AQIP Update: Advising
A proposal to review the advising process at NMU – one of three “action projects” identified by the university as part of the AQIP accreditation process – now rests with an Academic Senate subcommittee after it was presented at two campus forums earlier this semester to solicit feedback. The proposal calls for a cadre of faculty, perhaps one or two per academic department, to work with first- and second-year students.
“One thing we’ve heard loud and clear is that people want to see changes in the way advising is done at Northern,” said Teresa Hunt (Academic Affairs). “Most errors in students’ audits occur early in their academic careers, when they are freshmen and sophomores. The proposal is designed to reduce the number of errors by identifying about 40 ‘super advisers’ on campus who would be motivated to take an avid interest in that role. They would receive special training to work with larger groups of students – up to 50 at a time – and be evaluated each semester.”
The proposal recommends that the super advisers be compensated for the additional, mandatory training and increased advising workload through financial rewards that recognize exceptional performance, reduced or eliminated service requirements, and alternatives such as release time, banked time or reduced load.
“The recommendations would require some modification of both the AAUP and NMUFA contracts so that advising is no longer part of assigned responsibilities, but a way to fulfill the service component,” Hunt added. “For that reason, it was appropriate to forward it to the Admission and Academic Policies Committee, which will make a recommendation to the Academic Senate. Any time contract changes are recommended, it is not a quick process, so it’s not something that will be settled this academic year. But it will generate more campus dialogue on the importance and quality of advising.”
The Advising Review Committee, which drafted the proposal, also suggests that third- and fourth-year students continue to be advised within their respective academic departments by faculty members, but with a greater emphasis on mentoring and career options rather than course scheduling.
Hunt said Northern is far from the only university addressing the issue: “If you go to the AQIP action projects Web site, you see that so many other institutions are working on this. There’s no one magic method that will fit all. Our committee did its homework. We researched the topic and worked for more than a year to come up with a proposal that is provocative and different.”
In other AQIP-related developments, Hunt has completed a draft of a “systems portfolio” that is due to the Higher Learning Commission by June 1. It is a narrative response to 138 questions about the university’s internal systems and processes. The document will be continually updated, tracking improvements and outcomes. AQIP evaluators will also evaluate the systems portfolio and identify areas that might be the focus of future action projects.