Weinberg, Speech to improve advising

Northwestern administrators will spend the next three years overhauling the academic advising systems in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Speech by hiring 15 new advisers who will interact with students on a more personal level throughout their NU careers, Associate Provost Stephen Fisher said.

Weinberg will add 12 new advisers, hiring four per year over the next three years. Each group of four advisers will work with one class from sophomore year until the class graduate.s Speech is hiring three advisers, each of whom will work with students from one Speech concentration.

Each new adviser will work with about 250 sophomores. Previously, about three advisers oversaw all 4,000 Weinberg students.

“The number of students per adviser is extraordinarily high, especially compared to peer universities,” said economics lecturer Mark Witte, a Weinberg adviser and Daily columnist. “Under the old system, it was very hard for advisers to anticipate problems.”

Fisher said NU wants to ensure that all students take advantage of available advising services.

“In the past, some students got very good advice,” Fisher said. “We want to ensure that all students have a very solid advising experience.”

Fisher estimated the program’s cost at about $700,000 per year once it is fully operational. After three years, administrators will re-evaluate the program and decide whether to continue funding, said Eugene Sunshine, vice president for business and finance.

Four advisers already have been hired: Andrew Rivers, James O’Laughlin, Fariba Zarinebaf-Shahr and Keith Topper. All were Weinberg lecturers last year and will continue to teach at least one class a year.

“I always enjoyed working with individual students one-on-one. It’s very appealing to me,” Rivers said. “(Now) I’ll be able to meet with students much more than I could when I was teaching physics courses. I’ll be able to find out what flips their flapjacks and see the kind of things they’re doing and point them in a direction. It’s an opportunity I jumped at as soon as I heard.”

The program is part of a package of items requested by the Undergraduate Budget Priorities Committee, a group of five students who annually make presentations to NU’s budget committee asking for funding for undergraduate initiatives.

“This was the biggest item we’ve ever presented,” said Associated Student Government President Jordan Heinz, a member of UBPC. “It was a very broad issue.”

A lack of academic advising has long been a complaint of Weinberg students. Although students have departmental advisers, they have no adviser to address schoolwide or campuswide concerns.

Rivers said he and his colleagues have been undergoing rigorous training to learn about all Weinberg departments and university services so they can provide a broad range of advice to students.

“We’ve been laying a foundation for all the information we need,” he said.

Rivers said the advisers sent out e-mails to all Weinberg sophomores to begin setting up short one-on-one meetings. Students who do not declare majors after the end of freshman year are left without a personal adviser until they declare a major, which many Weinberg students don’t do until the end of their sophomore year.

In addition to revamping advising, administrators also voted to budget money for an Asian and Asian-American student services coordinator, six new treadmills, and renovations to the Black House and Shanley Pavilion.

NU is allocating a total of about $2.16 million in the next three years to implement all the changes, Sunshine said.