Situated in her office on the second floor of Calvin Ulrey Hall, new vice president for student affairs Abby Van Vlerah hopes her tenure at Manchester University leads to a “greater sense of community and spartan spirit” on-campus.
“I’m very excited to be at Manchester,” Van Vlerah said. “I love being on a small liberal arts college in the Midwest which I call home. It is such a caring place.”
“My colleagues truly want to help all our students and genuinely want you all to succeed,” she continued. “I want to help be a part of this and ensure all students feel this sense of community and strength.”
Van Vlerah is no stranger to higher education. The first in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree, Van Vlerah graduated from Saint Mary’s College with a degree in humanistic studies. Due to her background, she “didn’t even know that jobs in student affairs existed.”
“I fell in love with the college experience and essentially never left,” Van Vlerah said.
From there she journeyed across the country ultimately obtaining graduate degrees from the University of Wyoming and Bowling Green State University. Van Vlerah has a wealth of experience throughout her professional career she intends to draw upon now.
“Through each of my positions, I’ve tried to gain as many experiences as possible and generally say ‘yes’ before I say‘no’,” she explained. “This has led me to become a ‘Jane of all trades’ in higher education, because I’ve taken time to expose myself to all areas of a university. Having held positions in student affairs, academic affairs, overseeing admissions and financial aid, and teaching at each university, I’m fortunate to have seen the entire student life cycle from a variety of angles.”
Her extensive professional profile has seen her improve the lives of students at numerous institutions including Mercy College, and most recently, Long Island University. Van Vlerah was responsible for creating and executing the LIU Promise and Mercy College PACT programs during her tenure.
“They were both holistic advising programs,” Van Vlerah said. “Each offered students one point of contact to everything at the university. The professional coaches or mentors assisted students with academics, financial aid, careerservices, and being involved on campus. That mentor stays with each student for all four years that they’re at college.”
“It helped eliminate the guess work about college and provide a road map to the university,” she continued. “These programs are particularly helpful for first generation college students who may not be as familiar with college processes and procedures. I had a great support network from the student affairs team when I was in college, which helped me greatly, but not everyone finds that on their own. I want to help provide that for you.”
Van Vlerah, an Angola high school graduate, will be responsibilities for improving the retention rates and overall student experience. She will serve on the Cabinet and report directly to President Dave McFadden.
She will also serve as the Title IX coordinator for the North Manchester and Fort Wayne campuses. Van Vlerah has received formal training in Title IX standards and will lead a team of deputy coordinators to help Manchester comply with all aspects of the law.
She may still be getting acclimated to a new university, but Van Vlerah is already open to offering a helping hand to the student body at Manchester.
“I encourage all students to come visit my office,” she said. “I want to meet you all and know what I can do to help improve your Manchester experience!”
In her spare time, Van Vlerah enjoys running, spending time on the lake, and riding motorcycles. She also is enjoying the privilege of living near family again.
“Now that I am back home,I love spending time with my nieces and nephews,” Van Vlerah said.