Interview with Missy Burgess, 01/13/2022

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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´╗┐GL: This is Grace Lim interviewing Missy Burgess on Thursday, January 13, 2022. For Campus COVID Stories. Campus COVID Stories is a collection of oral stories from students and staff at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh about their experiences in the time of COVID. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. Before we get started, could you please state your name and spell it for us?

MB: Sure. My name is Missy Burgess M-I-S-S-Y B-U-R-G-E-S-S.

GL: 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.

MB: Sure. Again, my name is Missy Burgess, and I am the Associate Director for Student Involvement in Reeve Union here at UW Oshkosh.

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

MB: Sure. I grew up in Roxana, Illinois. It's basically an Illinois suburb of 00:01:00St. Louis, Missouri.

GL: And where did you earn your degree or degrees and tell us what they are.

MB: I have a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. I have a Master of Science in Student Counseling and personnel services from Kansas State University and a PhD in educational leadership from the University of North Dakota.

GL: And how did you end up working here at UW Oshkosh?

MB: When I finished my PhD at the University of North Dakota, while I was doing that program, I had switched into working in the student union and campus activities. And I knew it was just time for a new challenge, a new opportunity. UW Oshkosh had all of the things on my wish list. It was a small regional institution, it served first generation students like myself, and the Campus Activities department was directly tied in with the Student Union, which was a 00:02:00philosophy that I like.

GL: You are a first gen student?

MB: I am.

GL: Alright. Tell me, what did your parents do?

MB: My parents divorced when I was two. So I grew up with my dad and stepmom. My dad works on diesel engines so re rehabbing parts for those so trained and tugboat engines. And my stepmom owned a daycare for about 45 children. And my mom and stepdad owned a catering business and an ice company.

GL: Was going to college something that you always had in your mind? Was it was it an expectation from your parents?

MB: It definitely was not in my house. You know, a lot of people grew up and it's when you go to college in my house, it was if you go to college, you have to figure out a way to pay for it. And so I think for me, I school was always something I was very good at. And so I knew college was on my path, but the greater concern was how I was gonna find a means to pay for it.


GL: And how did you pay for it?

MB: Actually, I was fortunate enough to get a four year scholarship, academic scholarship, for my undergraduate institution. It was eight miles door to door from the residence hall parking lot to my parents driveway. So it wasn't my top choice. I wanted to go to the University of Illinois, you know, the big tier one school in Illinois, but I could pay for four years at my undergrad. And in the end, it was the best choice I ever could have made for school, very similar to UW Oshkosh. Lots of opportunities for me as a student and I lived on campus the whole time. So even though I was eight miles away, it was kind of my own world.

GL: And tell me another period at UW Oshkosh, what was your first role here? And what year was that?

MB: I started here in basically the same role, but at the time, my position title was Assistant Director for Student Involvement, and that would have been fall of 2013.

GL: And what does what was that job? Well what, what did you have to do?


MB: Sure. So currently, I supervise eight full time staff. My staff are the staff that do a lot of the large campus events and work with the student organizations across all three campuses now. So I supervise the staff that work with Greek life, volunteerism, student organizations, reeve union board, diversity and inclusion programs, the Oshkosh Student Association office manager and the Student Life coordinators at Fox in Fond du Lac who do basically all of those positions wrapped into one at Fox in Fond du Lac.

GL: Okay. So, can you give us an idea how many events were programming that your you and your department are responsible for?

MB: Sure, in a non-COVID year we would do about 220 to 270. I could get you the specifics and we would have between 20 and 30,000 overall attendees over the 00:05:00course of the year for the events that we can easily calculate the attendance for.

GL: Okay. So let's move to the early days of COVID. Do you remember the first time we heard about this virus?

MB: Sure, it probably came out, it started to become more public around here in mid-January. And we, one of the staff in my area plans alternative break trips. So we had a trip going to Puerto Rico at the end of January. And, you know, I think we heard about it at that time, it was just a virus that was located overseas, it wasn't seeming to impact our trip. But going heading into the last few days before the trip, we started to get students and parents concerned about what they were hearing. And at that point, I think we thought it wasn't going to come to us. And so we did provide masks for the students. But I'll be honest, that I don't know that we thought they were 100% needed, it was somewhat more to help people feel better. And then, because we just didn't understand the 00:06:00seriousness of it at that time. But I think, so initially, and then my colleagues across the country, their campuses started to fall, and started to take it more seriously and started to close down. And we were, from my perspective, one of the last institutions standing for many of my peers on the, you know, East Coast or West Coast.

GL: Did you actually hold that program?

MB: We did. So, Nicole Bellcorrelli is my staff member who advised the trip to Puerto Rico, and they all made it back safely and without getting sick. But that was that would have been the last week of January. The break week between the J term and the spring semester.

GL: Did they say anything coming back? I mean how many students are we talking about here?

MB: We had nine students and one full time staff member on the trip.

GL: Okay. Did they say anything about their trip on the way back or regarding 00:07:00the virus?

MB: I think that they were starting to see some of the headlines and the national newspapers at like the airport and things like that. So it sounds like to me from hearing the stories as they came back. They didn't have as much concern while they were on the trip itself. But then coming back, you start to hear some of the heightened concerns. And so I do know that they, for the most part chose not to wear the provided masks on the way there. But most of them did choose to wear the masks on the airplane on the way back.

GL: Okay. And at what point did you realize, you know, that this is something that we need to be concerned with.

MB: I would say it was probably more into February, beginning of March. So part of the again, the work that we do is alternative break trips. And so we had two more trips, scheduled to go in March. And they were domestic based trips, one to 00:08:00go to Atlanta and one to go to North Carolina. And the advisor of the Atlanta trip came to me in early March and said, I'm just concerned, because at that point it had started, it had gotten to the US and we were hearing things about some of the bigger cities and the population that they were working with didn't have great access to health care. So just some concerns about what that was going to look like. So we canceled that trip. I think the beginning, so kind of two weeks out from spring break. But we had that at that point, we had allowed the North Carolina trip to continue based on what they were doing service wise the advisor wasn't as concerned. And so we were allowing that one to continue. We ended up canceling that one I would say Monday or Tuesday before spring break, to allow to not allow that trip to go. And then the rest of our stuff we 00:09:00didn't, we didn't really cancel anything until campus said we need to cancel all events outside of classes and then again, the dominoes started to fall from there.

GL: Tell us just a little bit about the alternative spring breaks. I mean, what? Describe a couple of them for me.

MB: Sure. So they're weeklong service based trips. And I would say we try to do two things on these trips. One we're trying to educate students, if we take them abroad, we're trying to educate them about usually an issue or a culture. Our domestic based trips are issue based or topical based. So we're trying to do some education and expand students worldview, but then also do service. And so that particular Atlanta based trip was looking at LGBTQ issues and working with 00:10:00homeless LGBTQ youth. And in a couple of other locations. The North Carolina trip was more leadership based. And they would work, stay at the YMCA and then go into a different service agency every day. So in the Western North Carolina Appalachian area. Puerto Rico, they were doing hurricane relief. And then I was actually scheduled to take a trip in May, that year to Honduras. And we do we spend about half of the day doing learning actually surrounding their educational system, and then half the day doing service with their students.

GL: So when, when everybody got word that we are not just, you know, I think the first email from the administration was, you know, if you when you go on spring break, you know, stay home shelter in place. And then I think a day later or the 00:11:00email came down, actually, you got to go home. When that email came down, what was the conversation like the, you know, in their in your department?

MB: So, I would say this is where my personal and professional lives started to really intertwine. So, on a personal level, in December of 2019, just before December 20, 2019, I was diagnosed with cancer, and did surgery at the end of January. I had been out two weeks in February. But again, things were fairly normal still. And I actually started chemotherapy on March 5, 2020. On March 12, 2020, so my chemotherapy at that time was every two weeks, so every other Thursday. So March 5, I had chemo, march 12, I went in for bloodwork, and I was diagnosed as severely neutropenic, which means I had no immune system. I think the regular your the bottom end of your ANC is supposed to be 1.8. And mine was 00:12:00at like point two, I think. So I literally didn't have an immune system. So they told me, You should go not related to COVID at all, you should go home, you should not leave your house for a week, we will retest your blood in a week. But you basically don't have the ability to fight off anything. So I ended up staying at work most of the day on the 12th. And I went home the night of the 12th. And I thought my world was ending. How was I possibly going to work from home for a week, every other week for four cycles? Like there was no way I do student activities, my staff was going to be there like I just couldn't even grasp it. And so I think I was kind of wrapped up in what was happening in my personal world. And then on the 13th was when the, I believe when the chancellor came down and said we're not having classes, everybody needs to go home. And I started then to meet with my staff. I think that I don't remember the that. And 00:13:00then I told them to plan on coming on Monday. But after Monday that we would likely be working from home. And so my staff, I think our first priority became what do we need to cancel? So our spring breaks had to be canceled, we had some daytime events. There was just we started to roll through okay, what are we canceling? And how far out are we canceling? Because is this a two or three or four week thing? So and what was sort of sort of the hard deadline for every event that we needed to cancel by. So for example, Bye Gosh Fest, our big end of the year festival, we thought you know what, we can wait until mid April probably beginning to middle of April before we have to make a decision. So we're gonna hold off two more weeks. We don't need to make a decision on that one, but became looking at contractual issues. So we had contracted for speakers and performers and what were we going to do? And how are we going to cancel? And 00:14:00so and then so we had that sort of pot of things that we planned, but then it also became very personal, tangible, working with our students. So our fraternity and sorority life students, you know, were what happens to our formals? What happens to our meetings? And really thinking through some of those details, and I remember our initial fraternity and sorority plan that that Angie Zemke crafted was through April 10. You know, so we're canceling everything through April 10. We'll revisit as we get closer and so again, I think early days of COVID personal and professional but our focus became first on what do we cancel and then I think post Spring Break became okay, what can we do and how can we maintain relationships and how are we checking in on the students that we have connections to?

GL: If you don't mind my asking me what kind of cancer?

MB: Breast cancer stage three a.

GL: Okay and then when we were all sent home did you work from home?

MB: I did. So I was fortunate at least and through the early May, my whole team 00:15:00was able to work from home. And at that point, we were documenting literally everything we were doing to prove, you know, working from home was legitimate. But we were still doing events. We were still canceling events we were starting to plan for, you know, what might fall look like. And so my whole team worked from home until we hit furlough point.

GL: Until you hit what?

MB: Furlough.

GL: Okay. Well, let me touch on that, before we go back to some of the things I wanted to go back to. The university had to come up with some sort of guideline where I don't know definition, who's the essential employee? Were you among that group,

MB: I was not deemed essential in terms of needing to be on campus. But I in terms of having to work on campus, but I was deemed essential, because I was part of our leadership team for our department. And so I was kind of a second 00:16:00tier of I could come to campus and I could be called into campus, if need be based on the need to provide food service and things like that, that come out of our department. But I was not a tier one initially.

GL: And then did you work through the summer?

MB: I did. So at that point, I, there were I supervised five people, and three of the five were furloughed. And I was able to keep two on so basically, the three of us were doing the work of the whole team getting planning ready for the fall, and then my role on EOC and the Titans returned Task Force actually started in early June. When the Titans return task force was initially created, I was asked if I would be the recorder. But their plan was to meet in person. And with a compromised immune system that didn't sound like what I should be doing. And so as hard as it was, I said no at the time, and so they had someone 00:17:00else who did it initially. In the meantime, before they actually got rolling, somebody said this is not a good plan to put us all in the same room, let's meet virtually. And that person who was initially in the role, had a death in the family. And so they needed somebody to come in and serve as that person's backup. So I came in, after the Titans return task force was I wasn't initially part of the EOC. But as they transitioned into that Titans return Task Force I came in and served as the recorder for the group. So took notes at all the meetings and helped just do some of the administrative management.

GL: Did, when was that you? Did you start with Titan Returns first for the EOC first?

MB: It was it was so the transition kind of went EOC to Titans return. And then it transitioned back to the EOC. And so I was not involved in the initial iteration of the EOC. But I was involved when it became the Titans return Task 00:18:00Force. And then we transitioned back to the EOC, I think in maybe August ish.

GL: Just explain to me how the funding, you know, you're talking about the contracts that you had, the obligations and things like that, how is Reeve Union funded?

MB: So Reeve Union is funded through segregated fees. And so the university system made a decision that students wouldn't get a refund of tuition and fees, but they would get refunds related to housing and dining. So we were still fee funded. In some cases, we transitioned contracts. So our Bye Gosh artists, we, we passed the contract forward a year. So we didn't pay the person at the time, but our contractual obligation was transitioned a full year out. So we said we'll keep we'll keep our contract with you, but we're gonna do it next year, instead of this year. Which they were very agreeable to, and the time of a 00:19:00pandemic, some of our smaller artists that we had contracts with, were, in some cases, we were able to cancel and in some cases, again, we just rolled those forward to the next year. So depending on what that looked like, we actually had in my area, some savings because we, you know, when you don't do a large event, like Bye Gosh Fest, and that was able I think to help offset in some of the, you know, some of the costs that the university was incurring, and that sort of thing.

GL: So, I guess the question I had is that how did COVID hit Reeve Union financially?

MB: I'm not our budget person. I think, but University dining is a part of reviewing and, and the refunds and things that students were given as a result of not having meal plans, I think definitely had a substantial impact. I think some of that may have been recovered through the some of the COVID funding that 00:20:00came down from the government and things like that. But otherwise, we, for the most part, we were able to kind of offset some of those additional expenses and the things that still had to be paid for with some of the things that we weren't doing. As we transitioned to fall of 2020, and spring of 2021, we still did all of the events and spent the money it was just that we were trying to do them was, how do we do it safely. So we did a number of things, we were doing lots of virtual events, or, and then when we transitioned to in person events in the spring, we were doing them, you know, chair spread out, less people, we did a lot of grabbing go events. I remember fall of 2020, again, not the healthiest immune system in the world, but I wanted to be here and help my staff. And so we set up tables outside of reunion to build paint kits for students to do a paint 00:21:00night. And so we put all these tables six feet apart, and we just assemble, put, you know, a canvas and some brushes and some paints in a Ziploc bag for students to pick up on the way out art faculty member who taught that event, virtually as a part of Welcome Week.

GL: So they did it at home?

MB: Yeah, so students came and picked up their kit. And then they could do it at home or from that they logged on from their room or from home. And then the art faculty member logged on and taught it.

GL: How many people showed up for that?

MB: I think, around 150 or so.

GL: Wow.

MB: Yeah.

GL: That's impressive. So, um, well, your whole job is about student engagement really? Right? Well, how difficult was that during the during this time, especially in during the well, obviously not the spring of the 2020, but fall of 2020?

MB: Yeah, I think it's been super difficult. Yeah, one of my colleagues, Rick 00:22:00Thomas, who's the union director at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee said, I've been, I've spent my entire career trying to bring people together. And now I'm trying to keep them apart. It was very hard I think getting students to feel connected. Because at the point when everything goes virtual, the last thing that you want to do at night as log on for another virtual programmer events, you know, classes virtual, you're talking to your friends and family virtual. By that fall, like virtual had kind of lost its luster a little bit, but we were still trying and doing everything that we could. So thinking about how do we do things creatively? How can we, you know, we did a lot like I said, a lot of grabbing go things were come pick up the craft and sign on later and do it. We did some Grab and Go foods, we like, for example, our Titan Nights event, which is a large event takes over Reeve Union, we normally have 10 or 12 different activities. We did a lot of those things, just thinking about how we could do 00:23:00them virtually or do them limited contact. So I did an outdoor scavenger hunt, where teams of two, and they had to take pictures and you know, trying to keep people apart. But it's been really hard. So much of the gratification that we get in the work that we do comes in seeing people come to our events or seeing people connect or hearing, you know, Reeve Union Board was what kept me in college. And when you don't get that gratification and you're working three times as hard to make things happen, I think it just became it's been challenging.

GL: Titan Nights is really I mean, I think I I associated with like freshmen, the first year students, right, this is their way of getting your way of getting them involved in the campus community. So what was that like for those incoming freshman?

MB: So if you look at really their welcome week, we did a virtual paint night. I 00:24:00think we did a virtual comedian. We did do three outdoor events in the same night in fall of 2020. We did an outdoor movie, where we were literally calculating how many people we could put on the rec Plex field and keep them six feet apart. So we came up with the blanket standard. So everybody bring a blanket one human per blanket. And because roughly that kept people mostly six feet apart. I don't know if I mentioned, we did outdoor mini golf, and then we did, we had people signed up in teams of two, ten minutes apart. So again, we could keep them split up. And then we did Campfire on the Fox, which is one of our traditional welcome week events at the Culver Family Welcome Center. So we did all those Thursday night and we ran them simultaneously. Normally, we don't want to compete with each other but we ran them simultaneously so that we would have smaller crowds at each one but again, trying to get something where students could feel connected. And then that Friday night for Titan Nights, I Don't remember the specific activities, but basically every Titan Nights had a 00:25:00craft, everyone had a food, everyone had a movie, and then we had some sort of virtual event or performer or game show or something to try to engage students. But you know, we're used to probably seeing six to 700 people at that first Titan Nights, and I think our attendance was more 200 or 250. There were fewer students on campus that fall, but not that percentage, fewer. So. But, again, it was trying to do everything we could to tell students, we're here. You know, we're excited that you're here, we want you to have fun.

GL: Do you remember that first movie that you guys showed?

MB: I don't. I would have to look it up.

GL: No, I, I gotta tell you, I had no idea that all this was happening.

MB: Yeah, I think the hard part with movies too, became in the time of the, between March of 2020, and fall 2020, they pretty much had stopped producing new 00:26:00movies. And so our movies have always been successful, because we do pre release, so before it comes out, but now everything goes straight to streaming. So that was kind of the tail end of movies on campus was that fall.

GL: Okay, so we talked a little bit about you being a member of the EOC. Once you were on the, tell me, that your role in that committee, and also you said transition to the Titan Returns Committee. So tell me again, what your role is.

MB: So on the Titans Return Committee, I initially really did just come in as the recorder. And so it was my job to take the minutes of the meetings, and also to create the agendas and communicate with people as needed. Basically, it was up to sort of Chief and Elizabeth and Kim, Elizabeth Hartman and Kim Langolf, what they needed. At that point, we were doing fairly verbatim minutes for 00:27:00initially for the Titans Return Task Force. When we transitioned to the EOC, I stayed on as the recorder, but I got to have a little bit of a voice too. So I am the person in the group who does the most with special events, and has the most direct conversations with students. And so, Chief often asked us, especially at the beginning in the first EOC meetings he'd always wanted to say what are students saying? What our students thinking? And so that kind of became my role as well as there was no one representing dining on the EOC and so many of the decisions that we were making at the fall 2020 time were impacted by food or were impacted food and so I just by de facto relationship in the Reeve department, I had that voice for dining and on the EOC as well.

GL: Did you come back in person? Are you back in person

MB: I am. So I came back and did some parts of Welcome Week in August of 2020. I 00:28:00was back intermittently I would say over the summer, but Reeve was empty. So I didn't have an immune system or a very strong immune system. But there was no one there. We reopened Reeve, I believe that it was August 16 if my memory serves me correctly, so reopened the union. And for students and staff and everyone, I worked the first two or three weeks in person. But then if you remember we saw a surge on campus and campus cases. And I was scheduled to start radiation treatments. So I had 28 days of radiation, five days a week, in the middle to end of September. And I was quickly doing the math of getting sick and or quarantined and not wanting to. So I pretty much after Welcome Week moved back home to work remotely through, through mid October when I finished radiation October 21. And then I slowly transitioned to pretty much back fully 00:29:00in person at that point. And that was both because so much of what we were doing is in person and I wanted to be able to interact with my staff, but also I was tired of being at home. And I needed the human interaction. I am a single person, I live by myself, and cancer and COVID together was very isolating. And so I was ready to come back and see people and felt like I could do that safely. And my staff and my colleagues were very respectful and you know, I have a hand sanitizer that sits by my desk and every time I walked in my office, I was hand sanitizing. I never stopped wearing a mask even when masks were taken off on campus. But so it was my choice at that point. My staff team all had the option of whether or not they wanted to work remotely or in person, everybody, we set 00:30:00up a plan where everybody had a day that they had to be on campus. Well, I shouldn't say that. Four people, one person said that I don't feel comfortable at all being on campus, and we respected that decision. The other four plus myself all had a designated day that so no matter what I was going to be on campus on Fridays, because that was my day. But if you worked more than that, that was fine. I have one staff member who had children. And so she was teaching her child at home. So we just sort of covered and we always had someone there in person.

GL: Did you and your department come up with a COVID response for your specific department?

MB: We had dining, created the dining plan. And we yes, had basically an events protocol for that we took the lead in creating for campus, because so much of what we do is events in the building. So there was a special events protocol, 00:31:00but that was led by our team and getting that created.

GL: I think we talked about some of the challenges, but can you just go over some of the challenges that you faced regarding your job here, during the time COVID?

MB: Sure. I think number one, the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life was furlough my staff. So much of what we do is about people, and I lead with my heart. And so to have to call someone and say you don't have a job for four months, was terrible and awful. And something I never want to have to do again. But again, I lead with my heart. I, the other thing is, again, our attendance numbers were down. And so getting that gratification, became we had to look for success in other ways. We had to count our success in ones and twos and how we got students connected. And so I remember we did they do a freshman survey 00:32:00through, at that point it was the counseling center, now I think it's enrollment management. But students were able to identify if they were having trouble getting connected and so I met with some of those students. And my objective was if you can get me if I can get them in a meeting, we can get them connected. So I helped to get a student connected to Reeve Union Board, she ended up being our member of the year by the end of the semester. But we really, I think, had to start, like calculating our successes in the ones and twos and not the hundreds and 1000s. But it was hard. And I think the other thing is just when you thought you had a plan, you had to rethink it. And so we had plans A through Z for most events of we would just figure it out. And then a restriction would be loosened or tightened. And so just trying to you know, and students were ready for the ready for wanting to be back and trying to give them that but keep them safe. My, I always said. I said all year my number one goal was to not host a super 00:33:00spreader, so.

GL: Regarding the furloughs, you know, can you tell me a little bit about your conversation with your employees? You know, the rationale behind that? You know.

MB: Sure, at that point, I had five staff who did roughly the same job. They have different specialty areas, but they were all equal in terms of position descriptions. Our goal initially, when we went into and they said we had to do furloughs, was to furlough everyone for a limited amount of time. And so and sort of rotate those, so we still had people on staff the whole time. We had a whole plan. And then they came down and said, no you can't do that. It's an all or nothing. And so then it was figuring out, okay, how many people do I need to be minimally functional. And we ended up basing it in my area, all things being equal on longevity, in the position was how we went down to in some of our 00:34:00areas. The other factor that we really tried to look at is, whose area was specialized enough that it couldn't be covered by someone else, or that we couldn't train someone because if you remember when furloughs went down, we had about a week's notice. So to try to learn someone else's job in a week. So I was able to keep two staff members on one person responsible for Fraternity and Sorority Life. And then again, took on a couple other people's responsibilities and one person who kind of was in charge of our student involvement area and volunteerism, but again, took on Titan Nights and a lot of other responsibilities. We also did some position shifting. It really hit that point, my sole goal became how do I protect my, I shouldn't say my sole goal, one of my lead with my heart goals was how do I protect my team? And so over the summer, I took on the supervision of the Fox in Fond du Lac Student Life coordinators. And there, we made the decision that one of my Oshkosh campus staff would go 00:35:00halftime to Fond Du Lac instead of filling that position. So that, again, trying to, so that if it came down to, again, declaring people essential or not essential, we were going to have as many things on our plate that that made us feel full. And so we did some transition in that area. Also, I was asked if one of my staff could serve as a disease investigator and contact tracer. Initially, the request was made, can we have her halftime for three weeks? And in the end, she went full time, and I still don't have our back. And so we were down, even post furloughs, I was down a staff member and a half. And then a third staff member resigned in the middle of that, and we didn't fill that position for a semester. And I took on that responsibility. So we tried to be as fiscally responsible as we could for the sake of the university while still trying to 00:36:00keep things going. But what it meant was, everybody was doing their job and someone else's.

GL: I'm hearing that across campus. You know, that's crazy. All right. So, um, so you did you, we talked a little bit about how your tasks changed and evolved. How, what would you say you you're most proud of during this time, I mean you know something that happened. And, you know, you know, whether it's something you did or department did, what would you point to as something that you can be proud of?

MB: I am, I would say, I say two things. One is one of my roles on the EOC became being the backup data person as well, Michelle Bogden-Muetzel was out. I'm just proud of the work that that group did. And the impact that we were able to have in keeping campus happen safely. And that I would never, never wish the 00:37:00experience, but it's been one of the coolest professional experiences I've ever had. I think as a team, I'm proud of that my staff did so many things. And we were able to still offer so many things and really looked at creatively how we can make it happen safely. In spring of 2021, the Reeve Union Board students said, We want Bye Gosh Fest to happen. And the advisor and I looked at each other and we're like, this is not happening. Like, normally we bring 2000 people together and they like, are within two centimeters of each other, you know, and the students were like, we want it to happen. And so the advisor and I were like, alright, we'll pitch it, let's talk about it. Let's talk about how we can do it safely. And they did. They pulled it off. We had a virtual concert, but we had a lot of the outside activities, where you were still to offer food we were and I remember Vice Chancellor, Interim Vice Chancellor, Art Munin stopped by 00:38:00and he said, it really feels like campus again. So I think just sometimes we needed to let our students lead. And they said, no, we want to do it. And we said, okay, let's figure out how we can happen safely. We did the same thing that fraternities and sororities wanted to have the end of the semester formals in spring of 2021. They hadn't been able to have them in spring of 2020 and I said okay, alright. Pitch a proposal, how do we make it happen safely, and they said, here are all the things that we're willing to do, if you'll just let us do this. And so they were willing to wear masks and they were willing to do some social distancing. And we went work through those, and they all had them. And neither of those events were super spreaders. So I think just the effort that our students on that resilience of, we really can do this. And it might look different, and it might not. I remember when we finished Bye Gosh Fest, I looked at the advisor and they just looked down the advising team and I said you know 00:39:00what, here's what I heard tonight, I heard a student say this is my first event that I've been to all year. I heard a student say if it weren't for Reeve Union Board, I wouldn't have stayed in college. I heard these things and so I need we need to count our success in that way. But so I think just that resilience factor of our students and the staff and coming through that

GL: Just tell me what Bye, Bye Gosh Fest just give me a short description of that is.

MB: Sure. So by gosh fest is an end of the year concert and festival. So typically we have an opening artists, a mid level artists, and then a bigger named artist. So in the past, we've had 3OH!3, we've had Jesse McCartney. Last year that that year it was scheduled to be B.o.B who came in 2021. So B.o.B was scheduled for March of 2020. But then there's also things like cotton candy and popcorn and we do some tie-dyeing, and some caricature artists and a photo booth and large inflatable games. And so it's really kind of an end of the semester 00:40:00stress relief celebration concert. But depending on the artist, we generally have between two and 4000 people there. I think our final numbers were maybe four or 500 for 2021, when we did it, but we did it. And we did the lots of things outside. The concert was virtual again, I think people were tired of virtual at that point, but we made it happen. And I shouldn't say I don't know that I can say we the students made it happen. And we helped them get there.

GL: And how do you, how, what aspect of COVID changed your, your job? And what do you. How has COVID changed the way you do your work? And moving forward, do you think these changes will be permanent?

MB: Sure, I would say two things. One is often talked about student activities 00:41:00not being life or death. When I was worked at the University of North Dakota, my supervisor there used to say, we're the sprinkles on the cupcake. We you know, we bring up the fun and the connection and we're valuable, we're very valuable to retention. But suddenly our work became life or death. If we bring these people together, and they breathe on each other, what will happen. And so I think just that risk and safety piece, the planning and unplanning, and replanning every time something changed. I do feel like for two years now, we've just been spinning plates, trying to keep everything in the air and be creative in how we can do things. And so I'm excited. I hope that at some point, we get back to being able to do strategic planning and strategic visioning. Because for now, it just seems like we're just trying to keep going one more step in front 00:42:00of the other. So I do think the risk and safety and that analysis piece, I think, looking at, it has changed just in thinking about how we can do some things virtually, or how, for example, I supervised the student life staff on the Fox and Fond Du Lac campuses, and how we can open things up to facts and Fond Du Lac, because it's virtual. And so it became more accessible to all students, it became more accessible to students who couldn't come back in the evenings. And so I do think we will keep some virtual or hybrid components to some of our things like speakers and that sort of thing. I think we will probably continue to always think about safety. We also, you know, figured out like virtual paint nights, we can have three times as many people online as we can, in space in a space in person. And so there are some things there that worked. And I think just again, thinking about accessibility and openness, I 00:43:00think has become more real in what we do.

GL: What would it take for, what would look like, for us to be normal again? You know, what would, what needs to take place or changes?

MB: Sure, I think our students would say they're done with masks. It's hard to build that connection. We think really hard about anything with food. So food is an incentive for students to come to events and things like that. And so now, we think really hard is, is it is food or critical enough component that we're willing to risk students taking their masks off? And in most cases, the answer has been no, or we've done grabbing go where they can take it and eat it outside and things like that. So I think masks are a big component, I think our ability to have large capacity events. And so the ability to have a large concert and 00:44:00have 2000 people outside, having fun, and not have to think about masks and you know, capacity and that sort of thing. I think we all had so much hope. last a year ago, so January of 2021 vaccines are coming out. And now it seems like there's no end in sight. So I don't know that I find it hard to believe in normal. I think we are slowly getting back to student travel. But that's another piece of being able to do travel abroad without having to have as much of a worry, I think, you know, there may always be we've always had to have vaccines to go abroad but there may be testing and things like that. But I think our ability to do that travel as well because so much of the high impact experiences that we offer involve travel.

GL: You know, I know of employees who are still working remote because of the 00:45:00immune system compromised systems. And but you here, you're here on campus. I mean, what brings you here? I mean, you're still you still have some issues?

MB: Yeah. For me, it's the students, it's the people. It's the seeing the resilience of our staff. I by nature, am an introvert. But I also like, I needed to see other people. That's why I got into this work. And to see that gratification of the work that we do, I think is what brings me back there. Also, and we talked about with my team, there are so many of them, when we started to talk about coming back in persons said, I want to come back. I miss the hallway conversations. I miss those connections. So I think when we went home, and were working remote, and five people that were working fairly independently and not that they didn't talk to each other, but that was we lost 00:46:00those just having conversations in the hallway or outside people's offices. And so I miss seeing that smile, seeing students excited. And so that was why it was important for me to, to get back.

GL: What has, um, living and working in the time of COVID taught you about yourself?

MB: I think a couple of things. One is my job didn't involve as many evenings or weekends, during COVID, as it does when we're in person, and everything's in person. So lots of evening and weekend events and things like that, that just weren't happening in the same way. So I found some things that helped to give me balance. And so now it's as we bring back evenings or weekends, it's trying to figure out what that looks like. But I walked every day. Part of it was that was like I needed the fresh air I needed out of this one room where I was spending the majority of my life in my living room. But so I learned about you know, 00:47:00balance I think and the importance of relationships, the importance that travel has to me, and being able to travel and see other people and, and do those things, I think has taught me but I think also professionally, just resilience. I had an absolutely incredible team. You know, some of them got furloughed, so then we came back and we're like you got two weeks plan on the fall semester, and unplan and replan it, and do it again, and take a different job and nobody complained. Literally. I mean, they may have complained, not to me. But they all said Missy will do whatever it takes. We'll do whatever it takes, Missy. I'll do it. I'll do it. Sure I can do it. I can take it on and so like I, they were the ones that have brought me joy and that time.

GL: Okay, so, you know, we touched on a lot of things is there anything else we 00:48:00missed, you know something you want to add?

MB: I don't think so.

GL: All right. Well, thank you for sharing your stories with us. We appreciate your contribution to the Campus COVID Stories at UW Oshkosh.