Interview with Peggy Breister, 06/06/2022

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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´╗┐GL: This is Grace Lim interviewing Peggy Breister on Monday, June 6, 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?

PB: Peggy Breister P E G G Y B R E IS T E R

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

PB: My name is Peggy Breister. And I'm the chief communications officer for the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

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

PB: I was born and raised in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

GL: Wow, okay. And where did you earn your degree or degrees?


PB: I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus with a degree in journalism and mass communications.

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

PB: I was actually a journalist for many, many years at a daily newspaper. And in 2014, I decided it was time to change careers. And I saw some openings at the university, and I applied, and I was hired in, I believe, April of 2015 was the month and year that I started in the Marketing and Communications Department.

GL: And what was your role then?

PB: I was hired as a marketing specialist. But soon after I started, they went through a consolidation of marketing and communication services. So within a 00:02:00year, I was promoted to the Director of Operations. Two years later, I took on the Interim Executive Director role when the head of our department left for another opportunity. And two years after that, which was I think, May of 2020 I accepted the position on a regular basis. It was called Executive Director of Marketing and Communications at that time.

GL: Okay, what is your role right now?

PB: My role is complicated. My title under a new titling system that we just went through is Chief Communications Officer. But I also serve as Executive Director of Marketing and Communications in that I lead both functions of our office. I lead a team of 18 people.

GL: Okay, so um, you say the, you lead a team of 18 people, what are your responsibilities?

PB: My responsibilities are everything that come with leading a department, I am responsible for our hiring, I'm responsible for leading the team, I have four 00:03:00directors and one executive administrative assistant that I supervise directly and each of the directors has direct reports that they supervise, I'm responsible for budget, I'm responsible for leading all aspects, triaging, all problems, mentoring and supporting the team making sure we have the right equipment. I also, because we don't really have anyone in this role, I handle our institutional communications, and oversee our external communications and public relations as well as the marketing.

GL: That sounds like a lot.

PB: Oh, and I forgot, we also recently took on handling all open records requests. So I do that as well.

GL: Okay. So um, what prior to COVID? What, what would you say your department's biggest challenges were?


PB: Um, let's see. Let me just give that a little bit of thought. I want to look at my notes. Our challenges I think were many. I had to decide initially, what do I do with our team? When the university shut down? I went to the team.

GL: Let's go before COVID Okay.

PB: Oh, before Oh, I'm sorry. Okay, so the question was, what were my challenges before COVID. Oh boy, our challenges were working. One of the main functions of our unit is to support marketing communications for recruitment. And that is certainly challenging in a time when the pool of candidates is shrinking, and the competition is stronger than ever. So coming up with methods and campaigns and all of the things that are needed to attract students to the university is 00:05:00certainly a challenge. Having the support that we need in our division as far as resources to handle all of the marketing and communications needs of the university is also a challenge, as well as we had recently consolidated or not consolidated, but we had formed a three-campus system. And our unit is charged with providing marketing and communications to all three with no additional support for that either. So we had to kind of look at the structure and how we were dividing our duties kind of went through a restructure of our unit was going through that in the I'd say, the years leading up to the pandemic.

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

PB: Well, it wasn't, you know, I'm a big news junkie, and kind of have to be in my role. So I'm always reading just things that are going on. And I saw there were a few things in the news in January. And then, at the time, our Vice 00:06:00Chancellor of Student Affairs, Cheryl Green, was also paying a lot of attention to this. And she's like, we've got to meet, we have to meet. And so there was a meeting of the emergency operations committee that was called in January of 2020, that I participated in as part of my role. And we talked about it, and it was like, Okay, what are we going to do? And at that point, we have a very solid EOC structure. And so it was turned over to Trent Martin. And you know, so meetings, we started to have meetings and just looking at, okay, what could this mean, what do we need to do? So there's some very initial preparations that started in January already.

GL: So back in January, I mean, I think there were some news coming out of China. I mean, what were you actually thinking about? You know, did you think that this was going to come to campus, or this is something? We're just, you know, being a little extra cautious?

PB: I would say the latter, just extra cautious. I think, you know, there was this general feeling that it was something we needed to watch, but it wasn't a 00:07:00big, big deal.

GL: Okay, so. So when the when campuses started shutting down, we're talking like probably like early March. Now, we were late February, early March than that what's going on in your, in your, in your mind, and also in your office?

PB: Certainly, there were concerns on a lot of levels. Our you know, our team had a lot of questions. And that, I guess, was for me, one very nice thing about being part of the EOC is I was in that core group that was talking about this a lot and had access to information. So I was able to keep my team updated. And they were like, well, what are we going to do? Because a lot of them have school-aged children. And there was a lot of concerns there as well. When the decision was made to close down, do you want me to go there now? Okay. I think within a day, our office packed up everything, because we cannot operate without our computers, right? That everything we do is on our computer. So within a day, 00:08:00everybody packed up everything they needed and clear it out. I've never saw anything move so quickly. In all my life, it was actually it was eerie, it was scary. Because right, you know, then we didn't know how deadly or not the virus was, we were just hearing stories. And it seemed like if you get this, you could die. Or if you get this, the hospitals are getting so full that they can't treat you. So there's a lot of fear. And I think in a lot of concern, I wanted to make sure that my team was first in a, you know, a good place where they could continue doing their work.

GL: So what, you know, you sent the, you know, your staff home. Did you have a game plan? I mean, it was, you know, how are you going to get together and meet or talk about what we need to get out there.

PB: We made sure that we were all on teams with that we were all that we had all of the necessary communication things that we needed. Because our team, or many 00:09:00of our on our team respond to emergencies anyway, we have cell phones for each other. We have text, you know, text messaging for our work and ourselves. So I think we weren't super worried about communicating. And we had used teams really well for messaging and so switching to teams for meetings and everything else was went pretty seamlessly for us.

GL: So you are in charge of the communications from external internal. What were your top priorities at that time?

PB: My priorities, were basically doing what I was asked to do by leadership, I would say there were many many weeks that I even when I was still on campus. You know, the calls from my supervisor whose Vice Chancellor Bob Roberts, and Trent Martin, Captain Trent Martin, who Lieutenant Trent Martin, excuse me, I think 00:10:00was Lieutenant Trent Martin who led EOC at the time. We were in constant communication. It's like, oh, we you know, we have to do this because nobody, you know, closing down a campus certainly wasn't something anybody had gone through before to that degree. So there was so much information that had to get out. And I just took their calls, whenever I mean, many times, I would be getting in my car at five o'clock. And by the time I got to the car, my phone was ringing, and I'd either come back and write something else up. So we could send it out. Or I'd say, can I just get home? Then we'll do it then. And so it was, it was constant communication.

GL: A number of us, most of us were actually, you know, instructed to go home. And, you know, there were a small group of people that were deemed essential to the operations of the buildings itself and other things were you among the 00:11:00people that were deemed essential to be working in person at that time?

PB: No, I was not. I remember going through that exercise. Because as a supervisor, as a department leader, I had to do that for my office, I had to write down Are you are you not? And I put myself down as I was, because I figured with and, again, Bob said, Bob Roberts said, you don't need to be on campus, I would rather you be safe at home, you know. And so I stayed a week longer than the rest of my team did. And I just remember how deadly quiet it was on campus. I mean, you could walk the halls and not see anybody, you could walk across campus and not see anybody. I'd sit in my office, and there was just nothing, you know, and, and after a week of that, it was like, there's, you know, there's no point that, you know, I can do everything I need to do from home. So.

GL: And you said that you were in constant contact? How often were you in 00:12:00contact with the leadership?

PB: In the beginning, I would say at least a couple of times a day. When EOC got going, we met every day. And I think it was two hours, maybe I wish I could you know, I should have looked at my calendar. And I'm sure Kurt, would we met Kurt Leibold would remember all of that, too. But I mean, I know we were meeting daily. And I know they were long meetings, and there was so much, so much to figure out.

GL: So at the very beginning, what would you say were the biggest challenges in regards to your work?

PB: Well, when you're doing communications, especially internally, you want to be able to first inform, but you also you don't want to cause fear. So you're trying to be as transparent as possible. But yet, reassure that things are being looked at and data is being analyzed, we're staying on top of things, and we're 00:13:00making the best decisions that we can now with every with shutting down and moving things remotely, the safety, at least it was taken care of in that way. And I think that gave us a lot of time to plan without worrying about exposure on campus. So you know, for me, it was making sure that I had the right information, because things changed. I mean, what I knew at nine o'clock was often different at 11 o'clock, you know, so I just, I needed to be a part of so many things so that I could hear the conversations so that I knew the tone of the messaging. It was so I would say for those first several months, that was really all I did was the communications, and it was difficult for me because I couldn't be as part of the day to day with my team. But that's where I felt very fortunate to have a really strong leadership team within UMC because they just handled things, they did a great job.


GL: So you were who would you say you work closest with during this year? The initial months? Was all your direct reports. Bob Roberts,

PB: I would say definitely, Vice Chancellor Roberts, Trent Martin in he I mean he was here until what last summer when he left but they really were managing that initial shutdown all of the very strong action and then Kurt took over when we started planning you know more as we started planning okay, what are we going to do through the summer and for the fall that was really the next focus was how are we going to reopen safely in the fall? So I worked very closely with them with the chancellor, if need be, sat in on cabinet if I needed to. Certainly worked closely with a lot of the VCs because the decision was made early on that we needed to funnel all internal communications especially related to this through me because they wanted messaging to be consistent. The last thing we 00:15:00needed was somebody to be saying this and somebody to be saying something else, you know, so if everything came through me, even if it was just for review, we could be sure that we were always, you know, right where we needed to be, you know, saying the things that were true and accurate. On my team, I worked very closely with Trevor Clementi, because he is our digital, our director of digital operations, and he developed the Titans Return website and was responsible for constantly getting all of the information up there and out that we needed to audit both through the website and social channels.

GL: So during the summer of 2020, did you have to put any of your team on furlough or any of that?

PB: I did my part as I was asked to. And, you know, I understood that they were challenging times. And we needed to do what we could. So I actually had for at 00:16:00least four people on long-term furlough, and then well, then there were the partial furloughs. But yeah, some of that proved to be a very bad decision. One of the people that was on long term furlough for us was my administrative assistant who handles all of our purchasing and invoices, and we have a great deal of those. And I was trying to do that on top of everything else. And it became very difficult. So I was able to at least get her back a month early to help.

GL: And, um, who had a little bit, but so you weren't? I just started working remotely from home a week after everyone else was? Have you? Are you back in person?

PB: No, I come in when I, our team has always come in all along whenever we needed to. And there were certainly media events, there were media that wanted to come to campus for coverage of Covid. So I would say from the beginning, we've had team coming in. And, but when we need to vary, we have not had a 00:17:00full-time presence on campus, really, since we shut down. Right now for the summer, we're pretty much all working remote. Anybody comes in if we need to, for anything at all that comes up. And there are certainly there's services that we provide, there's things like that, but for the most part, we are still remote, we're looking at kind of a hybrid format for fall.

GL: Okay, let's go back to the early days of the pandemic. So, you know, what, other than sitting in these meetings, you were, what else were you doing?

PB: Writing a lot of communications, some sometimes with very little to go on, and very little time to get them out. And then these communications, you know, we, we took a, I put together a plan, actually, as you know, of what we were going to do, and that was that was very helpful presented at leadership for that. And we kind of followed that for how we were going to do some of the 00:18:00things that I already mentioned, which was kind of having everything funneled through me. And that by no means is because I am a control freak is probably the last thing that I am. But it was the right thing to do for the reasons I said, but um, so a lot of communications, trying to keep, you know, checking in with my team and, you know, maintaining meetings with my leadership team to make sure there weren't issues there. Gosh, what else? We there were so many changes in those early days to about what type of work our department was doing. So we were, you know, transitioning some things along those lines. I mean, commencement was still, you know, so we transition to a totally virtual commencement. And that was up to our team to figure out okay, how are we going to do this? Because no one had ever done that before. So there were a lot of those types of things that went that were taking place.

GL: How did you manage? You know, we have, I don't know, 16,000 people, I mean, 00:19:00the whole campus community, right. And I'm sure you were getting a lot of people, you know, from the parents of the students to the students themselves to instructors and staff. I mean, everyone had their own concerns about what's happening here on campus. How did you manage all those inputs? I mean, coming from all sides,

PB: I think that's where EOC was really important, because the EOC has representation from all areas on it, and so we could hear those concerns there. And so they would be funneled to me through those meetings. And then I would try to address the concerns that we were hearing in the next communication that got or sometimes those concerns would prompt its own communication. The other thing that we started as part of the plan that we put together was so we I mean, we have when we send communications out, we have communications to students. We have communications to staff, and we have communications to parents. We weren't 00:20:00doing communications to parents before, except probably for, you know, recruitment and Res Life and things like that in the past. So we got, we have the list of the parents, unfortunately, it's not a great. It's not a complete list, but it's the list that we have, because people sign up for it. But we started taking what we were sending to students, and then I would do a version for parents and send it, we would send it to parents as well, because parents, obviously had a lot of questions and a lot of concerns about well, you know, what are you doing, especially when we came back that was important. So I think that kind of that three-pronged approach to getting information out was very helpful. Now, those are emails, and it's not always people don't students especially don't read their email. So that's why I think it was helpful sending to parents. But we've had a lot of discussions along the way of, okay, how can we reach students. So that's why some of the campaigns that we ran, like when it came time to try and do encourage students to get vaccinated, you saw probably a 00:21:00lot of other marketing and communications methods that were used so that we could try to reach them, but most of what I did was all email communications or to the media.

GL: How many would you say you you've written these communications?

PB: I, you know, I haven't counted. I think, in the first several months, I took a look, and there were hundreds. So I have to think that there's it's several 100, if not more than that. I mean, it's been two years. And for a while we were doing one a day. I mean,

GL: maybe 1000?

PB: Maybe, yeah, yeah.

GL: Wow. And when you write these things, I mean, does it go to someone else first before they have their, their their ARE sent out?

PB: Yeah, we, we do have a review process. And that is funny. That kind of morphed as we went along. I think when we started, there were not a lot of people on the list, but maybe, you know, I don't know, six to eight, I would 00:22:00always have somebody on. If Natalie Johnson was available. She's my communications director. I would have her read it. She's got a great eye for style. And just you know, because I would get so close to things that you start, you just don't see your own mistakes. So I would always have her take a quick look if she had time. And then I would send it to the review team. And that in that included my boss, it included Trent when he was still there, but then it switched to Kurt, Kim Langolf who became kind of a co-leader of EOC. Sometimes Alex Hummel, depending on if I was writing for the chancellor, but a lot of what I did, we switched to have come directly from Kurt. I think, you know, it, it kind of ebbed and flowed. And as we got going, it was you know, Bob and I would talk about and he goes, I don't think you need to send it to these and he stopped, you know, he wouldn't even respond unless he saw something that he was concerned about. Toward the end. Um, well not that it's ended. But I think now, if 00:23:00I write something for Kurt COVID-related, and I think it's been, like, probably the longest time that I haven't just I think it's been three or four weeks now since I've written something, which is weird. It's like find myself having to do my actual job. Now it goes to Kurt. Bob is ACC and you know, something? And then Kim, if she's been now she's back, but you know, so? Yeah.

GL: 23:31

Um, did you develop a writing voice for these communications? I mean, is this, you know, even though it has somebody else's signature on it, but is this? I mean, what did you try to write in their voice? I mean, how did that work?

PB: Well, the hope is, if you're writing something that's signed by the Chancellor that it's in his voice, and that it would sound like something he would say, now I don't, you know, I had done things periodically for him. I don't I'm not charged with writing most of his things. And I don't write in the 00:24:00style that you know; my voice is definitely not his voice. But again, that's not the point. So his were a bit more challenging. For me. I'm a very straightforward matter of fact, because I think people need information. They don't need a lot of hyperbole and adjectives. Kurt and I think worked together so closely that I feel like a lot of either his voice, my voice became his voice, or his voice became mine. I don't know. But I people always said I think you do a nice job writing for Kurt. So it's supposed to be you know, how they would say it how well I do on that. I guess you'd have to ask them.

GL: So coming into the fall of 2020, I mean, we're the challenge is different coming into the you know, we're coming back in person, but the vaccine still not here yet.

PB: I think there were, there were a lot of challenges that we started doing I think I think Art Munin, he's acting Vice Chancellor at the time of Student 00:25:00Affairs, art Munin formed a group. And I don't remember exactly how this all started, but we started doing forums for parents, similar to the chancellor forums, and so parents and students could come and ask their questions. And of course, it's centered around safety, you know, what are you doing? Oh, I heard, you know, this happened in my child's dorm room. So a lot of what we were doing was trying to manage the flow of information and get the right information out. So the forums were helpful, we were still communicating through communications. I think just trying to answer and be as accessible and transparent as we could be.

GL: We talked about all the different things that you and your department had done, I mean, what stood out the most to you regards to your response to, to the pandemic, something that you are actually proud of,


PB: I am probably I am most proud of the ability of my team to just switch gears, I mean, marketing and, and communications, you know, there, it's always different every day is different, but there are certain accepted best practices. And when all of a sudden, you're doing things virtually, or people are wearing masks, you really have to change and programs, events weren't being held. So everybody wanted us to create virtual events for them. And I look at how well my team just ran with that. And a lot of this was new for them as well. But when I look at, I think it was the virtual commencement that was held in December of 2020. Because that would have been the second virtual one. That to me was so well done, we collaborated with radio, TV film, and we had never worked closely 00:27:00with them on a project like that. But together, I think and making use of the resources that we had. And, you know, it was I think, as well done as a ceremony could be where you weren't able to, as a student, be here and walk the stage and have your family see that happen. So I just I looked at my team and saw how they stepped up, how they changed how they were marketing. I mean, you know, everybody in the past, you know, well, we want photos of this event, and we want you know what people are wearing masks, you know, are we going to take photos of people in masks? Are we going to show people in masks? Do we use masks in our marketing, you know, so there were all these questions and all of these things that we'd never had to even think about before. As to what we were doing, there was a lot of virtual work, there was a lot more video work. We had someone on our staff at the time, who just happened to have a passion for it. And so we were able to have him assist with some of this because we have one videographer in our department to serve the whole university. And when you're working on, you 00:28:00know, made the major initiatives of the university, it's really difficult to do something beautiful for the celebration of scholarship, for example, but we had somebody who was passionate. Then when he left, we were able to get a student who worked with us who became an LTE for a little while, and unfortunately, the funding for that ran out. But it was really helpful at the time to have an extra videographer on staff to do a lot of that visual work. So

GL: fall of 2021 the vaccines are readily available on campus and in fact strongly advocated by the administration. What were your initial thoughts about the vaccines?

PB: I was very excited that we were finally going to have access to vaccine because to me, a vaccine meant you weren't going to get sick and die. So I couldn't wait to you know, be able to get vaccinated. I got vaccinated, I got boosted. You know, I was kind of surprised that there was such pushback to it. 00:29:00That caught me off guard.

GL: And then also in the fall of 2021. The University had a giant celebration. Tell us a little bit about that.

PB: Well, it was our sesquicentennial which there had been a group of people working on this for quite a long time. In fact, somebody from my office who had been working on it probably two years before even the committee was formed. The idea was to celebrate and have events the whole year, but because of the pandemic, all of the events, the big events got pushed to the fall of that year and the with the anticipation being that okay, the vaccine is now available because I think vaccines started rolling out at the very end of December in 20. And so it was like January, February, March where most people were getting vaccinated who wanted to or could be on the well the students actually weren't eligible until I think Almost until classes were out for the spring, that year 00:30:00was like May or June. But anyway, we moved the events to the, to the fall. I was part of that group. And I just remember, in fact, for a while I led the group. But when the pandemic hit I, I went to my supervisor and I said, I, I know I cannot effectively do this and do this at the same time. And so, Lynn Klieman, who is the AVC of advancement, took over the group, and she's great. And it was a natural fit for her. And she did a wonderful job, but I just remember talking with her throughout and she was like, we better be okay. For fall, we better be okay for fall. And I don't think any of us thought we wouldn't be but then, you know, things kind of ebbed and flowed. And you just never know what you were going to be faced with it. They've events. Actually, you know, were very nice, but it certainly wasn't a year of celebration, like we had initially hoped.

GL: I believe that was the first in-person event at the University since a 00:31:00pandemic, would that be correct? Or the public who don't know the

PB: certainly for the public in that way? I would think so. Yes. I can't think of anything else that we did. There were, well, there were events. I mean, like, I think they did, like Titan Takeoffs and things like that. But everything was masked, you know, and it was very limited. There were smaller groups, much. A lot of video presentations as opposed to walking people around. I'd I would say I could safely say that was the first.

GL: And do you remember how many people showed up for

PB: that? For the community picnic event? Or the? Um, I wanted to, I want to say 00:32:00they was over. I thought they said there's like 12 or 1300. More than that. I boy, Lyn would know that.

GL: And do you do you remember what that was like to come back on campus and see people walking around?

PB: It was so nice. Just to be with people, you know, and there was music, there was food, you know, and just, you'd see people that you hadn't seen in a very long time. And it just felt great. You know, as we're talking about events, though, the taste was held taste the on opening day, because I remember, Tommy Thompson came for opening day, this past fall. And taste was held on the mall, 00:33:00and students were out. So that that was a gathering as well, I think of the campus community. But as far as the public went, yeah, it would have been the Yeah, it was great. It was great to see people and just feel a little bit more normal.

GL: And speaking on the normal, I mean, how much do you think we are back to normal? We are a little over two years past the time that we were actually sent home.

PB: I think it depends, you know, who you ask, like I said, for my team, because we're still working remotely and people like it. And they're very productive and efficient that way. The pandemic has raised a lot of questions. That for myself as a supervisor, I mean, I'm not young, and I've been a supervisor in this role and in a previous role for a number of years, and I've never faced anything like this before. So it's hard to know what the right decision is. And I think what 00:34:00I'm learning is that there are many right decisions and normal. Normal can be tweaked and still be normal, even if it doesn't look like what it looked like before. I think like if you go to the grocery store, you see people in masks and you see people that you know, never put a mask on and probably were the ones screaming at others who had masks on. So I don't know. I don't know. I don't know what normal looks like anymore.

GL: How has your job changed because of this global pandemic?

PB: Um, I think there's a few things one it certainly on a very basic level, it helped us identify the importance of a good internal solid communications strategy and resource in within the university. I am more than happy to take on 00:35:00that role. But I also have a lot of other roles. So, you know, it is something I think that we could we could use some support as we go forward, you know whether or not that happens, I don't know, I love writing and it was for me, you know, even it was just emails, it was an opportunity to write again and do things on deadline and quickly and that I do kind of thrive on that. So that was fun. I'm sorry, your question was, how have things halted? How's your job check? How's my job changed? Um, I think it's starting actually, to go back to what it was because EOC just stopped meeting on a regular basis. I mean, we had kind of weaned down, but we were still meeting. So that was still a big part of, of my life. So now I'm back to looking hard at our department, are we structured, 00:36:00careful, you know, in the way in which we should be dealing with the institutional issues that impact our department, both positively and negatively, you know, fighting for the resources that I would like to have, fighting against other departments that want to create their own resources that should be in our department is always I think, a challenge. And I think that's, I mean, my predecessor, I know dealt with that a great deal. I think just being I'm, I think I feel like I'm back as on the day to day with my team, which is helpful. I think we're all a little bit wiser about how quickly things can change. And I think we, as a team learned that that we can adapt, and that we can support each 00:37:00other at the same time.

GL: You mentioned that that going remote for your team, you've learned that it's um, it actually works. And moving forward, you might think of changing into more of a hybrid thing where it's sometimes or in person and

PB: yeah, are. So our plan. We've talked about this for a long time. And as a leadership team, and I've been very honest with my leadership team, I said, you know, I'm struggling with this, you know, I know we have people on staff that don't want to come back, they want to continue to work remotely, I know we have people on staff who want to be in the office a couple, two, three days a week and work at home. I said, I want to be open to that, unless there's a good reason that we shouldn't be and I said, But when as we go through and evaluate this, we need to look at the needs of the institution first, then the needs of 00:38:00the division, then the needs of the department, and then the needs of the individual. And so what we're looking at, I do have, I think a couple of people who will continue to work remotely, what we did is we were outlining a plan that will begin in the middle of August and go through the fiscal year. So I have some people that are going to work remotely entirely, most are going to be in office three days and out to I don't know if I, the people that will be in I do have some whose positions they need to be in, in the whole time. I mean, Pat Flood, can't take photos of campus, if he's working from home, you know, and he likes, you know, he likes to be on campus. But if there's times where he can, you know, if he's got something else related to his job, and he can do that from home, that's fine. As long as the office is covered, as long as our services are covered. We're going to give it a shot and evaluate it through fall semester and see


GL: Are your team members who want to work remotely, is still pandemic related, that they're they wish to continue to work remotely?

PB: I don't think they're afraid of COVID Honestly, there are very few people I know who haven't had COVID I'm one of the few people I know who can say I don't think I've had COVID I think most people on my team have either had COVID or live with somebody who has had COVID So I don't think it's fear of COVID.

GL: Let me play devil's advocate, how would you, you know, you deal with the communications and the marketing and everything. But how can you do that remotely? If you're not here, being part of the campus community?

PB: Well, I think, you know, I have two answers for that one that concerns me and two, that's why our communications team has full coverage in the office. So 00:40:00somebody on from communications is always going to be available in office. So that's covered. Trevor is far as Trevor Clementi, our digital director, is always available to handle website and digital issues. But again, that can all that can be done remotely, he doesn't need to be sitting at his desk for somebody to have a problem. There are just some positions within our department similar to it, where they don't have customer contact, they basically are responsible for a piece of the puzzle. And they do that really well from home. What I have told the team is we will try this, we'll put it in as a plan that will take us through fiscal year, but we will be evaluating it through the fall semester, if it's not working. They all know that it can be changed at any time.

GL: And how what are you going to be doing about your presence?


PB: I am planning on being in the office, I don't know if I will, I think I for myself, it's going to be kind of a see how it goes. I mean, if I can work from home a day a week, I would really like to do that. I mean, I commute from Fond du Lac now. And it's not like it's a long commute. I certainly took the position, never with an understanding that I would be working from home. But I also know that I'd get a lot more done when I work from home due because people aren't just stopping in even when I'm in the office. Now people say Oh, I didn't know you're in the office. And they'll come in and they'll sit down. And, and I love that. I mean, I'm, I'm not like an incredibly social person. But the social interaction of work is important to me, I miss seeing my team, I really wish that they all wanted to come back full time. I wouldn't have a problem with that.

GL: You know, again, we're two years past that those early days, you know, 00:42:00knowing what you know, now, was there is there anything that you would have done differently in regards to your response and your work? During this during this time?

PB: Let me just look at something once. Oh, I wrote this down, I would have pushed for additional resources in our department from the beginning to meet the expanded Project requests that we received, as well as the on-demand need that there was for internal communications. I mean, we did everything that we did with no additional help. And obviously, it can be done because we did it. But there are a lot of things that we had to stop at the time. Plus, there were a lot of things that weren't taking place that allowed us to focus on some of 00:43:00these other things. But you know, there was a lot and a lot of people stepped up and worked a lot of long days and long hours long weeks, long months. And we did not we did not slow down when I talked to people who said oh yeah, summer was great, you know, especially with COVID. I had basically the whole summer off and I just kind of want to slap them when I hear that because I'm like, wow, really because for us it was like we were 10 times as busy it we don't have a slow period anymore.

GL: During those times, I mean, you know, were you able to get any sleep because it seemed like you were on call 24/7, I mean, what kept you awake at night. I mean,

PB: Oh, there's so much that keeps me awake at night in regardless, it seems I still wake up at you know, all hours and unfortunately grabbed my phone and start looking at emails and things like that. I think in the beginning there, you know there were a lot of emergency needs and I feel very fortunate because 00:44:00Bob Roberts is, he doesn't bother you. I mean, he doesn't just, you know, if it's an emergency, he will, he will, he will get a hold of you. But otherwise, he doesn't just reach out to like with every little thing that occurs to him or, you know. So I, I think it was very busy for a while. But then as we kind of got into a flow of what our roles were and how to do it, and you know, once you've written 20, 30 40,50, communications, it doesn't, you know, and I'm kind of a fast writer anyway. It doesn't take me long; I think it was just getting into a groove and things kind of working out and people knowing their roles. Where I don't really feel like I was, you know, called at all hours if they're, you know, if there are things certainly people do, but there's, there's discretion, 00:45:00there's good discretion, I think.

GL: And, you know, what has lost to yours and doing the work that you've done and continue to do what, what has that taught you about yourself?

PB: Well, it reminded me how much I love to write and how much being on deadline is just, for me, that's always been a real exhilarating experience. I was an adrenaline junkie, when I worked in the newspaper, I did a lot of hard news, breaking news, that kind of thing. So responding in this way was for me a lot like going back to that and kind of, you know, really being excited and feeling needed. I think what it taught me that was your question, right? Was what has this whole experience taught me? Just that, you know, you just never know what is around the corner, and you kind of have to roll with things. And when you 00:46:00have a good team, and you're willing to lead, I really believe in leading from the front, you know, I would never ask somebody on my team to do something that I wouldn't do myself, unless, of course, I have no idea how to do it, which I can't design a website. So, you know, that's, that's why I have a great staff. But I, you know, I just I think that understanding how willing everybody is to just pitch in and do what needs to be done no matter what, whether it's their job or not, was great. I really, I feel so proud to be able to be a part of my department.

GL: Did you have time to be, you know, worried about yourself, your family? I mean, did you? Did you? I mean, we were in the middle of a global pandemic, and killed a lot of people.

PB: Yes. In fact, in the early days, I think one of the reasons I stuck around, and one of the reasons it was probably very good for me to be as busy as I was, 00:47:00is my daughter was in the Peace Corps at the time. And she was in Peru in a very remote area. And I remember contacting her as this was all kind of happening. She's like, Oh, we're safe here. It's so remote. There's no and I'm like, Yeah, it's so remote. There's no medical care, there's no hot water, there's, you know, nothing where you are. And I, you know, and she said, I'm fine, I'm fine. Well, all of a sudden, they weren't fine. And I got a call from her saying, you know, they're pulling us all out, we're told to pack a bag, just one bag. They're coming tonight, you know, I can't even say goodbye. And she, you know, she's, she's in tears because she's just, you know, panicked and, and I'm, I'm helpless. You know, I'm here, I can't do anything. So working, being on call and having people call me was probably like, the best distraction diversion that I could have at the time. And I remember I ran into Bob in the hallway one day, 00:48:00and he was talking to me about something, and I said, look, I just need to tell you, this is if I seem a little distracted, this is what's going on. And he's like, oh, God, you know, and, and so that kind of, you know, became a thing. And it was interesting because they she called me, they got to the airport. And they, they did there was no transportation. They sent cars around, they found cars to go pick these, you know, kids up and get them to Lima. They were they chartered the Peace Corps chartered a plane for them. And it was the last plane out of Peru. There were people outside the fence, screaming at them to take them because they couldn't get out of the country. You know, so I was never so happy to hear that she touched down in Washington DC and then Minneapolis and then came home, you know, so, so that, I think, because of that, and I mean, my kids are everything to me, you know, even though they're 24 and 22 you know when your 00:49:00kids are in trouble and, or you're scared for them, everything else you're doing is just work. It's just okay, this needs to be done. And I can do this because it doesn't, you know, it's important, but to me, you know, that was an if I could get through that, and she could get through that and get home. You know, I think everything else kind of paled on the terror scale, you know, just except for the, oh, my chest hurts tonight, do I have COVID you know, kind of thing. It was interesting too, because both my kids, my son is a student here. And so they were both home for the first time in a few years for my daughter the first time since she left for college. And so going from being empty nesters to having two adult children living at home. And we had two dogs and two cats at the time was, and of course, three of us, my son trying to go to school, my daughter who ended up getting a job doing contact tracing for Fond du Lac County on COVID. And then me working from home was also really challenging, because you know, Wi Fi is 00:50:00only what it is, and everybody's yelling at everybody else, because the Wi Fi is not strong. But so there was all of that kind of going on. And there was a lot of adjustment at home as everybody was going through. I mean, I think of the people on my staff who had young kids, and all of a sudden, they're their teachers. I can't imagine what that would have been like, I'm so glad my kids were as hard as it was as having adult kids home. I can't imagine having young kids.

GL: Um, what's your what When did your daughter go to the Peace Corps. I mean, when was this when she had to be evacuated.

PB: She, she had joined the Peace Corps and gone left. She got in country in September of 2019. And got her placement in December. And so she had only been in that location, that very remote location since December of 2019. And it was March of 2020. When they pulled them out. She's 24. She's 24 now and this was, 00:51:00what, two years ago. So she was she was 22 because she actually had graduated college a year early and join.

GL: And you were living until they came home. So you're living with your son, your daughter and your animals. Anybody else?

PB: My husband? Yeah, he he's a radio news director. And so he never stopped going into work, no matter what was going on. I mean, his job, they actually set up a studio for him in the house, but he never, he's such a creature of habit. He just went in and reported the news day after day after day.

GL: And you see he had to, you know, navigate all these people. Were you all in agreement regarding the early days of the, you know, the CDC guidelines on social distancing sheltering in place, or etc., etc.

PB: Yeah, I think. I mean, we're all we were all a very, like mind of 00:52:00everything. We were very careful. Um, I think it was probably most frustrating for my son as a, you know, 20-year-old, I can't, you know, you're in the prime of your college years, and he's in a band, and the band has everything to them. And they were just starting to, you know, make some music and get noticed and hoping to tour and so everything that they were hoping for was shut down. So it was really frustrating for him. But he also kind of, I think he's kind of a kid who kind of rolls with things. So it wasn't bad. I think it was just, I'm the kind of person who likes a lot of alone time. Having everybody around all the time with their own, you know, ideas of things. Like I took, my dogs have never gone for so many walks as they have the last three years.

GL: Did anyone did you get COVID And anybody in the family get COVID or your people were close to you get COVID and gotten sick.


PB: My husband got COVID Earlier this year, I think that was after he got his booster shot. It was very mild. I mean, he didn't even think he was sick. And I'm like, You're sick. I can look at you and tell you you're sick. And he got tested. Sure enough. He was my son, I you know, he's been sick a few times, but and we test that we would do the at home tests or he would go in and get tested and it was always negative. He was sick just a few weeks ago and I feel like it was COVID but he's like now it's not you know, so? I don't know. I think so. But I don't know My daughter has not gotten sick. I'm trying to think I have a lot of older friends. I mean, older than me like some in their 70s My brother's in his 70s and I know that COVID was really hard on them. Just the isolation. Our next-door neighbor was a widow and a very good friend of ours and she they We're 00:54:00all very careful. I remember we had her over, you know, once we were all vaccinated, and she goes, this is the first time I've, you know, done anything with anybody outside of my house in, you know, a really long time. And I think how isolating that is, so I guess having, you know, my kids home and stuff, at least we were together, we had conversation we had, you know, that time that we never I mean, I wouldn't have had that time with my adult children. Otherwise. So there was, if there was any positive about it. It was that I guess.

GL: Well, we touched on a lot of things. You know, is there anything else you'd like to add in regards to your work here at UW Oshkosh?

PB: No, I mean, I just appreciate you letting me be part of the project. This certainly wasn't something that I anticipated that I'd be going through when I joined you who it's been challenging, but it's also really helped me meet and 00:55:00work closely with a lot of people at the university in a way that I wouldn't have had an opportunity to do before and really appreciate the skill and the expertise and the great people that we have.

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