When news broke last December that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was ready to roll, EWU pre-nursing student Erin Conroy was cautiously optimistic that the end of the Covid-19 pandemic might be near.
For Conroy, covid’s demise couldn’t come soon enough. After balancing Zoom classes with a full-time job at Trader Joe’s in West Seattle, she was more than eager to get back to Cheney for in-person learning and the full-on Eagle experience. Still, Conroy wasn’t fully convinced that vaccination was for her, thinking instead that she’d hold off until she had a better idea of the various shots’ risks and benefits.
That all changed when, in early July, Conroy found herself infected. Thankfully, her covid case was relatively mild. But it convinced her to get the two-shot Moderna vaccine as soon as possible.
Conroy is thankful that when she was ready, the vaccine was easily accessible on a walk-in basis that fit perfectly with her work schedule.
“I don’t regret getting it at all,” says Conroy, adding that being fully vaccinated gives her greater freedom to travel and do other things she enjoys.
Getting vaccinated proved to be a fortuitous choice. Not only did Conroy provide herself with a healthy dose of extra immunity, her shots came with an additional, totally unexpected benefit. A few days after uploading her vaccination card to Med+Proctor — in compliance with EWU’s vaccination policy — she received an email saying that she’d won a full-year tuition waiver through the EagsVaxUp incentive program.
“I’m insanely grateful! I always see other people win things. What are the odds?” says Conroy, who is minoring in psychology and American Sign Language and is planning to become a labor and delivery nurse.
Interim President David May recently presented the prize to Conroy, who typically works year-round to help pay for college. The tuition voucher, valued at nearly $6,900, covers three full quarters at EWU.
Conroy accepted the faux check, stood for several media interviews and then headed out to celebrate with her best friend, Chloe Simmons, also a rising junior at EWU. The roommates, both fully vaccinated, went to the Barrelhouse Pub & Pizza, a couple blocks from campus, and shared some battered mac and cheese wedges.
Getting vaccinated against Covid-19 is now a requirement for all students on the Cheney campus, as well as the WSU-Spokane and Catalyst facilities.
The requirement – implemented by interim President David May in accordance with the university’s policy on immunizations – was followed up by Gov. Jay Inslee’s recent mandate that state employees, including EWU faculty, staff, and volunteers, also get the shots. The mandate stipulates that EWU employees who are not fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 will not be permitted to work. All requirements offer exemptions for religious or medical reasons.
Getting ‘vaxed-up’ was a true door-opener for Conroy – who has saved for nursing school since she was 16 years old.
The tuition windfall will help Conroy balance her work hours at Spokane’s Method Juice Café with her challenging schedule at EWU. Inoculation also delivered beyond the tuition prize; it gave her the confidence to travel across the country to reconnect with family members in New York that she hadn’t seen for several years. It later allowed her and her family to get together in New Orleans, where they were able to enjoy restaurants and attractions that required proof of vaccination.
Now back in Cheney, Conroy – a member of the Alpha Phi Sorority – is looking forward to reconnecting with friends and checking out football games at the freshly turfed Roos Field.
And now that the new Interdisciplinary Science Center (ISC) – which was under construction when Conroy’s freshman year was interrupted by the pandemic – is fully open, she’s also looking forward to taking all three of her upcoming biology classes in the ISC’s cutting-edge classrooms and laboratories.
“I missed being on campus. I’m very much an in-person learner and I’m really excited to be back,” she says.
EagsVaxUp was launched in June to help inspire EWU students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated. Lucky winners received 10 $1,000 scholarships made available through the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC), an iPad Pro, Zamboni lessons and other prizes.
EagsVaxUp weekly drawings will continue through December, with EWU parking passes, Eagles Athletics gear, theatre production tickets and gift cards to local merchants still up for grabs.