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 Aubrie Penfield

OSU freshman shares her experience in quarantine

Thursday, December 17, 2020

At first, Oklahoma State University freshman Aubrie Penfield attributed her body aches, sore throat, runny nose and “stuffy feeling” to allergies and carrying her belongings up three flights of stairs on move-in day.

But when her COVID-19 test — administered as part of the move-in process for on-campus residents — came back positive the following day, she quickly realized the seriousness of her situation.

“I think it is so important for students to know that if they are feeling sick, go get tested,” she said. “Students should be taking this so seriously because this is a crazy time, and it could be potentially dangerous for a lot of people. So I think that if we love being here, we need to do whatever we can to stay here.

“I’m so excited for this school year, especially among all the craziness. I’m so grateful that OSU is providing us the opportunity to be in person as long as we can.”

Penfield hesitated to tell others that she is one of the millions of Americans who have contracted the virus.

“I was a little nervous how people were going to react,” she said. “Would they be nice? I had been in my apartment for two days. I was scared people would be mad at me for potentially exposing them.”

That wasn’t the case at all. Under contact tracing, she had to let others know she tested positive and that they should be tested.

"Everyone was so caring and understanding with what I was going through,” she said.

Penfield later learned that she probably contracted coronavirus when visiting and saying goodbye to a friend in her hometown of Lansing, Kansas, days before moving to Stillwater.

The communications sciences and disorders major isolated in a designated room on campus. The university brought meals to her door and emailed her professors to make sure she had everything she needed. She participated in sorority recruitment online and was able to livestream her classes.

“I knew the university wasn’t isolating me to punish me but rather to protect me and protect other people,” Penfield said. “I really did feel taken care of. If I had any questions, I could call the COVID hotline and knew I’d get an answer.”

Tanya Massey, assistant director for residential living within the Department of Housing and Residential Life, was taking those calls. She understood the importance of making students as comfortable as possible.

“Something I tell my staff is people trust us with their kids, and we need to be worthy of that trust,” Massey said. “It is really hard on these students. They feel isolated. They want to make connections. We really try to make sure we are providing as much care and attention as possible.”

Someone who appreciated that level of attention for students was Kelly Penfield, a 1993 OSU graduate and Aubrie’s mother. In fact, the Penfield family thanked Massey with a bouquet of flowers.

“We feel like people are quick to complain when things don’t go smoothly, but we wanted Tanya to know we were grateful for her professionalism, compassion and personal attention,” Kelly Penfield said. “We called Tanya a lot in the early days. She proactively kept us informed and coordinated actions across university support systems to minimize the impact of Aubrie’s time in isolation. While Aubrie’s first college experience is nothing like we (Aubrie’s father, Greg, is also a 1993 OSU graduate) have ever seen, this did reinforce to her how much OSU values its students and that its actions reflect a sense of family.”

Sharing is Caring

The OSU Museum of Art — which transitioned from in-person art activities to handing out pick-up kits — initially donated 20 watercolor kits to university students in quarantine.

In addition, a small group of OSU faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members from a local church came together to collect and donate dozens of care packages.

The first delivery of non-perishable items included soup, crackers, candy bars and words of encouragement.

“Our faith prompts us to have compassion and to care about other people,” said OSU alumna Emily Emerson. “I thought about how it would be to be a person on campus and have to be quarantined a couple weeks without anybody else, so I thought we could do something to make that time that they have to spend in quarantine a little bit nicer.”

Non-perishable donations for OSU students in isolation or quarantine are being accepted and can be dropped off at 100 Iba Hall. For more information, contact Residential Life at 405-744-9158 or

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