Student Development Specialist
The Student Development Specialist is responsible for advising and teaching the first-year seminar to students in the General Studies Program, a highly supportive academic program serving approximately 110 selected first-year students annually.
The Specialist teaches three to four, or as necessary, sections of the 1-credit General Studies first-year seminar, GENS 1101, in the fall semester and three to four, or as necessary, sections of GENS 1102, in the spring semester. The Specialist guides students as they complete the requirements of the General Studies Program and transition into a college or into the Explore Program for Undeclared Students, ideally at the end of their second semester.
The Specialist plays a key role in supporting the University’s mission of providing opportunities for students with potential to be successfully enrolled and retained at Northeastern University.
Under the supervision of the General Studies Director, the Student Development Specialist advises students in his/her/their first year seminars, as well as those students who continue in the program for a third, and very occasionally, a fourth semester. Advising is done in keeping with developmental learning strategies for first-year university students.
The approach is developmental and holistic, focusing on the “whole student.” Additionally, Specialists model/encourage students to develop their ability to self-advocate and problem-solve. The GSP Student Development Specialist works closely with the students to ensure that they achieve the academic success necessary to clear the GSP and transition into an appropriate destination college or the Explore Program for Undeclared Students. In order to support the University’s mission to retain students, Specialists also serve as “persistence specialists” for those students who struggle academically and whom would benefit from additional time and attention.
Specialists participate in planning and executing a variety of GSP programming, e.g., coordinating peer mentoring, developing curriculum and activities for the first-year seminars, and connecting students with appropriate major exploration activities. Administrative duties associated with monitoring academic progress and sophomore matriculation are also a required piece of the Specialist’s job.
Problems and Unique Challenges
The Specialist position requires both strong teaching (preferably in the field of writing/English) and advising skills. The GSP requires working with students from diverse backgrounds. The population includes student-athletes, international students, first-generation college students, and military veterans. Because the GSP students have a wide range of learning styles, abilities and expectations, Specialists must be flexible, nimble, and patient. While the Specialist is the primary advisor to the GSP students, significant numbers of students work with an additional advisor/office, including the Learning Disability Resource Center, Student Athlete Support Services, or the Opportunity Scholarship Programs.
Specialists need to be in close communication with these additional partners and be aware of policies that may impact students. There is also a higher level of parent involvement in this program. A number of students are children of NU employees, children with parents living outside of the United States, or children of potential “friends” of the University.
The Student Development Specialist needs to be extremely tactful and patient in dealing with students, as well as their parents, always keeping in mind the ultimate goal of helping students successfully complete the program in accordance with University standards. The Specialist also needs to draw on resources and offices from across the University, including: college advisors, the Disability Resource Center, Student Athletic Support Services, Advancement, Peer Tutoring, Career Design, etc., in order to provide the best quality advising and guidance to the students. GSP students may matriculate to any one of the seven NU colleges, so Specialists must be knowledgeable of current curriculum and change of major (entry) requirements across the University. They must also establish contacts within the colleges to gain access to restricted courses, and to ensure smooth transitions for students into the majors.