Interview with Michelle Munns, 09/12/2022

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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´╗┐MR: This is MaryAnn Reindl interviewing Michelle Munns on Tuesday, September 13 2022. For Campus COVID stories. Instructor Grace Lim is also with us campus. COVID stories is a collection of oral stories from students and staff at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh about their experiences and the time of COVID. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. Before we get started, could you please state your name and spell it for us?

MM: Yes, Michelle Munns M-I-C-H-E-L-L-E M-U-N-N-S.

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

MM: I'm Michelle Munns. I am the veteran benefit coordinator in the Veteran Resource Center.

MR: Before we dive into your campus COVID story, we'd like to get to know you a little better. Can you tell me where you grew up?

MM: Yeah, that's a little bit of a loaded question. I was actually born in 00:01:00Southern California. I kind of grew up all over. My dad was a contractor for the Air Force. So I lived in Washington State, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, kind of all over the place. I moved to Wisconsin when I was in middle school, and so I've been here ever since. So I would say Wisconsin is home, but most of my adolescence was smoked all over the West Coast.

MR: Sounds good. Which town were you? Did you grew up in in Wisconsin?

MM: Here in Oshkosh.

MR: Okay. Perfect. Did you go to school around here then.

MM: I was came to Oshkosh and I didn't leave. I graduated high school at Lourdes 00:02:00High School and then came here to UW Oshkosh for my undergrad. Got my bachelor's in Business Administration for human resources in 2006. And then I started working here and went back for my master's in educational leadership that I got in fall of 20. Right during COVID.

MR: Wow. So could you expand a little bit more on like how you came to work at Oshkosh, then?

MM: i Yes. So I was at what was then called Odyssey. But now Titan take off. And I was going to be I was waiting to meet with my academic advisor. And I had known Lisa Danielson, the registrar, through my family. And so I sent her like a quick email being like, Hey, I'm here like, No, you work here. And it turns out, they were working for looking for a work study student. So she got me set up for an interview for that. Started working in the records office as a work study 00:03:00student until I graduated. Then like six weeks later, I came back and was working for the registrar's office as what's called an LTE or limited term employee. And at that point, the Veteran Resource Center was getting set up in their new location where we are now and so they needed someone to help with that. So I got an another LTE position through them was like that for about a year until the benefit coordinator decided to take a different job. And I stepped in as interim and I just haven't left.

MR: Wow. What year did you start working at the VRC?

MM: I started working in 2011 as the LTE and then in September 2012 is when I 00:04:00got became official, I guess you could say, perfect, thank

MR: you. Can you tell me more about your position at UW Oh, pre COVID So before March 2022 or 2020, and then describe what you do and who and what you are responsible for?

MM: Yeah, so I my main purpose is to help students with veteran education benefits, mostly service members and veterans but I do help spouses and children of veterans as well. help them navigate the process and figuring out what benefits they're eligible for how to apply for them. What paperwork is needed, getting all of that set up so that they can get schooling paid for the benefits that they're entitled to. Additional to that we kind of just a one stop Sharp is kind of a welcome space to veterans so that they have someplace to go. 00:05:00Especially when I started, it was a lot of non traditional adult combat veterans who could not relate to the 18 year old sitting next to him in class. And some of them had a little bit of difficulty with that. And so they could come to our space. And with other students who are like them, they, we could talk to them and kind of help give them resources to help with different things. Some of them hadn't taken a math class in over a decade, get them set up with tutoring, kind of whatever the student needs to help them be successful is what we aim for.

MR: What How many students do you usually help them each year,

MM: as students using benefits? It's anywhere between five to 600 as a semester, wow.

MR: So what were some of the biggest challenges you were facing, then pre COVID

MM: biggest challenges pre COVID Was it was engagement, but a different on a 00:06:00different level, it was getting people to come up to events, trying to figure out how to appeal to that demographic, because again, they were adult non traditional, they had families that some of them had other jobs. So it was trying to get them included in campus community, and events on campus, while still meeting them where they're at. And so we learned a lot of, you know, evening events where you're having it open multiple times a day, different things like that was one of the I would say one of the biggest struggles that multiple campuses faced with those non traditional students.

MR: What type of events on did you guys put on? Do

MM: we had panels, we would have speakers on campus, we did the turkey shoot at the rifle range, paper, Turkey, not real baseball games, just anything, the 00:07:00Veteran Resource Center is very closely tied to the Student Veteran Association. And so it was trying to get them engaged with each other other than just to come in and vent, which I mean, they're more than welcome to do that. And the other thing was also the biggest challenge was just helping them through the situation, because at that time, the VA was a lot less organized than it is now. And things would take a while and um, so students would start to get very nervous about not getting paid not getting schooling paid for. And if they did the right thing, like some quit their job to do this. And so it was half trying to get them through that process. And, you know, let them know like, Nope, you're good. We got you. We will get you through this. And the other part was trying to get them that connected community.

MR: Did you encounter students mostly in person? Do you have an office?

00:08:00

MM: Yes. So we are located in Dempsey Hall. And we have our red our resource center is and what the registrar's office, we had quite a bit of foot traffic, mostly meet with people in person. Sometimes they would have phone calls. But a lot of the times when things would get a little bit more complicated, we'd say let's set up a meeting. And you can come on in and we'll get things taken care of just a little bit before COVID. We, with the restructure, we have the Fox and Fond du Lac campuses, we have resource centers at those locations, too. And we would travel to each location weekly to meet with students there and kind of meet them with their needs at those locations.

MR: Thank you. Now, let's move on to the early days of COVID. When was the first time you remember hearing about COVID-19.

00:09:00

MM: It was probably end of February, beginning of March. It was right around that timeframe. In 2020. I heard briefly about it but it was again one of those like I felt like it was almost a scare tactic we've heard about like the oh my gosh, I'm forgetting with the mosquito bites you can get Sega Sega there was also like there's all kinds of every couple years there would be a new one out and everyone would freak out about it and it never touched us. So I kind of felt it was the same thing. I actually went to a Comic Con convention in March of 2020. That's where I actually saw like the first person taking any kind of precaution was actually like a celebrity guest who wouldn't shake hands. Hands with anyone but he would tap elbows and the hand sanitizer. So that was the 00:10:00first time I saw anyone kind of, I guess taking it seriously.

MR: When was that conference? And where was it?

MM: It was in Chicago in beginning of March of 2020. And it was, we only went down there for one day, it was fairly large. There's about 100,000 people in attendance over the weekend. And so again, we went down there because again, we didn't think it was going to be anything serious. And when we came back, I actually got sick. Yeah, it was we didn't know it was COVID at the time, but yeah, I had gotten actually really sick. Actually, the week we shut down. I was sick.

MR: Did you stay home, then during that time? Or did you come back to work? If it was still around that time,

00:11:00

MM: he was actually happens all pretty much at once. I went to work, I was there on Monday, and then Tuesday, and I was not feeling good. I was starting to get kind of cold symptoms and things like that. And it was coming on kind of quick. And my coworker at the time, Timber Smith, who's the Resource Coordinator in the at the time for the Veterans Resource Center, he is a big germaphobe. So he was kicking me out of the office, he's like, go home, like we don't want you here. So I was in the process of packing up my laptop to go home. In case I just in case I was out longer, I could still do some work emails and things from home, when we got the email about campus shutting down. And so I was like, okay, like, it's the week before spring break. We're not coming back after spring break. You know, what, what do I stay like? Do I do I help navigate this process? People 00:12:00are gonna have a lot of questions, and but I was still sent home. And that was the last time I was in the office until fall of 2020.

MR: Wow. Um, can you describe any of the symptoms or like how sick you were, um, during that time? Yeah,

MM: I started off with it was kind of cold symptoms. I was having headache, I was starting to get congested, very, very tired. Just overall, I was like, Okay, this is my spring cold coming on, I typically get one every spring. And it kind of went from zero to 100 real quick. I definitely dad had the congestion stuff went home. Within two days, I had a hard time walking from my bedroom to the bathroom, which was six feet away, without having to like stop because of 00:13:00labored breathing. And I have asthma. So I just didn't know if Okay, did this progress into like a pneumonia? Or is it you know, upper respiratory infection type thing. I never lost my taste or my smell. So that's why we were just like, okay, like, I'm just sick. I'm just upper respiratory. And I would sleep probably 18 hours a day. I will just for a few days, I just slept constantly, because that's all the energy I had. I remember trying to do a virtual staff meeting from home. And they heard me and they're like, go back to bed. Like I think I was in there for like maybe a 10 minutes. I barely had a voice, anything like that. So again, I wasn't quite sure. We didn't have COVID tests. We didn't 00:14:00have access for that I had called and emailed the doctor. They didn't have any at the time they were still only those who were in the hospital with severe breathing problems. We're the ones getting the test. So they're just like stay home if you have problems then go to the ER but you know, basically stay home and drink fluids is what it was.

MR: How long were you sick?

MM: It was about two weeks. Definitely the worst of it was probably about five days long, and then it would slowly start getting better. Overall, I ended up with a cough that lasted probably two to three months after that. But energy wise kind of the symptoms was it was before it was really up and going again. I would probably say it was a month but two weeks was like In the depths of it,

MR: besides the cough, do you have any other symptoms that have carried on?

00:15:00

MM: I don't think so. And the reason I say that I don't think so is because I never noticed a loss of taste or smell. But I have noticed ongoing over the even the past a year, that my sense of smell is nowhere near what it used to be. So whether that's just like in my head, I don't know. But that one I would say is kind of the only thing that's still lingering. When I do get sick, coughs, lasts a lot longer. And it takes me a good two to three months to get rid of a cough. But other than that, that's kind of the most

MR: Did anybody else in your family get sick?

MM: Um, no. And that's the crazy part is that my husband? He has, I think we've 00:16:00been together for over 15-16 years, and I've only seen him sick once the entire time. He has like an ironclad immune system. I don't get it. I remember just as like a side anecdote, I remember when we were dating everyone in my house, and I was living with my parents. Everyone got the stomach flu. He was running around taking care of each single one of us never got sick. So while I told him he was the carrier, and he gave it to me.

MR: Yes, I'm back to the Comic Con. Do you remember which celebrity?

MM: It was? I believe as Adam Sanders from Mythbusters.

MR: Wow. Oh. So then, you had already known about COVID When you went there? Correct.

MM: I had heard about it. But I had not heard of any bit any large amount of cases in her area or anything like that. I heard it had just made its way to the States.

00:17:00

MR: When you did first hear about COVID. What was the initial reaction to the news? Were you scared? Or?

MM: Um, no. Again, I think it was just one of those. Now that a Zika virus, another h1 and one. It's another, you know, it's one of those things that it'll come through, it'll do its thing and it'll pass. I guess it wasn't. I don't remember it being a serious thing in the news right away. I just remember it being mentioned, kind of like any other strain that would come through. Okay. Yes.

MR: So then, in March, or in early March, when other campuses were starting to shut down, what were your feelings on that?

MM: Oh, it was it was surprising. Working here at the university and being part 00:18:00of part of the university community since I was 18. He had never shut down. Like, it takes a tornado or like a freaking. What was that? Free, Deep Freeze we had that it just like it takes a monster of an event to shut down the campus. And so hearing other schools shutting down, and I was like, Okay, I'm like, honestly, I'm like, I don't think we're going to shut down until Madison or Milwaukee does. Like, if they do it, then we'll do it. And then as soon as one of them announced it, I was like, Yep, that's it, we're gonna be shut down. And I remember sitting in a staff meeting. And my boss, who was Lisa Dantas, and the registrar at the time, was talking about preparing in case we have to go virtual. If we shut down for a couple of weeks, just like it's probably not going to be more than two weeks. And in the back of my mind, I was like, I think 00:19:00it's gonna be longer than that, but probably not by much. I could see maybe a month and just, you know, preparing our protocols and different things like that, too. You know, how are we going to get our mail? How, you know, how are we going to do these different things? In preparing for if the case were to happen for us to shut down?

MR: Okay. Do you remember which campuses you heard of that first shut down?

MM: I don't remember the first I want to say it was maybe Green Bay was one of the early ones. I'm not sure I could be completely wrong on that.

MR: Okay. Thank you. Who did you work most closely with when responding to COVID-19?

MM: That would have been Timber Smith, who was the Veteran Resource Coordinator at the time? I think fully, he took the lead of everything in person to get 00:20:00things kind of, you know, set up, locked up ready to go. I didn't have my charging dock, I just had like my regular charger. So he dropped that off at my house, you know, different things like that. Working with him to figure out, okay, well, what are we going to do about? You know, different things I have to do like our processes where I have to report tuition to the VA, while it's a digital process, I had to physically print out an account Bill page for each one. So how was I going to do that? How was I going to have access to files that are in my office? Different things like that of figuring out? Okay, where are they in the situation? What how do we go about it? And is there any wiggle room? If there's a day that I need to come to the office? Can I do that? You know, is there kind of any? If no one else is there? Can I run in type thing? And what 00:21:00kind of protocols are in place for that?

MR: Um, what happened like in your department, do you like, remember, like, seeing a difference with how people were interacting?

MM: As far as between the staff? Yes. Yes. Even still, to this day, you have different levels of how serious people are taking it. And you have those who are like, yep, or, you know, this small thing, we'll be back in a couple of weeks, down to even down to the day where they request masks to be worn if you go into their office. So it's all a different range. And we my eyebrow approached it as basically just trying to be respectful of where they're at. At the same time, I had to be careful because I had a stepdad who was battling leukemia. So I had to 00:22:00make sure that I was not exposed, otherwise, I couldn't go visit him, or my mom. So it was trying to and then, and then the whole political things get into it. And that's a whole nother side. But so my point of view was just trying to be respectful of what other people were requesting and how they felt and their fears.

MR: Thank you, um, did you discuss with the rest of your team, about what needed to be done before leaving, or just over the course of the two weeks, then

MM: It was kind of a learn on the fly. Because you try to prepare as much as you can. They were told that this is coming. But you don't think about all the situations until they happen. I had forms that I had to, they're still VA forms 00:23:00that I have to fill out by hand and mailed into the VA. No one's there to get them. How do I get that to them? How do I pick them and mail them off? Like, I had to buy a printer for my house? You know, different things like that. But then also, well, how are they going to receive them? Because they're not in the office either. And that got into the discussion of okay, security? Can I email these to them? Is there confidential information? Is our email secure? It opened up so many more conversations that we didn't really think about until we're in that situation.

MR: Did you have most of those conversations in person in the early days or all

MM: It was virtual over the phone or by email as we come up to it? And we're like, oh, no, like, what do we do?

MR: Where do they like grouped, like emails, or?

MM: A lot of them? Were one on one, at least for me, just because the in the 00:24:00Veteran Resource Center, the only full time staff were me and timber at the time. But as far as the large picture, like, how do we get our mail, like when the campaign on campus mail, those were grouped with the whole staff to figure out resolutions that would work with everyone.

MR: Did you discuss like any ideas with other departments then or other staff members on campus?

MM: Not with any other the departments? I would say with other veterans offices at other UW schools, definitely did. We have we have a monthly meeting between the veteran offices at all the UW schools so we're very closely connected and helping each other out and sharing ideas and when we run out The difficulty is, well, how did you figure this out? And so that's the the network that we kind of 00:25:00stuck close to, to figure out how we were all going to get through this.

MR: Okay. Um, so some employees roles were also deemed essential in that they were instructed to come to work in person, were you among that group?

MM: I was not no. Because we were able to fill out, we are able to figure out a majority of our processes if, if not even a temporary solution. I was, I was in essential, but I was what God like essential to. So I was virtual the whole time.

MR: Okay. Um, can you explain a little bit more about the what the essential to

MM: that? Yeah, I wasn't really sure about that. But that's, that's an essential, I think, essential one, as it was told to me, it was those that need to be in person, like facilities, different people that that they had to be on campus to continue their job. Essential to were those that had job functions 00:26:00that still needed to be done, and were required, but they could be done remotely.

MR: Okay. And then kind of going back to the mail question, who eventually did get the mail?

MM: Yes. So Aaron class, the grad examiner at the time, he actually volunteered to be the one to come into the office every day. So he was solo by himself every day and the mail carriers, they were an essential. So mail still got delivered, but it was on a reduced schedule. And Aaron would open all the mail and scan it and email it to everyone so that we could still get the mail while he was in the office, and since he was the only one there. It was approved for him to be there in person. Okay.

MR: Um, what challenges were you facing then in the fall of 2020, when you came 00:27:00back to campus, for in person.

MM: That was a fun time. It was learning what the protocols were, what the, you know, the PPE, the personal protection equipment, figuring out what is required, what is suggested, and kind of just where we are at the moment, it was a constant flux and changes depending on our level of positive cases. So we were told, you know, your mask are required different things like that we had to do social distancing of our even our student workers. We took it upon ourselves to build the acrylic dividers, to create that additional space. Me personally, I cannot have an individual in my office, because my office, if I were to sit with 00:28:00them would be less than six feet. So we actually those who had the smaller offices, we put plastic like playground chain across our doors. Because even with my office, especially students have a habit they just walk in, they just come in and you know, because they're comfortable, they know, to come in and talk. So I actually had to put a chain across and be like, no, like, you have to stop at the doorway. And just figuring out, and then there's those that especially with veterans, those that have PTSD, or they have other issues they're dealing with where maybe wearing a mask and things like that is triggering to them. So working with Dean of Students Office to figure out a solution for students in that situation, and not just veterans, for anyone in that situation.

MR: And then other any other challenges specifically to regarding work? Like 00:29:00interacting with everybody, either other staff members or students?

MM: Yeah, everything remained virtual. It's you know, we were schedules were rotated so that only half the staff was in the office at the time. Timber, the Resource Coordinator, him and I would rotate our days. So neither one of us could be in the office at the same time, which meant we were dealing with each other 100% virtually. And the same thing with our colleagues, they could be to office down and where I would just normally get up and go talk to them. It was phone call or virtual teams meeting. So we are back but we weren't back. So is still very much virtual. It was making sure like we do creating schedules to make sure we do. Like sanitize wipe downs every two hours, you know, just 00:30:00different things like that to try and maintain a clean space. But also, like you could see so on across the office, but you couldn't go talk to all. So it was it was different. It was it was, it wasn't really a change to virtual people were there, but they weren't there.

MR: Did you see a decrease in number of students that either came or utilized? The services?

MM: Oh, yeah, we still have those effects. We have not gotten our foot pack our foot traffic back to pre COVID levels. We have, you know, a few regulars that come in during the week. And we'll have people that stop in to like, we have a coffee bar and lounge. But it is we aren't we're nowhere near the level we used to be.

MR: Do you have like an exact number?

MM: I don't have an exact number. But I would say on average throughout the day, 00:31:00we would have over over 20 students that come through now, unless they're in their first specific question, which most just email or call now. I would say we're under 10 Regular where maybe around five students who actually sit down and use the step the center.

MR: Okay, and that's like per week, or that's per week per week.

MM: Oh, well, excuse me per day, per day per day. Yes. Most Sundays we won't have anybody come in. But I would say on average, it's probably like four to five throughout the whole day who use the center at all.

MR: Okay, have you opened up now more of the like?

MM: Yep, we are at full open capacity, we have our coffee bar open again, we have our student lounge, open our computer like everything is open on all three campuses. Last year, we especially fall 20, we did not open our coffee bar. So 00:32:00just because of sanitary reasons. Our center was open. But all of those extras, the lunch room the the lounge all of that we couldn't open. So we have those open. But it's it's brought some back but not really. And then it's kind of starting with a whole new base because those that used irregularly have graduated. And now we have this new group come in who are used to not using these resources. So it's trying to build that back up as people start school.

MR: What ways do you have you tried to do that now

MM: We have snacks in our office, food works always. We have a bin that we have like granola bars, fruit snacks, trout, trail mix, cookies, different things like that. We did a revitalization of our coffee bar and made it very nice and homey and, you know, just very welcoming. We've done events where they could 00:33:00come in and where we, again, it's food, it's always food, they respond to food, bring it in, we'll have pizzas one day or you know, different things like that, that we're able to do kind of more graphical type things. And now also open houses trying to get more in person meetings versus versus virtual or over the phone. Just trying to build that kind of connection that began.

MR: Okay. And then you mentioned before that you had like about five to 600 students had, do you know what the number is? Now?

MM: It were closer to that 500 range? Okay. We were at I ran the report just before the semester started and I was at about 470. I ran it at the end of last 00:34:00week and we're back up to about 515. So still within the range, but definitely lower.

MR: Okay. So what are you most proud of then regarding your response to COVID-19? I think more regards to work

MM: Okay. I can tell you what I'm proud of what students that's easy. With work, I would say really adapting to a virtual presence. creating spaces for students virtually. They didn't have that student lounge to go to anymore. So we created a Canvas page so that they could all go on there and enroll in this canvas page and they could have discussions they could get their resources. Everything was it was the resource center but it was just online. being able to work with other schools to develop digital forms and help each other out with the 00:35:00different processes. Even our our audits, we have federal audits that we do, and helping each other out with figuring out how to get this information, this large amount of information digitally, to help them complete it. So it's one eyeties team may have come up with a report and they'll share it to another one. So I think I'm most proud of just working collectively to meet in that virtual presence that's needed and be able to continue it.

MR: Yeah. So how many students? Did you have use the Canvas page? And do you keep it? Like, is it still ongoing? Now?

MM: It's still there, and is not quite as active as it was. But I would, I would say it was around. As far as how many have used it, I'm not sure. Because we just put the resources out there, if they needed it. As far as interacting, I 00:36:00would say we're in that 20 to 30 students, kind of the regulars that we would have in office would be on the canvas page.

MR: Okay. Would you also interact then with them?

MM: Yep, I would answer any questions. Sometimes they would open up a question, and it's more specific, and I'd be like, Hey, I'm gonna reach out to you solo, and work through them with that. More of the general discussion as far as current events and things like that, that was more student to student and timber would chime in. With those types of discussions,

MR: Okay. And then what do you think COVID has changed permanently, in regards to work

MM: Permanently, I think it's the virtual presence. Realizing that anything we do, we need to be able to have a way to do it virtually. And that's typically now the go to, in person processes or paper processes are now pretty much 00:37:00becoming a thing of the past. You know, it's no longer. Okay, well, I sent this paperwork over all the time. But do we really need it, you know, in a different setting up the new processes virtually. And then when creating new processes, it's automatically virtually digital. So there's actually a tug of war between me and my colleague Aaron right now that he wants us to be 100%. Paperless Office, I struggle with that, I will admit that I am still holding on to that last little bit of paper. Just because I'm used to the process of we I mean, we image everything, so it does get kept digitally in our records. But the process I go through to set everything up, I need a physical something in my hand to 00:38:00make sure I don't forget anything. So it's him and I coming to negotiation middle ground, where eventually Yes, we will go off eventually. But it's not going to be a hard stop. It's going to be a transition.

MR: Do you think COVID has made that transition easier?

MM: I think so. I definitely think so. A lot of the paperwork we receive now is already digital. So at that point, it's it's easy to just put it into our imaging system. And there's honestly there's less paperwork in general. So

MR: that might be a plus. Yes. Um, so then in the fall of 2021, vaccines are readily available on campus and strongly advocated by the administration. What were your initial thoughts about the vaccine?

MM: I was cautious. As I described myself as cautiously optimistic, so it was 00:39:00the great, yes, this is happening, but it was also okay, but is this really happening? And I think it just a more general issue with the media is everything is there's always two sides, and it's always so polarized. And so it's trying to figure out okay, like, what are we what are the actual facts and what, you know, what can we actually listen to? And I have my sister is an RN, so trying to listen to her and be like, Okay, well, what do you think What are you suggesting, combined with other medical conditions and things like that? So I wasn't around my first group, but I was definitely on board that I knew I would get vaccinated when it became available.

00:40:00

MR: Do you know when like the date was or approximately when you were vaccinated? Yeah,

MM: it was. Honestly, I think it was, oh, it was in September, September of 2001. And then I got my booster in June.

MR: Oh, okay. Did you? Did you only have the one dose? So the Johnson and Johnson vaccine or?

MM: Yes, I did the Johnson and Johnson. One? It? Oh, wait, no, let me correct. That is incorrect. I was going to be getting the Johnson and Johnson. But I got my vaccine here on campus. And so they had Pfizer. So I ended up getting the Pfizer vaccine, which was the two dose I think it was a month apart. So that was the first dose was in September, and then right at beginning October, I got the 00:41:00second dose.

MR: Okay. Um, how much? Do you feel that things are becoming more normal? And what is normal for you?

MM: It's, I don't think anything, it's, we're never going to be back to where we were, it's never going to happen. We're never going back. That is not exist anymore. I think we're back to as normal as we're going to get. In some aspects, it's like nothing happened. People will go to events. They don't take any precautions. And I mean, that's fine teacher on the vaccination, that's fine. But it's, if I give you didn't listen to the news, it's like you wouldn't even know it was going on. Other than some stores having the mask, set requests or 00:42:00recommendations, you won't even know. And then, but there are you'll still see people who are they leave the house of a mascot. And whether it's because they don't they choose not to get vaccinated, or they have a medical condition. I mean, these are all possibilities, but it's still very, you're either one or two ways. So I think this is basically as as normal as we're gonna get. I know in my role, I still take it as consideration for anything or planning anything that we're doing, I want to make sure that there's an option for people to feel comfortable, who don't want to come to an in person event, but still want to be a part of it. So I take that into consideration to make sure that I'm meeting everyone's needs. But yeah, I think this is, I guess, back to normal as we're gonna get

MR: for those events when you when you're trying to make it accessible to 00:43:00everyone. Do you offer it usually at the same time just a virtual option? Or do you have like a separate event that's like completely virtual,

MM: um, it'll be maybe a little bit of both. We had a resume translation workshop for veterans to translate their military experience into a civilian resume. We live streamed it on our Facebook so that people could watch and rewatch it go back to watch it later. If it's like we had a graduation recognition ceremony, we'll mail out their graduation gifts to them. You know, some things like that, it depends on the event. But we try to make sure everyone feels included.

MR: Yeah. Um, so knowing what you like now know, and what you have done differently in relation to the pandemic response. What would you have done differently?

MM: I wouldn't have gone to that Comic Con. No, the hindsight is kind of always 00:44:002020. So it's one of those. I wish we would have all taken it very much, much more seriously. Myself personally. I was more on the cautious, serious side because I did have family and things like that, that I needed to be cautious of and aware of. But I will admit that there was times that I went to a New Year's Eve get together that had more than 10 people. And I lucked out on that one because everyone else can. But you know, there was definitely risks that I took that I probably should not have done. And I think everyone has that. And I think that's kind of our just strive for wanting to be back to normal. But overall, 00:45:00I'm happy with how personally I handled it, and, and with the work, how we were able to make the adjustments needed to be able to still do our jobs and be of supporting to students in that time.

MR: Yeah. So now that it's September of 2020, to two years after the university shut down and went remote, what are your biggest challenges? Now? I think you've touched on it before.

MM: But yeah, it's getting that foot traffic back getting the engagement. I mean, that was an issue beforehand. And it was, and it's just compounded. So I think that's just going to be an overtime thing. We had kind of had the discussion in a meeting about hand holding students and you know, helping them through these processes and what is too much versus letting them figure it out. 00:46:00And it's kind of you have to realize that the students that are here now are the ones that were in high school during COVID, they didn't have the same resources that other states, so we kind of do have to take a step back and help everyone and it's one of those, it's just gonna take time.

MR: Um, I know you mentioned before, that you talked with other veterans, like resource centers with other campuses, has that changed at all?

MM: No, we've been a close network, I'm thankful that in this state, we are such a close network for that. So that we, cuz the whole of the VA stuff, it's complicated, you get different answers. They tell you, they need stuff, but they don't tell you how you're gonna get it done. So being able to have that network of individuals has helped and we and what really spurred that is, like government shutdown, when we had no one we could talk to, so we had to band 00:47:00together. And I think it kind of same thing happened with COVID is that you're put in a situation where you have to rely on each other, and you have to get through it together.

MR: So kind of going off of that, then what living and working during the time of COVID has taught you about yourself and others.

MM: guess one thing just about looking back on others is that I mean, you this might be really silly. But you have those disaster movies like Armageddon, and you know, things like that. And it's like, oh, you know, in a time of crisis, everyone's gonna come together, it's all gonna be okay. They don't, you know, and it's, I think it's I, it was eye opening to me that realize that, you know, we were in a time of crisis, and some people didn't care. I had very, I had 00:48:00super close friends who never wanted to wear a mask didn't wear a mask unless they weren't actually have to. And it was frustrating, because it's like you want you want to show them your sight of you also be understanding where they're coming from. But at the big picture, it's like, it's not about an individual person. And so I think that was eye opening to me is that, that we're in a very selfish time, in our country, in our society across the world. So

MR: um, so then, where were you living? And with whom, and how were COVID protocols dealt with then, at your first home, like masking and social distancing and sheltering? Was there much friction, or were you all in agreement?

MM: So I lived with my husband, we had a tiny side by side apartment. So it was 00:49:00a house split into two units. And actually one of my good friends was in the other unit. And we were close with our neighbors next door. And all of us were either working from home or different things like that. And but my husband is mechanics. So he was essentially to go to work every day. So it's, him and I are on the same page about a lot of things. He would tell me if anybody at work was showing any symptoms or if there had been heard about someone in someone else's household that got sick. So we were good and communicative on that the Bay has helped from him is because I went through a very deep depression during COVID Because I was home all the time by myself and when he he got home, he just wanted to be home and relax. And I wanted to get out of the house like, can we 00:50:00just go for a drive? Can we just not interact, just get out of the house. And so that was very difficult in the difference of our schedules. And that's how I know now that I can never be 100% work from home type person. It mentally, it was not a good fit for me. As far as protocols, standards, things like that. Like I said, my husband and I ran a good, a good level and understanding with each other. Our neighbors and my friend who lived in the other side, kept wanting to get together, and things like that, and don't want to bring in the whole, like, political thing. So we would just make up excuses of like, why we couldn't get together? Or why we can go over there things like that.

MR: Um, if you don't mind me asking, How did you like get out of the, of your depression?

00:51:00

MM: I bought a house. Wow. Yes. Um, so my sister in law, I will actually bought a house. And it actually just kind of fell into our hands that we bought her old house from her. So we were in now a much bigger space I had, I felt less claustrophobic, like I had a whole area now. And it was between that and then doing the part time remote when we switched back to only being remote half of the week. That, and a lot of therapy, so much therapy was, and I still struggle from it still to this day. And I think that's something that I'm gonna struggle with for a very long time. But that's kind of how I got out of it. I remember, I was at my house, my new house, had my first virtual appointment with my therapist, and she's like, where are you at, I'm like, I'm in my new living 00:52:00room. And I told her that I felt like a huge burden had been lifted off of me, like instantly moving out of where I was, I felt like a completely different person. So I think it was part environmental, in the fact that we were just in this tiny little side by side apartment, and then being able to just have our own space and have space and be able to, you know, do what we want kind of within that space, it was a huge part of it.

MR: So when was that time then when you bought the house, and then also when you went to like, half remote then at work.

MM: So we started half remote. I think it was follow up 20. So September 20, we started the half remote, and I closed on my house in the beginning of October of 00:53:0020. So it's kind of all right around the same time. Okay. And then I graduated with my master's December 20. So it all happened at once. And I think it was a combination of all of that that really helped the situation.

MR: And then if you also don't mind me asking, Did you seek then professional by No, you mentioned? Yeah,

MM: I'm very open about mental illness and things like that. So feel free to ask anything. I was already seeking therapy, I had been in therapy for anxiety and depression previously. So and that was one thing with COVID. Again, your appointment like you're now virtual. So being having those therapy appointments, virtually, it's like, okay, is this gonna be still effective? Is this still going to be it? So but we just continued on, went virtual, I actually still go virtual that to this day, I find it easier. So thank you.

00:54:00

MR: When did you go back to work full time, then?

MM: I believe it was spring of 21. So it would have been January February of 21 is when we are back in person full

MR: time. And that was also when like, Did you also have restrictions still we did have restrictions?

MM: That was the we still had the social distancing. Still had to wear masks. All of that. When the mask requirements were lifted, it actually took me a while to get used to that because when I was alone into my office, I'd have the mask off. And I've walked out of my office and I would feel like I'm doing something wrong and like someone's gonna yell at me because I didn't have a mascot. So

MR: well So, how were the people then around you coping and like how did that 00:55:00make you feel then?When we first Yeah, got back to when everything did happen quickly and then also coming back? How did how did you feel?

MM: Um, I was ready. I'm like, yes, let's get back to it. I was also still very cautious. So if I had an exposure or if someone in my house had an exposure, I went remotes I got tested. I have like 10 Home COVID test sitting at my house right now. But I was ready for it. I was ready for us to eat trying have that socialization again.

MR: And then is there anything else that you would like to add?

MM: I guess I was very. And still to this day, I will complain because I did not 00:56:00get a masters graduation, I did not get to get hooded. I was virtual. I sat in my living room with my PJs and a glass of wine and watch my name go across the screen. So but it's kind of funny, but it's also like, oh, you know, so I've those that were in high school and like, that's a pivotal moment. And so I feel their pain. And that's kind of one of the more personal aspects of the you got to do it, but at the same time, it still stinks.

MR: Um, when did you graduate?

MM: December of 2020. Okay. Wow.

MR: Um, yeah. Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing. Is there anything else? No, that's it. Okay. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. We appreciate your contribution to the campus COVID stories at UW Oshkosh,

MM: thank you for having me.