What does the Dean of Undergraduates actually do?

I am including this post, which was originally on the FYE blog (http://u.osu.edu/uofye/), because i recently got a similar question from a parent at Orientation, and several days later from a student that I introduced myself to.


I’ve heard the following many times over the six years I’ve been in my current position at Ohio State University: “So, I get what my Department Chair does… he or she coordinates the activities in the department, assigns faculty and teaching staff to classes that are taught each semester, evaluates the performance of the faculty and staff, and oversees the budget of the department.”

“And I get what the Dean of the College does… he or she sets the strategic short and long term goals for the college, supervises and oversees department chairs, does fundraising for the college, coordinates outreach and communications related to the college, and generally makes sure that the academic mission of the college is achieved.”

“But what do you, as the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduates, do?”

Well, let me answer that:

I have two titles: Vice Provost of Undergraduate Studies and Dean of Undergraduate Education. I report to the provost, who, as the chief academic officer of the university, is in charge of all educational affairs and activities, including research and academics. As one of the vice provosts in his office, my job is to coordinate all of the academic-focused units that report to me. These include the Military and Veterans Services Office and the ROTC, the Student Athlete Support Services, the Undergraduate Research Office, Honors and Scholars, including the Collegium and the Undergraduate Fellowship Office, the Service-Learning Initiative, and University Exploration, our office for undecided and re-deciding student advising.

This “business, or Vice Provost” side of my job also has me collaborating with external constituents, such as the Board of Regents and industry and community organizations interested in undergraduate education, as well as with internal groups, such as Student Life, Enrollment Services, and First Year Experience. I also coordinate the academic part of the Second-Year Transformational Experience Program, working closely with Student Life.

The “academic, or Dean” part of my job is more focused on the academic programming components associated with undergraduate education. This includes working with colleges on General Education expectations and curriculum, and with evaluating and assessing the learning outcomes that are necessarily part of this important curriculum.

I am responsible for overseeing and implementing policies related to undergraduate academic programming, working with colleges to propose and implement policies of the faculty with respect to the development of programming for challenging academic experiences, and working with colleges on curricula and requirements for baccalaureate programs and new and useful undergraduate programs.

One of the most important parts of the “Dean” job is to coordinate advising across the university. Academic advising, like many other functions at the university, is distributed throughout the colleges. For example, the College of Engineering employs its own advising staff, and they focus on the courses and curriculum required in each of its departments.

Arts and Sciences (ASC) has its own advising staff for its departments, and they are also very knowledgeable about courses and curriculum in the general education, most of which is in ASC. The same is true for every other college. But there are policies and processes related to advising that cross boundaries of the colleges… that’s where my office comes into play.

My office coordinates those advising activities related to university-wide interpretation. We also coordinate advisor training and develop technology tools used by the individual advising offices.

This year we are embarking on an effort to review and improve academic advising across the campus, and even across all of our regional campuses. We are conducting surveys and running focus groups of students, advisors, college reps, and the overall undergraduate community to determine where we are and what are the needs related to increasing the quality and efficiency of advising.

Our goals are fairly well defined, and will benefit students from the time they arrive at OSU:

  1. We will develop opportunities for better student-advisor engagement
  2. We will provide professional development for advisors
  3. We will define and assessing learning outcomes for advisors
  4. We will improve advising-related information availability and access
  5. We will look for opportunities for enhancing advisor collaboration

To get there we will need to

  1. Identify obstacles to these goals
  2. Build assessment criteria and processes
  3. Expand web and system services
  4. Enhance training for advisors
  5. Enhance communication to all of the campus, including to students, faculty, and administrators

These efforts are all part of what we call the “Quality Initiative,” which is a required part of the accreditation of the university by the Higher Learning Commission. But they are also an essential part of our long-term desire to meet the needs of our students, and to provide the kind of support that will help to achieve student success. All of our students, both continuing and incoming, will benefit immensely from this QI effort.

Expanding Academic Advisor Responsibilities

The Ohio State University recently convened a summit to discuss academic advising for undergraduate students. The Academic Advising Summit was proposed by President Michael Drake as part of his 2020 Vision, a setting of priorities for the University. The summit, held on March 23rd of this year, was attended by 150 members of the University community, including faculty, students. University leaders, advising administrators, academic resource personnel, and academic advisors. A summary of the summit organization and notes that were harvested in the various sessions of the convening can be viewed at http://ugeducation.osu.edu.

In preparation for the summit, session moderators were encouraged to gather and document “typical” responsibilities of an academic advisor. A conclusion from this documentation is that these responsibilities vary dramatically across academic units, and that in many (if not most) cases there has been a significant increase in “extra” responsibilities that advising staff have been asked by their departments, colleges, or advising units to attend to. Many of these additional responsibilities are outside of the regular expectations that usually accompany an advising position focused on contributing to the academic progress and success of the undergraduate student. In fact, many are responsibilities that are often given to department administrative or clerical staff.

I looked for examples of recent academic advisor position descriptions (one of the two below is from Education and Human Ecology, and the other from Business, and are fairly representative of the description for an entry level position), which I then follow with a list of responsibilities that many advisors have been asked to assume (thanks to JB and JL for gathering these… the names and affiliations have been changed to protect the innocent.) In some cases it could be argued that these responsibilities are all best satisfied by the academic advising staff in the unit. However, there are only so many hours in the day, and as the complexity of programs and completion objectives change, it is important to assure adequate time to fulfill the student-advisor interaction expectations, and to still provide time for professional development and training. Draw your own conclusions about the impact of what has come to be called “scope creep”. Please use the comment section to add your own observations to this list.

Position Descriptions

  1. Provide academic advising and career counseling to students enrolled in the College of Education and Human Ecology (EHE); convey curricular information and assist students in selecting courses consistent with their developing goals and interests; document and maintain notes of interactions with students; help students to understand university and college procedures; teach survey course as needed; participate in new student orientation sessions; assist with recruitment activities as needed; possess knowledge of all university and college offices related to student experience, from admissions to graduation, and make referrals as appropriate; attend staff meetings; participate on college and administrative committees as assigned. (occasional evening hours as needed)
  2. Provide academic counseling to undergraduate business students in Fisher College of Business; assist students in identifying academic and career goals commensurate with their aptitudes and interests; provide academic support services; teach business survey course; participate in orientation activities; provide academic counseling for students interested in the field of business; assist advisees in selection of courses consistent with their developing goals and interests; monitor academic progress and advise on matters affecting progress; refer advisees to other university offices as appropriate; assist students in transfer process of degree candidacy; refer students to other degree granting units where and when appropriate; participate in college administrative committees and manage and provide guidance to student organizations. (occasional evenings and weekends required)

Expanded Responsibility List

  • Conduct daily student academic advising sessions
  • Teach University Survey course
  • Recommend courses and schedule students
  • Make and manage referrals to other units or support resources
  • Input data to SIS and notes to AdvisingConnect
  • Conduct degree audits, and make corrections and adjustments
    • Expanded data requests and more complicated curricula have contributed to more time and effort needed for programming DARS and posting exceptions.
  • Petition and form review and input
    • Course enrollment
      • add a course
      • drop a course
      • special permission
      • over-capacity enrollment
      • audit a course
      • time conflict resolution
      • above 18 hours
      • Late add/drop
      • Section change
    • Freshman Forgiveness or Grade Foregiveness (huge increase in workload!)
    • EM credit test approval and paperwork
  • Course waitlist management
  • Process warning/probation/special action in SIS
  • Evaluate transfer credit, or coordinate the incoming credit review with faculty members.
    • some extra outreach for transfer students beyond the TCR (Transfer Credit Report)
    • evaluate which categories have been fulfilled
    • prioritize evaluation of general and special credits
    • discuss options to selective or closed majors
  • Review Gen Ed options, often across different majors
  • Create and distribute informational materials related to degree choices, career options, study habits, etc.
  • Participate in career-interest advising
  • Compliance checking for student athlete eligibility
  • Recruitment activities coordinated with UA/FYE
    • increased responsibility and presence/coordination at recruiting and admissions events
  • Complete various reports through eReports and the ODS
  • Commencement verification reports
    • track down grades for graduating seniors prior to Commencement
  • Manage new honors programs
    • New programs added
    • increase in honors and non-honors research advising support
  • Manage Scholars programs
    • Some Scholars programs have moved back into the colleges
    • coordinators and programs were previously housed/funded/partially funded through H&S
  • Build and manage the course schedule for all undergraduate department classes.
    • coordinating faculty preferences and restrictions
  • Serve on workgroups, such as EAB, QI, Retention and Success, …
  • Serve on faculty committees
    • often results in the advisor preparing any materials or data needed by the committee.
  • Conduct appointments that serve students who aren’t necessarily in the unit
  • Conduct and/or arrange workshops for students on probation
  • Manage department or college social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Youtube channel, …)
  • Advising website maintenance
  • Maintain undergrad email listserv
  • Student records cleanup (like the College Edits we get each term) and class and college ranking reports.
    • The class and college rank reports used to be produced in MARX, and the Registrar used to publish locator reports
      • generating the data
      • filtering it through a set of MS Excel operations
      • sorting out the results.
  • Drop for Non Payment warnings to students, and necessary follow-up
  • Professional admissions
  • Units survey their students and then ask advising personnel to compile the results (about classroom activities, curricula, advising, career experience)
  • Take incoming department phone calls
  • Accept and distribute all incoming mail (faculty, staff, grad students)
  • Accept, sign for, and notify recipients of incoming packages
  • Correspondence to undergraduate students
    • accept to major
    • scholarship awards
    • end-of-term academic status.
  • Maintain undergrad BuckID (LockAndKey) swipe access to building and computer labs
  • Manage applications to majors
  • Arrange information sessions for companies to meet with students for internships/careers
  • Organize senior exit interviews
  • Develop, send, and keep records of online exit questionnaire
  • Complete third-party surveys asking for data on students and demographics
  • Gather data as needed by department chair and faculty for presentations and reports, including accreditation
  • Advise student clubs
  • Award and oversee NFYS Scholarships
  • Organize Spring department banquet
  • Choose student award winners – plaques, programs, certificates
  • Organize department Open House
  • Organize college graduation events