Interview with Laurence Carlin, 09/20/2022

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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´╗┐TS: This is Tanner Sarauer interviewing Dr. Laurence Carlin: on September 20 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 get started, could you please state your name and spell it out for us?

LC: Yes, my name is Laurence Carlin, L-A-U-R-E-N-C-E, last name, Carlin C-A-R-L-I-N.

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

LC: Sure. I am Lawrence Carlin and I'm the Dean of the Honors College.

TS: Wonderful. Now before we dive into your campus COVID story we'd like to get to know you a little better. Could you please tell me about where you grew up?

LC: Yes, I grew up just outside of Philadelphia. So I'm I'm not from the Midwest. I'm a transplant. And right on the west side of Philadelphia.

TS: Wonderful. Where did you earn your degree?

LC: I earned my undergraduate degree at a Franklin and Marshall College, which 00:01:00is a small school in central Pennsylvania. I then earned a master's degree in Philosophy at the University of Houston. And then I earned my PhD in Philosophy at Rice University down in Houston, Texas.

TS: Wonderful. And did either of your parents attend a university and receive a degree? And if so what was their highest degree?

LC: My father attended college and his, he graduated with an undergraduate degree, that was his highest degree. Yes. And my mother did not get, earn a four year degree. But she did many years ago was graduated from nursing school and was a practicing nurse for some time.

TS: And so your mother was a practicing nurse for a while. What did your father go on to do?

LC: My father was an NFL executive actually, he worked for the yes, he worked for the Philadelphia Eagles for more than 50 years as the ticket manager.

TS: All right. And then as you said, you are not from the Midwest originally, 00:02:00how did you come to work at UW Oshkosh?

LC: I came to, I was living in southern Texas, down in Houston, Texas in the year 2000. And there was a position available here in the philosophy department. I'm also a professor of philosophy. There was a position available in my area in the philosophy department here. And I interviewed for that position and visited here and was offered the job and I've been here ever since.

TS: And we're very happy to have you here.

LC: Thank you.

TS: Could you please tell me about your position? Sorry, what year did you come work at UW Oshkosh first, when did you first join?

LC: 2000,

TS: wonderful.

LC: Yes.

TS: And then, um, could you please just tell me about your position at UWO pre COVID. If you could just kind of describe what you do and who and what you were responsible for, such as students and staff you worked over and then it would be great to get some specific details to help bring the story to life.

LC: Sure. So pre COVID, Life was hectic. I actually came over to the Honors 00:03:00Program in 2012. I was a part time director of the program at that point in time. And in 2017, after a year of conversations, having a consultant on campus conversations with the, with the chancellor Andrew Leavitt, with the provost, with the other dean's, with the University Honors Council, we made the decision to take the University Honors Program to college status. And that was in 2017, we opened our doors to the Honors College at UW Oshkosh. And things were very busy for subsequent years. The Honors College grew to approximately 550 students. At any given point in time, we have about 60, you know, 60 members have 60 instructors or so all over campus spread out throughout the other four 00:04:00colleges on campus in Nursing, Letters and Science, Business and the College of Education and Human Services. And so you know, things were busy because not just you know, was I the dean of a college but you know, I was charged with leading, I was the Charter Dean as they say, I was the first one. So together as a team there with other staff in the Honors College and other faculty in the University Honors Council. We were charged with putting in the policies, expanding our presence across campus, recruiting, marketing, budgeting, this new venture, this new initiative on campus, the Honors College. All of that was still happening, pre COVID and things were going very well until COVID happened

TS: Until COVID that's how it always goes.

LC: Yeah.

TS: So it seems like obviously you were handling a lot; Trying to get the Honors College off the ground pre COVID? What were some of the biggest challenges that 00:05:00you were facing through your job?

LC: The biggest challenges pre COVID. I would say I mean, pre COVID, we still saw ourselves even though the doors were open. And things are going pretty well. And we think, you know, honors students were having high impact experiences in the Honors College. But still, we still saw ourselves as building this new Honors College, it was still new. And so the challenges, still have surrounded that initiative, that new initiative. So, what is the best way to recruit for the Honors College? What is our message going to be? What is our policy going to be with respect to this one, and of course, establishing relationships across campus with the other colleges, right? The Honors College has to have good relationships with everybody else on campus. Because we want honors experiences all across the campus, right, in the other major, every major and minor, that we 00:06:00can have them. So the you know, those were big challenges. Really just, you know, building the Honors College and the day to day, it was hectic, they were long days, and that is where we were pre COVID. Yeah, but having a lot of fun with it. Yes.

TS: So now let's move on to the early days of COVID. When was the first time you remember hearing about COVID-19?

LC: I think the first time I remember hearing about COVID-19 was on television on the news, actually. And of course it had you know, the way it was presented in the news that it started overseas, and was continuing to grow, and grow, and grow. And I do specifically remember sitting in my, you know, in my living room or a TV room at home there and seeing that. Never did across my mind at that point in time that it would become what it became. So, but I do remember the 00:07:00first time just seeing it as this thing that was happening elsewhere. Right? Boy, I underestimated it. Yeah.

TS: Absolutely, we all did for sure. Before it made its cross over into our campus, and we had to do the close down and everything, what was your initial reaction to the news when you were first hearing about COVID-19?


My initial reaction to the news? Well, it was one of, I would say it was one of curiosity, because it was on the news, and then it was on the news a lot more, and then it was all that was on the news. And so it's impossible not to pique your interest, right, this thing is really gaining momentum unfortunately. I have to, those first few weeks where it was on the news, never did it occur to me that it would impact this campus, the Honors College, the way we deliver instruction. It never occurred to me. And so, you know, I didn't have one, I did 00:08:00not have, I was not fearful. When I first heard it. I didn't, you know, I guess I worried a little bit. You know, we wanted to know how serious this was? What, if I had it would I be symptomatic? What is happening here? Almost started to feel eventually like we were in a science fiction movie of some sort. But I didn't worry too much about it at that time, because it simply was not on my radar screen as something that could have the impact it ended up having.

TS: Absolutely. So now let's talk about your situation in early March. What were your feelings as the other campuses started shutting down all of a sudden?

LC: Then I did become fearful. That's when the fear set in. That's when the anxiety set in. And I, you know, the more meetings I was in and discussing these things with colleagues and other administrators, it was looking more and more 00:09:00like we were going to have to close down too. Yeah. And the, yeah, so that that's when it really started to set in is when we started having discussions about, here on campus, what were we going to do? Right? How are we going to handle this? And suddenly, this was not just something on the news, this was something in our own backyard. And that's when I became increasingly worried. Especially I became worried, of course, you know, you worry about your loved ones, and you want everybody to be healthy and everything, but I worried about the Honors College too. And, you know, if we had to take this, take the Honors College Online or not have interaction with our students or anything, I was very fearful that that was not something that would enable honors education to continue at the high level that it was proceeding.

TS: Right. So as you were saying earlier and what you've kind of just mentioned, sorry, as you were saying and what you kind of just mentioned now, you were 00:10:00working over 600, with over 600 students, with over 60 staff members, you were working with a lot of people and in charge of a lot of people in dealing with the response to the COVID 19 pandemic, with whom did you work most closely while you were executing the Honors College response?

LC: I worked most closely with the two other honors college staff members, the Assistant Dean of the Honors College, Julie Russo, and the Honors Advisor, Liz Taylor, those are the two people I worked most closely with on campus. And we were in touch constantly, right? About what, how are we going to do this, what is our message going to be, we want to make sure the students feel supported, we want to make sure they don't feel like they are losing the support of the Honors College because they're at home on a laptop quarantining, and those are the people I worked most closely with. Other than them, I worked most closely with the instructors to make sure that we were getting through to the students, that we were there for them, that they would continue to be supported. That they 00:11:00could reach out even in the height of the pandemic while they were quarantining, and we would respond immediately to any concerns they had about matters.

TS: So it seems you had a great team working with you.

LC: I did


Describe what happened in your department as like in regards to what your actual response was that you guys took? What kind of measures did you take in order to protect your your staff and students from the COVID 19? pandemic?

LC: Yes. So this is in spring 2020? In particular, yes. So in Spring 2020, of course, we had to move all of our classes online, I was not happy about this. You know, my own view is that this is not a good thing for honors education. In the Honors College, we placed tremendous emphasis on close interaction between students and faculty, and we have small classes, we have one on one mentoring. And suddenly, all of that was going to go away. And yet it was so much at the center of who we are and what we do. So, what I wanted to do is I wanted to work 00:12:00with faculty and staff who were teaching in the Honors College and I was exchanging emails and having video meetings with them. And our initial, our initial reaction, our initial message is we need to keep fostering that sense of community, that we're so proud of here in the Honors College, to the best of our ability, again, in these adverse circumstances. You know. And we would come up with ideas about how to do that, teaching online, what are the best practices here, and we would share these ideas, I remember all of these meetings, I remember there were a lot of them. And, because we had to move quickly. Some to everything from what are the best practices for teaching online, to you know, some of us were doing goofy things with our, with our class, just to keep that sense of community. You know, we were all online, so everybody, for example, in my class, you know, once a week it was Bring Your Dog to Class Day, right? So, everybody's dog, they would bring their dog and put them on FaceTime and things 00:13:00like that and we got to see how to each other's dogs. I mean, anything, you know, that we could do to make sure that students and staff, students, faculty and staff continued to feel connected to one another in the honors community. That was, that was where my thinking was, and that's where, that's how I spent my time in those first days with the onset of COVID in Spring 2020.

TS: Very nice. So that bringing your dog to class day sounds wonderful. How many classes were you teaching at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, and then if, sorry. How many classes and then how many students were in those classes that you were in charge of?

LC: I was teaching one class that semester and it was a small class, actually, it was a small class of about 14 students. They responded magnificently. They rolled from the classroom to online. Just, it was inspiring. It was inspiring. 00:14:00The class was a first year Honors Seminar 175. And the theme of, the title of that class was Money and Values. And we were looking at a number of controversial issues, sort of cutting edge issues, right at the intersection of money and values. And we have only 14 of us. So we were able to have, you know, these wonderful discussions. And they just did, you know, you'll always remember, I'll always remember those 14, right? They're the ones that, you know, we went through that, they were in person with me, and then a week later, they were online with me. I'll always remember though, there was 14, and they just responded really well. We had fun when the class went online. And so yeah, and that made it that really made it made a difference so.

TS: When it came to teaching the online courses, do you feel you had to work harder in order to keep the students interested in the class and being in an online format, trying to hold their attention and keep them interested in the content.

LC: I did, I did. I had never taught an online class. I had no plans to ever 00:15:00teach an online class in my career, ever. I was you know, I was an honors dean. And we shy away from online learning, you know, we have small interactive classes. And so I found myself getting up early in the morning, staying up late at night thinking, how am I going to do this? I did feel very well supported by this campus. They were putting resources out there for us every day doing a magnificent job, here's how you can record yourself. Here is how you can set up a classroom. Here's how you can have small groups, here's how, you know, submit papers, everything. And they just did an amazing job. That was the, that was the I had two memories actually, two major memories of what happened that week when we were, when the, when the pandemic hit campus. One, of course, was my 14 students in Money and Values, right? And I remember how am I going to do this right, this was not in the plan. That was the other one. However, it was March 00:16:0012, I believe, when the campus made the decision to go online, March 12, if I'm not mistaken, I could be wrong. March 13, was our annual Honors Day. This was our major recruiting day where we bring high achieving students from around the region, and we were looking forward to this. We had nearly, we had somewhere around 150, close to 200 people, if you count their parents coming with them for honors visit day. It was our largest one ever, I was so excited about it, because again, we were growing the Honors College. And for the couple of weeks up to Honors Day, I could see more campuses closing down. I could see this pandemic spreading on the news, and I thought I really would love to get this Honors Day recruiting event in here before they shut us down if we're going to 00:17:00shut down. And it was the day before. And we had to email everybody and say, you know, Honors Visit Day is canceled. And that was our major recruiting event of the day, and that's when it really hit me that something really big was happening here. And I began to fear, you know, of course, you want to keep your loved ones, and your friends, and your parents, and everything safe, but I began to fear for the future of the Honors College too. We had worked so hard to build it at that point and I was worried that students would become disengaged, you know. I was very worried about that. And once we had to cancel our major recruiting event, so that year I would not be able to spread the message in the region about the wonderful opportunities and benefits of the Honors College. And I, that was frustrating. I was not a happy person that day. And that's when it really hit me. So my own class and then the cancellation of our major recruiting event that day. That's when it really struck me this is happening.

TS: Did COVID have a major impact on the enrollment that you had into the Honors 00:18:00College, having to cancel the introduction day, or did you take other measures or measures to get the attention of students in the region that still was bringing students into the college?

LC: Yes, we luckily, we we continued to grow, we did not suffer any decline in enrollment. And I'm very fortunate I'm very, very happy about that, and we feel very fortunate for that. I would meet with, I met with, I remember meeting with a lot of students who are planning to go to Honors Day, talking on the phone, talking on the phone meeting on the phone as it were, video chats, everything throughout that Summer in that late Spring, just kind of grassroots one on one small group recruiting, you know, trying to get a hold of them and reach out. And so, as a result, we at that point in time, we actually did grow. The freshman class that came in in the Fall of, Fall '20 was our largest one. So we 00:19:00felt very fortunate about that, and despite that I panicked. We brought in at that point, I think, and I think the number was around 130 or so give or take, 130 new freshmen, honors freshmen. And at any given time, there's somewhere between 500 and 550 in there. We draw a lot of students along the way from campus itself. And so 130 is actually a pretty big, a big incoming freshman class for us. So we were very happy about that.

TS: That's amazing.

LC: Yes.

TS: So focusing back more on to your role specifically on campus. Some employees roles at the time of the shutdown were deemed essential in that they were instructed to come to work in person then they had to, were you among the group that was deemed an essential worker.

LC: Yes, I was an essential worker. I did not have to come to campus, but I had to continue working. Yes.

TS: All right, and then what would you say your biggest challenges were at the 00:20:00beginning of the pandemic, when we were first shutting down when you were deemed essential, sent home but still having to work. What was the biggest challenges that you faced at that time?

LC: I would say the biggest challenges that we faced. It's hard to say that there's a biggest I mean, there were a lot of things going through my mind at the time, a lot of challenges that needed to be addressed. I was worried about students, first and foremost. So again, I wanted them to feel that sense of community to know that, you know, honors, that the Honors College was still there for them. That if there were any, any challenges they were going through that might impede their academic progress, they should definitely reach out to the Honors College, right? Whether those are mental health challenges, challenges at home, you know, if you get COVID, if you're worried, if you're having technology problems, and you're worried that that's going to, anything, you know, be sure to be sure to reach out to the Honors College. That was a big challenge. I was, I remember sending many emails, to honor students, to honors 00:21:00faculty, and staff. Just trying to keep the community together, as it were, the sense of honors community, that was a big challenge. My own class, getting it online, that was a challenge. How were we going to do, make up for this loss of our largest recruiting day yet, that was an item of concern for me, we had a lot of great stuff planned for that day. We've been planning it for months, and in the midnight hour, it was cancelled. So that was also a concern, a concern for me on top of the concerns again, about you know, keeping keeping your family, keeping your family safe, and hope, you know, I have elderly parents, I have young children, you know, you wanted everybody to be to be safe. So, you're juggling those concerns at the same time.

TS: Absolutely. And then what percentage of your work week during the March to Summer 2020 were you physically on campus? You said you didn't have to stay on campus and you were allowed to work from home, but was there ever work that you needed to be on campus and needed to be here to do?

LC: I would say, I mean, I was not on campus regularly. I was not on campus 00:22:00regularly. It's possible in the summer, though, I think I did come here a few times, but it was for, it was never for the same reason, right? It was because I needed to get a hold of this, or I needed to get a hold of that, or I needed this resource or something. But for the most part, no, I was quarantining and doing my best to to be the dean of an Honors College from home from my basement with my laptop. I do remember, we did have Honors College Graduation that Spring. And we had it online. That's one of the things that I came into campus for. I did, because I had to grab our big Honors College banner, and I hung it on the wall in my basement, and then I placed the laptop in front of me, and then the Honors College banner was behind me. And I had been working with the 00:23:00graduating seniors for a month or so up to this online graduation, which of course, I had no experience, right? How do we do an online graduation? What is this going to look like? Anyway, we we came up with something and the graduates made wonderful suggestions as well. I'll always remember that class. And somehow or another, we pulled it off. And basically what I asked them to do was, so when you graduate from the Honors College, you earn the Honors Medallian, right? And I asked every one of the graduates, I said I need you to find somebody at home, right, that you're living with, who can, who can award you the Honors Medallion. Alrighty. Okay, and then send us your address. And we shipped, I don't recall how many graduates there were certainly there were between 65 and 80 graduates or something, we shipped all of those out to their home, to their homes, wherever they were, alright. And then I'm in my basement, and it's Honors 00:24:00College Graduation time. And we had talked about the rules, keep your mics off, until I call your name when I call your name, turn your mic on. I'm gonna say a few words about you. Right. And, and then the person at home whether it was mom or dad or some people had a friend or a you know, a significant other, once would award them right on right online there, their Honors Medallion. And then as soon as that happened, every mic would go on and everybody would cheer and it's chaos, of course was what it sounds like online. But that is that was another major event that we really wanted, we didn't want to just say, oh it's canceled. You know, these students have worked so hard for a number of years, they maintain high grades, they're very engaged, you know, the students in the Honors College. We wanted to make sure that they had an Honors College Graduation where they could they could, you know, earn and be awarded that 00:25:00coveted Honors Medallion that they had worked so hard for. And we pulled it off. And the technology stayed with us even though it was early in the pandemic, that technology wasn't quite as good. And we had, we had a fun time online, we made the most of it. There were a lot of laughs, a few tears. but we got, we made it happen. And of course, I'll never forget that ceremony ever.

TS: What percentage of your work week then, coming back, sorry. When you came back after March-Summer 2022, you said you were here sometimes over the summer. When did you fully come back in person?

LC: I fully came back in fall '20.

TS: Fall '20.

LC: Yes, yeah. And I spent the summer of '20, of 2020, on the, on a committee for academic implementation right. So, as many people know, throughout the throughout the course of the, of the Summer in 2020, our university, right under 00:26:00the leadership of Chancellor Andrew Leavitt, our university did an amazing job responding to COVID. That is, I'm very, very proud of it. So I'm just gonna throw that out there right now. And we, but we put in, the plan was over the course of the Summer, there would be multiple teams, and the teams would figure out how we would operate in the following year. Okay, so there was a team for dining hall, it was residence hall team, and I was on the academic implementation, what are our classrooms going to look like? How are we going to trace COVID? If somebody gets it? How are we going to space them out? You know, things of that sort. Right? So if it was if it was a 20 person class, well, now the 20 person class needed a room of, a room that could could seat 50, right, because we have to space them out. So it took a major overhaul of the way that we even assigned classrooms, et cetera, et cetera. Yeah. And I was on that team. And I spent many hours working on that one, and then fine, but it worked. And we 00:27:00had in person classes in the Honors College, the very next semester, fall 2020. And I co-taught I mean, at this, I'd never forget the visual, right, I co-taught with my colleague, who's no longer here anymore, but professor Heike Albert's, my longtime colleague, we co-taught an Honors Seminar. And we only had 20 Something students in there, but we taught it in a huge lecture hall, a huge pit. So the visual here was everybody was spread out, so you had to make sure you were elevating your voice and, you know, kind of walking around a bit. Everybody has a mask on, everybody is spread out, but we did it. We did it. And that was a lively and fun class actually, a very engaged classroom, so.

TS: Going back to the committee that you were a part of in the summer of 2022, what did your team look like and who were you working alongside to determine how the, how the classes were going to be ran on campus?


LC: Yes. So there were a number of us on that committee. My my colleague in the economics department, professor Chad Kotti, he was the chair of that committee, he led that committee and just did a marvelous job. He really did fantastic work. I do remember there were, the committee was composed of obviously faculty or faculty representation from from all the colleges, I believe. I also remember my colleague, who is the Dean of the College of Business, Barbara Rao, I remember she was on it as well. And so it was a committee that we wanted sort of widespread academic representation. I don't remember the exact number that were in the room. Of course, it's a virtual room we met, we met virtually. But there were a number of us and there was widespread representation from many units on campus.

TS: Was there ever any major disagreements on how our response to COVID should be handled and how the classrooms should be run when coming back for the 00:29:00academic year of 2020 to 2021?

LC: I would say there were no major disagreements. I would say that our interests were aligned. We wanted to figure out a way to do this, and it looked like an enormous challenge. It was not obvious how we were going to proceed, if we would get away with it. But were there little disagreements along the way? I'm sure there were, but none that were, none that generated any animosity. There were no personality conflicts of that sort. Nothing that required us to, you know, take a vote or call somebody else in to try and negotiate this or anything. But there were some disagreements along the way, but little things, but in the end, we were unified. And I would say pretty much unify, you know, we were unified all along despite the minor disagreements. So that went very well. I really began to build confidence through the work of that committee. I really began, and I remember very specifically, you know, after our third, fourth or 00:30:00fifth meeting, thinking, we might pull this off, right? We might pull this off. And there was, we were, it's a pleasure. It was one of those committees where it was, again, it was just a pleasure to collaborate with, with everybody on that committee. UW Oshkosh is great like that. You know, there's a lot of, there's a lot of goodwill, a lot of good collaboration, and people are civil, right, even when there's disagreements. You know, and that was that that committee was no exception. And the stakes were so high, which kind of added an element of excitement to it. Of course, we'd rather not been there at all, but but, you know, there was a sense of urgency, and the stakes were high. And we wanted to, we wanted to make sure that we could return to campus, and, you know, engage 00:31:00with students, continue the educational mission that is so important to us.

TS: So, you were mentioning that there was obviously some concerns when you guys were trying to get everybody back in the best and safest way possible for the hybrid year of 2021, or 2020 to 2021. At the time, there were no vaccines available for students to receive, were there any major concerns bringing students back to campus without the vaccines available?

LC: Yes, there were major concerns.

TS: Were there many? Sorry.

LC: Yes, go ahead.

TS: I was just gonna ask her if there were any discussions on your committee of whether or not it was a mistake to bring them back without the vaccine, or what you guys just talked about in regards to there being no vaccine at the time, but wanting to bring the students back?

LC: Yes. So, there were, I don't, you know, the online option was still available to those who did not feel comfortable teaching in person, right. And that's something you could work out in your department. So, I don't think there were too many concerns with respect to that. If there was an instructor who was very concerned or perhaps in a more vulnerable position due to a health concern 00:32:00or lives with somebody who's in one, they had the option, for the most part, to go online or to have a hybrid class online or something of that sort. So, I don't, I didn't see too, I don't recall there being many concerns. We knew the vaccine was on the way we didn't know when it was going to come. Instead, it wasn't like, well, there are no vaccines. It's if we're if we're going to do this in person, how are we going to do it? That was the focus of our energy, right? How far away do you need to be? What does the CDC say? What if a student refuses to wear a mask in class? How are we going to handle that? That's a that's an item of discussion as well.

TS: What challenges were you personally facing in the Fall of 2020, when the campus did reopen for in person instruction.

LC: Let's see, I would say that I had some of the same concerns that I still had 00:33:00a lot of the same concerns that I had in Spring 2020. We do have members of the honors instructional staff, who still had to have classes online, and we support that, we support that we don't want to put, we didn't want to put anybody at risk, especially without the vaccine being available at that time. So, we still had honors classes online. That is not, that is not our preference, right? Our honors classes are small, we circle up, they have lively discussions on cutting edge issues. Online is not really an option. It was particularly worrisome when at least one of our classes is as his Honors 275, Culture Connection we call this class, is a community engagement class. We get the students out of the classroom, to go experience artistic venues in the community. Obviously, that was not an option. So I had a lot of concerns about that class, because it was an important class for us. How are we going to do that? I had concerns that, if 00:34:00we would ever get our study abroad backup, because we had a fully sold out study abroad in Spring 2020 ready to go, and that got canceled. And then another one got canceled, and then another one got canceled, right? So I was concerned about our Honors College study abroad, I still had a lot of the same concerns that we weren't yet fully able to be that honors community that we once were prior to Spring 2020. We weren't there yet, even though we were back on campus and having in person classes. So I would say my biggest concerns is I was still grabbing to try and keep this community together throughout all of this.

TS: Out of everything that you had to handle, all the challenges that you had to respond to, you were in charge of the Honors College, and in that committee, what are you most proud of regarding your response at work to COVID-19

LC: I think I guess, I guess I'm most proud of, I think I'm most proud of the 00:35:00way that the honors instructors and the honor students responded, right? We could put, we could put every reasonable measure out there to deal with this, you know, on on our end, right? That every best practice for online, everything, but if the students aren't going to embrace that and stay engaged, we're, things aren't going to go well, right? If faculty aren't going to, let's face it, we asked faculty to do an enormous chunk of work, right? An enormous chunk of work, you know, to to whether, you know, take your courses online, spread them out in these classrooms, right, trace them, we need to know the names of everybody who was anywhere near the student who tested positive, right? I think I'm most proud of the way that the honors instructional staff, the honors, the core academic 00:36:00staff, or the core Honors College staff in Oviatt house, which is home of the Honors College, and the students all responded, right? It really took a wide spread collaboration to continue to make sure that honors students were succeeding. Yeah, it took, and you had to have everybody on board, right? Staff, administrators, faculty, students, everybody had to work together to make this happen, and they did. And they did. And, you know, because because of that, the honors students did succeed. We did not hemorrhage any students over the pandemic. Almost all of our students returned and continue to engage, you know, their honors education. And I think it has, I think it has to do with with the faculty and the staff and the students in our community, I just, I just think the world of them. And I'm most proud of the way that they responded so quickly, 00:37:00so competently and with so much care.

TS: Wonderful. How has your job changed because of the global pandemic? As in, do you feel COVID has permanently changed your work at all, moving forward from where we're at now?

LC: Yes, that's a great question. In some, in some ways, COVID has some some ways are obvious how it has changed things. So I have a lot more online meetings now. That hasn't gone away just because we have a vaccine. You know, all of my administrative meetings I think are online. I just had several today, and they were, they were on teams or zoom or some, you know, all of them. So that's changed. There's a lot more of that happening. And I don't know, you know, right now, we're back to small classes. You know, I just got out of class right now before this. And I have 15 16 students circled up in a room and we're discussing 00:38:00and having conversations again, and it's wonderful. That hasn't changed. That's back again. But, I think however, I what has really changed is that I'm keenly aware that things can happen. That's what changed, it's kind of this, just this conceptual approach to your job, right, that, you know, things can happen. This Honors College, this honors education can get disrupted. It can happen, and that's really what's, you know, I'm a, you just didn't believe that in early Spring 2020, that that could happen, did you? I didn't. And now I know it can happen. And so that has changed the way that I, that I look at things, certainly. And so I'm grateful, you know, and I'm grateful to be back in the classroom. I'm grateful to be back in Oviatt House. Oviatt House was shut down 00:39:00for so long, and now it's busy with honors students traffic, and I'm delighted about that. But for the most part, things are back to normal, and I'm grateful. I'm very grateful for that.

TS: I would say we all are.

LC: Yes. Yeah. Sure.

TS: Moving forward then in the time in the timeline of the pandemic, in the Fall of 2021, vaccines became readily available on campus, and in fact, they were strongly advocated for by administration on campus. What were your initial thoughts about the vaccines? And then if you don't mind sharing with us, you could talk about whether or not you're vaccinated and why you made the decision to or not to be?

LC: Yes, I am vaccinated and I have the booster, so, and I never, I never hesitated, right? To be to be honest with you, I'm in complete agreement with, with the university's position on this encouraging people to get to get vaccinated. We my children are vaccinated, my wife is vaccinated, I wanted everybody in my family vaccinated, and my parents went first we were mostly 00:40:00worried about them. And so, yeah, I had no concerns about that. I'm a believer in science. And I didn't want anybody, myself, family, friends, loved ones to be harmed by this virus, so I supported the, the, you know, the university's position on this. And I, you know, implemented it in my own life.

TS: And then I understand you had mentioned earlier that you actually led one of the first study abroad trips after the pandemic began, after we were starting to come back. What was that experience like for you? I mean, what, what things were different from previous studies, study abroad that you had done, and what precautions were you needing to, to follow to keep the students that you were traveling with safe?

LC: Yes, great, great question. So we run two study abroad a, every interim, we run a study abroad, we run I'm sorry, one each interim, that's two a year. So we 00:41:00run a study abroad in January, and we run a study abroad in May in the May interim, okay. The first Honors College study abroad, Honors College study abroad, and I think it was the first or there was another one on campus, but these were the first two to sort of test the waters and study abroad. Sure, we volunteered for that, we'll do it right? It's a, study abroad is important. It's important to who we are, it's part of our identity, and we have students who were ready and willing to go, and we don't, you know, we want to give them that opportunity. So that was last January. So that's January 2020. That's January '22. Yes, January 2022. So that was last January, and that group went to Paris, France, for two weeks, okay. And at the time, France required a mask, masking everywhere. They we also had, they also had to test the day before they got on 00:42:00the airplane. And then they had to test negative and of course, it had to be negative, or they weren't going. And then they had the test while they were in Paris, France, 24 hours before they got on the airplane to come back to the United States of America. And it had to be negative. Every student, 20 of them was aware of the deal. If you test positive, you don't get on that airplane. Right? That's not our rule. That was the rule at the time, both France and the USA had that rule, okay. They all went for it. And also, you know, if you tested positive while you're in France, the rest of your class is leaving perhaps and your there quarantining until you test negative again, because you couldn't get back into the country then. So, we made it very clear to these 20 students, you know, that we, you know, we're, that the instructors are willing to go the Honors College supports this, but this is the deal. I couldn't be more proud of 00:43:00that group. Of course they, you know, so the day before they got on the airplane, 20 negative tests, they all quarantined for two weeks, they so wanted this high impact travel study abroad experience that they had been waiting for, for so long. And then what was really interesting after running around the streets of Paris for two weeks, they had a test negative again, and they did. 20 negative tests coming back and we pulled it off. I confess I was a nervous wreck for those two weeks. I thought there was very little chance that we were gonna get 20, to go 20 for 20 on the negative tests. I then ran another one I encouraged by their success, I ran one just three months later to the United Kingdom. Now at this point in time, there was a backlog of interest, right? Because so many students had been waiting, so I decided I would I would run two study, short term study abroad, back to back. 40 honor students. So what happened is, I took a group over there, and I took a group over there to 00:44:00England. I stayed after, after their two weeks over there on their study abroad. I stayed and sent them home, and another group met me over there the next day. There was, we assigned a couple of student leaders to come on over with the other group, and right. And they met me, I mean, what could go wrong, right? Yeah. And they met me there, and then we had another study abroad, and then I took them home as well. So we got 40 students, the Honors College study abroad. Now here's what's interesting about that. These were, for the first, while we were over there with the first group while I was over there, so this was May to the first week of June, last spring, right? Those students had to test negative to get back on the airplane. So I made arrangements for all of them to get tested, and I went with them. And this was after two weeks of, you know, riding 00:45:00the London Underground, going in and out of museums, going into shows, right, theater performances, I was highly doubtful we were gonna get 20 negative tests in a coming out of a major metropolitan area like London, England. Yes. So I was, I was pretty nervous for that one, too. And the students who were on that trip will tell you, they will never forget my reaction when it was 20 negative tests, because I acted like I just won the World Series or something, right? I was absolutely delighted, but they were careful over there, you know. Anytime we got on the subway, we'd come up, and it was mandatory, we all had, you know, we all had to sanitize, you sanitize before you get on you sanitize before when you get off, right, you have your mask, because you're in these situations, and we just we all knew what to do, the students did it, you know, they didn't want to get stranded. And we pulled it off, I was very happy about that. Sent that group home, the next group comes over, while they're over there, President Biden lifts 00:46:00the requirement that you have to test to get back into to the United States of America. So that group did not have to test, and then we went home. And then you know, the rest is history, but that's that's how we pulled it off. Lots of hand sanitizer. Yes, and oh yeah, and I should mention the name of the courses that we're teaching over there. This is Honors 275, Culture Connection. That's the name of the course, this is our community engagement course, in the Honors College, it's a writing intensive course in which students go out and engage the arts, right? And they have, we have conversations about the importance and value of the arts to communities. And we use, are engaged with the arts to work on their writing, so honors students get individual attention to their writing, one on one consultations, peer reviews, while on this study abroad, so we were doing that as well over there, and we pulled it off, and I couldn't I couldn't be more grateful.


Knowing what you know, now, after everything that we went through, what would you have done differently in relation to your pandemic response?

LC: What would I have done differently? I would have, I like to think I wouldn't, I wouldn't panic as much as I did last time. But I'm sure we all we would all say that right? What would I have done differently? I'm not sure. I mean, there's little things. So, for example, you know, I would like another shot at my online class from Spring 2020. I don't feel like I did a very good job. For those of us, you know, who had to do it in a week and had no experience with it. Boy, I'd love to get another chance at that. I don't think that it went all that well. So, you know, things of that sort? I don't know, I think that I would have me personally, if I had the knowledge now that things were going to 00:48:00be okay. We were going to study abroad again. We were going to be back in the classrooms, we were going to have our signature events in the Honors College. We're going to have pizza with professors, we're gonna have these things. I probably would have told myself to calm down a little bit better, a little bit more. That I would do differently. Yeah. But other than that, I'm not, when it comes to the big stuff, I'm so proud of the way, you know, the honors community, our team responded. And I have no no complaints or objections or anything I would have done differently. Again, the instructors, the staff, were just amazing and the students too.

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

LC: It has taught me a lot. Boy, this is a this is a tough one. I mean, it's it 00:49:00has taught me a lot. First of all, it's a reminder of the fragility of life, isn't it? There are no guarantees in this life, you know, live every day to the fullest. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy family, enjoy friends, enjoy loved ones, you're not promised tomorrow, things can happen like a deadly pandemic, and that can happen. Enjoy your work, because that can get very disrupted, disrupted, you know, that can be disrupted by a global pandemic. I think it has taught me to slow down and value every minute value every day. Enjoy the Honors College, try not to stress about it too much, it can be taken away, you know, by a pandemic or other health scare. So, I think it's taught me, taught me that those are the personal lessons, and then you know, the professional ones I learned how to, I learned how to use Zoom, and teach online, and do all those other things. So, I 00:50:00learned a lot. I learned, I'm much better with the, with the tech than I used to be. Still not good, but better.

TS: Is there anything else that you want to add to your story?

LC: I don't, I don't think so. You know, some days, when I look back on it, it's still seems surreal, like it didn't even happen or something like it was a dream. But I would just say that, I just, I just want to add that, it just, there was a lot of good that came out of it. You know, I worked with people on things, how to get through this pandemic, in ways that I had never worked before. And you get to know, people and colleagues, and you get to care deeply about them when you were both working as a team, trying to, you know, engage what seems to be an insurmountable challenge, you know, but it wasn't, it 00:51:00wasn't. And I'm really proud of the way that our institution handled it. I don't see how anybody could not be proud of the way the institution handled it, right? We were held up as a model of how to keep education, higher education going. I'm extremely proud, and I know I've already said this, but I'm just gonna say it again. But I saw the honors community and our new Honors College, the students, the staff, the staff that I work with in Oviatt House, the instructors, exhibits so much care, you know, for our students, and for one another. And, you know, at times it was absolutely emotional to, I was emotional witnessing it. And it was those days where it was kind of like, we're going to do this, we're going to maintain this sense of community, we're going to support our students, they're going to succeed, our faculty and staff are going to thrive, and we are going to, we are going to beat this. We're going to take this challenge and we're 00:52:00going to get there. And we did and a lot of, let's be honest, a lot of institutions did not do it. Right? It did not go well. Ours went well, and that's because of the people. It was because of the people I learned about the people and they're just amazing. And I'm really, really proud of the way the honors community responded.

TS: Great. Thank you so much Dr. Carlin, for sharing your stories with us. We appreciate your contribution to the Campus COVID Stories at UW Oshkosh.

LC: Yeah, thank you Tanner for having me here. It was a pleasure.