Interview with Kimberly Langolf, 01/19/2022

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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´╗┐GL: This is Grace Lim interviewing Kim Langolf on Wednesday, January 19, 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 of COVID. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. Before we could get started, could you please state your name and spell it for us?

KL: Kimberly Langolf.K-I-M-B-E-R-L-Y Langolf, L-A-N-G-O-L-F.

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

KL: My name is Kimberly Langolf. And my title is interim chief of staff in the Division of University Affairs and the COVID, one of the COVID response leads.

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 about a little bit about where you grew up.

00:01:00

KL: I grew up in a little town called Newton Wisconsin, outside of Manitowoc, and I went I lived there through high school. And then when I graduated high school, I earned an associate's degree at UW-Manitowoc and transferred to UW-Oshkosh to get my bachelor's degree in biology. And then I I kept on going to get my master's degree in microbiology from UWO.

GL: And how did you end up here, working here?

KL: Well, I came to school here and I never left. I was able to work on a grant funded project doing water quality research, for the first three years and from that position grew into developing a permanent position in research here at the university. And from there, I kind of traveled to the grants world, and Risk and Safety all kind of built off of that initial job that I had.

00:02:00

GL: Your first degree, what year was that?

KL: My first degree was 2009.

GL: And then your masters?

KL: 2011.

GL: And when did you first start working here full time?

KL: I started working here full time, January 2011.

GL: And what what was that position again?

KL: When I first started working here, I was a research scientist at the Environmental Research and Innovation Center.

GL: Okay, and then right before COVID, pre COVID. What was your position then?

KL: So before COVID, I was I had a dual position. I was the Director of Risk and Safety and I was also the director of sponsor programs. So we had combined combined offices departments a year before that due to budget constraints. And just so happened to kind of have a skill set in both areas. And so at that point, I had four direct reports that I was overseeing between both of the 00:03:00departments, so small departments, but we kind of function as one unit.

GL: And what do you what is the the Risk and Safety Department?

KL: So the Risk and Safety Department traditionally reported through the police department. We focused on everything from insurance claims to safety and prevention, a lot of winter weather, things that we're trying to provide education for in training. We provide a training to our facilities management staff for various job duties that they did. COVID wasn't in there at the time. So but it was really trying, trying to develop prac good practices for prevention.

GL: And then the other department?

KL: And the opposite sponsored programs is our centralized grants office, where we administer the proposal development stage of the grant cycle and do all of 00:04:00the submissions for the university.

GL: They seem two very different.

KL: They're very different. I remember at the point when I was asked to, so originally, I was the Associate Director in the Office of sponsor programs. We had worked with the police department on several small grants, and their risk manager quit and they weren't able to rehire and so I was asked if we could come together and see if there was a way to partner. So two units in separate divisions came together under my leadership under the Chief Chief Leibold's leadership, and we just decided to try to make it work. So I learned what risk management was how to help our people develop good standard operating procedures, practices, how we be proactive, and very strange combination, but it weirdly worked very well for the time that I was able to serve in that role.

GL: So let me get this straight, when did you start serving in that that half 00:05:00and half role?

KL: 2018?

GL: Okay. Alright, so in 2020, you're still serving in those?

KL: Still serving in the dual 2020. I was still serving in a dual role. Yep.

GL: Okay. All right, let's move to the early days of COVID. Do you recall the first time you actually heard about this virus?

KL: I recall hearing about it in January of 2020. I attended, and actually I heard about it, not just through the news. But at work. We had a group that was brought together by the former Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, and that group was to talk about this unknown virus that that had originated in China. And we had students abroad that were studying there. And so what what should we do? Should we be concerned? And I remember sitting in a meeting, and the Public Health Department was also there. And we asked, you know, very simple questions. 00:06:00Is this something we should be concerned about? Is this something that we're overreacting? And I remember them saying at the time, you know, this is this is probably nothing, we're not going to worry about it right now. We're just going to move on, we wouldn't be concerned. And that's where that meeting ended. We met a couple more times as a group after that, but nothing really changed until we got closer to march.

GL: Who was in that meeting? Other than you and the Vice Chancellor, and some of the public health people from community?

KL: Yeah, we also had our emergency manager, Lieutenant Trent Martin at the time, he was really the leader in that meeting, just because of the potential that this would become an Emergency Operations situation. And I believe, I can't remember who else was there. Those are the key players, for sure.

GL: And then at what point did that you realize that this was something that we actually should be concerned about?

KL: Once we invited the health department back on one of these meetings, so 00:07:00this, this sort of is what I would call sort of the EOC's infancy. You know, it wasn't really an Emergency Operations Committee at the time, but it was sort of a group of people who were concerned about something happening over overseas. That's right, Jenna Graff was very involved. She's our director for the study abroad programs. And, and we were working very closely with her saying, you know, what should we be concerned about? We were listening to a lot of media reports and scientific reports from across from overseas. And I just remember, as it started to become real, that the the cases were starting to multiply, our public health department had started to change their tone, and late February, mid mid to late February, that this is something we may need to be concerned with. But they really didn't have any type of guidance. We had no idea what to do at that moment. Only that we knew we had community members and our community, from the University in the heat of what was happening overseas. So we needed to 00:08:00be concerned.

GL: And so when did it become formalized that you were going to be part of this response team?

KL: So I generally tell the story that I got involved in the Emergency Operations Committee so deeply because the chief of police and the captain of police were at a conference first week in March, and they were in Atlanta. And so they weren't there. And I remember getting a phone call from our emergency from Lieutenant Martin who was our emergency manager and he had asked me to come to a meeting to just kind of help take notes, and be part of the meeting. And that at that first emergency operations meeting, was a very large group of people prior to the pandemic, there were members of the Emergency Operations Committee, but they were it was more historical, like, hey, you've normally been 00:09:00on this, we're gonna bring you in, kind of thing and and start providing some updates about this unknown virus that's, that's been traveling around. And so I offered to take notes and the rest is history. So I never I never got out after then.

GL: So Captain Martin called a meeting here on campus?

KL: That's right, Lieutenant Martin. He called a an EOC meeting. We decided to activate the EOC that week, that first week in march.

GL: First week in March.

KL: Yeah.

GL: Who was who was there do you recall?

KL: It would have been Lieutenant Martin, myself, like I said, the the other leaders in the police department were gone. So they they had entrusted that to us. We had the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, the former Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs was there. And then the not all of the traditional members that are there today. It was probably more robust. But there was maybe 15 to 20 00:10:00individuals there that served in various roles throughout campus that may not have been specific to the pandemic at that point. It was just kind of your names on the list. You come.

GL: Was it in person?

KL: Yes.

GL: Where was that held?

KL: I believe the first meeting was held in Dempsey, on the third floor.

GL: And what was discussed at that meeting?

KL: Primarily, the discussion revolved around who's responsible for what if something were to happen? A little bit more information, public health, I'm sorry, public health was also there, they gave an update on, you know, the virus spread at the time, if there were concerns that we should be thinking about. And really just introducing this COVID term, what it meant, and what individual roles and responsibilities are, we didn't have a plan at that point. We didn't have an idea of spread. We it was I don't believe detected in the United States yet. So it was really early, just kind of trying to remember how to run an EOC 00:11:00actively in a real emergency.

GL: And then, you know, once the chief and chief came back, I mean did that committee, I don't know become clear, the, the mission, any of that stuff.

KL: Yeah. So after, after the Chief Leibold returned, it was he had I remember him sitting down with the with Lieutenant Martin and myself and kind of saying, hey, you guys, I want you to run with us, I want you to take this on. He was always going to be the leader of this group, but kind of said, we want you to get a structure set up, we need to figure out what's happening, how this is going to affect the university and start bringing in the right people at that time to figure out all of the avenues of what areas of campus would be affected. I think even in that moment, we had no idea that all of the areas would be affected. But trying to focus on okay, making sure Student Health was in the 00:12:00room making sure that we had public health in line, what's UW System recommending, you know, all of those key players, we needed to make sure were there that weren't there in our original discussions.

GL: And so this is the first week of March. And then we are we got the notification from administration that I guess the first one came out was if you're going to, you know, when you go home for spring break, try not to travel. But then two days later, I think we're actually just going to go home. How did that how did that decision come about from the from the EOC to the Chancellor's office?

KL: Yeah. So early on, the EOC was providing daily updates on case numbers and information that we were gathering. They were receiving daily updates the cabinet as a whole, those were sent through various forms of communication, but 00:13:00they were updated daily, it became clear that we needed a direct line to the chancellor very, very soon. So Lieutenant Martin, myself, the chief, we were sort of the three key players that had that direct line if we needed to talk to the chancellor, and update them who we would. So we it was very early on that we knew in order to make make fast decisions in that moment, it had to have that that continuity, so that we could talk directly to him. So we, we were on a daily cut, we had a daily conversation with the chancellor on operations. And I remember the decision, we had started to communicate with our other colleagues around the system. And every, all of the campuses that started to kind of have this in their mind that we may not be able to come back after spring break. And traditionally, we're always the late campus. So that is an advantage for us in that seeing how other things unfold at some of the other campuses. But I 00:14:00remember distinctly, we came to the conclusion that we're unsure that we can bring people back safely because there was too much we didn't know, at the time, we just we didn't know. And as evidenced through the entire pandemic, the information that we would receive was the best information we had at the time. Was it always the most accurate? Could I wish we could have gone back and done things differently? Absolutely. But that was the only information we had. And yeah, I remember having that conversation and there was a lot of quietness over the over the team's chat and the line that hey, we may not be able to bring our students back after this break. And we have to figure out how to get them, you know, home and safe. And there was I lost many hours of sleep over that decision because that was something that the Emergency Operations Committee especially myself, Lieutenant Martin, Chief Leibold, we we made that recommendation, it was 00:15:00a really hard, really hard decision.

GL: When you made that decision, or even do you recommend to the Chancellor's office, what was his reaction?

KL: I think his reaction, he kind of knew this was coming a little bit that I think he had been mulling this over. We try to give the Chancellor and our leaders as much information as we can behind why we make recommendations. And I think in that moment, we established a great deal of trust with the Chancellor. And I think he knew in that moment to that was a really probably one of the toughest decisions of his career. And we knew it in the moment to the gravity of that decision, and how that could affect not just our students, our staff, but the well being of our institution moving forward. So I think he knew, I think he knew it was coming. He was he's always been very calm and collected in these situations. And he takes the information in, he really listens. And then he 00:16:00makes the decisions, and he supports, what the measures are going to happen after those decisions.

GL: Okay, so now the word is out that we are going to cancel week seven, and go fully online for the rest of the semester. What was what happened in your department? I mean, what you know, what did you take home from your office? What did you talk to your team? How did you leave it with your team members?

KL: I had the advantage of knowing that some of this was coming. So I had the advantage of at least talking to my team. So I had two separate functions that we were dealing with the grants function was easy because one of my administrators already lived in the UP. So we knew how to do remote work. We had it set up at least in our in that space to do that. So those two employees at the time were sent home. But our risk and safety people, one of them was sent 00:17:00home. And then Lori Welch, who's our safety director and myself stayed on as essential employees during that time. So we continued to come into the office. We met a lot in the basement of Radford, where the new police department now is it was not there before it was just a room, which we then deemed our Emergency Operations Center. So I had a lot of 10-12 hour days sitting in a chair in the basement of Radford with with the police officers and other essential workers.

GL: Were you given the choice regarding the essential working, you know, title?

KL: I probably I probably could have had a choice. But my choice was I needed to be there. We I mean, if you remember back, we didn't really know how to function apart from each other. And so even the the police officers, they're very, you know, they like to be in person, they like to talk to each other to see their reactions feel the room. And I think that was really important in the beginning. 00:18:00As as the semester came to a close, and as summer came back, we learned how to work remotely. And I was able to work remote more frequently, as we figured out how to use the tools appropriately. But in the beginning, it was it just made sense that I should be there.

GL: We have a virus. I mean, that was that was a it was a it was an unknown virus. And it appeared to be very deadly. I mean, you know, as the news reports showed and China and Italy and the New York and you coming on campus? I mean, what came to you, you know, what were you thinking about that? Were you a little boy yet all worried? Were you overthinking?

KL: I guess I I don't know if I was ever worried. I think I was concerned about my family becoming ill at the time. But I was I never questioned that I should not be here. I don't know why that was at the time. I just thought, you know, I 00:19:00was put into this position by accident or by some purpose, I don't know. But I just felt like we had a lot of responsibility on our shoulders at the time. And I mean, like I said, I lost many hours of sleep during those first six, eight months. And, you know, I just felt the gravity of the situation and it just made sense that that I should be there. And as we learned, you know, we could be a part at a and not be there. But it was scary. In the beginning. Our kids were scared. My My family was my husband was still working in person too. So it was a big challenge for sure.

GL: Did you have to change any of your behavior when you you went home? I mean, at that time, obviously there was there hadn't been a vaccine and and you had young kids at home so did you and your husband do anything different?

00:20:00

KL: Oh, we went on the complete lockdown. Our kids didn't go visit their friends, they were in remote schooling, my son was still able to my littlest was still able to go to daycare. But if you if you meet my older kids now they're they're COVID experts. So when we started talking about what the disease meant, and what this meant for our family, we we really tried to focus on you know, we're still a family, we're still together, those are the important things is gonna be hard, it's gonna suck. They miss their friends. And so it was kind of like, you lived it all day. And then you had to deal with the emotions of it at the end of the day, because not that there were not a lot of emotions at work. But there were more emotions at home. So it was kind of trying to translate what you're learning in real life to children and your and your husband, who, you know, they're just listening to whatever's on the news.

GL: How old were your kids then?

KL: They would have been 12, eight and two.

00:21:00

GL: And both you and your and your husband were coming to work in person.

KL: Yep. My husband also works on campus. He runs the biodigesters. So he could never not be there.

GL: How? The kids were at home taking there.

KL: The older kids were at home, taking online schooling, so we would have to switch days to be at home. He took most of the days, I was usually here. Yeah.

GL: And then during the summer were you, so you were able to work a little bit more remotely.

KL: Yeah, as the summer as the end of the semester came into that, as the end of the semesters was sort of coming to fruition we had started getting the team set up, the Microsoft Teams figuring out different ways to communicate with each other. And I had started to push that in order for us to survive, we had to figure out how to communicate because just because we were there didn't mean 00:22:00anybody else was there. So you know, while it felt important to be there at the time, the important piece was communicating with our colleagues and the people who needed to figure out how we do get out of this and how we come back to school.

GL: Okay, so you were not furloughed at all then?

KL: I was I was not allowed to be furloughed at that time. I was on the intermittent furlough though, when that came.

GL: Okay, so um now as the member of the EOC, the reformatted or re the EOC 2.0.

KL: Yeah.

GL: I mean, what were your specific tasks in that role?

KL: So in the beginning, I would say that I was a co leader, I guess, with Lieutenant Martin, where we were monitoring. I was I was responsible for a lot of the data, a lot of the science that was coming in, we brought on Chad Cotti 00:23:00in the department of economics as another consultant, and he and I primarily were the, the two of us were evaluating the data coming in, you know, how was the virus behaving? What types of activities could we start to think about bringing back and keeping while keeping our students and our staff safe? So our role was mainly on the data and the information and the science. I would say Lieutenant Martin manage the Committee on a day to day basis. And reported out he kind of led the meetings when he wasn't able to I did. And then as we got closer to the end of the semester, when we started talking about the Recovery Task Force, the Recovery Task Force was sort of a separate entity from the EOC, that was put together by Chief Leibold. And so this is really where the where Chief Leibold stepped up and really started to think about how do we how do we 00:24:00get out of this? How do we stop? You know, we need to bring our bring our community back together. So that Recovery Task Force consisted of appointed members by the Chancellor, who worked on specific operational areas of the university, who did research, data mining, working with our local external experts. It wasn't just internal we had Aurora, the CEO and President of Aurora health, we had the CEO and president of Prevea Health, we had public health, we were working with CDC starting to get introduced to them at the time. So trying to get as much information in and so those groups worked for two to three weeks, three weeks, I think, almost every day, and developed what we now call the Titan Returns Plan, Titans return plan.

GL: When did that RTF start?

00:25:00

KL: I believe it started in May, and ended early June. And it was it was a three week, every day three to three hours a day where there was breakout sessions and we got really good at Microsoft Teams then try to figure out how to how to how to work with people all over the you know that we didn't have to come back in person, because that was a fear at the time. We originally wanted to do this in person, we didn't know how else to host you get people in a room to really get to work, and keep them engaged, because three hours are long, are long meetings, especially when they were forcing them to do actual activities and work during the sessions. And so we brought on a facilitator, that was Elizabeth Hartman, she has a lot of experience with facilitation and writing. And so our jobs during that recovery task force was more of like a project manager. So we it was myself, Captain Tarmin, Lieutenant Martin, Chief Leibold. I believe that was it. 00:26:00And we would split up into the different groups. And I got to I got the opportunity to be on the faculty group who focused on how do we bring teaching and learning back to the institution? What type of teaching model do we need to institute? And that's where our faculty came up with the the hybrid model for teaching.

GL: Okay. Let me um, so you had you were part of this task force, several groups, the two different groups now, and still doing your regular jobs.

KL: Yeah, we're still doing our regular jobs. The advantage, grants continued, actually, faculty got busier, they got excited to write grants when they weren't here. So that was great. The risk and safety side, this was all my job pretty much at the time, fortunately, our employees, most of our employees were at 00:27:00home. So that was that was helpful.

GL: If you have to narrow down all the challenges of your working during the time of COVID you know, just give me a couple examples.

KL: Yeah, I was thinking about this. The, I could only name three. So the three biggest challenges, the first one was creating a mass testing site for COVID, testing, testing individuals, in a way that's never ever been done before. So that was the biggest challenge of my job once the recovery task force was done and said, here's your plan. Okay, now, we had to take this plan and implement it by by the return of our students. So September, actually, August. So we had to determine how do we scale up testing? Which is normally done, you know, let's say at the Student Health Center, they ran 15 different tests a day, you know, 00:28:00sort of different types that and so we kind of had to break away from that model. And fortunately, I had some experience in running a certified testing lab. So I kind of understood how to run a lot of tests. But what I didn't, I've never done it on people. I worked with microbes. So those weren't as, as scary to me. So how do we bring in this sort of expertise, and that's at that point, Governor Thompson, who was our president of the system at the time, had a great relationship with Prevea and hooked us up with the CEO of Prevea Health. And I remember sitting on that phone call with the chancellor, him and his who her name is Amber Allen, she's the COVID guru of Prevea health, she is the mastermind behind all that they do there. And we had a conversation with them. And we asked them for help. And they said, Okay, sounds good. We'll help you 00:29:00just tell us tell us what we can do. And in that moment, I could like take a little bit of a breath, knowing that I won't have to do this by myself. But we still had to figure out how to get employees. We had to figure out how to set it up and where to do it. There was a lot of displeasure with us using Albee which there still is and that's it was tough, because we didn't know what kind of space we would need. We didn't we wanted it to be central to campus for people to access. So lots of late night hours calculating how many you know how many students are going to come get tested? How are we going to test these students? How are we going to track the data? So building the databases building the infrastructure took a tremendous amount of work. The first day we open the testing center was me and this Amber Allen from Prevea she came up and we had let two laptops, my laptop, her laptop, and we had about eight to 10 what they call agency nurses. So we hired them from a a private company through UW system where You know, they get paid to just show up. So these these nurses just came. 00:30:00So they were there at 8am. And I'm like, I don't know what to tell them to do. I luckily, you know, Amber was there. She's a registered nurse. And she she said, okay, you go here you go here, here's your supplies. And the doors opened, and we started seeing patients. It was, we were there till two in the morning entering results that night. So I think that was like a 20 hour day, that first day and entering results into the the system through Prevea. And, you know, after that we had individuals from our campus who were reassigned, so we had athletic coaches that were, they weren't swabbing noses, but they were entering data. They were greeting people at the door. We also had other individuals, Julie Kars, Captain Tarmin people who'd never have ever done this before. And like here's, here's a binder I put together. This is how you run the information 00:31:00and good luck. That's kind of how it started. But that first week, so we started I think the first day we did maybe 100 tests in that day, and that's when the students that was the week before classes, so students were coming back to campus, so they were residence hall students. I remember the on day one, we had one student test positive. And we called her and she came back with her parents and she's crying. And I was so grateful to have Amber there from Prevea, because she her nurse body just came on and she went over to her and she's like, it's okay, we're gonna just retest you. We're gonna make sure and she ended up having to go home. That was our first case that was detected on that day one, and we had a police officer escort her to just comfort her and be with her to get her her things and have to go home. But yeah, I'll never forget that the first case.

GL: How often did you work at the testing center?

00:32:00

KL: For the first month, every day. We I was there every day along with some of the other colleagues that have already mentioned. Patrick Marco was another one from Student Rec and wellness. Nate Scott, Student Rec and wellness. So these individuals just showed up. And I remember having sort of this emotional breakdown after that first day, second day of like, oh, man, okay, we resurrected this, but I don't know if I can keep this going. And these people came in and they they were there over Labor Day weekend. And there they sent me home for two days. And they said you have to you have to take a break, you have to take a break. And they all came in and just kept it going. And it was amazing.

GL: At that time, do you recall any other UW system having a similar operation?

KL: We were we were the most robust operation. A lot of schools hadn't even started testing when school opened. So our objective was to make sure we had 00:33:00testing available whe our students came back and I believe we were the only institution to do it. Maybe GB, because Prevea also works with GB. So they were really the the infrastructure and the the core of what we've been able to do. Without them, we wouldn't be able to do what we did.

GL: Even Madison?

KL: Madison uh yeah, I guess we have to include Madison, Madison was they were doing PCR testing right away. So they had the capacity to do 1000s of PCR tests. They were also doing saliva tests. When we started, we were doing the rapid antigen test, not like you see today, but they were actually ran in a little machine. So you had to do some chemistry along with those every single test. So it was a much more robust test, but we were the only ones besides Madison swabbing, doing the tests on site, and resulting. Yeah. I guess that was the biggest challenge.

GL: Was there?

00:34:00

KL: Any other ones? Then the the resurrection of the vaccine clinics. So we put together a community based vaccination site. We're the first UW System school to do that. That began those discussions began in January of 2021. And I remember, we had worked so we worked with Prevea throughout the entire testing platform. We decided to engage the world health for our community based vaccination. They were there in Oshkosh. We had a good relationship with their CEO also. And we at we actually went to them and asked them if they would do this. They weren't planning on doing community vaccination tests or vaccinations. They said, well, what if we did it at at our Culver Center? You can get in you can get out. We're not holding events. What do you think about that? And there was an advantage for us to do that. While it was a ton of work. Our people could get vaccinated right away and that's what we wanted. So the deal was, hey, we'll help we'll help 00:35:00supply the space we'll help in any way. We hired two full time employees to manage operationally the site. They brought in the nurses, public health sent us some nurses. But the biggest thing is we needed the vaccine. So we could have tried to do it on our own, but we didn't have access to vaccines. So Aurora did. And so Aurora brought the vaccine. And we were able to kind of have these this tripod of partnerships to build that that vaccination site. And we knew how to do community based testing at that point, because we also were doing community based rapid testing again one of the only ones in the country. And it was a it was a great experience. But it was really hard. Working with a hospital that has many layers of administration. And I think higher people think higher ed is difficult. But healthcare is very hard to figure out how it works and how how they make decisions. With Prevea we had one point of contact, and I don't know 00:36:00what happened behind the scenes, but I never had to worry about it. Because that person would just say, okay, this is what we're going to do. This is how we can help you. That wasn't the case with Aurora and not not to their demise or anything it was just it was different. So that was that was definitely the biggest challenges is leading up to opening up that site but.

GL: Whose idea was that to do that, to make to get the vaccines to us, rather than sending our people to get their vaccines?

KL: It was mine.

GL: And how did you go about convincing people?

KL: Convincing people, I think the chancellor was really excited to establish another partnership. So he was excited to work with Aurora. I think some of the others were weary because it was at that point, it was more work. It was like, How can we possibly do this? You know? And I said, Well, if we get the right people in place, I think it's gonna be the best decision to get our community as 00:37:00vaccinated as we can as quickly as we can. By also helping our community in Oshkosh, we were one of the first community sites in Oshkosh. Besides, nope, we were the first in Oshkosh, our public health kind of worked through us. So public health now has a vaccine clinic at Sunnyview. But at the time, we said, Well, why set up to clinics, why not just feed us, the nurses we'll give you the infrastructure, the space we'll help with operations, we'll secure our building to make sure it's up to code with you know, vaccine storage, we got them a negative 80 freezer, things that we kind of just put the pieces of the puzzle together with each partner, I okay, the Partner A doesn't have this, but Partner B does. And so we made that work for almost six months. And we also had the coinciding community based testing. So I think it just gave us the resources we 00:38:00needed. If we didn't do it, we would have had to send our employees and our students elsewhere. And I just think that would have taken longer and been more difficult for them.

GL: I think I actually was going on trying to find an open place. And I think I was going to go to someplace like an hour and a half away. And then something opened up here. And like I guess I'm coming here.

KL: Yeah, if there's an appointment open, man, I help schedule a lot of appointments that early on, just come here, come here, we'll help you. But the in the very infancy of that vaccine, the vaccinations that was the vaccine was hard to get. So you only had in the beginning, we were only getting, you know, a couple 100 doses of vaccine. So it wasn't that we didn't have the manpower, we didn't have the infrastructure. It was we didn't have the vaccine. And then there was a point where when they opened up eligibility, we had vaccine, but we didn't have the manpower. So it kind of ebbed and flowed a little bit there for a while.

GL: When when did you get your own vaccine?

00:39:00

KL: I got an opportunity to get vaccinated in January of 2021 through Aurora so when we developed this partnership, they said, you know, please deem who your essential employees are and the Chancellor decided that, that I got to be one of those. I didn't, I was not expecting that. I was very, very grateful. Little nervous. Just because, you know, it was really early. I mean, vaccines were released in mid December. So but I was really excited and felt very honored. And then, you know, everybody else started the end of February, beginning of March. It sort of came full circle. So watching people get vaccinated was one of the best, the best high points of the experience so far.

GL: I remember getting mine and I think I cried.

KL: Yeah, there was a lot of that. A lot of crying, a lot of happiness, just relief. It sort of made all of it worth it at that point. Yeah.

GL: I'm surprised you did not mentioned, well I shouldn't lead it.

00:40:00

KL: It's okay.

GL: It is a leading question actually.

KL: You can lead.

GL: Did you have any challenges regarding faculty? Staff?

KL: No, no. We, we, yeah, I guess that that in itself. I was I was sort of, I don't know if I was voluntarily involuntary voluntold that I was the communicator. So early on. So I was responsible for sort of being part of the Chancellor's staff meetings and the town halls, I still do that to this day. And trying to communicate science and information to a lot of very, very intelligent people. And I'm used to that community. And I and we certainly got a lot of questions and concerns. But I think, because of how we built, the plan was engaging faculty up front and saying, how do you want to do this? Like, how are you going to teach this, that really helped establish a good relationship, but 00:41:00there are certainly a lot of, we get a lot of questions, a lot of concerned, not just faculty, staff, students, parents, we get a lot of feedback, which I think is good. It can be exhausting. Getting, getting that feedback sustained over two two years. But I think it made us a stronger institution because of it. Because if we weren't willing to listen, we weren't willing to change. And we were constantly changing. And I think about it from the perspective of a faculty member who's communicating with their students. And we're saying, okay, Friday, you don't have to wear masks in this building. And now Monday, no, sorry. Now you got to wear masks again, or, or this is why we're changing to this type of mask, or now we're going to ask you to test this frequency for this reason. That's really confusing. And it's it's a lot of changes and it's a lot of changes for us that are making those recommendations. But for the faculty and staff to have to communicate that and understand it. I don't envy them. And so 00:42:00honestly, I, the feedback is, is actually really valuable to me.

GL: Let's, let's go to the fall of 2020. When we first were coming back and holding in person classes, you know, what kind of feedback you were working with? You know you were on that subcommittee working with the faculty trying to get them back. What kind of feedback actual feedback examples were you getting from them? Or concerns?

KL: Yeah, so when we worked with the individuals on the Titans Return Plan, there was a lot of the feedback revolved around faculty workload, you know, how much how are we going to be able to teach, like, essentially two classes is kind of how they would describe it. You know, we got to accommodate in person learning, and we have to accommodate online learning. So how do I do that? How do we even have the resources and tools to be able to do that my laptop's from 2008, I can't I don't have a microphone, I don't have a headset? How are we 00:43:00gonna do this from home? How do we do it in person who gets to teach from home who gets to teach in person? There was a lot of that, a lot of that leading up to it. And I think the provost, he kind of stood in front of us and said, okay, I'm gonna take all the questions and concerns, we're gonna listen to them. And we may have to make adjustments. But he kind of just went out in front and took a lot of the questions, especially about, you know, is this curriculum the best, the best type of curriculum to give to our students? Are they gonna, are they gonna have any value from this? Are our classrooms going to be empty? A lot of that type of it was a scary time. And then, you know, we have to stand in front of 100 kids, we're gonna wear a mask, but do they work? Nobody's really done this. We required masks at a point where CDC was still saying, we probably don't need masks, we got to save them for health care. And we decided to print our own masks and say, hey, here's your mask, go ahead and get back in the classroom. So 00:44:00it was scary for a lot of faculty and for good reason. But yeah, a lot of a lot of fear. I think that's been something that and and Chief Leibold talks a lot about this as managing fear. And that's really difficult, because people are allowed to have emotions about this. We had a lot of emotions about this. So you know, I I, that was some of the specific feedback and it revolved a lot about the unknown. Yeah.

GL: So you talked about, you know, early on that there we're almost now what, a year and a half or a year year and a half, almost two years.

KL: Two years.

GL: Almost two years ago.

KL: Two years for me. Yeah.

GL: So what would you have done differently knowing what you know now?

KL: Oh, so many things. What would I have done differently? If I knew what I knew now I we would not have send our students home. I think we would have I think even in the summer months, working with Aurora working with some of the 00:45:00other medical experts when we understood how the virus spread. And we understood what we could do to prevent some of that spread just a simple mask, I think we would have tried to, to not run right away, I think we would have took taken a little more time to say, maybe we can keep our students here, and here's how we could do it. We just didn't have any information. So if I could have done it differently, I think we would have maybe paused a little bit to think but, you know, it's sort of like a domino effect. Once one institution goes, you know, the whole country went in days. So it was sort of following suit. I think we would have done that differently. You know, if I don't know, there's so many things we could have done differently. But I think, you know, finding different ways to communicate with our students. To give them information, we did the best we could we had platforms available. You know, we we sent a lot of emails, a lot 00:46:00of people don't read their emails. And so how could we have communicated better? I always think about that. I'm sure Peggy Breister would tell you the same thing. She always, always looking for innovative, different ways we can communicate. I think those would be the big things.

GL: You also mentioned that you lost a lot of sleep. I mean, what were the things that were keeping you awake, you know, in the early days, and are you still not sleeping well, now?

KL: I'm not sleeping well for other reasons now. But I think the things that kept me up was, I felt a great deal of responsibility to our institution and to our community. And I still feel that to this day, this isn't something I mean, most people didn't know who I was that the especially at the beginning of this, like, who's this girl trying to explain this stuff to us? I just happen to have the right set of skills, I think in the right moment. But the thing that kept me awake was the responsibility, the choices that we make impact 1000s of people, 00:47:00and I don't think I've ever had that type of gravity put on my shoulders before and certainly some I put on myself, I think. But I think that the weight of making decisions about people's lives and how they do their jobs and how they learn. That really, that's what mostly kept me up. And is this the right decision? Probably Probably not. I don't know, you know, it was always one of those, like, you made the decision, and then you had to live with it. And then you might have had to change it later. So you were trying to earn the trust of a lot of people. And so that's probably what kept me up.

GL: I'm sure you can actually just say I've, I've done enough, I just can't do the same or what what keep you what are you, what's keeping you still working?

KL: Force? No, I, man, there were moments. I mean, there were moments I remember 00:48:00telling Chief Leibold I don't, this was after we closed the university and we were then then then Chief Leibold is like, alright, well, we got to open back up, you know, and that man runs on Energizer batteries. I don't know. And I was like, whoa, man, I don't know. I mean, someone else is gonna do that, right? And he was like, no, you, you need to do this. And I was I was like, I remember sitting in his office being like, I don't think I can do this. And I think between him and Vice Chancellor Roberts, I remember them telling me, you know, you're the person who has to do this, you got to keep going. And, and at that point, I just said, okay, well, I gotta, I gotta get a lot of energy I got to put forth for this. And why I do it now is because it's not over. It's not over so we can't stop. It's more manageable now. Because we've built a system where I kind of refer to it as dials, you know, we can dial back, we can dial up. But 00:49:00there's so much institutional knowledge at this point. It's hard to, to not want to see it through. I thought I'd see it through a lot sooner. But we've got a dedicated group of individuals that we meet with, you know, on a weekly basis now that from the Emergency Operations Committee that we've said a few times, if you want to quit if you want to be done, like you can be done, it's okay. Like you've done your service, and not a one has walked away. So we're still here.

GL: At what point do you think that we can have some lense of our normal lives back feel what needs to take place?

KL: I think the main thing to get our lives back to normal is that our hospitals need to be able to handle all of the sick people. So there's a lot of things that are happening that were already that's already being done. So, treatments that drug treatments, vaccinations, the things that can stabilize our hospitals. 00:50:00So I, it makes me a little scared because you combined attrition. So so many people have left the healthcare system, have taken on new careers, and they were already bare bones before this pandemic, which is why our hospitals were so affected. Not just I mean, besides the sheer number of people needing hospitalizations, but they were they weren't operating at full capacity like they could have been. So I think once our hospitals can start to handle sick people, we can start to transition out of this. I'm not going to give a date because I always we have I've been I've read enough where I, you know, could speculate, but it's just isn't done me any good giving dates.

GL: How has this, um, pandemic changed the way you do your work?

KL: I think I've grown tremendously in my emotional capacity over the last two years. I think being able to listen, and being able to take on a lot of 00:51:00different opinions, working at a university, I think that we need to do that anyways. But I think I've gotten better. And it's changed how I look at things as far as making sure the trying to make sure the right people are in the room and making sure that their voices are able to be heard. Because this while this was my story, this was not not something that was done by one person. There were besides the Emergency Operations Committee, the Recovery Task Force, which developed the plan, the implementation teams, which were over 250 people, those were everybody, you know, everybody from different units came together. And, you know, we implemented a plan to bring our students back. So I think, without being able to, to listen to those emotions, and try to understand them a little bit better. It's not just about operations, it's definitely involves a lot of 00:52:00emotions and feelings. And I think I've grown as a professional being able to accept that and to, to embrace that, to make decisions.

GL: Do you mind telling me, you said that something else is keeping you these days, something else is keeping you up at night?

KL: Yeah, I'm currently eight months pregnant. So that was meant to happen a little bit sooner. In the in the family planning things. Because of the pandemic, there were multiple reasons we waited as long as we could. But yeah, so I, I've been pregnant through the last eight months of this, this journey, which has made it a little more challenging. But at this point, I'll have a have a little bit of a break from from work for a couple of months. So that will be nice. But yeah, it's unfortunate. I had to wait, but I think it was the right decision. And so.

GL: What do you think, how do you think you're gonna tell your your baby, I 00:53:00mean, when your baby is old enough to understand what happened, and what the mom do during this really historic time? I mean, how will you explain?

KL: I think, you know, I guess I would include my four year old in that, because he has no idea what I do. Um, he always he was, he just knows I do nose tests. So that that's about what he knows about me. And I think I think I explained that, you know, we all we all got to experience something as individuals in one time that we probably all felt very similar. I had the opportunity to be able to learn and grow from that experience, and be able to help at least help our community, you know, help 1000s of people be able to get through it together, and find a way for us to, to come together as an institution and do some really 00:54:00big things. You know, we did a lot of really good things. And so I guess that's how I would explain it.

GL: I actually have to backtrack a little bit. Why, why do you think UW Oshkosh stood out among the UW schools? I believe that I mean, we had the Surgeon General come down and, and Governor Thompson had praised us multiple times. And, you know, I think even the CDC paid attention to what we're doing here. What was it that we're doing here that we did here that got the attention these national entities?

KL: I think we've always taken an aggressive approach to COVID. Even in the beginning, when our faculty and our staff when they were developing their plans. They they we took I don't want to say a higher risk, but we took more of an aggressive approach right away in the beginning. And we took a very proactive 00:55:00approach to testing, we were one of the first to start surveillance testing at the scale we were. So the reason the CDC got involved is because we were doing so many tests using, like I said, we were using a different testing platform at the time. People weren't using that testing platform at that capacity. So we were doing 1000s of tests a week, we were like data gold, for the CDC. And so Governor Thompson had those relationships, again, very, he was in the right place at the right time, and to get us resources and to make those connections because he had a lot of connections at CDC Health and Human Services and then the Surgeon General. That spotlight was put on us because we were just doing it more faster. And we were sort of ahead. We were always kind of 15 minutes ahead, it felt like I'll say Chancellor Leavitt quoted that because that's a great quote. So by doing that, I think we just garnered a lot of attention. And we 00:56:00were very transparent with UW system in the beginning. UW system wasn't really the driver at that point, all the institutions were like driving their own buses. And system was kind of like learning in the moment, trying to be helpful, trying to find resources. And we, we they worked with us very closely, they modeled their, their operations after us. So they put together their own little, they didn't call it an emergency operations team. But their, their ops team, I think, is what they called it, then, you know, they would meet every day, and they would talk about all the data. And that's when we started submitting information. So we just took a very practical scientific approach really early on. And I don't know we were probably a little bit crazy. And we did big things. And we carry that we we did what we said we were going to do and so I think they were just they were drawn to us really early on.

GL: How did the CDC use the data they got from us?

00:57:00

KL: So the CDC, they use data to make CDC recommendations and guidelines. Based on the data we gave them. They're still publishing, I think I've probably on a dozen or so papers that they've published over the the data they've collected from from our Albee Hall Testing Center, and our Culver Family Welcome Center. So they would actually make testing recommendations based off the information that they learned. So how accurate were those antigen tests? When can you use them? When should you use them? How should you use them? When do you need PCR confirmatory tests? That was all made made off of the data that we gave them. So that was pretty cool. And they were just so grateful to have, it seemed like they got a lot of pushback from collaborators that they didn't want to help them. We said come in we're we're institution of learning. Come in, we want to 00:58:00learn more to we want to make our decisions, we want to make better decisions about our resources, too. So we were able to kind of offer them a practical approach of how the resources were being used. And then they were able to give us the scientific data that we needed to validate those decisions. So it was a great partnership, and we gave him a lot of feedback, you know, hey, this is an interesting finding, but we aren't gonna be able to implement that there's no way we can do that because of XYZ reason. So that's how they would make recommendations through the CDC on what to do next, especially in those earlier days.

GL: Your background is in biology, I mean, your degrees are in biology and microbiology. I mean, so as a scientist, I mean, what was it like for you to be in the mix of all those? I mean, really, in the, in the, in the eye of the storm.

KL: I loved it. I love being able to use science but but have an applied nature 00:59:00to it. I all the research I've ever done has always been very applied. But this was an opportunity to do this in real time, and to be able to try to use as much data and evidence as possible, and then literally turn around the next day and make a change. So it's like a scientists dream, I think to be able to to make a real impact, for sure.

GL: Give me an example of that regarding what you did here with the COVID response.

KL: Yes, so I mean, I think it's as simple as we started out using antigen testing, and we had this other gold standard PCR test. One of them costs a little bit of money, one of them costs a lot of money. And what we started we what we didn't understand is in the beginning, we were using the very expensive tests more often because that was the gold standard. That's what we needed to use. And as we learned more about the rapid tests and how effective they were, 01:00:00we could actually, we could ask a student or a staff, hey, when did your symptoms start? When were you becoming sick? And make choices on the spot of which test to use. So I think that in real time was, you know, we were able to look at our not just our positivity rate, but we could tell when people were getting sick, how long they were in their disease progression, what resource could we use at that moment, and so that we could be cost effective at our, with our resources that we could extend them as long as we could. So that was early on, we were able to kind of self diagnose which tests we should be using appropriately and still, while still detecting well above 90% of the disease.

GL: So which hat do you where when you you come to work? I mean, are you the, you know, the scientists or the, you know, excited scientist? Are you the, you know, the community, a human being who's like, I'm still in the global pandemic? 01:01:00I mean, you have a lot of, you know, personas.

KL: Yeah.

GL: Which?

KL: I don't know. Um, well, now I have a new job. So I'm right now I'm the Interim Chief of Staff in the Division of University Affairs, that changed in November. So I had an opportunity to use my problem solving skills in a different way. So I'm doing completely different things outside of COVID. Although in moments like the last three weeks, it's been all COVID all the time, it feels like, but the problem solving skills and the the I would say, desire to want to make big change hasn't gone away. So I guess I come from, you know, I solve problems for day on a daily basis. And that's kind of my job. And that hasn't changed, whether it's COVID, or this job now.

GL: What is this job now, what do you do? What are you responsible for?

01:02:00

KL: So I'm responsible for, I work for our, our Vice Chancellor Roberts and I, I manage, essentially the division as a whole and help our the directors solve problems with whatever they're dealing with, getting resources for their for the institution, mostly operational. So that's kind of what I did the last two years. So things like IT and marketing and things that are sort of the bedrock of the institution in that way. So help them solve a lot of their problems that they're going through. And, yeah, deal with a lot of legal issues that intersect the institution now.

GL: You're not doing the dual role. Okay.

KL: Nope. They split those departments back out. So apparently nobody else wanted to do that either. Which makes sense.

GL: Do you have anything else that we haven't talked about? You want, do you want to add anything else?

KL: I don't think so. I think I've talked enough for you.

01:03:00

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

KL: You're welcome.