

GL: So and then you said that you lived in a rural village in the rural area

AP: I live in I live in Waldo Wisconsin, on an old it's a patch of dairy farm. It's about six acres.

GL: And did you have high speed internet?

AP: We had, we have Bertram which is wireless. So and we are the first it's based in Random Lake. And so the tower is pointed directly at our dish. So we 00:59:00actually had very good internet service. It was strained by I'm streaming my friend was streaming my two children are so there were four of us all at the same time streaming. We could afford to bump up our service so that it was we were able to do it but uh, but I wasn't able to have my camera on most of the time, just because it was that and I had an I had an older laptop, the video card on it. It was overburdened by trying to teach and show my screen and do the thing like it just my computer. My work computer was not up to the task

GL: Were you, you and your family, following the CDC. guidelines in the 01:00:00beginning of the pandemic, yes, you know, isolating social distancing, cetera, et cetera.

AP: Yes, social distancing. I started as soon as the CDC See, said, wear a mask, I put on a mask. And I also became hyper aware of people who weren't wearing masks. And were also coughing in public. It you know, it's cold season, and then we get into, we get into allergy season. And so it was everybody's favorite game is allergies or the plague.

GL: So anybody? Did you get COVID? Or anybody in your family? You know, close contact. Any family members get COVID and gotten really sick?

AP: Yes. Not we didn't get really sick. I had been boosted in October of 21. So I had my first and second shots on the on the CDC schedule. And then as soon as the boosters were available for cancer patients, I went and got a booster. And I 01:01:00was I had my arm was sore for 24 hours. And I felt a little kind of rundown and then nothing. I was fine. My husband was working in Chicago in December. So just before Christmas, and he picked it up in Chicago and brought it home, what year 21. So we had managed to keep it out until December. And he was very upset with himself. But it it was one of those things where we kind of knew it was inevitable. And so it was right at the end of the fall term fall of 20. And my first thought was, oh God, if I get really sick, am I going to be able to finish my grades on time? Am I going to be able to turn in final grades? So I emailed 01:02:00my chair Margaret Hostetler and just said, have COVID What do I do if I get too sick to grade?

GL: So you also got it? So did the whole family gather?

AP: No, my children did not get it because once we knew that he was sick, he and I isolated and we wore masks in the house and hand sanitizer, and we kept the kids away from us. And everybody just kind of did their own thing. And neither of the kids got sick, which I think is mildly miraculous.

GL: And the symptoms

AP: my husband's were worse than mine because he had not had a booster so for me the symptoms were like I had a bad head cold. It never moved into my chest. I never had a cough I had a I think I had a headache. And a fever free died of 01:03:00fever for 24 hours I lost my sense of taste and smell for out 10 days. And then it came back. So I his loss of sense of taste and smell lasted longer than mine did and I don't know if that's because he hadn't had the booster or, or what. But my symptoms were like a bad head cold.

GL: So you mentioned in the beginning that you know you read science fiction and you teach it and I mean, how are you doing emotionally during this early days, you know, the pandemic

AP: I made sure that we had toilet paper and flour and sugar. So I have I have there's a little bit of doomsday prepper going on in here. But I have buckets in 01:04:00my pantry because I also bake a lot. But I have buckets in my pantry that have screw top lids for flour and sugar. And I made sure both of those were full. I made sure we had rice, and noodles and stuff that you know, so that we didn't have to go to the store very often. I think we only did contactless delivery once because we're so rural and I just I felt bad about making someone drive all the way out to my house. So the science fiction so the book that gave me the screaming Heebie Jeebies was Margaret Atwood's The year of the flood, which is it's the second book in a trilogy. And I can spell the first book is Oryx and Crake. And then the last one is mad add them, but the year of the flood is it 01:05:00follows two characters. One is an older woman named Toby. And then the other is a young woman. When a virus is not no one's sure how it happened or, or whether it was engineered, but it kills a huge swaths of the population, it just is virulent, and people die. And there are just little pockets of survivors left. And I had taught that book in 2017. And then I think, again, in 2019, I think I may be 2019 to I teach the class every other year. And having read that, and a couple of other Cormac McCarthy's The Road, near, kind of, well aware of how 01:06:00quickly everything just sort of slides into chaos. You know, and also, I saw the Mad Max movies when I was like 15. I did not hoard gasoline. But there is a it was harder for me emotionally, before I got cancer, weirdly, because there was so much about the situation that was out of our control. And so the making sure that your pantry is stocked and you have your think that's a it's a way to try to get control of a situation that feels out of control. And when you have at the time in in 2020, we had a federal government that was at odds with the head of the CDC, right? So the scientists are telling you that this is not good and 01:07:00pretending like it's all gonna be fine. And, you know, no, it's just like the seasonal flu, which I heard from both my students and you know, family and community members all it's not that bad. Well, except that it's highly contagious. And we actually don't know and if you have an underlying condition, so my this is my sister's husband's father had sarcoidosis. He got COVID. And was ill for about 10 days and then died because his lungs just were already damaged. And there was there wasn't anything that they could do to help them. And so conscious, I was conscious of those sorts of underlying conditions. And I was a cancer patient for the starting in the fall of 2020. And I stopped going 01:08:00out. I stopped going to the store, my husband did all my husband was the person who had all the contact with the outside world because I was afraid that I was having hundreds of 1000s of dollars worth of medications pumped into my system. And then I'm just gonna go to the grocery store and get COVID from somebody not wearing a mask and die. Like it would have been horrifyingly ironic. And so yeah, I did, I did isolate and it was a little bit hard to start to crack open the shell and go be around people. And the vacation that we took last summer in between when Omicron started it was out west and we stayed away from people. So 01:09:00it's I had more anxiety at the start of it than I do now. Now it feels like this is something we are have to learn to live with. And it's gonna require getting a booster shot just like you go and get a flu shot. I got a shot for pneumonia, I'm gonna go get a shingles shot so that I don't get shingles. There are things that we can do to mitigate it. So I'm going to do those things because I really like teaching in person and I want to keep doing it.

GL: We touched on so many things. I think we covered Pretty much everything. Are 01:10:00you good with that?

AP: I think so. Um, I do think we I do ramble a bit.

GL: No, I think the last question is any, do you have anything else to add?

AP: I, the thing that I wish was that more people cared about what happens to other people. At one point, I was still trying to engage with people online. And I just I said, I, you know, why, why won't you wear a mask and you know, you know, I have cancer and I still have to, I do when my husband's out of town still have to go to the grocery store to get milk, and I'm not going to send my child to do this errand, I'm going to do it myself and I what I started doing 01:11:00was going, I would go to the store, and I would have my mask on and I would take my hat off, and I had no eyebrows and eyelashes and no hair. And I'm like, Hey, I'm here. You need to stay away from me. And also, this is why you need to wear a mask, because not everybody has an immune system that can handle this. And just caring about what happens to other people. It feels like some of us do, but a lot of us don't. And I don't I don't know how we get back to that place where it's a communitarian. Ideal, and we're in this together and we have to, we have to protect each other and, and doing that, in this instance, was just wearing a mask and keeping your hands clean. I don't know.

01:12:00

GL: Thank you for sharing your stories with us. We appreciate your contribution to the Campus COVID Stories at UW Oshkosh.

AP: Thank you for having me.