Vice President of Student Success Polly Abts Retires After 31 Years with Lakeshore Technical College




With countless job opportunities available to someone over the course of a working lifetime, why would someone choose to stay with the same employer for 31 years? Retiring Lakeshore Technical College Vice President of Student Success Polly Abts believes the answer was clear for her.

“’Choice’ is truly the most powerful tool given to each of us, it all boils down to that. Each of us determines our direction based on the choices we make whether it is in our hearts, our minds, or our hands,” says Abts. “I made a solid choice to work at Lakeshore because I wanted to help others discover and realize their potential. I lived out that choice with no regrets,” she says. 

With her associate degree in hand from a community college in Michigan, Abts chose to move to Wisconsin in 1990. She joined Lakeshore as the college’s business and marketing receptionist the same year. Over the years she obtained roles in recruitment, admissions, and workforce development, all of which, Abts says, provided her unique opportunities to help students and other employees discover and realize their potential. She also chose to leave Lakeshore for a short time to gain experience outside the college. 

“I believe in lifelong learning. I am one who gets bored once I master something so in order to further my career and take on new challenges, I knew I needed to go back to school,” says Abts. 

Over time and while also juggling family and work, Abts completed her bachelor’s degree in business management and her master’s in education with a focus on training and performance improvement. Her advanced education opened up additional opportunities, which she embraced. In 2018, Lakeshore President Dr. Paul Carlsen selected her for her current role.

“Polly’s accomplishments and her desire to lift others made choosing her for my leadership team easy,” says Carlsen. “She has been key to our college’s success and will be missed, though we wish her a long and happy retirement.” 

Higher education, and the students enrolled in it, have taken many turns since Abts joined the industry. Abts considers how her current team expanded support services to serve the changing needs of students to be among her and Lakeshore’s biggest accomplishments during her tenure. 

“Fortunately, Lakeshore has been able to respond to growing student needs with services such as an online therapy platform, the expansion of our StudentSHARE program offering a food pantry and personal care items, the addition of 24/7 tutoring services, emergency financial grants, and proactive outreach,” says Abts. 

According to Abts, another significant accomplishment for her occurred during her years working in workforce development when she collaborated with local manufacturing employers to custom-develop Lakeshore’s manufacturing management associate degree program. The program launched in 2009 and remains popular today.

Abts’ choice to leave her career in higher education behind leaves her more time for taking care of her family, traveling, enjoying the “simple things,” and growing a business. She and her husband Dan live in Newton and have three children, two grandsons, and four “granddogs.”

Lakeshore will recognize Abts’ years of service at an upcoming board meeting.

Polly Abts

About Lakeshore Technical College

Lakeshore Technical College is a comprehensive community and technical college educating more than 9,000 students annually. Students enroll at Lakeshore to master real-world, employable career skills and start their pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. Lakeshore faculty and staff are focused on providing each student an individualized learning experience.
Lakeshore Technical College is a nationally recognized two-year college. The college was ranked #2 in the nation by Washington Monthly, #17 in the nation by Forbes, #20 in the nation by, a top-150 two-year college by the Aspen Institute, a top 10 Bellwether Award finalist five out of the last six years, and named the 2021 Large Business/Industry of the Year by the Chamber of Manitowoc County.
Approximately 800 students graduate from Lakeshore each year, and associate degree graduates report earning a median salary of $59,899 within six months of graduating. In addition to the Cleveland campus, Lakeshore educates students at learning campuses in downtown Manitowoc and downtown Sheboygan. Classes are also offered at additional sites throughout the district. Visit Lakeshore at