Roles and Responsibilities of Undergraduate Liaisons & Program Coordinators
As per the collective agreement, among the duties and responsibilities of all Academic Staff Members (ASMs) is to “accept reasonable responsibility for academic advising and consulting with students” and “accepting a fair and equitable share of advising duties.” Faculty members who are appointed by the Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences as Undergraduate Liaison (Honours/Major/Minor) or Program Coordinator (Diploma/Certificate) have a special responsibility to continually communicate and collaborate with others concerning University Calendar and program regulations.
Only ASMs can reasonably attend to curriculum and other specialized program matters. Therefore Liaisons and Coordinators, in consultation with their academic unit Head and others as appropriate, should be concerned with resolving complex matters that someone outside of the academic unit cannot address. Routine matters should be carefully redirected to full-time staff advisors as appropriate.
Student Responsibility and Academic Advising
The following appears in the Humanities and Social Sciences section of the University Calendar:
9.1 Student Responsibility and Academic Advice
Students are responsible for following regulations as stipulated in the University Calendar in all respects. In accordance with University Regulations, Academic Advising, the ability to make sound academic decisions requires access to sound academic advice. Information in the University Calendar and in an academic degree audit prevails over any other advice provided by any representative of Memorial University of Newfoundland.
Students may seek guidance about academic programming from a variety of sources. Written materials include official documents such as the University Calendar, degree audits and program forms; support materials such as the Guide to First Year or program brochures; university and program webpages; and online tools such as the Faculty’s degree maps. This is supplemented with interactions with a variety of University employees, as follows.
Role of Full-time Advisors for Undergraduate Students (staff positions)
In order to deliver consistent advice to students in a holistic manner that considers all University regulations and support services, Memorial University and the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences employ full-time non-academic staff members to handle most routine enquiries about academic programs of study. These advisors actively collaborate with each other, and operate simultaneously but not necessarily in tandem with faculty members who have specialized program expertise. Generally speaking, and subject to change, their roles are understood to entail the following:
- Academic Advising Centre staff offer guidance to prospective students, first year students (below 30 credit hours), undeclared students and those transitioning between programs.
- Full-time advisors employed by the Office of the Dean offer guidance to students who have declared a program in the Humanities and Social Sciences, with emphasis on students who have completed 30 to 60 credit hours. They also provide assistance with course selection for students with more than 60 credit hours based on audit reports.
- Office of the Registrar staff offer guidance to students who have completed 60+ credit hours. For instance, an Assistant Registrar is primarily responsible for advising students on their academic progress and on the overall components of degrees for the purpose of graduation, based on their expertise in understanding the University Calendar, ensuring that academic policies and procedures are enforced and maintained. This includes preparing an academic degree audit.
Notwithstanding the above, a department is often the first point of contact for a student, and full-time advisors external to the academic unit may not be familiar with program or course details. Conversely, the Office of the Registrar, the Academic Advising Centre, the Dean’s Office, full-time advisors and students depend on academic units for timely and appropriate revisions to curriculum.
Role of Undergraduate Liaisons and Program Coordinators (faculty positions)
The Dean’s Office offers remuneration to a designated Academic Staff member for each undergraduate program to help ensure that programming is maintained. These individuals bear special responsibility for the program’s smooth operations. Faculty members may also offer program-specific advice and other guidance to students, and are generally expected to be available to full-time advisors. Other members of an academic unit, including the Head of Department, are not normally expected to advise students about course selection.
The primary responsibility of an Undergraduate Liaison or a Program Coordinator is to deal with complex matters with respect to undergraduate recruitment, retention, curriculum and programming that cannot reasonably be handled by a full-time staff advisor, or by someone who is not a subject specialist. Liaisons and Coordinators have specific knowledge of a program and its subject matter. However, they may lack awareness of overall components of degree programs, university regulations and other administrative matters that full-time advisors are knowledgeable about.
Expected duties of Liaisons and Coordinators normally include:
- encouraging the academic unit to offer a strong undergraduate curriculum and to maintain an up- to-date University Calendar entry for the relevant program requirements and courses, which may involve coordinating efforts with the unit’s curriculum and planning committee if one exists;
- being available to answer questions from the Registrar’s Office, full-time advisors, the department Head and the Dean’s Office, promptly;
- consulting the Assistant Registrar and Associate Dean regarding processes of curriculum reform;
- offering guidance to the department Head about the teaching plan, when requested;
- supporting the regularization of special topics courses and formalizing their calendar descriptions;
- holding office hours to meet with students who require specialized information (e.g., Honours students) or who have extraordinary circumstances – students with routine enquiries should not normally meet with a Liaison or Coordinator in the first instance but rather should be referred to full-time staff advisors and/or to information available online;
- encouraging students to declare a program of study by informing them that they can do so by sending an email from their @MUN email account with their student number and chosen program (e.g., Major, Minor, Diploma, Certificate) to the Registrar’s Office at firstname.lastname@example.org
- responding to student emails in a reasonable timeframe;
- representing the department at student-focused events organized by the Faculty or University;
- nominating undergraduate students for scholarships and awards (in consultation with the Head) and helping to make students aware of field-specific opportunities for scholarship and awards;
- exploring options to create new undergraduate programs;
- building a sense of community among undergraduate students who have declared the program of study (e.g., coordinating meet and greets at the start of a semester);
- commenting on calendar change proposals prepared by members of another academic unit, if invited to do so;
- proofing calendar change proposals before they are submitted to the Office of the Dean; and
- fulfilling other required responsibilities varying by program, in consultation with the academic unit Head and/or the Dean’s Office. For example, acting on a request from the Dean’s Office to provide information about career paths, which will be provided to staff advisors and used online.
Coordinators are expected to take the initiative to promote the diploma or certificate program to a wide audience, including people situated outside the local area and lifelong learners. For instance this might involve working with the Faculty’s communications advisor and its computing specialist to cultivate a dynamic online presence (e.g., website, social media).
Questions that full-time non-academic advisors might direct to a Liaison or Coordinator, and which might involve communicating with the Head of the academic unit, include:
- what semester is a course likely to be offered;
- can one course be substituted for another (requires approval by unit Head and CUGS);
- will the student be able to complete their degree by a given semester;
- what are the ideal courses for a student when choice is available within the program regulations;
- can information be provided about a field school program or an exchange program;
- is a student a good candidate for an Honours program; and
- what undergraduate preparation is required for a graduate program.
After fulfilling these responsibilities, an Undergraduate Liaison or Program Coordinator may choose to:
- be a member of a Faculty-level undergraduate or curriculum committee, such as the Committee on Undergraduate Studies (CUGS) or the Academic Planning Committee (APC), and/or be a member of University-level undergraduate committee such as the Senate Committee on Undergraduate Studies (SCUGS), with the understanding that other members of the academic unit are similarly encouraged to consider such administrative service;
- be a member of departmental undergraduate curriculum committee or equivalent;
- hold office hours to meet with students not registered in their courses for the purposes of discussing routine matters;
- schedule appointments to meet with students seeking advice on routine matters;
- coordinate information sessions for students; and/or
- generally provide a variety of career advising and counselling for students as appropriate.
Given the complexity of career and personal counselling, and related matters, an Undergraduate Liaison or Program Coordinator is encouraged to direct students to applicable supports when appropriate.
Process for Appointing Undergraduate Liaisons and Program Coordinators
The appointment of Undergraduate Liaisons and Program Coordinators are made by the Dean, normally after considering a recommendation from the academic unit Head, following collegial consultation with members of the academic unit. A principle of administrative rotation is generally observed, which may periodically involve a call for expressions of interest issued by the Office of the Dean. A new tenure-track hire in the first year of the position, an ASM holding a contractual position, and a faculty member on sabbatical or administrative leave is not normally appointed to these positions. The appointments typically apply for the entirety of an academic year.
A faculty member is discouraged from holding two administrative appointments simultaneously. An exception is when the number of students enrolled in the program is small and curriculum/promotion activities can reasonably be handled by a single individual. As well, in the event that an Undergraduate Liaison or Program Coordinator cannot be located in an administrative unit, the added administrative responsibility shall normally fall to the Head.
Duration of the Appointment
Appointments are for the entirety of the academic year (September 1 to August 31). In the event of resignation prior to the end of the appointment, appropriate notice should be given to the Head, so that the Head may identify another member of the department to serve on an interim basis. The interim appointment must be approved by the Dean.
Contact Information for Students
Faculty, department and program webpages are encouraged to identify the Academic Advising Centre, the Office of the Registrar and the Office of the Dean’s full-time staff advisors the first point of contact for students who have routine enquiries about their program of study, degree requirements and academic advice. Undergraduate Liaisons and Program Coordinators should also be identified.
*Note: The Undergraduate Liaison was known as Undergraduate Advisor. Effective September 2016, the revised title and description are being introduced to clarify roles and responsibilities.
Dr. Lynne Phillips, Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences
September 14, 2016