Interview with Mike Lueder, 12/10/2021

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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´╗┐NC: So this is Nikki Censky interviewing Mike Lueder on December 10 of 2021. For Campus COVID stories campus COVID stories is a collection of oral stories from a student and staff at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh about their experiences and the time of COVID. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. Um before we get started, could you just please state your name and spell it out for us?

ML: Mike Lueder, M I K E L U E D E R.

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

ML: My name is Mike Lueder. Um I during the time of COVID, I was the assistant director for civic engagement with the University Studies program. This past September, um I became the interim director for the Center for Civic and Community Engagement.

00:01:00

NC: Awesome. Very cool. Thank you. All right. So before we dive into your campus COVID story, we'd like to get to know you a little bit better. Um so just tell me a little bit about where you grew up.

ML: Um I grew up in Southern Sheboygan County in a very small town called Batavia. We actually live like parents of like two and a half miles away from terrace (?) like true grew up in the country. There's neighbors across the street, and then farm fields and forest around our house.

NC: Gotcha. My parents actually grew up in Mosel by

ML: Okay

NC: Sheboygan. Um so

ML: Oh, Mosel I know Mosel.

NC: Yeah.

ML: Awesome.

NC: Yeah. Um, where did you earn your degree or degrees?

ML: I went to St. Norbert College and have a bachelor's degree of communication, a Bachelor of Arts from communication from there and then I worked for a few years and then went back to get my graduate degree from Marquette University so have a master's of education.

NC: Awesome. Alrighty, um, so what made you want to come work at UW Oshkosh? Was it through like a friend? Or did you just kind of apply?

00:02:00

ML: I was applying for lots of stuff post my master's degree, and they had a couple of positions open that really fell within my wheelhouse um is more on campus activities. At the time I was doing at Marquette, I was doing the late-night work. So like big, large scale campus events, in the evenings for entertainment values for students. And there was a position here that was half late night, called Titan nights, and then half volunteerism. So it's just kind of two programs that really fell well within the work that I did.

NC:

Okay, so you worked at Marquette to begin with, though and then you transitioned here, or this was your first job

ML:

Well, I did my I worked after undergrad, I worked for three years as a hall director at a small school in Missouri called Truman State University. I went got my Master's at Marquette, two years into the Graduate Assistantship there and late night. And then this is my first job after graduate school.

NC:

Okay gotcha. Um so tell me about a little bit about like, the things that you would do uh like before COVID, what was like your normal day to day basis that 00:03:00you had before we had masks and everything?

ML: Yeah, so I work and still work in the University Studies program, with the general education courses and the quest three courses specifically. So I work with faculty to figure out what they're teaching in terms of a quest three course, what sort of community-based learning project they're looking for and find a good partnership for them in the community. And I work with that community agency to sort of set up that project in a way that works with a class of 50 students, um and sort of manage the logistics in between there. So we have about 12ish classes that run per semester that are quest three courses, some work with all those classes, all those students, some classes are very self-sufficient, and we kind of get them started and then they take care of it. Some of them I'm a bit more hands on with and working more directly with students that come with just very, okay.

NC: Um, so moving on to like, the early days of COVID. When would you say the 00:04:00first time you remember hearing about COVID was like, where were you? What were you thinking?

ML: I remember reading first about it on CNN and not seeing Yeah, cnn.com like I check the news on there all the time.

NC: Yeah

ML: I remember in December of 2019 seeing some story about COVID In China, like, vaguely remember at that time, so yeah, that's when I first saw it. Yeah.

NC: Yeah. So then, did you think when you were reading that, were you like, oh, gosh, what if this hits the U.S., like Did it make you nervous at all that it would come to the U.S.?

ML: Not at that time, no. Like, I thought maybe, yeah, I don't even think I thought it would come to the U.S. at that time.

NC: Yeah, yeah. I don't think I did either. And I definitely did not think it was gonna end up like this.

ML: No, definitely. Not this.

NC: Yeah. Because like you hear about like Ebola, and it's like, that came to the US, but it affected what like eight people, but then it's like, COVID comes to us and everybody's in lockdown.

ML: Yeah, very different.

NC: Yeah. So what was your initial reaction when you were hearing the news that it was in In the U.S., and then it was like spreading spreading.

00:05:00

ML: Um I think at that point, like I wasn't surprised because I continued to follow the story like it kept seeing news about it. So I wasn't really surprised when they hit the U.S. It's like, well, that makes sense.

NC: Yeah, right.

ML: But still wasn't like a mass casualty story at either. Like there were all these stories of people dying yet. So it's kind of like, Oh, it's here. It is what it is kind of like it still was like I was so following it, but not super alarmed or too concerned of it in any way, either.

NC: Yeah. So when you heard like, everybody's going, so originally, most schools at least were told that they were going to go into like a two week off period. I was not in person like personally in college at the time. But for my high school, we were told we're just going to have an extended spring break. Is that how it went here at Oshkosh?

ML: Oh, how did it go? Um, I remember it getting closer. So I also serve on the board for the Oshkosh area community pantry, the local food pantry.

00:06:00

NC: Oh, yeah.

ML: So ever falling in, like we were really paying attention to cases. And like when we make these kinds of decisions, and I was also kind of seeing what the university was doing. As a result of that. I don't remember exactly how it all happened. We're also supposed to have an in-person conference like that week as well from people from around the state. So I remember paying attention. I don't remember exactly how it all happened. I remember announcements, and whatnot coming out from the chancellor. I think what they decided was, you know, not really remember anymore. I don't remember if it was just like, one week in person, or just I think it was two weeks off. I think the week before spring break was given off. They just canceled that week. And then spring break, and then everyone came back after spring break.

NC: Yeah

ML: It's either that or a spring break. And then after spring break, that week was off, I just don't remember the order anymore.

NC: Right. So were you- did you have like your own office at that time on campus at all?

ML: Yup. Yeah.

NC: Did they tell you like, Okay, we're going to be gone? And you have to pack up? Or did you have most of your stuff still in your office? Or did you end up 00:07:00taking enough of it home?

ML: Well, that point was pretty obvious that we weren't going to be in the office very soon. So like, we started taking some stuff home, most of my stuff can be done electronically.

NC: Right.

ML: It didn't really matter too much. Thinking, originally, I just planned on working on my own personal laptop at home, which is older and kind of like a durable power is it you know, like, but then after it came out that we're gonna be there a bit longer. And then I got added to a larger university committee for a big project. I was like, this isn't gonna work. So I came back to university got my desktop, got my both my monitors from my office chair home and everything just because it's like, this is gonna be wild.

NC: Yeah.

ML: I need to actually be able to function.

NC:

Right. Did you think at the time like it was going to be this long? Did you think it was going to be like, Okay, we'll give it three weeks, it'll settle down, and then we'll go back

ML:

two weeks to bend the curve is that well, there was something like, yeah, it's like, just wait those two weeks, and then we'd be back and then maybe a month, 00:08:00and then maybe another month? It's like, wait a second, what's going on?

NC:

They just keep telling you like, Okay, one more month, and it's

ML: a couple months, and I was like, oh, we're not going back? Anytime soon

NC:

Yeah. Okay, so um let's see. Describe what happened to your department when, um like, when it went into lockdown, were there like online meetings right away? Or were they trying to like scramble and figure it out?

ML: We're pretty self-sufficient. And like each of our own units, so we were able to um not to scramble too much. I think we did go online. I can't remember what platform we used. I thought we were using Teams at the time. It was a little clunky, because not everyone had like desk cameras and such yet. I think for me early on, like Teams meetings. I had to use an iPad to like call in because that was the only thing, they had had a camera, then I have like other stuff on my desktop. So like, my little workstation was very, very packed with technology.

NC: Yeah

ML: It was like a little a little like recording studio almost with basically 00:09:00the amount of technology shoved into the little space to make everything function the right way,

NC: Right

ML: But we kept meeting a lot because we have a bunch of changes to make me that just kind of figure out how we're going to do several things that were planned on happening in person and kind of evaluate and, and punt and go in different directions.

NC: So were there things like that you figured out that your department just like had to set aside until we could like rejoin us like in person or were there things everything was pretty much you could just do it yourself at some point.

ML: Well, with all the quest three classes, we're doing community-based learning, right? So we have students doing projects in the community, and that suddenly just wasn't available. So we had to completely rethink how we did that and what was acceptable and what we would do for the remainder of that semester. The nice thing was that we're at least to spring break, so every class had started something, so they all had some sort of an experience. So then I just worked with each individual faculty member to figure out the best option that we could, given where we were and what was available. You know, no, none of those 00:10:00classes, I think, continued to work with the partner that they're originally described to be working with. Um you know, because they were all based here in Oshkosh, some of those partners also closed for a week or two. So it's just, it just wasn't something that that worked in that regard.

NC: Yeah. So what are some examples of like, you had to switch things into like virtual for the students, obviously, for their quest classes? What are some examples of like what the kids were doing at that point?

ML: Yeah. So one of our classes that time during the spring semester is called politics of food. It's a political science course. Learn about how the government affects what you eat, which they do in lots and lots of ways. It's a really interesting course,

NC: Yeah.

ML: They work with the Oshkosh area community pantry, because like in the class, they study programs like T fab, which is the emergency food assistance program. And the Oshkosh area community pantry is a place that T fab food gets distributed, right? So there's really cool connections there about how this all connects? Well, typically, students go into OACP, and do lots of different 00:11:00projects there, well, that suddenly couldn't happen, because they're all home. So instead, she had them create a recipe book. So every student had to find a different recipe that utilized the foods that OACP has. And then they're also told to like, try to make it and write a little synopsis of it. And we put all those recipes together to make a really, really cool quest three cookbook, as a result that OACP could use for their clients.

NC: Yeah.

ML: So that was a really great option, of something that could be converted a little bit to something that work that students do from anywhere in their houses?

NC: Yeah, that's very cool.

ML: Some of the programs didn't work nearly as well. But you know, we figured out what we could it was. So last minute, we had to scramble and come up with something.

NC: Yeah, I feel like a lot of people

ML: We had a better job preparing for that next fall, even when they're still like, so. Last. Yeah, last fall, when there was still fall 20. And there's still a mix of in person and online courses. Then we had some time to think about the 00:12:00projects and come up with things that worked either in person, or online or both.

NC: Okay, yeah. Um. So your role um as like, part of the board of like, what you were talking about, technically, is deemed essential, correct, because it's part of like the education system. So you guys were still working on the clock. Is that correct?

ML: You mean, like my role with the food pantry or my role here?

NC: Role here

ML:

Yeah, I was in the group that was I guess, I don't know if I'd consider it essential or not. But we were like I wasn't put on. I was put on intermittent furlough, but not like continuous furlough.

NC:

Right. Okay. So you were still working throughout the whole pandemic?

ML:

Yep. So if you have a pandemic, just worked from home,

NC: Okay, gotcha.

ML: Yeah, I didn't I have to come to campus.

NC: That's kind of nice. Um. Did you have the option to come to campus at all and have like your own office space or no,

ML: no, the campus really, at that time early on, preferred that people stay off campus?

00:13:00

NC: Okay. Yeah

ML: As much as possible, like university police are obviously here, and a few other groups were required to be here. But if you aren't, like told that you're required to be here, the expectation was that you're working from home,

NC: right

ML: for everybody. Um. And then they told us, it was like, toward the end of August of 20, that we were allowed to come back. And pretty much the first day I could come back, I did come back.

NC: Yeah. So do you know anything about like, if there were exceptions for students here that could stay on campus? Because like, I know, not like if there were exchange students like coming from other countries or places like that, where they would have like the option to stay on campus, you know, anything of that matter?

ML: Um. I know, there were things like that. I don't know what the details were I'm pretty sure they closed most of the residence halls, maybe they kept one open. But then there's students that like, I think the bigger issue came up with the Fox Cities campus, because there's a lot of students from international 00:14:00locations that stay there.

NC: Yeah. And it was hard

ML: Something was figured out. Some of them they're trying to get back. I remember, in hearing some conversation, they're trying to get back to their home countries. And sometimes it was easier, and sometimes it was very, very difficult. So, you know, obviously, didn't kick people out. But they had to figure out what to do with them. How to accommodate them, I guess I would say,

NC: right, yeah. um So how often did you return to campus if at all during that time period?

ML: Well, I ended up coming back once a week because during that time period, Feeding America started these large-scale food distributions,

NC: okay.

ML: And they asked if UW Oshkosh could be a site for that. And because I was on this larger committee, I heard about it and my connection with the food pantry, I heard about it. I said, and they needed like a campus liaison person and said, I'll do it partially because I was really bored. I needed to get out of the house a little bit.

NC: Yeah.

ML: um So every Monday there was a large-scale food distribution on campus that I helped with

NC: Okay,

ML: um, it's outside and like, one or two semi-trucks would come and distribute 00:15:00boxes of food. And we had lines of cars that we would move through the process and do a truck to trunk food distribution

NC: Very cool. Did you like hear any stories or like see any interesting things during that period? Like, because I know a lot of families struggled with, like, losing jobs or not getting paid at all. And like, they couldn't put food on the table. So obviously, you being so close to that, did you have any stories from that at all?

ML: Yeah, well, part of it sometimes, like we were really encouraging people to take stuff because we had to get rid of it, like have it be distributed, which was great. And we knew at that time, like, very, very few people were entirely unaffected, like, yeah, even university people who kept their jobs lost some income, you know, because of some intermittent furloughs. Right. So it's like, everybody was affected. So we wanted everybody to take advantage of it. So that was good. There are some really heartwarming stories. I still remember this guy; I don't remember his name. I don't even remember if I got his name, I think I asked him once. He drove this little red car. And he came every single week, 00:16:00because I was one of the first people in line, retired individual, he always took eight boxes of food. He knew exactly how he wanted them in his car. And he distributed them to people that couldn't come themselves. He never took any of the food for himself, always picked it up and distributed it to the places that needed it. and We'd always end up chatting like, and he just wanted to chat. So he's a really sweet guy, originally from Texas, and we talked about growing up in Texas and all those kinds of things. But yeah, there's so many people like that, that were picking up food for other families and taking it places. And the and the weeks that we had lots and lots of extra food. Like even Ashley, who worked at the UW Oshkosh police department if she was on duty at texter (?). And she'd come over with the squad car, and we'd fill it up and she would drive up and down the streets looking for people outside and say hey, do you want a box of food? And she would just like, give it out to them So like, it was a really cool thing to see everybody chipping in on and finding ways to get food to people who needed it. Yeah, that time. Everyone needed a little bit of extra. So

00:17:00

NC: Oh, for sure. Yeah. Did you? Like when we came back to school in fall of 2020? I believe it was. Were you- was your job affected at all in that way? Like, is it still a little bit online? Or is it mostly like you're back to what it was before?

ML: Well, that fall, our quest three classes were really mixed, I don't think any of them were only in person. So they're either entirely virtual or had an in person and virtual option to them, which is kind of weird for community-based learning, right? So that that was a lot of extra to figure out and kind of manage and really make sure that it was a good valuable experience for the students and the partner agencies because that's the core of what we're trying to do. So that was quite a bit there, just kind of working through that. I also 00:18:00served on the COVID Compliance Committee, lots of people got assigned to really random and different committees around campus. So on that committee, our job was to make sure that departments and students and whatnot, were following sort of the new rules that were put in place, like masking and sanitizing and all those kinds of things that were going on. And one of the things that was happening during at that time was they asked um units to write these standard operating procedures, partially case like, suddenly people were out of the office and like the clothes down or being prepared for if the level ever changed. And so like we were kind of always at like this moderate level in terms of like our COVID awareness, right. But if cases suddenly spiked, like what would happen if we had to move to a high level and they had to start backing things down at the university, again, to get people thinking ahead of what they're doing. My job on the Compliance Committee was to review all these standard operating procedures to make sure that they fell in line with like, the larger university rules, you 00:19:00know clarify things. So I think during that time, there are over 100 different operating procedures written

NC: Wow.

ML: And I reviewed most of them not all of them, I probably review about 75 of them.

NC: Holy cow.

ML: Yeah. So there's a lot of reading. I believe a lot of them are pretty easy to go through. Some of them were very complex though. And it's like, oh, my god departments have to think about this kind of stuff like athletics was extremely involved one because you know, the like, have different testing regulations. And you think about like, just working out with a mask is very challenging and we're trying to do like athletics level working out It's even more challenging. And it was just it was a lot to really think through. It is interesting to see the thought and the processes that people went through to really ensure that we can open safely and keep our COVID-nis kind of at bay a little bit and it was a lot of work that people did to make that happen and I just got to see it all like. Very few of them needed. had many changes. But that was one of the extra things 00:20:00I took out during that time. And lots of people took on lots of extra responsibilities. So

NC: yeah. So when, like, obviously now we have a little bit more of a knowingness of like, what to do if COVID ever did spike again, did you? Did you ever see any of like, the protocols if they were like, different compared to because obviously, the first time that we got sent home, it was just everybody out? Like, has get home? Stay safe? Everybody wear a mask? Is there like a different thing? Now if COVID was to spike, would we go into like, stay on campus have classes? Or like what was the procedure on that?

ML: Um, yeah, academics were like, kind of different but it was more like? Yeah, like what levels of staffing would be like, I think you saw a lot units decide like, since sort of the work from home or work from different spaces is much easier now. You know, that's kind of was a lot of people strategy. So like 00:21:00academic advising, like, Yeah, we could be here on campus, or we could do all of our appointments from home. So like, if cases were super high in this area, I could then provide you have a strategy in place that they could continue to operate and ensure that students are going through the advising process that in other units like the Rec and Wellness Center, like if cases of super high, their strategy is be closed, right? Yes. You can't bring people together in a workout facility of cases of super super high. So it really depended on what the area was and what their strategy was.

NC: So they went through like building to building and like

ML: the unit by unit,

NC: and they were just like, Okay, everybody had their own plan, or was it like,

ML: yeah, but our job was to make sure they all sort of followed some similar guidelines.

NC: Okay. Yeah, that makes sense.

ML: Yeah. You know, so like, like everything in Student Success Center. So advising, counseling, and Career Services, they all have very similar style plans, but they all sort of work in the similar realm of things, right. And something like the Rec and Wellness Center athletics have very different types of plans based on the type of work that they do.

00:22:00

NC: Yeah. Okay. Um, so do you know of anything that like, while you were in COVID? Obviously, it was like a very big learning experience for all of us. Do you think that there was anything that was taught to you through this experience, like, with your knowledge of technology, even or just like yourself, like being safe, self-sustainable at home, like knowing that you're able to do that? Or what do you think you have learned personally from COVID?

ML: I think from a work standpoint, the biggest lesson a couple lessons one, adaptability and flexibility. Alright, just because we used to always do something one way clearly, we were taught, you can do things, lots of different ways, and they can still be successful. So I saw that a lot through my work here, and also a lot through the work through the Oshkosh area community pantry, like they totally changed their systems many times to accommodate what was going on. And it's all just being adaptable, but still serving your mission, or what your organization's purpose at that time, which is really important. Something 00:23:00that one of my coworkers said, which I think is really, really important these days is give people grace, like, you don't know what people are going through. You don't know if someone's been in lockdown for over two weeks, because maybe they had COVID. And then their spouse had COVID. And then their kids did like, so you don't know what their current struggle is.

NC: Yeah.

ML: You don't know if they just lost somebody, or what's going on to like, just give people grace and help them wherever they're at right now. And yeah, maybe they're being mean to you, or they're frustrated, but you don't know what else is going on.

NC: Right

ML: So much has been going on for people they maybe lost their jobs or whatever, like, give people that space and that grace to just kind of help work them back the best you can.

NC: Right.

ML: I think personally, you know, like, what was really great is we had a nine month old now he's older kid, my wife and I add at the time, and I just got to spend a lot more time with him than I would have if I would have been at work all day.

NC: Yeah, it was kind of a blessing in disguise.

00:24:00

ML: Yeah, it was a little bit of a curse too, because like, I would work in our spare bedroom. And then like if I got out to go to the bathroom or like get a snack or anything like that. He would immediately stop paying attention to my wife and like wanted to do whatever I was doing. So that drove her bonkers and rightfully so. Right. But the blessing was I just got the see him so much more. I got the lunch with him every day. Like, we were right there. We got to do more bike rides, and stuff like that together. And I just got to see him grow up a lot more than I would have had I been in the office. So you know, taking that time for family is super important and they're with you all the time. So you got to really be invested there and see what's going on there. And that's just a nice blessing.

NC: Yeah, that isn't really nice. Do you have anything else that you would think of when it comes to COVID that you'd like to add to the campus COVID stories that you can come up with off the top of your head? Or do you think we got through everything

ML: I'm thinking

00:25:00

NC: take your time

ML: I'm deeply thinking. No the operating procedures, the switching things. I think um I think UW Oshkosh did a really good job. At the end of the day. No one involved in the process would self-proclaim-ibly say they did a perfect job. By any means, right?

NC: Nobody was ready for it.

ML: Yeah. But being where we were not knowing what we knew at that time. And then as we continue to learn more, continue to adapt, like, really phenomenal. When you think about the size of our institution, the number of people involved, the number of departments involved, the amount of communication it takes to get a single message out clearly to everybody sometimes, right, like, they did a really good job. And, you know, they deserve recognition. And then that goes to 00:26:00the administration, to the faculty, to the staff, but also to the students, like as students like, what perseverance they've shown, you know, and it's been a challenging time for everyone. And I cannot imagine trying to learn in a virtual environment and in the hybrid environment and all those other things and, everything being weird um. You know, for students who haven't had like a traditional college experience, right, like, coming in and be able to do everything but coming in and having most of their classes online and not knowing people, like people really persevered well here um. And everyone should be proud of that. And I think it shows also on like, our current infection rate remains really low, which is phenomenal, you know, like, I in I'm out in the community a lot doing the work with other agencies and stuff like that. And I would say like, if you want to be safe in Oshkosh come to campus like, yeah, we're really one of the safest places that you can be. We have incredibly high vaccination 00:27:00rates among our staff and our students. incredibly low infection rates, like this place has done a really good job, and that's amazing.

NC: Yeah, I agree. Um, all right. So we thank you for sharing your stories with us. We appreciate your contribution to the campus COVID stories at UW Oshkosh. And I think we are all set then.

ML: Sounds good.