Why I Vaxxed Up

Why I Vaxxed Up is a series of stories from our Stockton community members sharing why they chose to get vaccinated, how they overcame fears and how it feels to exit the pandemic. 

From feeling it was their civic duty to simply wanting to hug their extended family members, their reasons were varied and poignant.

The Ospreys navigated uncertain times together, but physically distanced. Now, as we vax up, our community is reuniting in person one shot at a time. Share your vaccination story.

Vax Up! Soar Safely, Ospreys

Submit Your Vaccination Status

To request a medical or religious exemption, submit the
 COVID-19 immunization exemption form to the Office of Student Health Services.

Stories from our Stockton community:

Olivia London

I didn't really think about whether or not I would get the vaccine once it was available to me. I was going to get it to help protect my friends and family surrounding me.

The day I finally got an appointment, I did not believe it was real until I went to the location and had the shot in my arm. The two times I went to the vaccination provider I looked around at all the people helping the community to try to recover from this pandemic. I think I had tears bubbling in my eyes while waiting in the room as it was such an amazing step forward to be making after such a difficult time.

Since receiving the vaccine and with the Delta variant on the rise, I have still remained distant from many things in order to help protect my loved ones. There are still many ways to smile even with restrictions in place like participating in outdoor activities that can easily be socially distanced. I choose to vax up and mask up to help stop the spread of COVID."
Olivia London
Health Science Major, Childhood Studies and Holistic Health Minor

Ryder Lynch

I decided to get the COVID-19 vaccine once I was able to. There was little to no hesitation in my decision.

My little sister has numerous chronic illnesses, and I needed to do my part to keep her as safe as possible when visiting home. I wouldn’t know what to do if I was an asymptomatic carrier and got her sick. 

Now that the delta variant is here, when there is a booster available, I also plan on getting that as well, to further protect myself against the virus.’

Ryder Lynch (they/them)
Environmental Science, Forestry 

Margaret Lewis and Michael Lague

Margaret Lewis, professor of Biology, and her husband, Michael Lague, associate professor of Biology, both chose to get the vaccine as did their two sons. Lewis teaches a course, Human Adaptation and Variation, which looks at how natural selection shapes societies and how diseases change the genetic structure of a population. As a mother and wife, she got vaccinated to protect her family; as a professor, she got vaccinated to protect her students; and as a Boy Scouts of America Scoutmaster, she got vaccinated to protect her scouts. 

We live in a society with other people, and we have a responsibility to do things not only for ourselves, but for the public good. As a scientist, vaccines to me are very important, whether it's for COVID-19 or any of the other common diseases, for stopping the spread around the world. 

To me, getting a vaccine was a no-brainer. My family has been fully vaccinated. 

People may be concerned that this is a different kind of vaccine, an mRNA vaccine. I've been teaching about vaccines in my classes for years; until now mRNA vaccines had been the wave of the future. It's really wonderful to see those vaccines, that just a few years ago we knew were going to be a really exciting new way of protecting people, come to fruition.  

One of the things that worries people is that they think COVID-19 is a new thing and they wonder how can they come up with a vaccine, but coronaviruses have been around for a long time. They have been working on coronavirus vaccines for years, so it's not like these vaccines just appeared out of nowhere. It's just like every year your flu shot is different, but they have a basic understanding of the influenza virus and can adjust the vaccines as new variants appear. 

I've lost several friends to COVID-19, and I don't want anyone else to be lost. I think the hardest thing right now is seeing preventable deaths. It's heartbreaking to me.”
Margaret Lewis 
Professor of Biology

Laura Zucconi

"I remember back in high school reading Boccaccio's Decameron and people isolating themselves because of the Bubonic plague in the Middle Ages. I remember as a teenager thinking, 'I could never do that, thank god I'm not living in plague years,'" said Laura Zucconi. 

The ultimate final reason is that it's the decent thing to do; to protect your community. Even though I may not know everybody, that doesn't mean I shouldn't take actions to protect them. At first, I was hesitant. But then as I started reading more and more about the science of it, I realized that the technology had been there for a very long time. Some of the reports stated that the typical flu vaccine was projected to become an mRNA vaccine in 2023. [Vaccination] is probably the easiest thing you can do to help protect the community. I do work on the history of medicine, so this is something that really intrigues me. What is interesting about plagues is that there are always multiple waves, so this isn't surprising me that we had certain peaks, and with the Delta variant, it's happening again. You've got to isolate at times, you've got to mask and do whatever the technology available at the time does. It comes down to, in every single plague, human behavior. It's not just the virus; it's human behavior. You have to take care of the community. You have to think of others even though it might be an inconvenience for you."
Laura Zucconi 
Professor of History

Heather Medina

In one hand, Heather Medina holds a family photo of her and her sisters hugging their mother who they lost this year to COVID-19, and in the other, she holds a news clipping celebrating her late uncle, who was the oldest man in the world before passing away in August 2021. 

Following our interview with Heather Medina, her uncle, Emilio "Don Millo" Flores Márquez, who was the oldest man in the world, passed away. This summer, Márquez told NBC News that the key to a long and happy life is an abundance of love and avoiding anger and resentment.

I chose to get vaccinated because of my family. I am fortunate to have my living uncle who is the oldest man in the world. He is 112 and will be 113 next week. I visit him regularly, so in anticipation of my visit with my uncle, I had to get vaccinated. This was a unique year, I think, for all. I lost my mother this year who contracted the virus. In honor of my mother and in anticipation of seeing my uncle, I chose to get vaccinated."
Heather Medina 
Director of Admissions

Renee TolliverPictured is Renee Tolliver and her mom, Joan Walker, at the resident fashion show at Complete Care at Linwood.

I got vaccinated to be close to my mom who is in a nursing facility. I honestly hadn’t planned to, but physically being away from her during the pandemic was one of the hardest things ever. Once the facility opened for visits, being vaccinated not only allowed me in-person visits, it gave me the ability to provide my mom with some of the personal care that we were both missing such as feeding her and braiding her hair. Sometimes we don’t realize the importance of being close to our loved ones until we are forced to be away from them. I am my mom’s only child and would get vaccinated ten times if it meant I could be closer to her."
Renee Tolliver 
Program Assistant, Student Development 

Adam Aguiar
Adam Aguiar, left, holds a 50-pound striped bass he caught this season while fishing with fellow angler Shawn DeVincenzo. He also guided his colleague and friend, Nate Hartman, to his personal best striper, a 26 pounder! 

Adam Aguiar got vaccinated for his grandmother, to safely return to in-person teaching and so he could get back to the Atlantic City beaches with his students to teach fishing. There's one other reason that he explains below. 

I am a striped bass angler. My passion for this is what inspired my GNM course, Ecology and Saltwater Fishing. This calling, so to speak, structured my life's path in fact in many ways. March and April are the months in which true trophy striped bass can be caught. Though I am not in a demographic very vulnerable to COVID-19 mortality, I realized that getting the virus would, at minimum, take me out of commision from fishing. I did not, and could not, have that happen in the middle of the bass run."
Adam Aguiar 
Assistant Professor of Biology

Sean Carpenter

Pictured is Sean Carpenter with his father, Scott, and his late mother, Tara. 

Like most others out there I was afraid and hesitant of the COVID-19 vaccine. Sadly, I regret to inform the university as to why I got my COVID-19 vaccine. During the month of April I had found out both of my parents were diagnosed with a positive COVID-19 test. My parents and I are inseparable. They’re my best friends. Hearing this news absolutely devastated me. My mom's health continued to decline and she lost her final battle with COVID-19 on May 4, 2021. One of my mother's final wishes was that her children get vaccinated. That following day I fulfilled my mother’s promise. I got my COVID-19 vaccine. I did it not only for my mother, but for myself and my loved ones. I stopped being selfish and I made it a point to say that if I can prevent another family from going through what I have gone through getting the vaccine is worth it. Without question. COVID-19 has changed my life forever. It put me through one of the toughest times of my life. My mother's battle and my finals felt like the world was on my shoulders. I thank Stockton University and my extremely caring and understanding professors every day. Without the accommodations being provided by the University and my professors I feel like I never would’ve made it. I take my mom's courage and fight with me everyday and use it to the best of my abilities. My mom would be so happy to see how far I’ve come. My graduation will be a very emotional day. I know she will be looking down on me smiling."

Sean Carpenter

Valerie Hayes

Since getting vaccinated, Valerie Hayes, pictured on the right, went whale watching in Cape Cod with her daughter, Angelene.

I’m one who gets vaccinated. I’d rather deal with a vaccination than a flu or some of the other horrible things that one can get. I also have a daughter who lives with me and who works in the health care profession so it was important for her to get vaccinated, and I couldn’t wait until I got vaccinated. I didn’t have any fear once I learned about it, and I know it’s very different from other kinds of vaccinations, but so is COVID very different from what we have seen before. I listen to the science."

Valerie Hayes 
Chief Officer for Diversity and Inclusion

Kylie Mastriana

I decided to 'vax up' a few months after it was going around due to the fact that I just wanted to continue living my life with no restrictions.

I do believe science has come a far way and this opportunity was such an incredible opportunity I simply couldn’t turn down. As soon as I got vaccinated I went to Disney a week later with my mom and it seemed to be the most normal we’ve seen in a while.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to be vaccinated and share my story as to why I am."
Kylie Mastriana 
Criminal Justice major


After seeing the hardships many friends and family were facing in order to keep their neighbors safe, I knew I wanted to do my part and get vaccinated. 

The members of our campus community work way too hard to not be able to enjoy seeing one another in the hallway, participate in events like University Weekend, gather in the Campus Center Coffee House, and even enjoy our local beaches. To safely enjoy campus life with my friends, classmates, and fraternity brothers, I was very proud to receive the vaccine. Being able to return to normal life so far has been amazing, and I look forward to what my senior year on campus brings this fall."

Chris Melillo
Communication Studies major

Heizel and Layla

Heizel Prince and her daughter Layla 

When it was difficult to make vaccine appointments early on, Heizel Prince reached out to assist friends. Word spread fast, and people began reaching out to her as a resource. "I was just happy to help all those who wanted an appointment," she said. 

I helped anyone who wanted a vaccine appointment (about 30 individuals), and I decided to get vaccinated because I wanted to make sure my loved ones were protected; especially my daughter. At the time the vaccine became available to me, my daughter was not eligible as she is only 13. Thankfully she is fully vaccinated now!"
Heizel Prince 
Senior Human Resources Generalist

marques johnson

Marques Johnson and current students are excited to welcome new Ospreys. 

I chose to get the vaccine because I thought it was the most responsible thing to do, not just for me, but for all those around me. I saw how the pandemic affected our students, so being able to get the vaccine and knowing it was getting us one step closer to being quote unquote back to normal, was important to me. To see all of the students here today at New Student Orientation and to see the smiles on their faces--because I haven't seen their smiles in so long--that is why I got vaxxed."
Marques Johnson
Director Residential Education & Student Services

Harvey Kesselman

Both my wife and I were vaccinated the same day. It was Jan. 20, the soonest we could possibly get it. We did it for a number of reasons.

Both Lynne and I are at risk in different ways, so we wanted to make sure we were safe, but more importantly we felt there was a social responsibility, particularly as the president and first lady of a university to be the first to take it, that it was safe.

Remember, you are not only protecting yourself by getting the vaccine, but you’re also protecting others. And I think we all have a moral obligation to do that.

We housed the AtlantiCare hospital personnel at the Chris Gaupp site because we wanted to do everything we could as an institution of higher education to help promote safety and security. In addition, we offered to be a mega-site here.

To those who have not taken it yet, I strongly encourage you to do so because it really is a relief. Please care about others as much as you care about yourselves and get vaccinated."
Harvey Kesselman
President Emeritus

Pam Cross


I got vaccinated in March and April, as soon as I was eligible. No side effects, unless you count joy and relief.

To me getting vaccinated felt like a civic duty—like voting or looking out for an elderly neighbor.

I am so happy that we will be returning to more in-person classes this fall, and it will be great to have students and faculty back in the Tutoring Center. I look forward to using zoom as a verb again and seeing my students’ faces and hearing their voices without asking them to unmute.

As for Gracie, my dog and faithful companion, she has all her shots, too—for the greater good."

Pam Cross
Writing Center Coordinator, First-Year Studies 

Chris Catching

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the health and wellbeing of our global community. It has limited our ability to connect with our families, friends, students and colleagues.

Our students need and deserve the rich, transformative educational experience that can only occur in an in-person, safe, healthy learning environment.

I got vaccinated as soon as I had the opportunity to help us get back to thriving in the vibrant communities that we need, love and value.  

I can’t wait to see my family, friends, students and colleagues again this Fall."

Chris Catching
Vice President for Student Affairs


I was hesitant to get the vaccine at first. But I realized it was important to protect not only myself but people around me.

My job required me to come in contact with material that previously belonged to people infected with COVID-19, and that was the driving factor. My job was to clean and help deliver hospice equipment and medications needed by those who were infected with COVID-19. Being on the front lines opened my eyes to how gruesome conditions were. 

I saw it as my responsibility to get the vaccine so that I can comfortably be with my friends and family. Through it all, I saw the vaccine as the light at the end of the tunnel. Getting the vaccine seemed like the right decision for me. My hope was to lessen the impact that the virus has on all of us."

Dylan Silverstein
Business Studies major

Haley Baum

Haley Baum holds a photo of her and her grandmother. 


To me getting vaccinated was never a question. 

My inspiration in everything I do and my absolute favorite person is my 88-year-old grandmother, Ursula. We are both immune compromised. I got vaccinated to protect her and of course give her as many hugs as possible!

I have been lucky to be a part of the team working together to combat COVID on campus and in our community. Getting vaccinated was just the next step in our work.

Every day I try to make an impact and teach our students that they are part of something bigger than themselves. In a way, getting vaccinated is an example of leadership -- knowing that your choices not only impact others, but it can make a true difference in the lives of those around you. I got vaccinated because I want to be an example, encouraging those around me to do the right thing and always help in whatever way they can. That is what my grandmother taught me."
Haley Baum
Dean of Students

Michaella Butrico

Nursing major Michaella Butrico is a vaccine recipient who also administered COVID-19 vaccines with more than 100 classmates during a clinical experience at the megasite in the Atlantic City Convention Center this spring. We asked her to share her experience administering vaccines. 
I chose to get vaccinated because I wanted to keep myself and others safe. I also wanted to be a part of the change to potentially suppress the virus and get things back to normal. For the people receiving them, they seemed super excited to be a part of it and excited to try and get things hopefully back to normal. There were people who were scared, but right after the shot, they said it was painless."

Michaella Butrico
Nursing major


Gail Rosenthal

I have gotten vaccinated because number one I want to protect myself and my family. I want to protect my students, my grandchildren and all those I come into contact with. Being vaccinated means we will all be healthy again."
Gail Rosenthal
Director, Sara and Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center

Ron Hutchison and farm interns

We can beet COVID-19. Pictured are Ron Hutchison with farm interns Jack Swenson and Taylor Groskorth-Flynn, holding beets freshly pulled from the field.

I got the vaccine so that when the fall semester starts I can do keg stands and do it safely," said Ron Hutchison with a chuckle. On a serious note, he shared, "Right after getting the vaccine, I went out to a restaurant outdoors and felt really safe doing it, which was a wonderful experience."
Ron Hutchison
Associate Professor of Sustainability