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La Salle News

May 15, 2020

After 13 years, University Public Safety officer earns undergraduate degree

Aliya Vance, ’20, will continue to serve the La Salle community after graduation

Aliya Vance, '20When the phone rings, Aliya Vance, ’20, never knows what to expect from the caller on the other line.

A Philadelphia native, Vance has worked the last 13 years as an officer and dispatcher with La Salle University Public Safety. No matter what prompted the call, Vance takes a uniform approach in tone and response.

“I’m here to help,” she said. “That’s the purpose of my job.”

Vance has supported, aided, and comforted members of the La Salle community in their times of need since joining the University in 2007. (She even has saved a life.) A member of La Salle’s Class of 2020, Vance earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from the School of Arts and Sciences.

Vance smiles when thinking about the personal relationships she has forged with faculty, staff, and students at La Salle—and even students’ parents. In 2018, the year Vance earned her associate degree, another graduating student approached Vance and introduced her parents to her favorite Public Safety officer.

She understands the important role she plays at La Salle—as a liaison for the community, a supportive figure for students, and an ally for parents and families.

“That’s why I’m here to say that a little bit of kindness on the phone with someone in need can go a long way,” she said. “I’m a parent, too. I tell my daughter, who is five hours away at college, ‘If you don’t answer the phone, I’m sending someone to your room,’ so I understand the emotions a parent can experience in a moment of need.”

Vance began her undergraduate coursework in 2007, upon her hire at La Salle. As a part-time student, she completed one course at a time—finishing her shift at 4 p.m. and taking evening classes that often started at 5 p.m. A crowning achievement, Vance said, took place in 2018. Vance earned her associate degree in liberal arts and her son, Kamil, had earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Together, they posed on stage for a photograph with University President Colleen M. Hanycz, Ph.D., at Commencement.

Aliya Vance with her son Kamil and President Hanycz
Aliya Vance, ’20 (center) with her son, Kamil, ’18 (left), University President Colleen M. Hanycz, Ph.D. (right), at Commencement in 2018.

Afterward, an academic advisor encouraged Vance to keep going and pursue a bachelor’s degree.

“I said, ‘Why not?’” she remembered. “La Salle is a part of my story. It’s a part of who I am. It made sense to keep pushing myself.”

At La Salle, Vance has written and published a poetry book, “Walk With Me,” under the pen name Unique. The book remains available at Connelly Library. She also earned induction into the National Honors Society of Social Workers.

She has been accepted into one online graduate program and is awaiting word from others. She hopes to pursue a master of social work degree, beginning this fall, and aspires to become a licensed clinical social worker. “To me,” Vance said, “the biggest correlation between social work and public safety is helping people.”

“I am not sure how she has done it, but Aliya has been able to juggle competing responsibilities to successfully finish her degree at La Salle,” said Rosemary Barbera, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Social Work. “She will use her education to better her social work skills, deepen her social work knowledge, and affirm her social work values and ethics. This will serve the people with whom she works as a social worker.”

Vance’s impact at La Salle extends beyond the classroom and into the University community.

Last September, a staff member at the Student Union collapsed after losing consciousness. A call to Public Safety landed with Vance, who dispatched supervisors and officers to the scene, and resulted in a subsequent call to local police, fire, and rescue officials.

“Aliya is an incredibly hard worker whose intelligence, quick-thinking, and intuitiveness make her a valuable member of our Public Safety team,” said Amanda Guthorn, D.A., Assistant Vice President of Public Safety at La Salle. “She understands what needs to be done and gets it done.”

“Being a dispatcher,” Vance said, “you are the first line of contact with anyone who is reaching out. When that line rings, our main number—1300—that’s me you’re calling. If the job isn’t being done effectively or in a timely fashion, the outcomes aren’t positive. In that moment, I was just so grateful and humbled to be part of a team that helped play an integral part of her recovery.”

And it’s that pride in serving her community that keeps Vance coming to work every day.

—Christopher A. Vito