Sandy Van Kley

Northwestern’s Record Keeper


A Northwestern employee for 18 years, Sandy (Ruter ’05) Van Kley has served as the college’s registrar since 2011. As such, she is responsible for maintaining the academic records for all Northwestern students, both past and present. She and her staff collect grades, process transcript requests, prepare course schedules and facilitate registration each semester. They also assist in maintaining the degree audit system, determine students’ eligibility for graduation and participation in athletics, help plan commencement ceremonies, and confer degrees.

What has changed the most in your time working in Northwestern’s registrar’s office?
When I started, students were registering on paper. Members of the maintenance staff set up long tables in the Bultman Center lobby, and computing services set up terminals and printers. New students came in by appointment on the Saturday before classes started. The line was open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Those were long days! As more of the process moved online, we were able to get rid of the line.

What’s the most interesting request you’ve received from a student?
A student with a Taiwanese roommate asked me if living with someone from another culture satisfied Northwestern’s cross-cultural requirement. I said it was an interesting idea (and a rich learning experience), but he’d still need to take a class in order to receive cross-cultural credit.

What brought you to work at Northwestern?
I started as a student here in 1976. I met my husband, Denny, and we were married and moved away after he graduated in ’79. By the time my boys were in high school, we were living in Sioux Center and I asked the Lord to show me what he wanted me to do with my life. That’s when Denny saw an ad in the paper about the registrar’s assistant position and told me to apply. After my first year, I was urged to complete my bachelor’s degree, which I did in 2005. That same year, my oldest son also graduated from college, and my twin sons graduated from high school. We joked that while the rest of the family was graduating, my husband, who taught fifth grade at the time, was still in elementary school.

What brings you the most satisfaction in your job?
One of my greatest joys was seeing a student who struggled academically graduate after more than five years of being in and out of Northwestern. Other joys have been developing close relationships with my student workers and having the pleasure of staying in touch with them after they leave Northwestern.

In all of your years helping to coordinate commencement, have there been any near-disasters?
The Northwestern backdrop used for graduates’ photos was missing one year. It was located just before the ceremony began. In the meantime, the maintenance staff were trying to jerry-rig a substitute. Now I always keep the backdrop in my office.

What do you like to do for fun?
A few of my favorite activities are biking, hiking, snowshoeing, fishing, reading and baking.

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