Interim vice president for Student Affairs hopes to restore campus life

Elisa Reamer, News Reporter

DeKALB — As the new interim vice president for Student Affairs, Charlie Fey’s main priority is to work with students to meet their goals and he’s excited to resurrect campus life again as students return for in-person classes. 

This is Fey’s first year at NIU and he will assume the role of interim vice president for Student Affairs until May 31, 2022. Though Fey isn’t new to the vice president for Student Affairs role, he held the position for 23 years at other institutions. At the University of Texas at El Paso, he worked as the dean of students. 

“I’m a member of something called the registry,” Fey said. “It’s a company that places executives in universities, presidents, vice presidents and deans throughout the country. So when a president retires, they usually have an interim for about a year, give or take, and if they don’t have anybody internally to serve for a year, they go to this registry.” 

Growing up, Fey wanted to be a lawyer or president. After he was elected president of student government at Pennsylvania State’s Community Commonwealth Campus in McKeesport, Fey discovered that he wanted to work with students. 

What we do in Student Affairs is help you find those ways to achieve what you need to achieve to be successful in your life, in your career and your community,”

— Charlie Fey

“When I left McKeesport campus as a junior to go to the main campus of Pennsylvania State, I got involved up there,” Fey said. “I was vice president of the Residence Hall Association there and got involved in the organization of student governments and decided that student affairs was a career I wanted to pursue.” 

Fey said he carries the same excitement with him for every job he has at a new university because he loves working with students and challenging them to help them grow. 

“My job is to help you all understand those issues of growth and how you can learn from things, both mistakes you might make and the good things you do and how you learn to repeat those good things as well, so I’ve enjoyed that part of it,” Fey said. “My whole career, I have focused on what I call fostering student success. “

Fey was assigned three goals when he was hired at NIU in July. 

The first goal he wants to accomplish while in the interim vice president position is to work with a task force to improve Greek life on campus. Greek life was much larger eight to 10 years ago than it is now, resulting in some of the houses being closed down due to not having the number of members needed to fill them, Fey said. 

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people who I went to college with 50 years ago; the only ones I keep in touch with are my fraternity brothers,” Fey said. “But the relationships that you join in a fraternity or sorority are just another level. So, what we want to do is try to find a way to help the current crop of students understand the value of Greek life and make sure that value is worthwhile.”

Fey’s second goal is to rephrase the Student Conduct system and process so that it is fair and student-centered. 

That’s what I leave a message to us students: hold fast to your dreams, don’t ever let them go and find a way to achieve,”

— Charlie Fey

“One of the things I need to be looking at is how do we improve, how do we make the most effective we can of the student conduct systems, so it’s an educational one, how do we help you not make that same decision again and get back on to the right path, so that’s what I’m trying to get student conduct to be focusing on the future,” Fey said.

Fey’s third goal is to reestablish campus life to what it was before the pandemic. Second-year students did not get the traditional first-year life since they entered college during the remote learning phase of COVID-19, so they do not have the same experiences as this year’s first-year class, Fey said. 

“It (campus life) will never be back to where we were in 2018,” Fey said. “It might be just as good, but it’ll be different. One of my goals for this year is to help us in Student Affairs certainly, but on the campus in general, reshape what that campus life is supposed to look like so that these students who are now here will have as good an experience as you can.” 

The Division of Student Affairs’ job is to make sure every student can graduate despite any of the obstacles students may face along the way, because graduating is the biggest success, Fey said. 

“What we do in Student Affairs is help you find those ways to achieve what you need to achieve to be successful in your life, in your career and your community,” Fey said. “We have always said, ‘Let’s challenge you to become the best person you can be. And when you do that, you’ll become successful in your life.’ That’s why I love this job because I enjoy doing this.”

Fey’s advice to students is inspired by the poem, “Dreams,” by Langston Hughes, where he says “hold fast to dreams.” 

“That’s what I leave a message to us students: hold fast to your dreams, don’t ever let them go and find a way to achieve,” Fey said. “If I can help you achieve them or people I work with can help you achieve them. I’ll do everything I can. That’s the bottom line.”