Assistant Dean Vassar departs college to work in disability resources

By Cassy Sottile and Erica Quinones

News Editors

Assistant Dean of the First Year Experience and Student Success Andrea Vassar departed to pursue an opportunity at Temple University.

Now former Assistant Dean Vassar had her last day at WC on Feb. 21, closing a nearly decade-long tenure.

Originally joining the WC staff as Director of the Office of Academic Skills (OAS) and 504 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator in 2012, she obtained the Assistant Dean position in July 2018.

Her upcoming professional endeavor at Temple University begins on March 2, where she accepted the position of Director of Disability Resources and Services.

Vassar has a long history working with disabled students, having spent a decade in special-education and working with psychiatric disability. She later worked in regular classrooms, with gifted students, and teaching art in elementary school before entering higher education in 2003. 

Vassar continued her passion for working in disability services at OAS and as the 504 ADA coordinator at the College, where she ensured the campus and curriculum were accessible for all students. 

Current Director of OAS Hilary Bateman, whose first full-time job post graduate school was working in the OAS alongside Vassar, remembers meeting her.

“Even when students were getting what they needed in terms of accommodations, she was making sure that the person providing the accommodations was well-informed,” Bateman said. “It ensured that future students were getting what they needed.”

Vassar is remembered as someone who cared not only about students, but her co-workers, as she assured they not only fit with the job but were comfortable at WC and Chestertown, according to Bateman

“She impresses me as someone who can think issues around. She is very solutions-oriented and has a very compassionate approach,” Academic Resources Coordinator Anne Kellstrom said.

Vassar’s passion for disability work was not contained to her, she spread her interest amongst her co-workers by encouraging their education on the topic. She did so by including people like Disability Access Specialist Liz Shirk in her disability work at WC and encouraging Shirk to broaden her job interests in the disability world.

“Knowing she is still in the disability world will be great,” Shirk said. “We will still be connected… disability services have a community of people who support each other, because we all deal with things where there is a lot of gray area.” 

One of Vassar’s most notable accomplishments at the College was the incorporation of the Accommodate software, a database system for students with disabilities, in 2016. 

The software’s implementation changed how students interfaced with faculty and note-takers, submitted accommodation requests, and it gave students control over their own accommodations, according to Vassar. 

Her interactive work with students in OAS made her a strong candidate for the Assistant Dean position and led to her working closely with Student Affairs on the Early Intervention Program (EIP) team, which handles C.A.R.E. reports of which Vassar worked with academic concerns, according to Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Dr. Sarah Feyerherm.

But her most prominent role as assistant dean was her interactions with first-year students. Through her position, Vassar helped “first-year students start to take on more of that responsibility” of adjusting to college and their education, according to Dean Feyerherm.

One thing that Vassar said she did not accomplish during her tenure at WC was the institution of a Disability, Rights, Education, Activism, Mentoring (D.R.E.A.M.) program, an organization aimed to discuss inclusivity and accessibility on campus.

They officially started laying the groundwork for D.R.E.A.M. in early February. Vassar said it was like a dream come true. 

It was not only Vassar who left her mark on the College. Rather, Vassar said that she is taking the “philosophy of the individual” with her from WC to Temple University. 

“That individual philosophy, individual attention, case-by-case situation, and really understanding what the student needs — that has cemented my philosophy,” Vassar said. 

This philosophy was fostered by the small campus environment of WC where she could spend time with students and faculty, allowing them to tell their stories at their own pace. Through this process, Vassar listened to the various narratives of WC students and received a holistic picture of the campus.

She hopes to take that experience and philosophy to learn how to emulate the close-relationships of WC at the much larger Temple University.

But her philosophy is not the only thing she takes forward. Vassar is the parent of a class of 2016 alumn and continues to feel close to the WC community.

“I found myself, even in these last several days, still using the word ‘we’ when I talk about WC. So, I do not feel like I am ever going to stop feeling like I am part of this family,” Vassar said. 

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