At the heart of any department’s instructional mission is a program of effective advising. There are several different models of advising at NIU; the two predominant models are faculty advising as part of workload and a dedicated department advisor (usually in larger departments). There are also two groups of students that need advising: incoming freshman, transfer, or new graduate students; and continuing majors at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Undergraduate students who are new to NIU must attend an orientation session and meet with an academic advisor in the college of the intended major or, in the case of undecided students, with an advisor in the Academic Advising Center.
In each academic year, it is the department chair’s responsibility to know how many declared majors and minors are in the department, how many are incoming students (both freshmen and transfer), and how many students are close to degree completion. At NIU, a steady flow of student data comes from the Office of Institutional Research and the Office of Registration and Records; deans may also keep chairs updated on comparative departmental-student data within individual colleges. Regular communication with the department advisors will also keep the chair informed about relevant student numbers, especially any fluctuations could influence prospective course enrollment and demand. In the event that department advising is carried out by one or two advisors, the chair’s task is simplified through regular contact and information-sharing. In departments in which faculty members advise majors and minors, the chair’s oversight responsibility is more complicated. The essential contribution of academic advising to student success means that individual faculty members must be well-informed and carry out due diligence in the advising process. The chair provides oversight and leadership. To say the least, the chair should understand the department’s curriculum, requirements related to limited admissions, course prerequisites, degree and emphases (if any) requirements, and so on.
Regardless of a department’s advising structure, some advising tasks are likely to fall to the chair. Parents of prospective students may want to meet with the department chair in lieu of or in addition to meeting with a faculty advisor. The chair may be involved in summer advising when many faculty members are away from campus. NIU also has a “third-repeat option” for undergraduate students who successfully convince the college’s advising dean that they deserve a third chance to pass a certain course. Approval for the third-repeat option involves more than a pro forma nod from the chair; it requires that the chair is familiar with the student’s academic record in order to make an informed decision and may also call for a brief interview with the student. Finally, the chair should know how students declare the major and minor, especially in departments with limited admissions, and be familiar with the Major Request and Minor Request forms.
Advising at the graduate level is generally assigned to department Directors of Graduate Study. Informal advising is also carried out by Graduate Faculty mentors who may also serve as thesis or dissertation directors or members. All admission and advising decisions are carried out in coordination with the Graduate School and its advisors.