Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

What will those leaving do next?

Haylea Van De Yacht / Advance-Titan – Debbie Gray Patton has worked at UWO for 27 years in USP, the Dean of Students office and as a hall director. Her love of UWO is evident through spiritwear, posters and photos at her desk.

In October, 140 UW Oshkosh employees received layoff notices as administrators cut positions, offered early retirement and more to whittle down the university’s $18 million budget deficit. These notices stunned some while others said they saw it coming. 

Two things are apparent: One, the university is losing hard-working employees. And two, UWO will be far different when most students return for the spring semester and so many familiar faces are gone.

Here’s just some of their stories:


Debbie Gray Patton

Debbie Gray Patton started working at UWO in 1995. Throughout her 27 years at the university, she was ever-present and involved herself in as much as she could. 

“I always joked that I personally loved college so much that I never wanted to leave, and that’s why I work at a university,” Gray Patton said. “I’ve always enjoyed working with students right out of high school and seeing them early on and getting to see them graduate. That’s always super fulfilling.”

Gray Patton’s first position at UWO was working as a hall director for four years. She left UWO for about two years and returned to the university to work in the Dean of Students office for 12 years. In that position, she worked with accessibility services, worked on new student orientation and advised panhellenic organizations, along with her Dean of Students office work. 

“Working with new student orientation, although exhausting, was super fun because you got to meet tons of people, current students as well as incoming students,” Gray Patton said. “I liked working in the Dean of Students office very much. I think that in many ways, it was a perfect fit for me.”

After, she had a split position with the Honors College and the University Studies Program (USP) before working completely for USP since 2014.

Gray Patton has been a team fellow for men’s basketball and softball teams, has advised a fraternity for nearly 12 years and helped reform general education with the start of USP.

Being one of the many people laid off due to the budget deficit the university is facing, Gray Patton is now looking for new job opportunities.

“I’m kind of in a tough spot because of my age and my years of service,” Gray Patton said. “I’m not old enough to technically retire in the UW System, but yet this is my 27th year. With that, there are certain benefits, and it would be nice to get a job in the system. That’s something I’m considering, but I’m also open to considering other things.”

Despite the circumstances, Gray Patton said she will still continue to support Titan athletics and UWO’s students.

“Even though this is an out-of-my-control situation and it is not an awesome way to end, I’m not going to let it impact my feelings of the previous 26 years,” Gray Patton said. 


Isabel Álvarez

Isabel Álvarez started teaching in the fall of 1999, right after she finished graduate school. UWO has been her only place of employment.

“The current situation has impacted me and my work in ways that I had never imagined,” Álvarez said. “My initial goal was to enjoy my last semester as much as possible.”

Álvarez is from Spain, and after three decades of living in the U.S., she wants to relocate back to Spain and her family. 

“Given the incentive to retire early and the situation of the university in general and the Department of Global Languages and Cultures in particular, it was clear to me that it was the perfect time to retire,” Álvarez said.

Despite retiring, the only definite plan she has is to move back to Spain in the summer. *

“I would like to continue teaching Spanish, but, most likely, as community service,” Álvarez said. “There is a large immigrant community in Spain, a good number of them minors in need of learning Spanish and I would like to be involved in that effort. Translating and private classes might be an option too.”

Álvarez said her time at UWO has been amazing, but leaving is bittersweet.

“I got to work with the best colleagues, and I am proud of what my students have accomplished,” Álvarez said. “I am excited about starting a new chapter in my life but, at the same time, sad for colleagues and students, who will have to navigate through very turbulent waters in the near future.”


Kari Meszaros

Kari Meszaros’ first thought was of her family when she received one of 140 layoff notices at UWO.

“[I was] just thinking about the financial implications and what that means,” Meszaros said. “All of those things were going through my head. How do we make sure we are able to do the things we need to do to take care of our family?”

The news came just over a month before her husband’s last day at his job, where his role was outsourced. He had worked at the same company for his entire career and worked his last day Dec. 1.

Meszaros has been a career development manager in the Student Success Center since she was hired by UWO in July 2022. After receiving her layoff notice, she said one of the biggest struggles has been balancing the task of searching for a new job while still being committed to her current job. 

“[I’m] definitely feeling the push and pull of ‘do the job,’ ‘do the job search,’” Meszaros said.

Although she tries to keep a positive outlook on her career, she said it can be difficult to maintain this.

“I can’t lie and say they have all been good days, because they haven’t all been good days,” Meszaros said. “But, in general I try to have a good attitude.”

She said one of her main goals as she finishes out her final semester in her position is to ensure her coworkers who are staying have the resources they need to succeed in the future. 

“Even those staying have an uphill battle,” she said. “How can we, those who are leaving, support them to set them up for success and try our best so that the students get what they need?”

Meszaros said that although she is still figuring out the next stage in her career, she is trying to practice what she teaches to students doing the same.

“Being patient and trusting and trying to do the work so that you’re going to be okay is a process,” she said “It isn’t always easy.”


Ash Bott

Ash Bott has worked as an administrative assistant in the Writing Center for almost two years. 

“It still doesn’t feel real, to be honest,” Bott said. “Despite spending the last couple months trying to put my life back together, I still can’t believe that this is happening. Working with students was a dream, and it still hurts my heart every day to have had that ripped from me.”

Since the layoffs, Bott said they have had to make sure things are set in the Writing Center before leaving.

“I have spent the last several weeks basically trying to train our student employees how to run this place without me, which has been interesting,” Bott said.  

Bott is also a graduate student, and the layoff has affected this significantly.

“Having my income, health insurance and stability torn from me in my first semester of grad school was, to put it lightly, difficult, and I’ve had to put school on hold basically while trying to put my life back together.”

As a student at UWO, Bott can’t relocate, can’t work standard 9-5 hours and doesn’t qualify for unemployment.

“The university has done nothing to help me or other students who were laid off,” Bott said.  “Every time I bring it up to them, it’s just crickets. It’s been so hard to go to school every day at a university where I feel so unseen, unheard and stepped on.” 

With the layoff, Bott will be working two part-time positions this spring in order to make ends meet. Bott will start a position at Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services as a crisis advocate, and in January, as a graduate assistant on campus.

“I just need something to keep me afloat and insured while I’m in grad school; hopefully life will get a little more normal once I’m done with school,” Bott said. 


Meghann Krueger

Meghann Krueger was affected by the layoffs in her position as department assistant of sociology & public administration.

“I am still sad and frustrated that my employment is ending at UW Oshkosh, but I am confident that everything happens for a reason,” Krueger said. “I know my work experience and education will help me find a job that is the best fit for me.”

Krueger is applying for jobs and has signed up for the UW Oshkosh Priority Placement program, in which “eligible employees who have received notice of layoff or have otherwise been terminated due to budget or program decisions are provided the opportunity to apply for non-instructional vacancies at UW Oshkosh before they become available to the public,” according to the UWO website. 

Krueger said despite the layoff, she will continue to give quality service and effort until the end. 

“I have continued to serve our students and my colleagues with the same professionalism and dedication I always have,” Krueger said. “Both students and colleagues have been very supportive, and they deserve the best customer service I can provide.”


[*Correction: Originally, the story stated that Isabel Alvarez didn’t have definite plans regarding moving to Spain. This has been edited to reflect that her only definite plan is to move back to Spain this summer.]

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