Interview with Martin Rudd, 06/28/2022

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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´╗┐GL: This is Grace Lim interviewing Martin Rudd on Tuesday, June 28, 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- could you please state your name and spell it for us?

MR: Certainly, Martin Rudd M A R T I N Rudd, R U D D.

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

MR: Martin Rudd. My title is Assistant Chancellor for access campuses.

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

MR: Yeah, so I grew up in southwest England in the county of Cornwall. It's about five hours west of London. I did my formal schooling there up through the 00:01:00age of 18. And then I earned my undergraduate and graduate degrees both at the University of Warwick in Coventry, which is in the middle part of England. I then, I earned a first class bachelor degree in chemistry as an undergraduate and then a PhD in organic chemistry in 1994.

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

MR: So prior to working at UW Oshkosh, I worked for the University of Wisconsin colleges and the two-year system of the university campuses. We were a single institution, comprised of 13 two-year campuses across the state. And in 2017, then-UW System President Ray Cross decided to restructure the UW system. The then UW-Fox Valley and then UW-Fond du Lac campuses, which I was overseeing as 00:02:00regional Dean became part of UW Oshkosh starting on July the first of 2018. So I moved into my position at UW Oshkosh as a result of my position within the University Wisconsin colleges.

GL: Okay, so right before COVID, this will say spring of 2020. Now, hat was your role and, and, and who are you responsible for and what programs

MR: So I had the same title assistant Chancellor for access campuses, we were about two years into our UW Oshkosh restructuring. I had been serving since the- the beginning of the merger as UW Oshkosh is restructuring chair in addition to my daily role of overseeing the Fox- the Fox Cities and the Fond du Lac campuses 00:03:00of UW Oshkosh for the chancellor's office. So we were doing several things associated with the restructuring, we had created a single budget environment. We had created a single course catalog for the university moving forward. So important, very important things for our three campuses to begin to behave as a single university we had described ourselves as one university, three campuses, and we were trying to do things that would help us behave as one university, that is to bring together the cultures of the two institutions. So that work was going on daily, monthly, and annually. Chancellor Andy Leavitt had had led a previous restructuring at his job in Georgia and had indicated to me that these 00:04:00things take at least five years, so I was in, I was in for the long haul to help the cultural, the cultural merging of our two institutions, different ideas, ideals, practices, and policies become more effective under a single umbrella.

GL: How big are these campuses and tell us where they are?

MR: So, the, the, now the campus is called UW Oshkosh Fox Cities, it's located in Menasha. The total enrollment here is about 1000 students. Our UW Oshkosh Fond du Lac campus has about 350 students and is located in Fond du Lac. So our campuses, if Oshkosh is, is, is in the middle are about 20 to 25 minutes each to drive.

GL: Okay, so I'm moving to the early days of, of, of COVID. Do you recall the 00:05:00first time you heard about this virus?

MR: Yes, I do. It was in, it was in late December, I wouldn't say I'm a news junkie. But I like to read fairly deeply in news. And I have a lot of different news sources, I actually first picked up on this story coming out of the Guardian newspaper out of London, and it would have been probably the second half of December. And it was reporting a strange new virus emerging out of, out of Wuhan that was sickening people. And my immediate reaction was, oh, this is going to be like SARS, or one of the other virulent episodes that we'd had in in 00:06:00recent years. But something, even back then was nagging at me that this is going to be serious, because of how quickly it was- it was spreading. And my, I can remember, early on thinking with, with global travel and, and global connectivity, the way to the way that it is, is going to be virtually impossible to control the spread of these, of this particular virus. And so that even though it was even though at the time it was, it was contained to a pretty small area, people traveled so much, that there's just no way it's going to be controlled.

GL: When did you start thinking, this is something that we really have to think about be worried about, I mean, especially, you know, in the campus environment?

MR: Actually, probably earlier than a lot of other people. And I'll- I have a 00:07:00very specific reason why. At the Fox Cities campus, at the time, we had about 150 international students, approximately half of those are Chinese students who come here for two years to get their associate's degree and the,n and then generally transfer on to some to some pretty prestigious schools, Madison, UCLA, Georgia Tech. We have a- a partnership with King's Education from Los Angeles, who recruits the students. We knew that there was going to be an issue, because probably right after the new year, maybe January second, or third of 2020, we started hearing from those international students in China, who needed to travel back to Menasha, to resume their spring semester. They had been home for the 00:08:00holidays. And even at that point, there were parents and students who were worried enough about the internal news of COVID, that they were preparing for something to happen. I don't know that they knew that exactly what was going on. And I'm not sure that they that, they were under travel restrictions at the time. But it was worrying enough that potentially half of our international students wouldn't be able to return for the spring semester of 2020 that my then-International Student Coordinator, Sarah Christiansen, wrote to me and said that this is something that we need to talk about, because the students are talking about it. And probably the next week, so around the seventh or eighth of 00:09:00January, I would have got in contact with people that I had never really needed to work with, at least on things like this. So people like in, in, in the universities police departments, so typically my contact there would be Chris Tarmann and or one, or our emergency management team. And I, I wouldn't say that they weren't aware of it. They will they probably had a different awareness of it. For me I was dealing with it directly because students were contacting us who were concerned. For UW Oshkosh emergency management, they might have been thinking about it in a different way. But it that first week in January I can remember us connecting about needing to talk about this. And that's when we 00:10:00brought in Art Munin and, and Cheryl Green, who was then a Dr. Cheryl Green, who was then the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs. And we held our first meeting of what was then the fledgling EOC group to talk with Cheryl Green, probably around somewhere around the 16th to the 20th of January. In fact, on my desk, I still have the original agenda that was sent out for, for that meeting, because this newly emerging virus was one of the topics. It wasn't the only topic but it was one of the topics. And it was a, it was a really curious meeting because everyone had some information, but nobody had all the information. And so as we talk there, it became clear that if we were able to collectively discuss this, 00:11:00we'd probably have a better idea. I- I don't remember leaving the meeting with any solid plan except for the fact the UWO Emergency, Emergency Management kept saying, well, we'll be finding out more, we'll keep our ear, we'll you know, we'll, we'll find out more and let you know, because it was getting towards the time when the students were going to have to begin to travel back in order to get back for the beginning of our semester in, in February. And as it turns out, they were not, some of them, some of them were able to travel and some of them, some of them were too nervous, because as you can imagine, by, from the end of December, when this, when we first started hearing about this from the students until the end of January, which is when they're ready to travel, things are changed drastically within China in ways that we wouldn't be able to imagine.

00:12:00

GL: Okay, several things I would like to touch on again. So the meeting with Che-, Dr. Cheryl Green, who was that- that at that meeting?

MR: Kim Langolf was there, myself. And Sarah Christianson, our International Education Coordinator for the Fox Cities campus. Chihae Lee, who is the program manager for King's Education at the Fox Cities campus. Trent, Lieutenant Trent Martin, who was then, who has now left, who was the Emergency Management director for UWO, at UWO police. I- I think somebody from UW Oshkosh's Student Health Department was there, but I can't remember who that was. It was people 00:13:00that, that I often didn't work with on a, on a, on a daily basis. But it, but it, we met weekly thereafter until it, until COVID itself became a bigger part of the story to a point where you UWO PD created their own EOC and, and from then on, that was, those were professional emergency management people who became involved.

GL: Okay, so I just want to be clear that I have a list of the EOC members and you are not part of that second group, correct?

MR: Correct. That's right.

GL: Okay.

MR: I was not, I was not in that- that weekly EOC. And, and this first group 00:14:00that met was, was not the EOC. But we were, we sort of self-described ourselves as taking on that emergency role for an emerging emergency.

GL: Got it. Okay. So of the 150 or so students who were, they had already gone home for the holidays, for the winter break, right?

MR: Yes.

GL: How many of them actually came back?

MR: I would say, so, so the majority came back for the spring semester. They were frantically trying to find flights in that latter half of January that would allow them to return for, for their studies at the at UW Oshkosh and especially at the Fox Cities campus. The in hindsight of course the issue wasn't them coming back into the US because there were no restrictions at the time, I 00:15:00don't believe, I don't know this, based on the national timeline, but I don't believe we had recorded our first case of COVID, at the time that the students were coming back, if I recall correctly, the first identified case was in the Seattle area or in Washington State. I don't remember exactly when it was. But we, we didn't feel as though the students had been to areas that were infected. And of course, at the time, there were no travel restrictions at all. So it- it's possible that those students might have been in contact with people who had been infected, we would, we would never know that except through a forensic analysis now. So in hindsight, virtually all of the students were able to come back for their spring semester, what they weren't able to do is, at the end of the spring semester, in May, leave to go back home again. And so for many of 00:16:00them, the Fox Cities campus and their, their Fox Village housing here, became their home for a long period of time, because they, they were under the same restrictions that we were where, for a while they weren't allowed to leave. And, and of course, they certainly weren't allowed to go back home for their summer break.

GL: All right, well, then we're jumping ahead a little bit. So um, so when, so come March. And I think, you know, you start seeing some campuses starting to close in different parts of the country. What were your thoughts then? I mean, what were you thinking about?

MR: That this, this exactly was going to happen at UW Oshkosh, there was, there was no doubt in my mind that, that we were going to be facing a rapidly changing 00:17:00and probably deteriorating situation, especially once news sources started indicating that people in the US were, were in, were infected and were coming into the, into the US. I mean, at the time, science was not really at the point where we were able to easily detect people with COVID, we knew that we were beginning to understand what the symptoms were, we were understanding that people could get very sick very quickly, and that they could, and they often needed hospitalization as well. And of course, you know, we, it's scary. It was scary watching the news in those very early days of March where people were becoming sick. And doctors and nurses were in full scale protective gear because they didn't know what they were dealing with that that that creates, that 00:18:00creates a, a, a, not a panic scenario, but it creates a scenario where people are, really believe that that something is going on, and people are getting sick. So I had this sort of sense of calm that this was going, that this was going to happen. Some interesting things were going on, of course inside the chancellor's office at the time, because we, we sort of, we were sort of following the national picture. We were beginning to follow what was going on inside the UW system with President Cross and what some of the decisions were. Here's a, here's an interesting point from my perspective. So when our two year campuses were operating together, one of the things that we did because we were 13 campuses dispersed across the state, is we had become very adept at using 00:19:00platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Skype. We were actually early adopters of Skype for communicating. So I could talk with the dean at the Marathon campus, just in the same way that I'm talking with you here. On the Oshkosh campus, of course, that, that was not really a part of, of how UW Oshkosh at the time operated, even having brought on the Fox Cities and the Fond du Lac campuses. There were still, there were still a lot of in-person meetings that were taking place. And as we were beginning to talk about what was going to happen with, with, you know, the potential closure of the, of campuses, I said in the chancellor's office, one thing we're going to have to do is to learn how to communicate through video because we had all of our meetings in person, I was at the Oshkosh campus regularly, I wouldn't say every day but probably two or three 00:20:00times a week for sure to have our cabinet meetings and things like that. And I can remember going around, in particular with then-Chief of Staff Kate McQuillan who had her office next to me, and helping her, learn how to use Skype. And then Microsoft Teams just to get the basics done, because I knew that this was going to be the way that we were going to be communicating for at least for the short term. Little did I know it's going to be the long term. So that was all going on in early March.

GL: So when you, when he got word that we are actually sending our students on the campus most of the campus community home, you know, what did you have to do with your, your, you know, who did you tell? What was happening in your department, were your--?

MR: Yep. So, so as the cabinet was making, was making decisions, I was able to 00:21:00communicate with, ith my access campus leadership team, so I have campus administrators on each campus, so Pam Massey at the Fox Cities campus and, and then Bethany Rusch and, and Renee Anderson at the, at the Fond du Lac campuses, uh, the Fond du Lac campus. So as I was able to get information out to them, I was, I was, I was letting them know what was going on. The good part was that UW Oshkosh was sufficiently integrated, that that our departments were not separate from the Oshkosh campus. So for instance, all of the facilities departments are, are a single unit. Our academic departments are a single, are a single unit under the colleges. So we, we, we didn't really have outliers that weren't 00:22:00receiving information. So my, my job at that time was simply to relay information and to provide reassurance and, and of course, to help the local campuses plan for what you're about to talk about. And that was our exodus from our campuses.

GL: So, what did you, how, what, what did you do with the students? I mean, the, did you have? I know you have the villages, which is part of the Fond du Lac. Right?

MR: So, so we have, there, there were two, we have two private housing units that house students, we have the Fox Village at the Fox Cities campus, which has about 120 students in it, the majority of whom are international students, not all but the majority. And then we have Vue Campus Housing at Fond du Lac, which houses students from UWO Fond du Lac, Moraine Park Tech, and also Marian 00:23:00University. So, so those are privately managed facilities. So they, we, we were in contact with them, but in a very different way than housing was on the Oshkosh campus, where of course, we were preparing to empty the student dorms. That wasn't the case at Fox and Fond du Lac because we can't order a private company to empty their, their apartments.

GL: So I know, some, some employees at the University were deemed essential to the operation of the, of the campus, you know, to the university. And they had to show up to work in person, were you among those people that had to do that?

MR: I was not. That was a strange process, I, I must admit, trying to determine who, who during this, this emptying of our campus was determined, was deemed 00:24:00essential and have to come, have to come back. To me, at the time, there was a lot of calm about our, our exodus from camp, from our campuses where you know, there was this two-week prep period to get classes online. I wasn't instructing so I, I can't imagine the panic that was going on. But a lot of our instructors at Fox and Fond du Lac were already adept at teaching online and, and, and while, while everyone had to pivot, I don't, I don't feel that that was the problem. The process of determining who was an essential employee there was a little wonky, for historical purposes, I'll say that. There was confusion about what it meant to be essential. Um, we had big spreadsheets of employees that we 00:25:00were, that we were looking at, and sort of going through name by name or category by category, who we thought was going to have to stay to, you know, keep operations open, you know, who we're going to need to keep cleaning, who we're going to need to keep cutting the grass. And, and it felt, it felt like if you weren't an essential employee, what was your value in, in the, in the operation, that the use of words I think was a little, was a little clumsy. When it came to describing people within, within the, within that hierarchy. So I was I was not one of those, in fact, I felt, I felt that I, my, I could best serve the campus by not being by not being around. We didn't, I think we knew so little at the time of this in the middle of March, the sort of around the 17th 00:26:00of March, we, we knew so little at the time, that it didn't matter where you were going to do your work, you were thinking about how you were going, how you were going to do your work. The piece, the piece I remember, feeling most strange about was: have I got all the, have I got all the shit from my office that I'm going to need in case I can't come back for a long period of time. So I remember picking things up from my office, it was, it was like, it was like you were living in Cyprus or something like that. And they were about to put a dividing line across the island, and you may never get back across it. So how, can you take everything? Can you take everything in your arms that you need to as you, as you exit? And then of course, we had this strange processes as well of checking out a chair or checking out your computer, you know, because we were 00:27:00telling people take your, take your office chair with you take your take, your office computer with you. And we had a probably a haphazard tracking system at best as to who was taking what where.

GL: Yeah.

MR: And I don't think I don't think any employees took things with bad intentions. But it was, it was done hurriedly. And, and I'm not sure that we that we best tracked it.

GL: No, I get it. I took my computer and I just I needed my computer. And I didn't know it's like apol- uh, you know, apologize later kind of thing, you know?

MR: That's right.

GL: Yeah. So when did you come back to work in person? Since that, that time?

MR: I didn't. We had we had an interesting check-in and checkout system at the 00:28:00Fox Cities campus. So if you would, and Fond du Lac campus, if you were deemed if, if you were deemed worthy, you could get a very short appointment to like come back into campus to pick up something that you had forgotten, or maybe even mail or something like that. We had a, we had a pretty good mail scanning system where people would get permission to open mail or, and, and so you could actually, you know, receive your physical mail. I did not step back on a campus until at least August of 2020. And possibly a little bit after that I, I was completely, I was completely absent. I didn't feel a need to come back to campus. We had a limited number of slots, and there were people that, that did want to come back to campus. In fact, I was the one that actually had to give permission for people to come to back to campus if they wanted to step on campus 00:29:00to get something so I know during those times we had a very skeleton staff here of, of our essential employees, some, some facilities people, a couple of front desk staff, campus services and possibly somebody in student affairs. But for all intents and purposes, our front doors were locked, the mailman couldn't get in, they had, they had to leave the box of mail outside the front, outside the front lobby door. And then when they walked away, at least at the Fox campus and Fond du Lac as well, Janine Hodge or Fran Holtzman, our campus services associates, would open the door, pull the mail in closed, close, close and lock the door behind them and then go and sort it. So there was this. We've sort of created this pseudo-vacuum or sort of like protective lobby area where, where 00:30:00nobody was going to nobody was going to go in and out or not even the mailman could come in to deliver.

GL: So what would you say your, your, your major challenges were? I mean, were regards to your work from that March when people sent home through the summer of 2020.

MR: Yep, I would say the biggest challenges were handling the ever-evolving situation in real time. And that's where I think, UWO excelled because in real time, the EOC was making and communicating decisions. We had, we had some, some experts, I felt real experts within the university, who provided confidence and reassurances about their decisions, we can look back and say where they made the 00:31:00right decisions and can question that, but at the time, we had some real expertise. Kim Langolf, who was, of course, in charge of our COVID response through, through risk management and EOC. Dr. Chad Cotti from the economics department. We relied on his sort of real time and on time statistical analysis of what was going on with, with cases because people were interested in cases, how many were there, where were they, how many people were getting infected, how many people were dying, it was a, it was a, at that time, it was about the numbers. And then of course, behind that would there was the medical science that was going on as well, this, this long term push for potential vaccines and things like that, which did seem, which did seem to take a long time, I would say it, I would say from March through, through August or September, there was 00:32:00that very real-time response in the second half of that time period, so, so, so sort of June through September, we had these EOC working groups, who were actively working through Microsoft teams to, on, on the, the comeback for fall of 2020, what was fall of 2020 going to look like. And those were, th- those demonstrated to me, first of all, the power of, of an, of organization, of teams who were well organized. It also showed that all of our employees were willing 00:33:00to jump in to be on groups, to offer their expertise to, come up, to come up with solutions for fall. Because when you think about how our university operates, there's a lot there's a tremendous amount of complexity to it. And, and it seemed as though we tried to distill down the complexity into, I don't know how many groups there were 30 groups, and if you hadn't considered something, how on earth was it going to work, if you hadn't if you hadn't considered it? And of course, our biggest challenges were, how would we bring students back? How safe would students be? How would- How would academics look? And how would our employees respond to, to coming back to work as well, so that was a, so in addition, in addition to that very real time response of responding 00:34:00to the pandemic, we were, we were looking ahead to fall of 2020. In these, in these pretty intense planning, these pretty intense planning groups, I thought it was a well-organized and well executed activity that had a lot of merit to it, because people, people's contributions were really valued. And, and it, it also gave a lot of people pause to think, that we are now a university with three locations, and that a solution for one location may not be the same as a solution for the other locations.

GL: Were you part of that, those breakout groups?

MR: I was, I was part of, I was part of one of them. I don't recall which one it was now. But I also consulted to at least two or three others because of the access campus perspective. We have small numbers of people that access campuses. 00:35:00And so it was a little more difficult to get representation on all of the groups, where, where people actually were asking for it for, well, what does it look like at Fond du Lac? Or what does it look like at Fox Cities?

GL: Were you can get any feedback from, you know, your staff or and students regarding what's, you know, the pandemic, I mean, and how, how we were responding to it and how it was affecting them?

MR: Yes. So, so a couple of thoughts there. First of all, I think the pandemic launched the very successful Town Hall, virtual town halls that we now still have. So, so I think, the Chancellor Leavitt and his and his communications team, there did an excellent job of providing information at those town halls. So while I typically received that information first, I, people were able to 00:36:00hear it and lots and lots of people attended. There were also of course, frequent quest- individual questions from individual people with individual concerns. And so I spent a lot of my time getting answers to those questions or providing what I, what I thought were reassuring answers to people that you know, that things were going to be okay. Twice, or three times in the, in the late March through early May period, I checked in individually with every single staff member at Fox and Fond du Lac by Teams to have just a brief conversation, it was an email, and an individual email, not sent out en masse, asking how they 00:37:00were doing at home. How was their- Did they have any immediate needs? And what were their immediate concerns? And so I felt that that reach out was, was at least personal and, and even if I wasn't able to provide answers to everybody, I was on the hunt for answers. And one of the most impressive things to me, was the members of the EOC, despite probably getting bombarded by hundreds of questions from a multitude of people every week, always found time, at least in my experience to respond to those questions, however strange they might have seemed, because they were seen as a source of people or people on the EOC were seen as a source of scientific information, interpretation, confidence, and, 00:38:00and, and knowledgement about hand how to handle a crisis.

GL: Back to those individual emails, how many would you say you sent out?

MR: Probably about 90.

GL: And-

MR: To our full, to our full-time staff and faculty.

GL: For both campuses, for both access campuses.

MR: Yeah.

GL: And did you get responses from people?

MR: Yes, yes. In fact, it was very, very heartening. I, I, the first set of emails that I sent out, I probably got a response from nearly everybody. It was, you know, thank you, thank you for checking in. You know, I've got this concern. I've got that concern. In particular, I wanted to hear from faculty who had, who had been, been moved into a new environment where their students were more 00:39:00concerned and more disrupted than probably, they were. And, you know, we had we had another half of the semester to go and how were, how were we going to get our students through this? So that became gradually worse as the semester went on our first set of emails were, oh, yeah, you know, students had been turning up in good numbers, been seeing them regularly. And then, as we got into the early part of May, that's when it became, it became pretty obvious that we were going to have a lot of students who were not going to be able to finish this semester. That, that, the month of April was devastating for their for their academic dreams and their academic hopes of finishing a semester in anything approaching the way that that started it.

00:40:00

GL: You already touched on this, but um, you know, the one of the questions I had is that, you know, of all the things you've mentioned, now what are you most proud of about regarding your campus, your response to COVID? Was there anything else we missed? Because we really talked about some of that.

MR: Yeah, I would say-- I would say that people kept their heads, that, that, however, stir crazy they might have been feeling it very, very rarely showed we operate in a very professional way. And the, I was particularly proud of how faculty and staff handled that situat-, that situation and I do believe it came 00:41:00through as a, as a shining example of how Chancellor Leavitt's leadership, and especially communication, helped provide information to you know, 10,000 students and 1,300 employees, each of whom experienced the pandemic and in a different way. So, it, it never, it never felt like it were the responses were, were, were cold and for the masses, it always felt as though the communication was, was open and relevant.

GL: Has your job changed? Since the pandemic? I mean?

MR: Yes and no, I would say I would say that the yes side is very much that after the pandemic, that colleges and universities have gone back to facing enrollment challenges. And those have been exacerbated by the pandemic, we 00:42:00already had a strong economy in Northeast Wisconsin, where we were seeing an increasingly large number of students move straight from high school into some well-paying jobs, once the economy and the job situation had recovered after the, after the pandemic. And of course, you know, that was a precipitous drop, followed by a relatively steep rebound. We also, of course, so we're back to a strong a relatively strong economy and a good jobs market. But layered it into that is the fact that that students became disillusioned with the way in which they were learning. They stopped out and dropped out and have not come back. And so for us, at Fox and Fond du Lac, and, and, and to some extent of the Oshkosh, campus, enrollment has never been more important. It, it is also, it's also 00:43:00brought out to me that our ability to connect remotely is a key part of how we can continue to evolve as a university. There is, while we have physical locations in three places, we have found that our students have organically determined themselves that they can take classes in any of our three locations and take advantage of the modalities that we have. And, and for us to survive as a university, we have to make sure that our curriculum is available to students across all three campuses Otherwise, otherwise, we're only serving a much narrower set of students.

GL: When the students came back in the fall of 2020, we still didn't have the 00:44:00vaccine. What was your enrollment like, like in the two campuses for face-to-face?

MR: Yeah, it was, it was not good. I don't know what the number, what the numbers were, but I would go to the Fond du Lac Campus sometimes. And there would be literally no cars in the, in the parking lot. So, you know, when we gave students an option of, of how they were going to take classes. We already had a significant number of commuter students. I mean, we're commuter campuses at Fox and Fond du Lac and so students were many students were choosing simply to stay to stay remote and take their, take their classes. And of course we had this situation where students could do that or they could come in person or and they could come in person and so I give our faculty and teaching staff a lot of credit for handling those comings and goings, which were not only affected by 00:45:00whether students were actually ill with COVID or were caring for somebody with COVID, but also their, their particular mental state about how they could or couldn't come into campus. It was, it was a little bit surreal, I must admit, and I'm glad that we've seen some recovery in in people actually being on campus and I noticed it at the Oshkosh campus as well. Chancellor Leavitt used to talk about it, you know, the, the joy of having students back and seeing them not, not in necessarily in buildings, but even just outside but between buildings.

GL: And when the, the vaccines, you know, the finally came in, and it was readily available, especially, you know, we had the onsite clinic, what were your initial thoughts about the vaccines?

MR: So a PhD chemist, I had followed closely the development of the vaccine, at 00:46:00least through my eyes, not a microbiologist, or I'm not a virologist, but from a chemistry perspective, and I had, I did have a lot of confidence in it. I, I, and I still do. These companies do good work there. They have advanced research technologies. And I, I did have, I did have a lot of confidence. So I was ready, and signed up as early as, as, as I could be for to get a vaccine, to get a vaccine myself, for me, as well, as a professional chemist, I had regularly attended the American Chemical Society meetings. And so for me, it was one way to begin to have confidence I could travel again, back to do some, back to doing some of my professional activities. What you had asked earlier about some of the best, the best things of COVID, I would have to say as well, the partnerships 00:47:00that we had with local health authorities, and that looks different from at our two access campuses than it does on the Oshkosh campus. At our Fox campus, we work that, so the city of Menasha has its own health department, so that was the unit that we worked with. And in Fond du Lac, with the Fond du Lac health department, so I was brought in two or three times a week to, to their meetings in the same way that our EOC Team was brought into the Winnebago County Health meetings at Oshkosh. So we had some unique coordination to do. So, for instance, would our local health departments be able to offer vaccination clinics at the Fox Cities and at the Fond du Lac campuses? And the answer to that was, yes. That fell on myself and my two campus administrators to coordinate. And so we 00:48:00had this very heartwarming relationship with the personnel associated with our local health departments in the same way that Doug Geron did with the EOC, I mean, we became, we shared phone numbers, we were sharing text messages. I mean, it really was a an important and cohesive relationship that, that we, that we gained, in fact, we still meet monthly with the city of Winnebago, the city of Menasha health department, just to provide updates because the city of Menasha is responsible for the school district in Menasha, and the elderly people's 00:49:00homes, and, and, and a whole variety of things that I had not imagined a small health care unit to actually have to take care of.

GL: Okay, hold on, I see our meeting is gonna stop. I hope they let me go on.

MR: Yeah, just because there's five minutes scheduled I don't think, I don't think the recording will stop.

GL: Okay, I hope not, okay. So um, did anybody did you or anybody in your family or close members of your family get COVID or get sick?

MR: Yes, so yes, two, two. scares I had a false positive result back in November of 20 and then actually tested positive myself. And then my wife did in 00:50:00September of 21, even though I had been fully vaccinated and boosted. Was I sick? No, I, but I knew, I knew I was likely to have it because I felt absolutely rotten one afternoon at work. And when I went home, I got tested and it didn't come as a surprise to me.

GL: So, and how, how did your wife fare?

MR: She was okay, as well. She had significantly a significantly longer loss of taste and smell than I did. Mine was nine days, hers was probably a month.

GL: Wow, okay. All right. And how do you feel? You know, now we're two and a half years almost past that, that, that initial send your students home time. How do you feel like things are getting back to normal? How much do you think 00:51:00we're back to normal?

MR: So, so normal for me has, has, should have a different look. There were there were things that, so I want to I want to give a positive first, the UW Oshkosh as a whole learned how to use this type of this type of technology. It is relevant for us as a three-campus university to continue to use this type of technology. The Oshkosh campus had a rather exclusionary view of Fox and Fond du Lac, prior to COVID. That the, the center of the universe- of the university was, was at Oshkosh and only at Oshkosh. And if there's, if there's what I hoped 00:52:00for coming out of COVID is that there's a long-lasting revelation that we can do our work this way. And it means that we, that we don't always have to travel that we can communicate and do work effect, to do work effectively. So the normal, prior to COVID, and what I think looks normal now, I hope we don't go back to what it to what it used to be. Now, that's a practical, that's a practical thing at work. Another thing that has been that has been a real positive is that we have significantly learned how to operate classes across all three campuses. And we'll continue to do that, that's been that that has been a bonus for our students. It, it's definitely an ongoing and lingering effect of 00:53:00the good work that we did prior to COVID and creating a single course catalog in our in our curriculum. What am I pleased to see that has returned that you know, that is returning to normal--events. Our Fox and Fond du Lac campuses have been community-centered locations for events to take place. We are built and paid for by our counties. And as a result, we are the public face of the University of Wisconsin in our communities, UW Oshkosh now. And so as a result, you know, we used to have more than 300 events a year in our communication arts center, at the Fox campus that dropped off to effectively nothing during COVID. But we're beginning to see our partners bounce, our partnerships rebound and bounce back. 00:54:00So that's the sort of new normal that I look forward to is a, is a return to, to those in person events in when, when spaces are available. You know, of course, I'd love to see a return back to pre-COVID numbers of students, you know, that that to me was normal. We, we, we're gonna have to work at that though. We, we owe, we owe students' reasons to come to college, not just because of the job market, but also in, some of them had a poor experience. I'm not saying at UWO , but some students had a poor experience during COVID. They spent a lot of money and got a poor return on it. And we, we owe it to our greater student body to show that that we're better prepared. We're better educators, and, and above all, we're better, we can better serve for students, because that was one thing 00:55:00that I think was lacking during COVID. Overall it were models of student support for, for students who were struggling.

GL: I know that enrollment went down, I mean, nationwide. Were the- How was the enrollment? You know, say for the 2020, you know, returning in 2021. In the access campuses, I mean, or is it similar to what's happening at U, in the central campus?

MR: I would say it is more pronounced. We're a little more canary in the coal mine when it comes to, to reflecting the economy and so our enrollments continued to drop. Now, not all of that is due to COVID, though. Some of it is due to the fact that we have the- we have not yet launched a full suite of, of new degree programs at Fox, at Fox and Fond du Lac. In fact, that's something 00:56:00that will be happening this year, you know, we have, we now have new certificate programs, we are looking at how students can complete a Bachelor of Business Administration on our campuses. Until now, we've only had a single degree, the Associate of Arts and Science degree. And so we've been a little, I would say COVID put on pause for too long our ambitions to launch those degree completion opportunities at Fox and Fond du Lac. That's, that would have been the next piece had COVID, for u,s had COVID not struck. And of course, it was it was absolutely impossible to well, I think it was absolutely impossible to do during COVID, it wouldn't have made sense.

GL: And what has living and working during this time COVID taught you about yourself?

00:57:00

MR: Yeah, well, well, first of all, and I was quite surprised how well I was able to work at home for, for long periods of time. I also of course, consider my privilege associated with that in, in having a place where I could work with the- all of the environment, with the environment to be able to do that. So that, that was, that was a problem and is a problem for access for many of our students and, and for faculty and staff. Not to get too personal about this, but we happen to live, we live in far western Outagamie County, close to New London, we happen to be on the last street, even though we're out in the country, that 00:58:00has high speed cabled internet, our neighbors immediately to the west rely on, on satellite internet or something else, and they have, and continue to have, a much less satisfactory experience with anything that they need to do that requires access to high-speed data. So I, I were, I didn't realize that fortune until sort of I, I realized that I could do that work from home. The other, the other thing, the other thing I found as well, and I got I got a little taste of there. So you probably remember that before the before the pandemic really struck, we had this polar vortex and that had us all working from home for two or three days because the university was closed. So I had my first experience of going a little bit stir crazy working from home during those two or three days. 00:59:00And I remember possibly the second evening of that polar vortex it was particularly cold. My wife came home from work and I, my first words were hi, we have to get out of here. I've been locked up in home all day. And we have to go and do something. And of course, I realized that during the, during the pandemic that wasn't even, you know, that wasn't even possible. My wife did not have any ability to work from home at all. Her company didn't have that technology. They expected them to go in every day. And I felt that she was very vulnerable going into work every day with what I consider to be some fairly minimal protections. So you know, looking at it from, from my perspective, I mean, it was I was quite surprised that we lasted as long as we did without getting COVID.

GL: What field is your wife in?

01:00:00

MR: She's in logistics. So the company that she works for has a small office in Appleton, and there was an expectation that they would that, I don't know, there was probably eight of them something like that would be into work every day. And that's what happened. They worked.

GL: From the very beginning.

MR: From the very beginning, there was no time off at all. Yeah.

GL: Okay, so.

MR: So, so they considered themselves essential, because they were moving international shipping containers. And so, as they deem themselves essential, they were considered essential employees and had to go into work.

GL: Just some of the questions you've already answered, but you- did you think that we were going to be shut down as much shut down, that was, like, dealing with COVID? For as long as we have?

MR: No, not initially. But I think that was I think part of my naivety there is 01:01:00was, I was simply not familiar enough with the, the science of how viruses spread, their sort of, their time of transmission, and the time it takes it to, to go away. One of the things that I learned quickly from meeting with our area health departments was how to look at those statistics. So that, so, you know, we all learned about lagging indicators that the, that the, that the number of hospital beds occupied was often an indicator of how many people were going to die, or the number of cases was often an indicator of the number of people that would become hospitalized. And so it took me a while to appreciate that that this was not, that this took months and months to spread across the country, months and months to peak, and months and months to, to decline, and even, even 01:02:00post vaccination. So I didn't, I guess I didn't fully appreciate that, because it's not a field that I that I really studied before, but it was something that I could definitely comprehend. Once I, once I began to think about it.

GL: Back to your wife having to go to work every day. You know, what were your- How was she feeling? How were you feeling? And were there any other people in the household with you?

MR: Oh, so, we're, we're empty nesters. Now our kids have all left to go to college and our two youngest were, one's at Georgia, one was a junior at Georgia Tech at the time, and one was a freshman at University of Georgia at the time. And so they experienced the highs and lows of moving online and my son, in particular at the University of Georgia, being a large, very large, you know, 01:03:00research university had a pretty miserable experience in some of his classes. I mean, these were totally overwhelmed and somewhat under, under prepared professors who didn't do a good job moving to fully online. I, I, I must admit, I had a lot of, I had a lot of concerns for our, for our household with my wife going out to work every day. She was, she was the person because she was out every day who was going into the grocery store to get groceries. She was the person who was, you know, potentially exposed. Because I literally didn't go out or if I did, it was to drive my own, my own vehicle to nowhere just to get, just to be out of the house for 10 minutes. But my parents live in England and that, 01:04:00you know, they had a, they had it probably more strict than, than, than we did where they actually weren't allowed to go out or they were monitored, not monitored, but, but only allowed to go out for small amounts of time every day to get physical exercise. My brother and his wife were delivering groceries to my parents for months at a time.

GL: Your kids did not come home on when their schools shut down.

MR: They did not. No, no, they happen to both be living off campus. And so as a result, they stayed, they stayed there. And it wasn't because they weren't welcome to do so. But they, they, they chose they chose to stay close to their environment. Perhaps in, in hindsight, as much as I would have liked them to have come back, perhaps in some ways it was better that they stayed close to that environment that they knew rather than sort of come back, come back home and try and complete their studies from there.

01:05:00

GL: Okay, so, you know, we've touched on so many things today. I mean, is there anything else that you would like to add?

MR: I don't think so. At, at this point, I mean, I, I, I, I do have a sense that the worst of this is, the worst of this is, is behind us. I, I am horribly shocked, and maybe I shouldn't be, but I am disappointed in the low uptake of vaccines, not among, not among our employees and our students, because I think that reflects differently, but, but in general across our state, I, I can understand the hesitation towards science at, at times, but boy that there was a 01:06:00there was a vicious and vigorous campaign against vaccinations and, and the, the truths associated with this, with this pandemic, that, that I think are indicative of the, of the split society that that we happen, that we happen to live in, you know, in the in the UK, it's 85%, I think people have had at least one vaccination dose and, and we've just lagged so far behind. You could see that happening, though. I mean, there was there was, we got off to a reasonable start, and it plateaued so early that it was just never, we were just never going to get above that 60 to 65%.

GL: And that's really disappointing. I mean, we have all the vaccines, you know, I mean, that's crazy.

MR: That's right, we were we were leaders, we pushed for it, again, it's not a 01:07:00reflection on the on the university at all. It's a reflection on the effective, the effective way that groups on both sides of decisions communicate and can influence people.

GL: Yeah. Okay, well thank you for sharing your stories with us. We appreciate your contribution to campus COVID stories to UW Oshkosh. I am going to stop the recording.

MR: Okay.

GL: And okay.