All In The Family

THE VAN VLIETS

Frank van Vliet, MBA ’08
Wendy van Vliet, B.A. ’08
Drew van Vliet, B.A. ’11
Elise Smith, B.S. ’18

The van Vliet clan—Frank, Wendy, Drew and Elise, with Elise’s daughter Matilda and son Merrick—in the outdoor chapel at Davidsonville United Methodist Church, where Wendy is lead pastor.

The van Vliets all have a ready sense of humor and share, among other things, a commitment to service and to family. And four of them—father Frank van Vliet, MBA ’08, mother Wendy van Vliet, B.A. ’08, son Drew van Vliet, B.A. ’11, and daughter Elise Smith, B.S. ’18—have something else in common: they’ve all earned degrees from the University of Baltimore.

The van Vliet’s alumni legacy begins with Frank, executive in residence and holder of the G. Maxwell Armor Chair and Professorship in the Merrick School of Business. Frank began his career as a sales and marketing executive in his native Ontario, Canada, where he and Wendy met and married 38 years ago. (The couple’s oldest son, Chris, still lives in Canada.) As he was offered new opportunities the family relocated to New York and then to Baltimore, where Frank joined the Baltimore AirCoil Company.

He chose to attend UB when his company offered to sponsor his MBA. During his program, Merrick professor Tigi Mersha asked Frank if he was interested in becoming an adjunct. For the last seven years he’s taught courses in marketing, strategic planning and entrepreneurship.

“I was in the right place at the right time—teaching is the most fun I’ve ever had,” he says. This fall he debuts a new online course in digital marketing and social media, which dovetails well with his other venture: running a small sales and marketing consulting firm, SalesBrewers LLC.

Frank is also an instructor in UB’s Second Chance program, in which incarcerated men at Jessup Correctional Institute are earning their undergraduate degrees. He was recently awarded the University System of Maryland Board of Regents Faculty Award for excellence in public service for his work in the program.

Drew and Wendy’s UB stories are intertwined—Wendy, who is lead pastor at Davidsonville United Methodist Church, decided to register for classes while on a campus visit with her son. “I was waiting for Drew and a counselor came out and said, ‘Are you my next appointment?’” Wendy recalls. At the time she had a three-year degree from a Canadian university; Canada has a different higher educational system than the United States.

Wendy’s Canadian degree is in computer sciences, and she worked as a program analyst there. “But I had also been involved in volunteer organizations and knew I was called to serve,” she says. “The counselor showed me how my credits could transfer so I could complete my undergraduate degree to U.S. standards and prepare for seminary.”

Wendy says she had some self-doubt about returning to school. “I had to learn to be a learner again, and I wanted to be an A student,” she recalls. “I found that my professors held me accountable, but also provided feedback and resources so I knew what was expected.”

When Drew (the funniest member of the family, according to the others) and Wendy selected their courses, they unknowingly registered for the same psychology class. “My mother sat right up front and I sat in the back,” Drew, a sales development manager at cybersecurity firm Tenable, says. “It took the professor pretty much the whole semester to figure it out.” After reaping the benefits of studying together, the two later registered for the same art history class.

Drew decided to transfer to UB after beginning his degree at the University of Maryland, College Park. “I discovered I didn’t enjoy classes in lecture halls with 300 other students,” he recalls. He was working full time in retail management during his time at UB, and says he appreciated not only the “vibe of being right in the city with older, more experienced classmates, but the flexibility of having online and evening options for classes.”

When she enrolled at UB, Elise had completed her associate’s degree and was also working full-time; she is a benefits manager at defense contractor AVIAN, Inc.

“I wanted to enhance my career but was a little uncertain about juggling everything,” the mother of five recalls. “My father reminded me of the story of eating an elephant, taking it just a little bit at a time.” Elise completed her business degree entirely online, and was even able to travel to Thailand on a study abroad program for an upper-level marketing course. “I didn’t expect that to happen and it was one of the coolest things I did—especially since I was able to share it with my Dad, who came along as a faculty member,” she says.

Elise points out that the van Vliets have another UB legacy: her fifth child, Merrick’s, name was inspired by the business school. “I was pregnant with him during the journey, so we decided it was appropriate,” she says.

Frank reflects on how his family’s different educational goals and experiences reflect larger trends: “I didn’t need to get my MBA, but it opened new doors for me. And for my students—many of them may have 7 or 8 career changes, not jobs, but entire career changes—in the course of their working lives. So it’s great that their educational options are constantly morphing, and that UB is, too”

Paula Novash is managing editor of the magazine.

If you are a UB legacy family and would like to share your story, contact the Office of Alumni Relations at 410.837.6131 or alumni@ubalt.edu.

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