Voices of clinic volunteers

When the ISU mass vaccination clinic opened in State Gym earlier this month, there was a resounding -- and fast -- response to a call for faculty and staff to fill hundreds of volunteer shifts. More than 350 employees were on board within 24 hours. Another call for volunteers is expected soon to fill shifts for clinics after spring commencement. This week, Inside asked a few volunteers to reflect on their experience in State Gym -- and what they would say to someone who hasn't received a vaccine yet.


Shelley Taylor, director of global programs, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Shelly Taylor (left), Heidi Ackerman and Cy cutout

Shelley Taylor (left) with fellow volunteer Heidi Ackerman, agronomy academic advisor

Taylor volunteered as a wayfinder, helping to make sure those who came for their vaccines knew how to navigate the space in State Gym.

A moment I'll remember: "At the end of the day, a call went out to find people to come and take doses that were left over. Two students showed up, out of breath. They had received a text saying 'Come immediately,' so they dropped what they were doing and ran full speed to State Gym. It turns out they were in the middle of taking an online exam. They planned to rush back after their vaccine to finish the exam.

"Also, I spoke to several students who were scared of needles and really nervous. The people giving the shots were so kind and so professional. They really helped each of those students through their fear. Even after thousands of doses given, the people administering the shots treated each person as an individual with different needs, and not just one more person on an assembly line."

How I felt as a volunteer: "After my shift, I felt great. It was such a well-organized effort, and I was proud to be a part of it. If you get a chance to volunteer at a future vaccine clinic, definitely do it. As an employee, an alum and a parent of a student, I am very proud to be a Cyclone. I feel surrounded by a large team of professionals working hard each day to make the best choices available and take the best actions to protect the Cyclone Nation."

What I'd tell someone who hasn't yet received their shot: "I'd encourage them to sign up and get it -- not just for their own health, but for the health of the community. It is difficult to tell someone what to do with their personal health, but vaccines protect the whole population."


Kent Kerby, assistant dean for academic student success, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Kent Kerby head shot

Kent Kerby

Kerby also volunteered as a wayfinder.

A moment I'll remember: "Just the smiles and relief on the faces of the students who were grateful for the vaccine."

How I felt as a volunteer: "It felt great. It has a big impact on our students, and it was enjoyable. Everyone did a nice job coordinating a well-run event."

What I'd tell someone who hasn't yet received their shot: "Don't hesitate. Bring a friend to support you and get the shot together."


Alejandro "Alex" Ramirez, Roy A. Schultz Professor in Swine Medicine, assistant dean for academic and student affairs, College of Veterinary Medicine

Alex Ramirez head shot

Alex Ramirez

Ramirez administered the vaccine to clinic-goers.

A moment I'll remember: "The first person I've ever vaccinated commented, 'Wow, that was really easy, I did not feel anything, you must be good at this.'

"It is very rewarding, and everyone, including the students being vaccinated, are friendly and appreciative. Our ISU health team has this down to a perfected science. Everyone does an excellent job with a smile on their face. Definitely a great memory."

How I felt as a volunteer: "It was great to feel I am doing all I can to help the ISU community through this pandemic. Not only did I help individuals get vaccinated, but I helped our entire ISU community -- by helping contribute to our herd immunity, so that we can soon return to our more normal socialization and everyday life."

What I'd tell someone who hasn't yet received their shot: "It is quick and easy. We cannot let this pandemic get the best of us. Do it for yourself, your family and our community!"


Fred Lloyd, assistant director, Veterans Center

Fred Lloyd head shot

Fred Lloyd

Lloyd volunteered as a wayfinder.

A moment I'll remember: "This sounds strange, but my favorite interactions were with those who came in afraid to get the shot. I was inspired to think of the people who genuinely were scared, but were still coming to get the vaccine. I remember two young women making their way through the line, who asked if they could go to the same vaccination station so they could be together. After they were told, yes, it was possible, I asked them why they were afraid. Like many others, they told me it was the needle. I did my best to comfort them and assure them that the needle was small and they would hardly feel it. Later, I looked over to where they were getting the vaccine, and the first had finished. She smiled at me and gave me a thumbs up. I am very proud of everyone who overcame whatever obstacle they were facing and came in anyway."

How I felt as a volunteer: "After my shift was over, physically I was tired, but emotionally I felt great. It was the first time since the pandemic started that I felt like I was directly helping do something to end it. It was very rewarding. You get to interact with wonderful people."

What I'd tell someone who hasn't yet received their shot: "Please seriously consider getting one. It is scientifically the best way to protect yourself and help ISU get back to normal operations in the fall."


Erin Kalkwarf, diagnostic associate, Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

Erin Kalkwarf head shot

Erin Kalkwarf

Kalkwarf helped register students, faculty and staff as they entered the clinic.

A moment I'll remember: "Having people show up for walk-in shots at the last minute. A lot seemed relieved or happy to be getting the vaccine."

How I felt as a volunteer: "Very happy. It was just really great to be able to help out. Volunteer if you have time!"

What I'd tell someone who hasn't yet received their shot: "Please -- get vaccinated."


Melea Reicks Licht, interim director, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences communications service

Melea Licht head shot

Melea Reicks Licht

Licht volunteered as a wayfinder.

A moment I'll remember: "Early in the day, a student came through with her mom. You could tell they were both so excited for her to be there and were eager to connect with volunteers. Seeing them together really emphasized that every one of these students is someone's child. I thought of all the moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas who would welcome these students home -- vaccinated -- in just a few short weeks.

"Something as simple as making eye contact with a student, smiling and gesturing for them to walk towards you can make a huge impact in their experience. The hardest part for me was not hugging every single one of them!"

How I felt as a volunteer: "Relieved. Hopeful. Optimistic. When I got in my car to drive home after my shift, I sat for a minute and let the significance of the day's events really sink in. We vaccinated 1,100 in less than eight hours. Every one of those people stand a much better chance of not getting COVID-19, or if they do, having a much milder case. That's 1,100 families at far less risk of losing someone they love. I wiped my eyes and drove home feeling like we were going to get through this.

"If you get a chance to volunteer, do it! Every role at the clinic makes a difference in our students' experience. The clinic is designed to keep everyone at a safe distance, so I never felt uncomfortable or at risk. The students really appreciated all the volunteers. I can't remember how many times I was thanked throughout the day."

What I'd tell someone who hasn't yet received their shot: "I understand you may be hesitant. There's a lot of misinformation out there. Please visit with your health care provider and check out trusted resources like the Iowa Department of Public Health and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. It's important for each of us to do everything we can to keep our families and communities safe so we can return to a more active, open life."