Interview with Nathan Scott, 09/16/2022

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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´╗┐GL: All right. This is Grace Lim interviewing Nathan Scott on Friday, September 16 2022 for Campus COVID Stories. Campus COVID Stories is a collection of oral stories from students and staff at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, but 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?

NS: Nathan Scott, N-A-T-H-A-N S-C-O-T-T.

GL: And 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.

NS: My name is Nathan Scott, currently the Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for campus life.

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

NS: I grew up in central Ohio, small town Urbana, Ohio and Champaign County was 00:01:00about 45 minutes west of Columbus, Ohio.

GL: And don't tell me what what did your parents do and what was what was their highest degrees or highest education level.

NS: So both my parents had a high school diploma. My father worked in the paper industry and started when he was 19 and eventually worked his way up to Superintendent of receiving and stock prep. My mom was a pharmacy technician at my grandfather's pharmacy in our hometown.

GL: And where did you earn your degrees or degrees?

NS: Both my degrees were from Ohio State University. I received my bachelor's in sport and leisure studies with an emphasis and coaching and management in 2005, and my master's degree in Sport and Exercise management and 2007.


GL: And how did you come to work at UW Oshkosh and when was that?

NS: I started here and 2016. I moved here from Chicago, Illinois. I was the Associate Director of Facilities at the University of Illinois at Chicago for the Department of student recreation. And the director position came open here and I checked it out and decided to give it a shot and I got the job.

GL: And you came in 2016 and your title then was Director of Student Rec and wellness. Okay. And tell us about your position here at UW Oshkosh pre COVID. So March of 2020.

NS: So I've served several interim roles. March of 2020, would have been interim executive director of health and wellness. So I started as the director when I 00:03:00got here, and then through various staff and leadership transitions, these opportunities became available. And at that time, I was overseeing Student Rec and wellness, the Counseling Center and the Student Health Center.

GL: And so, what what does that entail? So what were some of your job duties describe that. So

NS: I continued to serve as the Director of Student Rec. So that's all of the operations programs, supervision of about eight full time staff. That would be hands on with the program services and facilities and my role was primarily the administrative management over the operation, budgetary management, capital projects, just more of the high level responsibilities to make the department operate smoothly, and then supervise the director of the Student Health Center. 00:04:00So that was more of an administrative role to support that department and the same thing with the Counseling Center.

GL: Okay, so let's move to the early days of COVID. Do you recall the first time you actually heard about this virus?

NS: So the first time I heard about it, and I was concerned about it was I was watching NBA basketball game, and abruptly they stopped the game and cleared the stadium. That was in the middle of the week. Probably a Wednesday, Tuesday, we had our the largest special event that we host for Student Rec and wellness which is a 5k run called shamrock shuffle that Saturday. And at that point, I started to think like this is serious. If there clearing an NBA arena, you'd 00:05:00hope it's eventually going to start to impact the things we're doing. That Friday, before the race, I got a call from police, Lieutenant Trent Martin, who was primary contact for risk management on campus, special event risk management and those types of things. And he told me, We had to cancel the race. So we had 1200 racers registered to show up the next day. And call it an emergency meeting with our staff broke the news to them. Lots of discussions about how we were going to communicate what we were going to do with all of our supplies and things that we had already invested in for the event. And ultimately, had to cancel. So it's a fundraising event. So we gave all of our sponsors the 00:06:00opportunity to receive a refund. Because the charitable parties were attractive and you know, legitimate organizations in the community that we wanted to help all the sponsors left their donations with us. And we are still able to contribute to the UW Oh, police canine Fund and the Oshkosh Boys and Girls Club.

GL: The day of the race did anybody who did not receive their information? Do they show up? Or did your staff? Yeah. What did you do that day?

NS: We were I think this is where the memory starts to get a little bit blurry. Pretty sure we staffed the building still and allowed people to pick up their race packets, but we never actually conducted the event.

GL: Going back to the game that you're watching, were you watching the game at home? Or do you remember who was playing? I don't know. And then when they went, 00:07:00when when you saw that? I mean, you saw on TV that they were clearing it out? Yeah. I mean, what went through your mind?

NS: Well, I mean, at that point, there was so much unknown, there was very little information out there, we kind of knew that, you know, could be airborne. There were a few cases that were reported. And I believe one of the players tested positive at some point, I don't remember the details. But my thought, again, was, if they're going to cancel an NBA game, and clear and Arena in a major city. This is going to be a lot to handle. But I think for all of us, so. And you know, at that point I was probably questioning is, is this necessary. 00:08:00But when I saw that happen, I knew the sacrifice and the decision to do that was was significant for someone and there must have been something to seriously be worried about.

GL: When did you get word that we were actually going to be sending everybody home? You know, the week before? Spring Break? Did you get it through another person? Or did you get it through email like most of us did.

NS: I probably was involved in some preliminary conversations. I don't remember specifically when the decision was made. But because of my my role with the departments that I supervised, I'm pretty sure I had at least an idea that it was a possibility.

GL: And then when it finally came down that we are all we're sending our students home and everybody who's not essential needs to go home and shelter in 00:09:00place. How did how did you distribute that information to your staff and the people that they serve supervise and all the students who use your facilities and everything? How did that go down?

NS: So there was a lot of communication that was needed. There was a lot of logistical things we had to do as a staff to relocate to our homes and work and a lot of staff only had desktop computers, so they didn't have a way to operate at home. So that was the case with a lot of folks across campus. So purchasing of laptops and devices kind of went through the roof and there were some delays. Being in, in a hands on kind of Student Affairs Department, it was hard for all 00:10:00of us to imagine what work at home looked like. I think the transition for some was a lot easier. But for us, you know, everything that we do is contact with students and offering programs and services for students. So we had to get creative and modify a lot of our programs to virtual programs. And, you know, as a staff, we had to meet more often because we didn't see each other if we didn't. So in the long run, we found ways to engage students and provide the services as best as we could. But it took a lot for us to make that happen.

GL: So in the mark in March of 2020, when we were all sent home, the whole rec center was closed, correct? Correct. How? How many do you know offhand how many students uses that facility?

NS: So I just got the numbers from opening week. Wednesday to Wednesday, we saw 6000 students this year. So, you know, on a busy week, that time of year leading 00:11:00up to spring break is always a popular time for students to use our facility, I would say anywhere from from four to 6000 students would would pass through in a week.

GL: So so the Rec Center closed down and the and the health center also closed. I mean, when the chancellor sent everybody home,

NS: They may have had one or two people on site still. I know eventually, they did. But initially, they they all went home. A lot of us stayed to prepare for the long term plans of testing and all the other things that went up.

GL: Okay, I'm just gonna go sort of like that Lin linearly down that timeline. So, you know, some people are deemed essential to the operation of the of the 00:12:00university, before they had to show up and do their job in person. Were you among that group of people?

NS: No, no student rec and wellness. We all went, we all went home.

GL: And then how many? When did you come back to fully in person?

NS: So the Rec Center was the first building to Well, the first service building for students to reopen. Gosh, I wish I knew the timeline. I want to say some of our staff came back maybe you can help me do you know when? The toe when 00:13:00students started to come back? Well, when we started isolating quarantine, was

GL: that fall off? 2020 2020? Yeah.

NS: Yeah. Okay. So we would have opened, we would have done a soft opening summer of 2020. In preparation for?

GL: I don't really because so we went home March of 2020. The whole summer. We were all I think, trying to do the best we can. Right? And you I mean, we'll talk about the EOC in the cycle. But fall of 2020 is one with the Testing Center started coming on. So was the rec center open during that fall when the students came back, but they could do hybrid.

NS: Yes. So we were open before the students came, we were the very first building to open so we modified everything we shut down the three CT gym, which is our basketball space, we moved cardio equipment into that space. At that 00:14:00time, the recommendation was six feet apart. We had everything 12 feet apart, we required masks. And obviously, we had our custodial crew doing a lot of the things that they were doing on campus to disinfect every night. And we had building capacities which we typically don't have. So we would only allow 100 students in at a time they had to pre register for their period of time to be in the building. And then they actually had to check out of the building as well. So that allowed us to monitor if we needed for any reason to assist with contact tracing, we could tell who was in the building and exactly what time

GL: so tell me about your role with the EOC

NS: So at that time I was supervising the Student Health Center. And obviously there's a natural connection there. My involvement with the EOC was less than 00:15:00the beginning, I was mostly involved with the opening of the testing center and I'll be Hall and several of my staff and student rec and wellness took leadership positions in response. So, Juliana Kahrs managed the contact tracing and disease investigation for the university. Several of us served on campus wide committees to help with response and certain aspects of COVID. And Jordan Mooney was also reassigned. He was a lead disease investigator for campus as well. And Jordan was the fitness services coordinator and Julie was the Assistant Director of Health Promotion.

GL: You specifically did. Was your job reassigned at all? Or did you just take on extra duties


NS: took on extra duties? Yeah. So they really needed hands. Patrick Marco, our rec Plex coordinator at the time, helped work with a temp agency to find nurses and medical assistants and basically staff the testing center. So I was closely involved working with him on that. And then Kim Langolf reached out for assistance with coordinating coordinating everything with purveyor from setting up the epic software for us to utilize to ordering test kits to calibrating test machines. It was, it was really wild. None of us really knew what we were doing. But collectively, we managed to get it up and running so that students could 00:17:00could participate in surveillance testing.

GL: So tell me specifically, what what what was their typical day for you during that that time? I mean, what, how did you feel every day?

NS: Not really, every day was different. A lot of time spent in the testing center, troubleshooting interacting with students. managing emotions, when students did test positive, there was still a lot of uncertainty. A lot of our students were asymptomatic. Some got very ill. So it was really a lot of responding. Early on initially, I felt like we were planning and preparing. And then as things continued to evolve, there was a lot of quick decisions that were needed to be made in response to new challenges that arose. So my role on the 00:18:00EOC was

I basically was a representative from the Student Health Center, when either the associate director or director couldn't be there, so. Yeah, and and they had a lot going on as well. So I was there pretty frequently.

GL: And then when I'll be testing center was open, did you have a role, a specific role there.

NS: After it opened and everything was kind of running, I was able to step away and then redirect some energy back towards our operation in the rec center. Counseling obviously, had a lot of things that they needed to address with telehealth operations and how we were going to continue to serve students that that needed counseling services. And then just trying to figure out what the 00:19:00what the role of student health would be. As we continue to work through the plan to respond

GL: because of the budgetary shortfall experience, you know, what we were already experiencing prior to COVID. And, of course, during COVID with a, you know, all the refunds to the students and I think that, you know, the administration had to put in place some furlough, a furlough program, did you have to put any of your staff members on furlough?

NS: I did. It was one of the worst days of my professional career. Communicating with staff members that have dedicated their professional lives to to the university and to our organization was really tough and And I think still has an impact on on some of the people that were more furloughed. And then because of 00:20:00the scale of the unemployment rates at that time, there were a lot of challenges with people getting paid at all. So I had staff members that, you know, went over a month, six, seven weeks without ever receiving a paycheck after they were furloughed, because they weren't able to get into the unemployment system.

GL: How many of your staff did you have to put on those

NS: half? I think it was four or five.

GL: And going back, you went in when you were doing your initial response to COVID, for your department or other departments that you oversee? Who did you work closest with?

NS: Tony dearth, the Associate Director of Student Rec and wellness at that time, and all of the other directors and associate directors in the state. So, 00:21:00roundtables were quickly developed for counterparts in our positions at other UW System schools. A national organization did a lot to connect us as rec departments across the country. So there were a lot of conversations happening. There were a lot of conversations happening. And in some sense, it was helpful. But in another sense, every university even in Wisconsin had a different expectation different, you know, self proposed policies. Sometimes they were in line with the mandates that came from the state or the federal level. And sometimes they were above and beyond those mandates. So we were grateful, as a 00:22:00department that on our campus, for the most part, we stuck to state and federal mandates, and that allowed us to move forward with a soft opening. And then, you know, eventually the, the occupancy restrictions and a lot of other modifications were some schools were closed, all through fall, some even longer. So

GL: if you can think back of the early days of the pandemic, I mean, looking back, what were your biggest challenges?

NS: Professionally, working from home was a huge challenge for me. I never got used to it, and came back every opportunity I had that could be justified and that I could balance with my personal life. Personally, having my kids at home 00:23:00from school, trying to figure out virtual learning for them, while also trying to figure out my professional roles and responsibilities. And this new format was really tough.

GL: How old were your kids back then? So much.

NS: So 28, and four, so my son was in 4k, which they attempted to do virtually, which was a huge challenge. And my daughter would have been in third grade. She's in fifth grade now. So she would have been in third grade. So that was a little. There was more relevant work for her to do and more ways to engage with her teacher at eight than four year old. So yeah, it was it was tough. Thankfully, 00:24:00my parents live close, and they were able to help out as much as they could, but trying to balance work and learn how to be a 4k and third grade teacher. Yeah, it wasn't. It wasn't. I felt like I was failing at everything. So it was really hard.

GL: Can you think of those are those days? Were there any positives that came out of that? You know, those two that two and a half years were?

NS: Yeah, I mean, looking back on it now. Getting to spend that time with with my kids at home as challenging as it was, it was a gift. I think in general A lot of people evolved professionally to kind of function virtually when you need 00:25:00to at a higher level, I think that it opened a lot of doors for efficiencies within our organizations. I gained a much greater appreciation for my presence on campus, it was something that I didn't intentionally take for granted. But when it was stripped away, I realized how important being here with colleagues and being here to serve students was, was really important to me. And I missed that a lot. So like any other. And I'm sure there were other things.

GL: Do you think the pandemic changed anything regarding your job? Moving forward? I mean, the way you do your job, you mentioned about the virtual meetings and things like that anything else?


NS: Can't think of any other examples right now? I'm sure I will, as soon as we wrap

GL: in the fall of 2021. Vaccines are readily available and the administration, along with the CDC had recommended, strongly encourage everybody to get it. What were your initial reaction to the vaccines?

NS: Because of my role, and being involved in the EOC, and getting official information from organizations that were deeply involved in trying to figure out what was going on, I was I was thrilled. It was one of those things where I think we all we really, we were relieved, it was something that we were waiting on, you know, the the vaccine is going to come and then you know, that's going 00:27:00to change the world the way that this impacts our communities. And so I had no reservations. I was I was excited and went to get my vaccine as soon as I had the option.

GL: And you were also involved in the testing center at Albee, were you also involved in the other testing center with Culver or

NS: No at that point it it had evolved to like almost a I believe it was a community level and some of the people that were involved in Albion transitioned over, but most of us at that point, we're, we're out of it.

GL: And it's it's over two years now, since we were first sent home, back in March of 2020. How do you How much do you think we're back to normal?

NS: Well, these past two weeks of opening have been incredible. I think that 00:28:00student engagement is back to where it was, if not better. The day to day seems fairly normal. There's still precautions that you know that I take that I kind of always did you know the basic stuff, but from a student experience and from a professional experience, it seems like we're we're close to being as normal as maybe we ever will be.

GL: You touched on this a little bit already regarding what you've learned about yourself during this time. This time of COVID Is there anything else you'd like to add about what you have learned about yourself and about other people after living and working during this Global pandemic, I

NS: think the biggest thing is just the appreciation for being present on 00:29:00campus. I learned I'm not a good elementary teacher. Really bad at it. I did my best but great at other things with my kids but teaching wasn't one of them Yeah, that's probably it.

GL: And then, you know, you mentioned you had your kids at home. Did you? Was there a did you live with other other people when you were sent home?

NS: So yes, my wife and I we live with our kids and she had actually The so at that point, we had been here for about four years, she had stayed home with the kids, and raised our son and watched a few other kids in our neighborhood during 00:30:00the days, and shortly before COVID happened, she got a job, which was the plan when our son wanted to 4k, she was gonna go back to work, she was ready. You know, she was excited about it. So she got a job. She works in the dental industry. And then, so she started work, and then I got sent home. And so that was like a complete one ad for me. So she was a stay at home mom. She went back to work. And then I was a stay at home dad. Like overnight, almost. So that was a shock to our family. And then she got sent home for a very short period of time. And then the dental office was able to reopen with a lot of restrictions because of the medical needs. So


GL: we're how was I mean, were you following CDC protocols with you know, like masking social distancing? During that time, you know, with your young, young kids, I mean, yeah,

NS: absolutely. Yeah, we were, we did the best we could to follow the guidelines. Tough with a four year old, but surprisingly, you know, they adjusted quickly, both my kids to the point where when they went back to school, even last year, I believe there were still some mask mandates during the academic year, and they would come home and forget they had their mask on. And I would have to tell him like you could take that off now. So yeah, we I mean, we did the best we could we all got vaccinated when we could. During the really bad times, we stayed home as much as we could try to do things outdoors and entertain ourselves remotely when possible.


GL: Did anybody you? Did you and your family or people close to you? Did that anybody get COVID? And they get really sick? Did he? Do you know anybody?

NS: We all had it. It was pretty late. We didn't none of us got the original strand, or variant. But we all had it. And it's funny, we were talking about memory being fuzzy. And a few months ago, I was trying to remember if I ever got COVID That's how fuzzy it is. And my wife was like, yeah, yeah, you had it. So it wasn't terrible. No, everybody was before I was vaccinated, too. It was before any of us were vaccinated,

GL: and the symptoms were mild. And, you know, with everything that, you know,

NS: honestly, the the side effects from the vaccine were worse for me than than COVID.


GL: How, you know, during the early days till you know, yeah, the first year, how are you doing emotionally? And how are you coping with us? I mean, that's the whole change for you to from being a guy that's on campus all the time to somebody has to work from home and how are you coping

NS: a lot better now. I think reflecting back to that time. I probably didn't realize how much I was struggling until I you know, till I got through it. I was just kind of trudging you know, getting through, head down, do what we got to do. But looking back on it now that I'm in a better place, mentally and emotionally professionally. That was tough. Now I feel like I'm back back in the groove. I've got my routine going. recently got some new responsibilities on 00:34:00campus that are challenging in a good way. So yeah, I'm doing great right now.

GL: During that time, that early days, I want to jump back a little bit. Were your staff members also doing okay, or were there some of them struggling? That you have to talk to them?

NS: Yeah, a lot of them were struggling. The ones that were furloughed were struggling for different reasons. But I think everyone, everyone that I worked with at that time, whether they realized it or not, wasn't at their best. Some people handled it better than others, but as a staff, we did a lot to check in on each other. We started doing book clubs, and we, you know, we still met as a staff so that would give us that something unrelated to COVID to talk about. That was a little bit refreshing. And yeah, so we did the best we could. But


GL: he said you started a book club with your staff. Do you remember any of the books that that you guys read?

NS: So the last one, which actually got interrupted by furloughs. At that time, it was kind of like, well, this doesn't seem important anymore, half of us are no longer allowed to be here communicate. So it was dare to lead by Brene. Brown to a professional focused, but still entertaining, casual read.

GL: Whose idea was that?

NS: I think I threw it out there to see if anyone would be interested and asked for recommendations on books and Juliana Kahrs, made the recommendation of dare to lead. So we ordered that book for everybody had a sense of their home. 00:36:00Surprisingly, everybody was like, everybody was excited about it. So I throw it out there. And it just kind of took off.

GL: Did you guys ask, did you actually meet to discuss a book?

NS: So we had virtual meetings through that whole period of time. And we would designate a period of our staff meeting to reflect on the portion of the book that we'd read?

GL: How did you like the book?

NS: It's great. I love Brene.

GL: I really like her too. Awesome. So we talked about, you know, it touched on a lot of things. Was there anything that you about their, your time working here during the time of COVID that we missed that you want to add?

NS: So when I worked at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I had the opportunity to go through a lot of FEMA courses for emergency response and NIMS training and incident commander response. And I took a lot of those classes. So 00:37:00seeing the Emergency Operations Center, open and then seeing Kurt Leibel, Chief of polices, leadership and the way that he was able to identify key players on campus that need to be at the table. The way that we were able to operate so efficiently in decision making and management of the response was, it was cool to watch. And we were, as a campus, we were leaders in the system, people were calling us and looking to us to see, you know, what we were talking about what we were doing, and I think that trickled down to all levels, it was, I felt the same same way with Rec and wellness, you know, we were able to provide guidance 00:38:00to other campuses on, on how we were able to navigate things. And for some, it worked. And for some, they were roadblocks that they weren't able to get past. But it was just impressive to see it all come together to see that group of people work together through a really stressful time and make really hard decisions, or I guess, recommendations. It was it was impressive. It was cool. Cool to Be a part of it.

GL: I want to ask you about the after this, after the, you know, we're still in the pandemic, of course, but the initial days of the pandemic. Do you know, do you now know how important the reckon Wellness Center is to the student population that may or has that?

NS: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. You know, I think one of the things that wasn't 00:39:00communicated or emphasized as much as it could have been at all levels is the importance of physical well being and taking care of your, your body and your mind. And you know how that impacts you personally when when you are put in these situations where people who had health risks were impacted at a significantly different level than people who exercise regularly and ate well and, you know, practice positive mental health exercises and those types of things. So I feel like that was missed in terms of communication to our country. And I think the students got it because, you know, they, they came back as soon as we opened and it seems like now they're back in full force, as We opened this fall semester. So that's that's huge.

GL: And I also want to go back to your, your having to be your, your young 00:40:00children's teacher to also give you a look at their teachers in a different light.

NS: Oh my gosh, I've always had a ton of respect for teachers, more than more than some probably my sister was an elementary teacher. My grandmother was an elementary teacher. So I always had a ton of respect. But now Yeah, I mean, it's it's one of the most important jobs in our society and the ones there's a lot of really good ones out there that are priceless. And yeah, I mean, I had to a classroom of 20 did to manage that and make sure that they're all engaged in learning with it. Yeah, it's and it's amazing. Definitely a great appreciation, which I would have told you before this that no way. I mean, of course, I appreciate teachers that how could I appreciate appreciate them anymore? And now 00:41:00without a doubt, yeah.

GL: All right. Well, thank you for sharing your stories with us. We appreciate your contribution to the campus couple of stories that UW Oshkosh. Thank you