Interview with Druscilla Scribner, 04/06/2022

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

PW: Thank you very much okay, this is Paiton Wood interviewing Dr. Druscilla Scribner on Wednesday April 6 2022 for campus COVID stories. Student Lizzi Konstanz is also with us on 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 of COVID. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. Before we get started, could you please state your name and spell it for us?

DS: Drucilla. Scribner, D R U, S, C, I, L, L, A, S, C,R, I, B, N, E, R.

PW: Now for the purpose of getting a good audio recording. Tell us again, who you are and what your title is here at UW Oshkosh.

DS: I'm Drusilla Scribner. I am a professor here at UWO in the political science department, and during the time of early COVID. I was also the faculty senate president.

PW: Before we dive into our campus COVID story, we would like to get to know you a little better. Tell me where you grew up.

DS: I grew up outside of Sacramento, California, a community called Carmichael.


PW: Where did you earn your degree or your degrees?

DS: I earned my undergraduate degrees at University of California, Santa Cruz, and one graduate degree at the London School of Economics in London and another graduate degree my PhD at University of California in San Diego.

PW: How did you come to work at UW Oshkosh?

DS: This was the job that I took at the time that I was on the job market.

PW: Tell me about your position at UWO, pre COVID.

DS: Before March 2020, I was a faculty senate president and professor in political science.

PW: What kind of responsibilities did you have as the President of the Faculty Senate?

DS: Well, the faculty senate is part of shared governance. And so we represent the faculty on campus at all three campuses. And so during COVID, those 00:02:00responsibilities included being a part of the recovery team working directly with the EOC, and making sure that faculty interests were taken into account during the planning.

PW: Now let's move to the early days of COVID. When was the first time you remember hearing about COVID-19?

DS: I think the first time I heard about COVID-19 was probably in January, when it first came out like in the news. In February, I traveled with my son to Montreal for a gaming event that he was attending. And on the way there, we had to go through New York. That was one of the transitions for our flights. And there were exchange students there from China and other countries trying to get 00:03:00home. And that's when it first hit that the pandemic was creating significant trouble for people at least traveling. And then we started to talk about it on campus as well around that same time.

PW: What was your initial reaction to the news?

DS: Um, my, you know, initial reaction, I think like most people followed it really closely in the news. It wasn't clear until I think maybe mid late February that there were any cases in Wisconsin, so it seemed like Wisconsin was more isolated. It was something that was happening in New York and other places. But it slowly came, and came close to home. Right. And so things began to change by the end of the month, and then definitely into March.

PW: How would you describe your feelings about the disease itself?

DS: Um, you know, it was, you know, it was worrisome at the time, I think we didn't have a lot of information. So there was a lot of uncertainty for people 00:04:00in those first few months about how bad it would be, or not that it would be. So I think that uncertainty and lack of solid information was disconcerting for a lot of people.

PW: Now, let's talk about your situation when the university closed the campus in mid-March. What were you feeling at everything UWO, and elsewhere in the mid-March when it shut down all of a sudden.

DS: Um, so in mid-March when it shut down, we actually had our very last like our last Senate, faculty senate meeting in person, and then it was shutting down like the next the very next week or the next day. It was right before spring break, so we didn't have it. That was our last meeting before spring break. It was clear that we were going to have to go online. There was a lot of discussion ahead of that about what that transition would look like, and how to support 00:05:00faculty and support students in making that transition to online. And it of course it was, it had to be planned out quickly. So there was a lot the lot of discussion that went into how do we quickly make this transition? Is it the right thing to do to close campus? But of course, a lot of those decisions were made in consultation with UW system as well.

PW: Describe what happened in your department. What did you guys discuss as a team as what needed to be done?

DS: So department here could mean Faculty Senate could mean political science department. I would say in, in my work with the faculty senate, we're working closely with Chancellor and with Provost and with the EOC, on making that transition and understanding how to best serve faculty and students during that that those first moments of that transition, and in particular, making sure that 00:06:00faculty had support. So I don't know if you remember, but we had a week, we took a week, and then we and then we had spring break as well. So people had a very short amount of time, but sometime to kind of revamp their classes. And so there was some discussion about what would that mean, and how to best provide faculty the support they needed to make that make that happen. People had to learn how to use the online tools, learn how to use Canvas, learn how to use Collaborate, and so forth at it at a really rapid pace, and lay out some expectations for for what courses might look like and what we expected instructors and students to to be able to do during that time.

PW: And then can you describe what happened in your department that you listed, as well as

DS: in political science? So in our department, I think, you know, everybody, 00:07:00all the faculty knew they had to make this transition, right, there really wasn't a way forward. But some faculty members are more used to and adapt at using Canvas, for example, that were already had adopted Canvas and used it quite heavily in their classes. For others, it was a bigger lift, to move things on to online, and to provide materials to students. Testing of students was difficult. having them do assignments, moving things that were very interactive in the classroom and trying to think through how you would make those adjustments and continue to really engage students. We used Collaborate Ultra at that time that was embedded within Canvas. That system was not as flexible as zoom and some of the other possibilities, but that's the one that we were required to use at the time. And so that presented its own challenges, and they 00:08:00were definitely a sort of training and adoption of the technology challenges. Faculty needed cameras. Not every laptop and computer had the technology to use that. And some people had just never done that before.

PW: Some of the employees were deemed essential. Were you among that group,

DS: essential in terms of having to be on campus? No. So I went home like pretty much every other faculty member and instructional academic staff member and taught my classes from home and also attended all the meetings that I had, from home.

PW: With whom did you work most closely executing your response to COVID-19.

DS: So I'm, in those that early period, I would say from my perspective, I worked most closely with Provos Chancellor, the EOC members particularly um Kim 00:09:00lanyoff and then into the summer. There was a lot of work done over the summer. So it was sort of let's get through the semester. Get faculty through the semester students through the semester, figure out how to do that the best way possible for everyone. And then over the summer, we spent a long time working very closely on a the recovery team coming up with a recovery plan of what would the fall look like? So how do we plan for fall of 2020 and academic year 2020 2021. To get students back on campus, what would that look like? What would teaching and learning and living on campus be like in fall of 2020. So that was a lot of work done over the summer. And that work was done with the recovery 00:10:00Taskforce. And there was a group of faculty and staff across campus that were working on that task force.

PW: What were your three biggest challenges regarding your work from that March of 2020, through the end of the semester.

DS: So I would say as an instructor, as a faculty member, my biggest challenges were teaching right and moving aspects of my course online that were particularly difficult to do. So the class, my primary class, that semester, includes a like a high impact practice where students are really highly engaged with each other, and doing a lot of things with each other. And that was very difficult to replicate in the online environment, was also kind of like a senior seminar type class at all met three hours once a week, and students had their own challenges. So some of my students went back to work during that time, they 00:11:00had to care for family members during that time, they had moved back home. And so I could not expect them to be online for that full three hours. So parts of the class had to go to asynchronous. And that had its own challenges, recording lectures, trying to keep it under an amount of time that you would actually want to watch the lecture and those kinds of things. So I think there were a lot of teaching challenges for myself, but I'm for faculty across the board that were teaching challenges. From the faculty senate perspective. We had to move to meeting online. We had, you know, too big group, we had a large room in Reeve where we met. And so managing that online meeting across Collaborate Ultra where there was difficult bandwidth, so you couldn't see everybody. Not everyone had their cameras on them that made it difficult. And so managing online meetings as 00:12:00well, was a challenge.

PW: How many classes did you have at that time, and then how many students as well,

DS: At that time, I had one class, because I was released from some teaching time to do the faculty senate president position. And I think I had about 20 Something students in that class, as well. So

PW: describe what it was like teaching them remotely.

DS: You know, it was difficult. Again, it went, I had to move it to asynchronous to accommodate their schedules. And that was difficult to maintain the kind of engagement that we had in that class. Previously, we had a big project. And that project, we had to make some pretty significant adjustments. So there's supposed to be a presentation that had to turn into a video. We used a lot of the canvas, the Canvas tools like peer review, and groups and so forth, to try and capture 00:13:00some of the engagement that we had before, but it's just not the same.

PW: How are the students doing at that time? What kind of feedback are you getting from

DS: them? Students were really struggling. So students struggled with sort of being cut off from their friends at school with having to move suddenly, with moving back home with living, particularly our older students with who were, you know, juniors and seniors at the time, with moving back in with their parents and under the rules of their parents and all those kinds of things. Some students had to, you know, their parents couldn't work, or they lost their job, or the parents lost their job. And so they had to that financial stresses that they hadn't had before. Some of them newly went to work in order to help out their families, some of them needed to care for younger siblings, and help them 00:14:00with their homework and help them and sort of get through their online education. So I think it was really quite stressful for students. And we saw that in the classroom. I saw that with some of my students, some of them did not finish the semester. For example, one of the flexibilities that we tried to incorporate from the faculty senate perspective was to work with the provost on making sure that grades, the grading system would change for that spring. So we went to kind of a pass-fail system because we all knew that the students were really struggling right and that it wouldn't be sort of fair to grade them on that second half of the semester. The way we had before we couldn't teach the second half the way we had before. So changing changes to the grading system was another thing that we sort of were working on at that time, as well as getting, 00:15:00trying to get students more help and trying to get faculty more help to make that transition.

PW: What are some of the things that you are most proud of regarding your response to COVID-19?

DS: I think from the faculty senate perspective, I think really trying to bring that faculty voice faculty had a lot of concerns at the time. The other thing that happened that, you know, students may not be aware of is that the whole system was under financial duress as a result of COVID-19. And so one of the big things we worked on over the summer, is that faculty and staff had to take a pay cut through furloughs. And so working out what that would look like, and making sure that faculty interests were sort of forefront in those discussions about pay cuts and furloughs and how we were going to financially get through the next 00:16:00year, not just with respect to COVID. But these things came together.

PW: How was your job changed since the pandemic, what do you think is permanently changed to your work?

DS: I think that the online and you know, having taught online and students having the online experience we learned a lot, as a faculty as a student body as a university, in terms of what works and like what doesn't work. We pushed hard from the faculty senate perspective to get a survey at the end of that first experience to understand what worked for students and what didn't work, as well as what worked for faculty and what didn't work so that we if we had to teach online in the fall, and we still did have a lot of classes online in fall of 2020, that we could learn from the experience that we had in the spring, the experience in the spring was really quick. Everybody was really like, you know, 00:17:00fly by the seat of your pants kind of stuff. But over the summer, there was what we call Professional Development available for faculty. There were courses that were put together by the UW system, and by our own Center for Teaching and Learning to provide more training and more development to try and change those private change classroom practices, right change teaching practices in ways that would benefit students. And so I think that those lessons have really stuck. I think we've all learned a lot through the process. And I think we are as a university better equipped. Now. And as an individual faculty member, as a teacher, I am better equipped to teach online and some of the things I learned about online teaching I've been able to implement in the classroom.

PW: What do you think COVID has changed permanently for the work?


DS: I think that there's more confidence about teaching online. And I think that we have permanently recognized the importance of student mental health like that. That recognition was already there. But COVID-19 really put those issues into stark relief, and that we needed to provide even more support on campus, a campus already had support for mental health, but it was stretched during this time, and that we needed to be able to meet students sort of meet those needs in different ways. Maybe then we had before.

PW: When did you come back in person

DS: in fall of 2020. I had a quest one in fall of 2020. That was in person and you know, socially distant six feet apart. And we had some students online that you know, you had to like manage, trying to keep them engaged online while the 00:19:00other students were in the class. So fall of 2020 was really a difficult teaching year for many faculty because we had that kind of flexible model where some students were online and participating in in person classes. And all the students were very far apart

PW: In the fall of 2021 vaccines are readily available on campus and in fact, strongly advocated by the administration in the CDC. What were your initial thoughts about the vaccines?

DS: I mean, my personal thoughts about the vaccines were that it was great. I got a vaccine as soon as I good . I got the booster when I could. I think that it was super positive. I think UW Oshkosh did a remarkable job of participating with the community and providing services to the community both in terms of testing and vaccination. But I've I was very pro vaccine on a personal level

LK: This is Lizzi Konstanz for part two of the interview with Dr. Drusilla, 00:20:00Scribner. How much do you feel things are getting back to normal, and for that matter, what is normal to you?

DS: I do think that things are getting back to normal, particularly this spring semester, I mean, this fall, but even more so the spring semester. So having students back living on campus, and you know, more students living on campus, with a more normal student experience, I think has been super important. Having sports back in person, having just having relaxed the six feet apart, socially distant in the classroom is been awesome, even when everybody was still in a mask. But just having a full classroom I had, you know, I had like Quest One a small class, in a large classroom with students spread way apart. I mean, it was 00:21:00they weren't supposed to move, they had to have a seating chart. I mean, it made the classroom experience, it took things away, I would say from the classroom experience. And I think we've regained a lot of that even just with students in masks, but without the social distancing. And now having the mask mandate relaxed, has been fantastic. And I'm seeing some of my students for the first time in like two years. So it's, that part has been really great. I think people are happier this spring since the mandate has been lifted. And I'm looking forward to the better weather and seeing more students out on campus. But just having the campus populated with students, having teaching primarily in person and then relaxing the max mandate that has made it feel back to normal, I know that we're not fully back to normal, and that we may have to make different decisions if we have another surge, another COVID-19 surge, but I think we're 00:22:00prepared for that I think we're we're ready to, and have already begun to make that transition to just sort of living with COVID.

LK: What living and working during the time of COVID has taught you about yourself and others.

DS: I think for myself, and I think this is probably repeated for lots of people, I get taught the importance of personal relationships and the importance of family. And, those one to one kind of conversations and how important that interaction is in with respect to teaching how important those in person interactions are with your students and, and finding ways to, to make that still happen, whether it's over teams and office, our time and so forth. It's possible to still do it. But that inperson contact with people is really important. And 00:23:00we had maybe forgotten how precious it is. I think that it's that really puts in stark relief how important interpersonal relationships are.

LK: Knowing what you know, now, what would you have done differently in regards to your work during the time of COVID?

DS: I'm not sure I would have done much differently. I think the people that I worked with, really had the best interests of everyone at heart. I think everyone did the best they could at the time. So I can't think of things that I've would have been like, wow, if we'd only done that it would have been so much better. I think UWS did a really great job.

LK: As long as we still have time, I wanted to ask you a few questions about how you personally, how you personally in your private life, faired during COVID, would that be okay? Sure. We were sent home a week before spring break. What did you do during spring break? March 2020.



Yeah, so I mean, I worked like mad to get my ass ready. And I participate a lot of extra meetings in my faculty senate position to make sure that we had some things in place some support in place for faculty in particular and that the voices were being heard as we were planning at the sort of university administration level of like, how we were going to handle things and what the plans were going to be for the summer going forward.


Do you remember how long you thought the university would be closed?

DS: Those discussions started during the summer, I think in the very beginning, it wasn't clear, right? There just was not enough information. And so there was, well maybe we'll just close for spring break or maybe we'll just, we'll reopen by like April or May, right. But then may would be the end of the semester. So maybe we just stay close till May, you know, it was fluid and unclear at the 00:25:00time, but it became clear pretty quick that we were going to be closed for sure. Through the semester and then through the summer. And for faculty that impacted their research their on campus research. So it wasn't just that we were sent home for spring break, it's that we were sent home like you weren't supposed to come back. You weren't supposed to come back to your office, we had materials in the office. I don't have a lab but chemistry and biology professors have things going on in the lab. And so there was a how do we manage those requests to come back on to campus over the summer, faculty had research, they had travel, they had conferences, those things got canceled. So there's a lot of other things that go on in your faculty research life that maybe students don't see. And all of that was disrupted as well.

LK: Where were you living? And with whom?


DS: So I was living at home. I live in Neenah, I have married and I have two boys. One was a student at UW Whitewater, a freshman and freshman year did not go so well. So he, let's see, no, he was graduating. I'm sorry. He was graduating. He graduated in 2020. And then the other one, I think was a sophomore at that time, they both struggled. But my sophomore in high school struggled a lot. So managing the at home stuff was really difficult. And, yeah, so I'll leave it at that, that I was living at home. And that situation was difficult. The sort of sheltering at home, I should say my husband's a physician. Um, and so initially, they canceled a lot of the clinic appointments 00:27:00in the very beginning as they didn't know. But then he was very busy and worked in the COVID. Hub and so up in Neenah in Appleton, so I also had that sort of health care perspective. And then he had lots of exposure as well.

LK: How are COVID protocols dealt with? At first in your home, masking social distancing shelter at home? Was there much friction between Are we all in agreement about all of them,

DS: We were all in agreement about all of those things. We did not like mass get home. But everybody, everybody was home, right? All the high school classes went online and all that kind of stuff.

LK: With everything that happened and so quickly, how are you feeling emotionally?

DS: Okay, I think I just kind of buckled down and got the work done. I think that the people around me, and we're having a hard time and like as a mom, you 00:28:00kind of have to keep it together. So watching that, watching your kids struggle, that's hard.

LK: Um, do you have anything else that you'd like to add?

DS: Um, I guess I would add that there are a lot of good people that worked on the recovery Task Force. I know that you're interviewing, I hope that you're interviewing a lot of those folks. And I think that that group did an incredible job of keeping things together for and planning for the fall. Right. So getting through that first semester and then planning for the fall. And planning for are returned back. There was a lot that went into making sure that fall semester could happen.

LK: Okay, so are you a member of the EOC?

DS: I'm not a member of the EOC. But I was a member of the recovery Task Force.


LK: Okay. What project slash research were you working on when you were first told about the COVID situation?

DS: Like academic research projects? Well, I did have a conference paper that it had to go online to think actually had two conference papers for a conference that was in I believe, in May, either one might have been to one in May and one in June, but one of those kind of got put on hold. In one of those conference papers I still gave just online, which was unpleasant.

LK: What was your home situation like when teaching at home Like, did you have a quiet space to work? Or did you not?

DS: I do, actually, I already had a home office. And so that worked out, okay. 00:30:00But everybody was home. Right. And so that made home a lot louder. I have two dogs, and they really like to be with me. And they're big. And they snore and like, you know, trying to make a video lecture and then the dog wants in and then the cat meows. And then you got to open the door. And I mean, it just there were a lot of interruptions that made it, like more difficult than it would have been if I'd just like been in my office. Right. But I couldn't come down to the office, we weren't supposed to come on campus.

LK: Do you think your students got a quality education online?

DS: Um, I think so. I think that there was a steep learning curve for everybody in that first semester, I do think that things improved in the fall of 2020. So the classes that were online in the fall of 2020, that faculty had time to plan 00:31:00those, they had training for those, but the go online mid semester was really challenging. And it was maybe more challenging for some instructors than more so for some than others. So I think that, you know, I think it was difficult, and I think, I'm sure that students had some negative experiences with their online instruction. And I think they had some really positive experiences. So I think it was really mixed.

LK: Have you or someone close to you contacted COVID? And then if you have, what were the symptoms,

DS: I did get COVID in the fall of 2020. And I was, you know, was pretty sick. It's like having a bad cold or a little bit worse. And so I had to quarantine. I was able to still keep teaching and had to quarantine from my students, even my 00:32:00like in person ones. And I had that quest one class, I had another class as well. So it worked out. Okay. I mentioned before, my husband is a doctor, and so he wore his mask. And you know, I was confined to our bedroom. And then and my office and my little home office. So I could kind of go back and forth between those. But you know, it was home for like 14 days between those two rooms. And I know that students were confined in the dorm or at Gruenhagen and like, yeah, it's unpleasant, and he would like deliver my food outside the door and leave it there. So we were very careful and nobody else in my family contracted COVID So that was positive.

LK: Okay, thank you for sharing your stories with us. We appreciate your

contribution to the campus COVID stories at UW Oshkosh.