Flaherty empowers women as VPSA


Rob Le Cates

Vice President of Student Affairs Anne Flaherty gives a presentation on the current status of student mental health and the measures the department has done to assist students at the Sept. 29, 2021 Faculty Senate meeting.

Katja Benz, Campus Reporter

Eastern’s Vice President of Student Affairs says that she would not be where she is today without the strong role models she has had in her previous roles.

Vice President Anne Flaherty, who was a resident assistant while completing her bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa, says that her positive experience as a resident assistant mixed with wanting to work with students originally got her interested in student affairs.

Throughout her career, Flaherty has worked in various student affairs roles, such as director of student wellness and diversity, dean of students and interim associate vice chancellor before joining Eastern’s staff in July 2020.

Flaherty oversees 11 different departments and is one of the highest-ranking officials at Eastern. She describes her role as someone who supports the well-being and health of students.

Even though she oversees 11 departments, Flaherty wants to remove barriers for both her staff and students so they can be successful.

“Honestly, every day looks very different, but it typically includes meetings, the best ones are the ones with students, attending events/programs, strategic planning, budget management, and addressing problems whether it be related to the COVID pandemic, a student crisis, employee issues, etc.,” Flaherty said. “I try to remove barriers to help my staff be able to do their work and remove barriers for students, so they can pursue their educational goals, be engaged on campus and find a sense of belonging.”

Even though she tries to lower barriers for students, Flaherty has a set of her own as a female in higher education. Despite these barriers, Flaherty feels lucky to be in her role.

“There is only one VPSA at each school, therefore, it is really an honor to be selected to serve in this role,” said Flaherty. “I am grateful to be a part of the team working to create the best possible experience for students and employees at EIU. I like to say that I have the best job on campus.”

Flaherty says that she wants to always be there for students and staff even if she is under immense pressure. Her job also provides her with satisfaction.

“As an executive leader, there is a high level of responsibility on a daily basis, even when you are not physically on campus or working, you are connected through email and text,” Flaherty said. “With 11 departments in my division, there are a lot of competing interests for my time. While the concept of the ‘buck stops here’ is often reserved for the president of a university, often student-related issues do stop with the vice president for student affairs. My guiding philosophy is to always do what is best for students and to provide the best possible work environment for your employees, so they can provide the best service. While there can be a lot of pressure, there is also a high level of satisfaction and joy through interactions with students and staff.”

Flaherty has moving office hours to hear from students, including one on March 28 in Booth Library from 2 to 3 p.m.

Flaherty thinks that even with her high role at Eastern, and with the amount of strides women have made, there is still a gap in the field of higher education.

“While women have made huge strides in moving into senior leadership roles in higher education, there are still more males sitting at the senior table,” Flaherty said. “And because men’s and women’s leadership styles tend to be different, women still need to work hard to be sure their voice is always heard. Also, as reported previously by the DEN, there are salary differences between male and female leaders. For women who chose to become a mother, I have two teenage sons and one in college, there is the added challenge of balancing family responsibilities and work life. While the gender balance for work/family life seems to be improving, I believe women will continue to take on a larger share of this balance. The pandemic has illustrated this with a much higher percentage of women leaving the workforce as part of the ‘great recession.’”

However, Flaherty says that she is available for mentorship and wants women on her teams.

“I am a feminist, and I am intentional with other women to be sure they know I am available for mentorship and sponsorship,” Flaherty. “It also happens through individual interactions, ensuring that women are equally represented on committees and in decision-making opportunities.”


Katja Benz can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].