What is an academic specialist?

The academic specialist is a non-tenure track faculty position that requires the terminal academic degree in the specialist’s field of study (a doctorate in the disciplines represented within the College of Science).  Academic specialists have a wide range of responsibilities which include teaching, advising, service and may include research with undergraduate students.  The specific breakdown of their responsibilities is determined at the department/program level by the Chair of their department based on the unique instructional needs of the academic unit. An academic specialist’s primary responsibility, however, is to provide quality undergraduate education.  Promotion is possible in the academic specialist track.  There are three ranks:  assistant, associate, and senior.  The position has the potential for multi-year appointments at the associate and senior levels.

Assistant Academic Specialist is the entry rank for the academic specialist position.  Appointments at this rank are for renewable 1-year terms.  After completing a minimum of three 1-year terms as an assistant academic specialist, an assistant academic specialist is eligible for consideration of promotion to the rank of associate academic specialist.  Associate Academic Specialists are appointed for renewable 3-year terms.  After a minimum of six years at rank of associate academic specialist, an associate academic specialist is eligible for consideration of promotion to senior academic specialist, which represents the highest rank in the academic specialist faculty track.  Senior academic specialists are appointed for renewable 3-year terms.  New academic specialists at any rank are appointed for renewable 1-year terms for the first 3 years.  After completing a minimum of three 1-year terms, the requirements for promotion for that rank will become applicable.  The rights and responsibilities of academic specialists are outlined in the Faculty Handbook available on the Faculty Senate’s website.

How is the academic specialist position different from other faculty positions?

First, the academic specialist is a non-tenure track eligible position.  It is different from the non-tenure track instructional faculty position called lecturer in that the academic specialist position includes advising and other types of service.  Professional development is encouraged and expected from Academic Specialists.  In some cases, this may involve the supervision of undergraduates involved in research if not in conflict with other department practices.

What is the evaluation procedure for an academic specialist?

Academic specialists are evaluated annually as are all faculty at the department/program level by the department and its chair following the process developed and approved by the department’s faculty and as outlined in each department/program’s merit review guidelines.  A written summary of the annual evaluation is provided to the academic specialist and is maintained in the academic specialist’s personnel file as this document is used in the dossier required for consideration of promotion.

What is the promotion process for this position?

At the recommendation of the Chair, an academic specialist who has met the eligibility requirements may be brought forward for consideration of promotion. Those who are not recommended will be provided the opportunity to make an appeal to the Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs. Working with the Chair of their department, those academic specialists recommended for promotion will prepare a written portfolio. Promotion is based on meritorious performance, not time spent at the current rank. The content and format for the dossier are based on the “Model Dossier,” which is available on the website for the Office of the Provost, with adaptations appropriate to the academic specialist’s specific job responsibilities. Criteria used in the evaluation of academic specialists include quality teaching, service, which includes advising, and professional development which may include scholarship, if this is a required component of the academic specialist’s duties.

View: College of Science Preparation and Format of the Academic Specialist Promotion

Since academic specialists are non-tenure track, how secure are their jobs?

Academic Specialists are valued members of Northeastern’s faculty whose continuing professional development is key to the success of our academic programs.  Therefore, academic specialist appointments are renewable, contingent upon several factors in the sole discretion of the University, including satisfactory performance and unit and University need.  Academic specialists may be reappointed consistent with the terms appropriate to their rank if they are meeting the expectations for their position, assuming that their department/program has a continuing need for the academic specialist’s services and that there is funding to support the appointment in the department by the College.  Nonreappointment or dismissal of an academic specialist can occur when the academic specialist fails to perform his/her duties adequately or participates in academic or professional misconduct. More information on the rights and responsibilities of academic specialists can be found in the Faculty Handbook, which is available on the Faculty Senate’s website.

How does a negative decision on an application for consideration of promotion affect an academic specialist?

A negative decision has no repercussion beyond the fact that the academic specialist will not be promoted and consequently will remain at his/her current rank.  A negative decision on an application for consideration of promotion neither precludes the academic specialist’s being considered for continued appointment at his/her current rank nor precludes an academic specialist from applying for promotion consideration at a future date.

Created by: Gail Begley, Heather Littlefield, Patricia Mabrouk, Daniel Quinn