On Sept. 5, Heidelberg welcomed Dr. Chris Abrams as the new dean of Student Affairs. Chris comes to Heidelberg from Malone University -- his undergrad alma mater -- where he had served as vice president for Student Development the past 13 years. Earlier in his Student Affairs career, he worked at Weber State University in Utah, John Brown University in Arkansas, Messiah College in Pennsylvania and Houghton College in New York.
Chris will provide leadership of Student Affairs “in creating and implementing the vision, strategy and programming to develop and maintain a safe, healthy and supportive student-centered, multi-cultural environment,” said President Rob Huntington.
He brings a ton of energy, a friendly, accessible approach and a tremendous passion to help students succeed. The entire Heidelberg community extends a warm welcome to Chris and his family, his wife, Melissa, and their twin daughters, Hope and Faith.
Get to know Chris a little better in this Q&A.
Q: What interested you about coming to Heidelberg at this point in your career?
A: There were several things that interested me about Heidelberg including the small town and small campus feel. The location of Tiffin with the high residential population gives the campus a certain feel being here. As a big fan of athletics, I’ve learned a lot about the traditions here at Heidelberg and it all kind of drew me in.
Q: It’s only been a few days but what have your first impressions been of the campus community and of the students you’ve met?
A: Everyone has been so friendly. I’ve been so amazed in the transition process with the way people reached out to me, calling me, emailing me, asking how they could be of help for not only myself but my family. Even the other day, Jacqueline (Sironen) reached out to invite me to the HYPE Appreciation Dinner along with my family. It’s been really great to have my family involved meeting everyone. People have just been so kind and it’s made the transition a lot easier.
Q: How has the transition been moving to Tiffin?
A: My twin daughters, Hope and Faith, are both attending Tiffin Columbian now. They’re in the ninth grade so it’s the first few days of high school for them. My wife, Melissa, and I had four houses to look at and the first three we looked at we started to wonder if we would have to keep the girls back in Canton. We pulled into the fourth house and just knew that was it. It was just perfect. The girls are already enjoying school here, they’ve joined a club and are thinking about sports too. It’s been a wonderful transition for my entire family.
Q: What are your goals in your first few weeks, months?
A: My two biggest goals are figuring out the Heidelberg culture, getting to know the faculty and staff and how it all works here, and getting to know the student body. I met the staff on Tuesday and said that I want to find a way to get in front of the students. I want to get to know everyone here and see what the best way is to help them succeed.
Q: What message can you give students about wanting to connect with them on a personal level and what to expect from their new dean?
A: I hope that they can expect that I’m available and open. I plan to have groups of students over to my new house and help be that home away from home for them. I want them to know that I’m someone who wants to listen and is interested in the experience they’re having so that we can find ways to heighten their experience here.
Q: Having once been a college athlete, what advice can you offer students about balancing their workload with extracurriculars?
A: It’s all about time management. When I got involved in other things on campus, like being an R.A., my schedule was set that I knew that I had to do things at certain times. I encourage students to get involved because it really helped my schedule come better into focus. Having a schedule like that really helps prepare you for the real world.
Q: You’re a Student Prince now, how does that sound?
A: I like standing out. I like being unique. The Orange, Black and Red colors, the Student Prince, Siggy and so many things help Heidelberg stand out nationally. I like the idea of being part of a community institution that knows we’re different. To me, it’s Heidelberg saying we want people who are interested in standing out to be a part of our great community.