Interview with Vicki Stadler and Mandy Olesen, 02/08/2022

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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´╗┐GL: Recording. This is Grace Lim interviewing Vicki Stadler and Mandy Olesen on Tuesday, February 8, 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?

VS: Vicki L. Stadler, V I C K I L S T A D L E R

MO: Mandy Olesen M A N D Y O L E S E N

GL: And, and for the purposes of getting a good audio recording tell about who you are, and what your title is here at UW Oshkosh.

VS: I am the custodial services supervisor for residence life on campus.


GL: Say your name again?

VS: Vicki L. Stadler.

MO: And I'm Mandy Olesen. I am the custodial services supervisor for academics.

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

VS: I grew up here in Oshkosh my entire life, so nothing too exciting.

GL: What did your parents do?

VS: My father was a mailman, and my mom was a stay-at-home babysitter while I was home.

GL: And, and where did you go to high school?

VS: I went to Oshkosh West High School.

GL: And, and, and, and Mandy, where did you grow up?

MO: I also grew up in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I'm a little different. I was born in Washington State. So that was, it's pretty cool to know that about myself. My dad works over at Pierce and is an electrician on fire trucks and my mom works on UWO campus.


GL: Okay, and then tell me what your highest education level is, Vicki.

VS: I graduated high school.

MO: And I graduated high school as well and then a few classes at Tech.

GL: And where did you go to high school?

MO: I went to Oshkosh West.

GL: Okay. All right. And then how did you end up working at UW Oshkosh?

VS: So 21 years ago, when I started, there was what was called a lottery system here for hiring custodial staff. And my mother-in-law actually worked here for, until she retired. So they called me, and I interviewed, and I started as a custodian.

GL: And what you said, the lottery system, what did that mean?

VS: You put your name in, and then eventually as they went through, they picked names. It was literally kind of like a lottery. They picked the names and you got notified if you got an interview.

GL: And what year was this?

VS: 2001.

GL: Do you remember yo- I mean, what were your job- What was your job then, 21 00:03:00years ago?

VS: I was just a regular custodian.

GL: And what does that mean?

VS: So I cleaned dorms. I started in Fletcher Hall. So I was responsible for floors three and four. And that was cleaning bathrooms, cleaning hallways, cleaning lounges, all the common areas, stairwells, and then part of the basement also.

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

MO: My mom works on campus, and I knew it was a good stable job. So I put in and I was hired as an LTE, which is limited term employment. And I was in that position for about a year. I then interviewed to become a lead in Residence Life. And then from there, I became a custodial supervisor and in academics.

GL: Mandy, what year was it when you first arrived here?

MO: I started in 2011.

GL: All right. Okay, so tell me about your position at UW Oshkosh pre-COVID. So 00:04:00we're talking before March of 2020. Vicki, you first.

VS: I was a custodial services supervisor for Residence Life at that time, right? I had already transferred to academics, yeah. And I was responsible for again the cleaning of all the dorms with a staff of 25 people at that point in time.

GL: And when you say all the dorms, how many doors are we talking about?

VS: 11? I believe.

GL: And how many? Do you know how many people, I mean how many, you know, 11 dorms can house how many students?

VS: I believe the answer to that is around 2000?

GL: Oh my gosh. Okay, so you were supervising 25 people, okay. All right, so this is, this is in March of 2020 and then, then you Mandy, what? What was your 00:05:00job around that time?

MO: At the time before COVID had started, I was a supervisor in academics, 4 a.m. to noon. And I had about 24, 25 custodians that I supervised at that time in the academic buildings.

GL: Okay, so you said you work from 4 a.m. to noon?

MO: I did.

GL: What about you, Vicki?

VS: At that time, I believe we were working 7 am to 3 pm.

GL: Okay. All right. All right. So let's move to the early days of COVID. You know, Vicki, first, when was the first time you heard about this, this virus coming out of China?

VS: I guess that I had heard about it when I had my knee replacement, right around February of that year. And I, of course, kept in close contact with the job during the time that I was off. And as it started to ramp up, I realized that things were going to be different on campus than they were when I had left 00:06:00to have my surgery.

GL: So when you had the surgery, who, I mean- did you hear it from the news? Or did you hear from your doctors? Or who did you hear it from?

VS: I mean, probably mostly, I heard it from people on campus.

GL: And what did, what were they saying?

VS: I think there was just a general idea of fear of the unknown and what was going to happen? And are we going to close down? And then what's going to happen after we close down? Are we becoming a hospital on campus? What I you know, what are we going to do?

GL: Just to be clear. When did you have your knee surgery?

VS: I had my knee surgery February 18.

GL: And you were out, out for how long?

VS: I was out for, I was out completely for about four weeks. And then I was here part time for another two weeks before I was full time again.

GL: So you were here. You were out through the you know when we were closed? And 00:07:00then you had to come back? Yes. Okay, Mandy, about when did you hear about the virus?

MO: I first started hearing about the virus towards the end of February. Mostly, from everyone around me, I'm not a big one on watching the news. But just from my superintendent at the time, bringing it up, and then starting to talk about things that could possibly happen going forward.

GL: And when you first heard about this, I mean, what, what, what were you thinking, Mandy? You know?

MO: um, I. So I actually have anxiety, about most, you know, 80% of my day. And I don't know, if because I had anxiety, I wasn't like, as worried or as scared because you tend to think of things that, you know, the worst possible outcome of anything, and then you're kind of building yourself up for wow, something's actually happening. And I was more calm than worried at that point. I don't know 00:08:00if it's because I always of the worst outcome. But somehow, I was okay at the start.

GL: So, when the, when the, when the university actually got word, I mean, you know, we were all notified that we were going to shut down the week before spring break. Okay. What was the conversation like in your department? You know, you were still out on medical leave, correct? What, you know, who notified you about this? Mandy?

MO: Frank Manzaka, my superintendent was the head of what was going to start happening. We did have word and started cleaning Scott Hall, both North and South. And also Horizon because we were being told it would most likely be a spot for overflow of patients if there was a really big surge. So we started cleaning those areas.

GL: But this is, so, but the students are, have the students left when you started doing that?


MO: It was literally the day after they had started leaving that we started cleaning, yes.

GL: So you were given word that you're going to we're going to start, you know, the students are gonna be sent home and then the custodial staff has to stay and clean, right?

MO: Correct.

GL: What was your home like life, like at that time? I mean, were you like, wait a minute, why am I why am I still here? This is a deadly virus, or this is something unknown. I mean, Vicki, can you jump in on this?

VS: Yeah, I, I mean, I guess it's nothing that we didn't expect. My husband also works at Pierce and worked through the entire pandemic. So I mean, our home life didn't change a whole lot during that time. We were more careful. I mean, this is our job. And this is what we're expected to do. So when something like this happens, we just kind of jump in and do what we need to do.

GL: Mandy, do you have any, do you have family at home?

MO: I do. Yeah. I have two kids, and I also have a husband and two dogs. But 00:10:00yeah, it was a little bit stressful at home and with work, getting everything sorted out here and trying to organize everything here and clean it and understand what's going on. And then also at home knowing that the kids will. Well, we're not sure exactly what they were going to do with schools yet. It hasn't hit the schools, at that time, later on, found out that there'll be transitioning to fully at-home learning. Just put a little bit more stress on that level.

GL: How old are your kids, were your kids back then?

MO: Back in 2020, my son would be 11 and going into sixth grade and my daughter would be eight.

GL: Okay. So you had to be here on campus? I mean, did you, you know, you had to oversee, you know, like 25, of the other custodial staff. And you had about the 00:11:00same number, where there are concerns coming out of your staff about this virus and the duties that they were placed on, you know, that were placed on them?

VS: I think everybody was very tense at that point in time. We tried to stick to facts and use proper PPE at all times. And we, you know, disinfecting, and everything else. Masks, things like that. I mean, we just really tried to keep the panic down. So that they felt comfortable.

GL: Mandy?

MO: Yeah, I will say, for the first, I'm going to say about two, three weeks tops when we still had everyone on campus. It, it was hectic. I mean, there was a lot of worry, what's going to happen, and just a different surge of work. Even for academics coming in and cleaning the residence halls. You know, everything just seemed a little different and so quickly paced. So trying to keep everyone 00:12:00less stressed, while keeping ourselves less stressed, was a lot, a lot to work with.

GL: So Vicki, you just came off the, your, your knee surgery. Right. So you came back? Probably when? When did you come back? Part time?

VS: Probably came back after the spring break? No, I was back before spring break. I mean, I was here as it all started happening. I think I was here maybe two- the week after the students left is when I was back on campus, I think. Is that right?

MO: I believe you were here part time as we were just starting to clean everything okay, in the residence halls, yes.

GL: So tell me, you, Vicki, what, what were ,what did you have to do when you came back?

VS: So I will say that for those couple weeks, most of mine was definitely a 00:13:00supervisory trying to keep things going, making sure that things went in an orderly fashion and keeping people on task because I still had restrictions. So I mean, there wasn't a lot of me diving right in there to clean as the as the other supervisors did, I jump in and help clean rooms and things like that I was more, if they needed something I'd run and get it or, you know, just keeping everybody on point.

GL: And, you, Mandy tell me what, you know, the students left, what did you have to do?

MO: As soon as we knew they were out, we'd have to go into every single room, get as deep cleaned as possible. So all the trash. That was there was so much more trash left behind because they had very little time to pack. So the students probably left a good portion of things that they normally would not. So it's getting all of that out then going back in and making sure it's as clean as possible. So if we did have overflow from hospitals for patients that it was as 00:14:00clean as we could get it.

GL: So you're talking about the dorms right now, right?

MO: Correct.

GL: So you had to go into the students' rooms and that and clean the rooms and a lot of the students weren't able to take all their stuff out.

MO: Yeah, I don't think they had a good adequate amount of time to take everything they usually and typically would. It was the most important things and that's what was taken.

GL: Did you yourself go into the rooms and actually clean the rooms too, or were you directing people?

MO: I was directing, getting items for people and then there were also a few rooms that we cleaned just to help them and show our staff what the level of quality that we needed at but still trying to keep the pace as we didn't know exactly when they would need it.

GL: So right now, the, the, so you have the staff of, of, total how many custodial staff were doing this do you would you say?

VS: I mean, in the beginning, before they started furloughs, we have we have a 00:15:00probably a full staff of right between 70 and 80.

GL: Okay. Did everybody stick around at that time?

VS: Yes. Yep.

GL: And then they were all sent to the dorms to do the deep clean.

VS: Yes.

GL: How, how was that different that kind of clean that they did, how was that different from the usual cleaning they did pre-COVID?

VS: Um, so I mean, academic staff cleans bathrooms and common areas and classrooms. They're not used to cleaning living areas, like dorm rooms. And like Amanda, or Mandy said she, this was not a typical, when they usually leave for the year, they're responsible for having their room basically clean, wiping out dressers, wiping out micro fridges doing things like that. And it's checked, and they're charged if it's not done. And when this happened, they took all their 00:16:00personal belongings and got them together. And basically that was it. So there was no cleaning of any surfaces or any micro fridges or anything like that. I think it was not as much a shock to the Residence Life employees who have cleaned dirty fridges, because some people just don't want to do them, as it was to the academic staff who's not used to going into, like I said, a living quarter and literally cleaning everything from top to bottom.

GL: Was there any, any concerns from your staff about going into a room that you don't, at that time, we did not know if the virus was airborne, or it was, if it were, you know, contagious, like, on surfaces? You know what I mean, we didn't know anything back then. Right? Was there any concern among your staff and yourselves?

VS: I mean, I think there's always concern. I don't think it reached panic levels or anything we did, again, provide proper PPE, and we would go in and we 00:17:00would spray everything in the room with disinfectant first, because this was before we had 360s. Alright, and once it sprayed, and it sat for a little while, then you're relatively safe. So we just practiced good protocols.

GL: So what kind of things were you spraying it with?

VS: Oh,we have OXI-Vir Oxi-vir

GL: Oxi- say what--

VS: O X I V I R. Okay, that's the disinfectant that we use widely on campus. Shorter dwell time than what we had been using and effective against COVID.

GL: So you know, you talked about the PPE. I mean, what, what, before COVID, what kind of PPE did you actually use before COVID going into the classrooms or the, or the, the dorm rooms?

VS: I mean, we used gloves. I mean, we, of course, didn't really have masks on or anything like that. We did offer them if somebody wanted them for whatever 00:18:00reason. But we didn't do anything like we, in the end, we didn't offer anything like full suits or anything like we started offering with COVID.

GL: So how many people were using the full suits, I mean, those suits are usually used for what? Mandy?

MO: The full suits were used more when we started getting COVID on campus. So we would go in and at that time, we had the Clorox 360 machines, so they would suit up. And this was in Donner, where they had the iso-

VS: Webster.

MO: Oh, I'm sorry, Webster, where they had the isolation and quarantine at the time. So as they would go in, you would have to spray and clean the bathrooms. And also, as the students would be done with their quarantine-

VS: or isolation.

MO: or isolation, we would go in, spray that as well. So they'd have to be 00:19:00suited up before they would go into Webster and stay suited up the entire time as they are cleaning with their mask as well and a face shield and their gloves and could not take it off until they exited the building. And then they would take everything off right away, put it in a bag, and then we'd 360 it right away.

GL: So before COVID, those kind of suits are used for what purposes?

MO: We did not use them on campus pre COVID.

VS: Yeah, no, I mean, I think that we didn't have them on campus. I mean, that would be something that a medical person or somebody that was around infectious disease would use normally.

GL: Got it. So when did you get, when did you get those suits? I mean, how soon after the, the you know, the students were sent home.

MO: I believe we did not get them until students started coming back. And there 00:20:00was the chance of the quarantine and the isolation, and then a chance of transmission. So that's, we got it prior to the students coming back.

GL: So have you, have you either of you used those suits to, um. Do that use a 360 in the rooms?

VS: Yes.

GL: How long did it take you to, like put on the suit and put on your gear, and then go into the room and like clean one room or do the 360 thing.

VS: I mean, it probably takes about 15 minutes to get suited up. And as for 360, in the room, it takes one minute, and then we'd go in and wipe everything down and make sure it was ready for the next person. I would say a bathroom in Webster probably took about 20 minutes. I think overall, we were in there in suits, probably about an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the day and 00:21:00how many rooms were cleared to clean it and get everything all the garbage and everything out.

GL: What did it feel like to be in those suits? Mandy?

MO: It is extremely hot, because everything is enclosed, so all your body heat radiates inside the suit, you are sweating so bad. So it's hard to kind of catch your breath in there because you have your mask and then the face shield as well. So it was not a fun time. So even if we weren't doing it, we were trying to you know, rotate our custodians through so that not everyone got too winded or overheated. And it was definitely not a fun time.

GL: I see, I had no idea that, that you all were doing that. I mean, that was just, we're just clueless. I gotta, I gotta say, yeah, um, thank you for that.

VS: I will say that finding a place to I don't know how many times I set my keys down because there's nowhere to put them in those suits. And I'd have to go back 00:22:00and figure out where I left them. Because again, there's nowhere to hang keys.

GL: I wouldn't have thought of that, either. So, so you spent the, you know, tell me what you did during that summer. So the kids, the students went home that the rest of the semester what happened the last rest of the semester, what was your, your role, your department's role?

VS: I don't remember exact dates. But at some point, they decided to furlough most employees on campus. So at that point, we had to make a decision. What two thirds, I believe was two thirds, yes, of our staff, we were going to furlough. And then the rest would stay working on campus. I mean, that in itself was a very hard decision. And then the people that were here, that were chosen to still stay at work, were put under enormous amounts of pressure to get 00:23:00everything cleaned and ready to go for when people came back.

GL: So when you know, whose decision but didn't, you know, you two were supervisors, did you have to make the hard call on who had to be furloughed? Vicki?

VS: I mean, it was collaborative between our superintendent and the supervisors. And we also, you know, we did ask for input from the custodial staff, because maybe some people just wanted to, didn't feel comfortable on campus, and they wanted that. So there were some that were harder than others, because they maybe didn't necessarily want to be at home. But I mean, yeah, in the end, you just kind of have to make that call.

GL: Same thing with you, Mandy?

MO: Yeah, we did, I believe we went from like our 70-75 custodians down to about 20. So we had about 20 custodians and the supervisors here to get through all 00:24:00the ResLife buildings, all the academic buildings, to get everything ready for when they were coming back.

GL: So both of you did work through the summer.

VS: Yes.

MO: Yes.

GL: So you were deemed essential in that respect? How did that make you feel that others were, you know, were, people were able to shelter at home and, and, and still collect a paycheck and do it, well, do their job remotely, but you absolutely could not do this remotely. Tell me what you're, you know, how did that make you feel? Oh, Vicki.

VS: I mean, there were days, there were days that were I mean, because it was a really hard summer where I would get upset and think, you know, why? Why, why do we have to be the only ones here doing everything for everybody all the time and we don't get a break. I mean, there is no break in the idea that you have to have the campus clean for everybody to come back. So I mean, it was, it was 00:25:00stressful. And there were days where, you know, I'll admit I was not the happiest camper. But I didn't, I don't think I necessarily begrudged anybody staying at home, I didn't feel bad that anybody could stay home. It was more than I was upset that I always had to be here.

GL: Mandy?

MO: I would kind of echo that, especially with two kids at home and having more impact that way, with my husband and I working separate shifts, it was still difficult to make sure that they're on track. And it would have been more helpful to be able to spend more time with them. But also knowing all my responsibilities here and what we had to get done in the limited amount of time. And stuff that we had; it was definitely more difficult. And I will say, there were days we, we were stressed. And it was difficult to get by, but we did it. So that's good. And I was happy other people could be safe. I do know, there's 00:26:00people, you know, who have autoimmune diseases and things like that. So it's I'm glad that they were able to stay home and stay in shelter. But there was panic and like, when are we going to get it? When's it gonna get to us? Are we gonna get it? So there was some panic on that. And--

GL: Vicki, what was your, what were your hours during that summer?

VS: I, I believe we worked 6am to 2pm. I'm pretty sure that that was the hours that we all decided on. And everybody that was working worked those hours.

GL: Okay, so, so the 20, the, the about 20. That includes the supervisors?

VS: I think it was like 23 with, 24, with the supervisors and the superintendent.

GL: Okay. 24 people, from a staff of about 80. And you were all responsible for, 00:27:00to clean every single room on this campus. Yes. Okay. I also remember that you had for the academic side that you had to cover the seats. I mean, that was a lot of plastic.

MO: It is an extreme amount of plastic that every other seat, every other table, the so- setting up for social distancing in the lounges. It was a lot of work. And I know that facilities helped with that as well. So that was extremely thoughtful, and I'm so grateful that they were able to step in once they get back on campus.

GL: With, so, I mean, were you the staff that put the covers on those seats and separated the, the, the, the tables?

VS: Us along with facil- the maintenance repair workers and things like that. They helped when they could they, of course, were putting in a lot of paper 00:28:00towel dispensers, and foot openers on doors and the other things that we you know, the sanitizer jugs and all the preparation that had to go into everybody being able to come back.

GL: Do you recall? I mean, was there a set number? I mean, do you have a number of how many chairs that you have to deal with or any?

MO: I do not. I know it was a lot.

VS: It was a lot.

GL: So what would you say were your biggest challenges during the early days of COVID? I mean, you know, what were your biggest challenges? Vicki?

VS: I mean, I think, honestly, one of my biggest challenges was trying to keep myself focused and not in a panic, I'm in a position of somewhat, you know, of authority. And if the authority panics, it's just gonna spread through the crew. So I think my first reaction is stay strong. And if you have to break down, you 00:29:00do it at home, right? I mean, because you have to present the front that it's going to be okay.

GL: And in. So you, you presented a strong front, but what were, what's happening in your head, what was happening in your heart at that time?

VS: I mean, all the things that go through your head, I have a, you know, 79, 80-year-old mom, I mean, I don't want to take this to her if I'm exposed. Do I stay away? Do we stay away from each other? Even though we're together at work? Do we stop everything? I mean, it was- it's heart-wrenching because you need human contact. And during that time, you know, human context almost impossible. You're trying to maintain six-foot distance from everybody and how far does it go in the stress of trying to figure out how far you go with that, right? I mean, and what's right for you and your family and, you know, those surrounding 00:30:00you. You know, do I now not see my mom even though she's at her house? I mean, she's not in a nursing home or anything. Do I now see my mom very occasionally from the door? How do you..? You know, I remember thinking, calling my brother and saying, do you want to go out and take mom her Mother's Day presents and put them on the deck, and then we'll just she can stay in the house, and we can chat outside? Right, just the idea of, of trying to protect others. And still, you're lonely. You're just lonely.

GL: Where, um, where's your mom right now? Like, what city is she living in?

VS: My mom lives in Neenah.

GL: In Neenah. Okay, so she's close. But then even though she's close, you still want to protect her. Right? And you're out, you're actually out in the open. Right? You're here?

VS: Yeah. Especially me on campus, right? I mean, I could pick, pick it up anywhere. So.

GL: And you have-

VS: Well, grandkids, Mandy's kids.

MO: I do.

GL: So were you, I mean, I, i don't know, what were you able to see them or 00:31:00what? I mean, how did you manage that?

VS: We did decide to continue our Sunday dinners if everybody was healthy. Number one, because we're together at work. I mean, we weren't, we didn't feel that we were preventing anything by stopping it and felt that we needed the human contact. So we would have Sunday dinners every Sunday, which we still do. So.

GL: Mandy, what were your biggest challenges here at work? During the, you know, during the early days to now?

MO: My biggest challenges, excuse me, my biggest challenges were probably more about myself and moving a little more inward. I knew, obviously, that there were so many projects and things we had to do on campus. But for me, trying to keep my anxiety in check. And know that the stress level was very high, from all 00:32:00aspects of my life at the time, was a bit crazy. So trying to keep myself in check and then just ask for help when I needed it was the biggest thing for me.

GL: Okay. And in both of you were talking about the- the challenge of your personal, you know, work, the personal aspect, anything regarding work itself, that were especially challenging?

VS: I mean, it was all challenging. We had to figure out new protocols, figure out, you know, how to get this under control, how to get a whole campus clean with- with 20 people. I mean, that that is never going to be easy, and it wasn't easy. And I think that we did the best we can I think most of the challenges that were bigger came as people came back to campus and were upset because it 00:33:00wasn't exactly the way it always is during a summer, and everything wasn't just in place and perfect. And maybe some floors weren't refinished. And that seemed in some areas to be expected. Where it was just impossible. So I think that even after going through what we did during the summer, as we went into the fall with people coming back, we felt a little disheartened, because we worked really hard and there was a lot of, maybe complaining.

GL: What would you like have told those people that were complaining about hey, you know, my, my, my, there are no, you know, wipes on my, in my room? Do you get, did you get all that?

MO: Yeah. I, with everyone coming back. And I will say we did have a little bit of an issue with the first round of, what do I want to say, first round of 00:34:00buckets, the white buckets that we started placing out all over campus, there was a problem with them and later found out the problem was more with the product and the distribution. So we had to, well, Frank had to find a new company to work with to get a better-quality wipe so that they wouldn't have issues. So then taking all the bad buckets out and redistributing and the new ones as soon as they got there, which they came pretty quick. But it's like trying to figure out so many different steps of are they easy to pull out because not all of the first ones had a top where you could pull the wipes out and just refilling them constantly and all the hand sanitizer that we got and all of the other extra sanitizers and things like that and just rolling with all the changes as the CDC found out more information was hard to keep up with. But 00:35:00I think we did a pretty good job, I would like to say.

GL: So, did you- did you become full staff when the students came back?

VS: We did. The day the students came back, we got our full staff back.

GL: So it was really, you know, like 20-something the whole summer. Okay. What would you like to tell people? I mean, obviously, you know, you get those, those complaints from probably well, instructional staff about things not being right in their particular classroom. What would you like to say to them?

VS: I mean, I guess, I would just like to say, have patience, be kind. It was a rough, it was a rough time. And we did the best that we could with the little resources we had. And in life, I mean, that's just my philosophy, just please be 00:36:00kind, understand that though, even though we were here, the whole time, there was no way to get absolutely everything done. This is a huge campus. We always respond the best that we can in custodial. But sometimes we get people that are incredibly upset about something that maybe we can't even change. So we take, you know, we take the brunt of that, and, and sometimes that's just disheartening. And maybe what I'd really like to say is realize we're people to, right, we are people, we have feelings, just like anybody else, when people are yelling at us and screaming and things like that. And we do the best we can.

GL: In the very beginning, you know, the, the health care workers were deemed, you know, essential workers. You know, and obviously, you know, yes, yes, they, 00:37:00you, your staff, you and your staff are also essential workers. And, you know, that, without you, the, you, we needed you to university needed you, in order to keep you know, to keep the building open and as safe as possible, right? Did you feel like you were treated or as essential workers or, or anything like that?

MO: And think I would say in the beginning, the focus on, you know, the nursing, the nurses and the doctors, I mean, 100%, they deserve a huge amount of respect. I feel like we were probably maybe halfway through where others started to notice like, yeah, maybe custodial and janitors, also, you know, deserve the same recognition or those in nursing homes. I think that when they're thinking 00:38:00of those who are help, helping to stop the spread of an illness, they're not necessarily thinking of custodial or janitors. But typically, we're the ones that helped stop it as quick as we can, especially with all the cleaning and the disinfecting. So I think I felt a little undervalued because it wasn't really brought up a lot. Not taking away from the nurses or doctors because clearly, they are super helpful and amazing. But I think a little recognition would have been a little bit better.

GL: What would you say are you most proud of, of your pandemic response and what you did during this time?

VS: I mean, I am so proud that we did it. That a challenge was put before us and set in front of us and we did it, we accomplished it against, I'm going to say, all odds. We accomplished it. We made the campus safe. We made it safe for people to come back. And everything that was set in front of us no matter how 00:39:00hard it was or how many hours it took we accomplished that.

MO: I would also echo that. But then, you know, even with the bigger changes we had within custodial as the students were coming back and we got our full staff back. I mean, our shifts changed. We were not here 24 hours a day in academics, where now, we are here 24 hours a day. There's big changes that we had that other people might not know or recognize. And I think that you know, recognizing we are now here and have changed a lot in custodial on campus is huge.

GL: What do you mean, umm, that you're here 24 hours.?

MO: So now prior to COVID We did have a time between midnight to 4am where nobody was here and then our superintendent and the supervisors came together 00:40:00and decided that 24-hour coverage because of COVID would be better suited, especially for spraying classrooms and academic buildings, Residence Life halls, and trying to keep the spread of COVID from getting far. So having the extra time when no one else was around in the academic buildings, and as ResLife was sleeping, we had time to get in and do the extra disinfecting and things like that.

GL: So that so is that a permanent change right now? I mean, as of now?

VS: Yes, it is a permanent change.

GL: Okay. And then, um, are there other things that COVID has changed in regards to your job, your specific job?

MO: I think right now, it's starting to somewhat go back to normal as what 00:41:00normal could be. When everyone started coming back, it was more of, we had a positive case here, we need, you know, the 360 and the wipe down of the disinfectant. I think that was the biggest change as those students and the academic staff was starting to come back, is having to adjust to when we could get into an office to disinfect it if there was a case or not. I think that was the biggest change.

VS: Yeah, and I think everybody was fearful coming back too.

MO: Yeah.

VS: I mean, you could sense the fear on campus and in everybody. And being here the whole time, you know, just trying to help people as much as we could and sometimes basically feeling like we were failing at that, at that task. Because we could not do all things at one time.

GL: So fall of 2020, students are back, you are finally fully staffed again. Did it become easier? Or did it just get worse?


VS: I mean, it became easier in some ways, and harder in others. We now have to work around people again, we now have people calling and requesting special things again and expecting that we're right there for them right away, and then trying to coordinate getting to where we need to go and coordinate staff to maybe living a little differently. This is where we introduce all the protocols of taking care of isolation and quarantine and adapting to the new world that we're now living in.

GL: And so was Spring 2021, was that better? I mean, what was that like for you?

MO: I think spring of 2021 was a little harder, as more people were coming back to campus. So as more staff was coming back to campus, I mean, there's projects 00:43:00that were put on hold that are now going to start happening again. And we're, they, people want to move things or get rid of things so our work orders have piled up exponentially. So it was a lot more fast paced, where before it was a little slower, you know, in the midsection, where we were able to, not like take our time, but there wasn't as much of a hurry, the work orders were lacking. There was no events, there was nothing big to set up or anything like that, where now everything is almost back to normal. And there's events to set up in surplus and so many other things to work on.

GL: And then, um, so moving through, through the summer. The school, you know, did it, did that ease up at all? I mean, did have you gotten your break yet?


VS: No, I don't think so. I mean, one of the issues was we did not know with all the calls what was going to be on campus for dorms during the summer. So where we would normally have between 24 and 30 students hired, we had no students. And we also did not have the, you know, we did when we absolutely needed it, but we didn't have the help from academics to get these dorms ready over the summer. So again, we're asking a staff of 24, 25 to get through every single dorm room, get every single, then this time with everything with extracting and everything else that goes along with cleaning these dorms as well as getting common areas and everything ready for the next school year to start without any student help.

GL: Wait a minute, summer of 2021, you went back to a small staff again?

VS: No, we didn't go back to a small staff, but I mean, academics was cleaning their academic building.

GL: Okay,


VS: Okay, so I have my normal 25 that would normally do it with students over the summer, would clean the dorms. So again, it wasn't an emergency. So there was not. And we also had the added event of the summer where the microwaves and refrigerators came out of the dorm rooms, and we had to transport all those to somewhere before the sale, so we had to take them all out of all the dorms, and we had to transport them, because we are the campus' moving company also.

GL: Is that something normal? I mean.

VS: Yeah. Unless it's a huge move, like the nursing to, you know, when they're gonna do a great big project, we pretty much do. That's what we do. We do a lot of moves of offices and things like that. And the micro fridges were an event. So I think that that might have even in the end been harder this summer than it was the summer before.

GL: Like, why was that?

VS: Because of all the things that had to happen. So I mean, with this, you 00:46:00know, getting the dorms cleaned without any student staff. And then having immediately after EAA, to get, before school starts, to get all the micro fridges out of every single room and transported over to a place where we can store them until we have a sale. Which is something we're not necessarily used to, doing a move on that scale. And that all had to be, it's all time sensitive.

GL: Where did that the micro fridges go like pre COVID. I mean, you did you have to remove them before?

VS: No, the micro fridges, every student had a micro fridge, a microwave and a refrigerator in their room.

GL: And just it would just be left there over the summer.

VS: It was University property. We cleaned it every summer.

GL: Okay. But then this time, you had to move, the summer of 2020, did you have to move them out? Or no?

VS: Summer 2021, summer 2021.

GL: Okay.

VS: We moved them all out because they've decided not to, to supply them to the students anymore.


GL: Got it. Okay. So that was an added task of that giant scale of like, 20. I mean, how many fridges are we talking about?

MO: Probably about the same amount of rooms that they're on campus, minus GCC.

VS: Yes. So I mean, we can house about 2000 students in the dorms about, because there are double rooms. So there's probably over 1000 rooms on campus, and we probably took out a good 800 micro fridges.

GL: Okay, so let's move on to the fall of 2021. So at that time, vaccines are readily available, they were actually available on campus. And the administration had been encouraging everyone to do so. What were your initial thoughts about the vaccines? Vicki first.

VS: I had, I just wanted to go and get a vaccine. I was perfectly fine with 00:48:00that. And, and did so anything to get me back to a normal and be able to go and you know, see family people that maybe I have not seen in a while.

MO: I think my initial thought is it was quick. So I was a little hesitant. So I waited, I would say a good month, two months just to see where it was gonna go. But I also got vaccinated as well.

GL: But what point I mean, you know, do you think? I mean, are we back to normal, normal-ish? I mean, what would need to happen for you to think that's, that's it's gonna be, it's normal again.

VS: I mean, I think we're close. I think it's very stressing to have the thought that maybe this wave has gone through, right? And maybe we get a break. And then all of a sudden there's something else there's another strain. There's another 00:49:00this and we start basically from scratch. I think that eventually, in my opinion, it's going to become more like a flu and a seasonal thing is people get vaccinated and it's maybe gotten under control a little bit and then I think things return to somewhat normal. I don't know if they ever return to full normal, like we were used to before. I don't know if anybody ever goes on a plane without thinking should I wear a mask during this time, even whether it's required or not. Or if I'm in a great big group, like a concert, should I you know, I think this is you know, some of these things will hang on.

MO: Yeah, I would echo that with I don't, I think this is just our new normal. So although things have calmed down a lot, it is definitely a new normal. You're not gonna just go up and hug someone you haven't seen for a while because it's not normal anymore. So you're always gonna have, I don't want to say trauma, but 00:50:00at the same time trauma of you can't just talk to whoever you want or hug whoever you want, because you're always cautious of they could have COVID, you don't know. So I think normal in the sense of work may be basically normal with events returning, and things like that. Personal life, I think this is just the new normal, where you're gonna overthink it and try and be cautious from now on.

GL: When you look at each other, I mean, you two had been here from the very beginning, you've been through it together. And you're still working incredibly hard. I mean, when you look at Mandy, what do you what do you think? I mean, what, what thoughts come to your mind when you're talking about, you know, the time COVID? And going through this with her?

VS: I mean, I'm just so proud. I am so proud with how she's grown, with how 00:51:00she's stepped up with what she's been willing to take on. I'm just proud.

MO: Yeah, I would echo that. Sorry, I'm emotional when people do that. But yeah, I think working with Vicki, aka my mom, made it easier for a sounding board when I got stressed. And I think for her, being there for me, and vice versa, was a bonus for us to be able to work together. But then separately, family wise, I think, also being able to still reach out and not be so far apart is one thing that, you know, there's one thing I really cherished throughout the whole time, because we didn't get to see family. There's a lot of holidays put on hold and things like that. So.

GL: You said that when you got stressed out, you would talk to your mom about this, I mean, can you recount a time? You know what, did something happened that you--?


MO: The biggest thing for me wasn't even the work. I mean, yeah, we got stressed at work with things that, you know, the workload was a lot, and adjusting to new protocols was a lot for us to have to do that. But I think, for me more of the stressors was at home, involving my kids, like if they get it, what could possibly happen? Like, again, my anxiety takes it to a whole different level where if they get it, they, they could not come back from it, and like seeing other people lose family members was hard for me. So being able to talk to someone about that was a huge help.

GL: I forgot to ask you, did any of you, I mean, obviously you do, you knew somebody who had had COVID and, and, and, and, and passed away. I mean, did you have any family members that got COVID and--?

VS: We have had family members who have had COVID. We have not had anybody pass away from COVID in the-

MO: Not, yeah, not-


VS: not in close family.

GL: Okay. And then again, you know, you- you two are the essential workers, you know, even before COVID. You know, you- you and your staff had been the people that we rely on sight unseen, because you know, the work that you do is like in the middle of the night, or early in the morning, and how, you know, and looking at your grandkids, when you think well, you have grandkids now but what would you tell your grandkids and maybe your great grandkids one day, you know, what the great grandma did or grandma do during the global pandemic? How would you tell them about what you did?

VS: I guess I would say we survived. And we did what we had to do. And at times we had fun with it, even in bad times. Because we did have some fun times. I mean, we laughed at work, we had great times. We survived. We did the best we 00:54:00could, and I would probably tell them that never in their entire life should they ever use the words "just a custodian."

MO: Yeah, I would, I don't like it even when my workers say you know, we're just a custodian. I feel we are a huge backbone, not just in general to the campus because yes, we keep it clean. We keep it disinfected, but I think custodians and janitors worldwide are huge backbone of, you know, how the world works. If you don't have someone there to clean up after you or disinfect to keep things at bay, the world isn't going to continue. It's just not.

GL: You know, you had a, have a really hard job. And you have you know, when you talk about the just a custodian label or the phrase? Gosh, what am I thinking I 00:55:00just had in my head. Got a brain--Oh, wait. I mean, you've been doing this for 21 years. Right? And you've been doing it for how many?

MO: About 10?

GL: I mean, why stick around? Why keep on doing this? You know, and especially during the, during the time COVID, you could probably have walked away, found another job that might have paid even better? I don't know. But I mean, you know, so why? Why did you stick around?

VS: I love my job and I'm proud of what I do. I like being that backbone. Although there's things that we you know, every once in a while, we feel looked down upon or we hear words like that. I want to stay and educate, right? That 00:56:00that's not what a custodial staff is, right? We are not. I, I love my job. And I'm proud of my job.

MO: I think I stayed because one, just the family feel or community feel we have with our staff, across all shifts, is what kept me going, I don't want to leave them behind. And I don't want to leave them in a dire strait where they need somebody else to come in and help when I could have stayed here. And then what I was supposed to do. I think it's staying here and staying strong and knowing that we'll get through it together.

GL: So you've done this for 21 years, and you've done this for 10 years, Mandy, um, what have you learned, cleaning up after campus people? What have you learned?

VS: There's not a mess that does not exist, there is not a mess that people aren't willing to make. We've seen it all. We have many, many stories. And in 00:57:00the office, we repeat some of them. I'm astounded. I mean, I'm astounded, though, by what people can do.

GL: Give me an example. A couple of examples.

VS: Okay, so when I was a custodian, when I started in Fletcher, I got called in in the middle of the night, because a group of males in the dorm had decided to defecate in one place in large amounts on a floor. And we needed to use snow shovels to remove said matter- matter in the middle of the night. These are the kinds of things we get that I mean, that's relatively extreme one. I mean, another one would be the idea that a lot of students like to buy these big bags of popcorn that they saw at the grocery store. And a lot of times that ends up 00:58:00down the hallways for us to pick up in the morning. You know, things like that.

MO: Yeah, there was that one mess that we, that your employees had not too long ago, where it must have been a beanbag or something out that exploded, you know, it went down the stairwell, a couple floors. And by a couple I mean like three, four floors, it takes a while to clean those kinds of things up or you know, if they want to have like if the students are having a good time or are bored, they have spitting competition, sometimes, you know.

VS: Yeah, vomiting competitions down the stairwells. We've had bags, large bags of water and ramen noodles dropped out of lounge windows. I mean, there's many, many things I've come across in 21 years.

GL: You know, you just want to say your mom doesn't live here and whatever. But then your mom shouldn't have to clean up this mess either. Right?


MO: Right.

GL: I'm sorry about that.

VS: You don't have to apologize for that.

MO: That's what we're here for it.

VS: Yes. And it makes for good stories later. I mean, I will say that, if nothing else it makes for good stories.

GL: So yeah, what has living and working and seriously, really working through the time of COVID have taught you about yourself? Vicki first.

VS: It's taught me that I'm strong. It's taught me that some of the most important things in my life are family and the community sense that we feel on this campus. This campus is incredible. I mean, for the most part, in support in you know, we all feel like a family. I feel like I know so many people on this campus on a personal level. Just another reason I wouldn't leave my job. But community and family is so very important.

MO: I think the biggest thing it taught me about myself is I'm more capable than 01:00:00I thought I was. And so many more ways than just being a custodial supervisor. But I think I've always doubted myself. And at times, I still might, but I think knowing that I am capable, and I can get through extremely hard times as long as I have support from, you know, not just those I'm working with, but also my family is extremely important.

GL: Is there anything else? Um, you know, we talked, we touched on a lot of topics here, but is there anything else you want to add?

VS: I don't think so.

MO: I just, I mean, I want to say thank you to our entire custodial staff, and the other, you know, facility, sorry, not facilities management, but you know, all of us, so all facilities management, all, but--

VS: All facilities manage, the trades-

MO: The trades.

VS: the maintenance workers, the people that may not have been here the entire 01:01:00time, but were here way before anybody else came back. And again, it's a family.

GL: You guys are like, I mean, you've heard the phrase unsung heroes, right? I mean, yeah, I would consider you to that and your staff.

VS: Thank you.

MO: Thank you.

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

MO: Thank you.