Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Stelijes
Life isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey; for Vice President Stelljes, learning to enjoy the process has made all the difference.
Andrew Stelljes, known by many as Drew, is the newest Vice President of Student Affairs, starting at Franklin & Marshall College in July 2023. Within student affairs, Stelljes oversees athletics, student life, residential life, health and wellness, and the Dean of Students Office. Additionally, his influence extends to the Office of Student and Postgraduate Development (OSPGD), the Ware Institute, and the Offices of Student Engagement and Leadership (OSEL).
Stelljes brings with him over 25 years of experience from the classroom and administrative level. For 13 years, Stelljes worked at William & Mary as both the Assistant and Associate Vice President for Student Affairs as well as taught for both the School of Education and the Department of Public Policy. He has his Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Masters in Counseling Psychology. His focus is on research and experiential or inquiry-based learning, where the instructor provides a basic framework for the subject before students are able to learn through questioning and collecting qualitative data.
Even though Stelljes is no longer in the classroom, he still enjoys immersing himself in the college community. Students can often find Stelljes at athletic games, campus events, hanging out in the dining hall, and in the college houses, always with a large smile on his face. The Vice President says that within a month of his first semester, he has already noticed what a special place F&M is because of its faculty, staff, and most importantly, its student body.
“[F&M] is small enough that it can be really relational, and it can be relationship driven. And that you can walk through this campus being able to act as though you belong, based on simply who you are, and not something else you must portray in order to fit a mold,” says Stelljes.
Stelljes has also made it his mission to get to know the students he serves. As Vice President of Student Affairs, he acts as a conduit between students and the administration, who make campus-wide changes based on the trends in students’ needs. In the spring, Stelljes will lead a semester-long strategic planning process to discover more specifically the needs of the campus community. He anticipates many of their focuses will coincide with his own goals for the college— increasing experiential learning, leadership development, community engagement, and overall well-being.
“There’s a real need for us to continue to provide both additional resources but also preventative and educational work around well-being,” Stelljes says. He believes that this will form a solid foundation for students’ success during their time at F&M.
Stelljes’ journey to college may explain his desire to help students achieve this well-rounded college experience. Originally committed to art school, young Drew realized that he was not on the right path because he, unlike the rest of his peers, only enjoyed the product of his work, but found the process rather grueling. Instead, he attended James Madison University, where he learned to enjoy the process of learning through experimentation in many disciplines, some of which were more difficult than others. He says that this experience was essential for his own growth, and he encourages students not to shy away from similar challenges.
“A few decimals of a point on my GPA meant nothing, but the lessons learned by grinding through a course that didn’t really resonate with me… were humbling, but they were real. This experience helped me realize where my strengths really are,” says Stelljes.
He hopes that in addition to the bountiful lessons students will learn from F&M, the sense of community and belonging that they foster during their college years will linger long after they leave.
“I hope that upon graduation, a student feels a deep sense of connection to this place [and] that this can be a place where they can come back to for the rest of their lives— for moments of deep reflection, for moments of transformation, maybe in moments when they’re grieving. They can walk this land, which you can imagine is somewhat sacred.”
Stelljes, meanwhile, has developed a deep sense of connectedness with the campus community. When asked about an ordinary moment that has brought him great joy recently, he told a story from earlier that day in D-hall:
“I was sitting by myself and a student who I know came up to me and said, ‘You’re sitting by yourself. Let’s eat lunch together.’ She brought two of her friends and the four of us ate lunch together. It was a good small moment.”
It is these experiences that have made Vice President Stelljes feel the most welcome in the F&M community.
Senior Lily Vining is the Managing Editor. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.