Professional Academic Advisors


Northwestern’s students are not distributed equally across all departments, and the resulting disparity in the number of advisees assigned to faculty members is no secret. But this disparity is, at least in part, a structural issue, as well.  The Faculty Handbook (6.4.2.A) states, “Faculty members shall serve as the primary academic advisors for all students with declared majors.”  Given our current model, it makes sense that the departments with the highest numbers of students are carrying the heaviest advising loads.

The FHB does acknowledge that the most important faculty responsibility is teaching (6.3.1); it also creates a system of institutional service points for those with large advising loads (6.4.6).  We should at least ask, however, at what point an extraordinarily large number of advisees begins to impinge on a faculty member’s primary calling. 

Suggestions for Northwestern

Even though the wording of the FHB currently precludes non-faculty from serving as academic advisors once students have declared majors, we have found ways to take advantage of the FHB loopholes.  Kirsten Brue and Randy Van Peursem both shoulder advising duties, for example, and they do so successfully.  The Lab recommends that we seriously consider professional, non-faculty advisors for departments and programs that attract high numbers of students, freeing faculty in such departments to serve the institution in other ways without overburdening them.  We offer this suggestion in defense of—not as a critique of—the excellent work these faculty members are already doing.  They have too much to offer the institution as a whole; if their service points (much less their time) are devoted to an inordinate number of advisees, we all suffer.

Strategic Plan

Goal 1.3 – Increase opportunity and resources for faculty-student collaborative research and scholarship.

Goal 1.4 – Raise the reputation of Northwestern as a leader in Christian thought, scholarship, practice, and artistic expression.