It is the goal of the contemporary college to create an environment that will promote the education of the whole student -- body, mind, and spirit. Towards that end, a university offers many different vehicles for that learning through classroom instruction, laboratories, residence halls, athletics, intramurals, and student organizations. The faculty/staff teaches in many different settings in and outside of the classroom.
Advising a student organization provides a unique opportunity to facilitate the growth of students through their organizational involvement. But this kind of teaching requires the advisor to draw on different skills. The advisor to a student organization calls upon knowledge of group and individual behavior and knowledge of the institution to help the members accomplish the tasks of their organization.
Describe an advisor . . .
Advisors are first and foremost educators. In this role you will provide information, present alternatives, encourage responsibility, support creativity, and challenge students to develop as leaders. In this role an advisor walks a fine line between leading the organization and giving the organization the strength to lead itself. Advisors should not assume a role as a leader, officer, or voting member within the student organization. The various "hats" of an advisor can be placed into four categories: planning assistance, leadership skill development, resource guidance/policy interpretation, and transition.
A Program Planning Assistant
The advisor will advise students in planning projects, events, or programs for the organization. This may include planning a meeting or social, fundraising drive, community service event, or sports event. Students often need assistance in the process, involving other members or logistical considerations. They may not know the questions to ask.
A Role Model / Mentor in Leadership Skill Development
Student leaders come into their positions with various levels of ability. If the advisor develops a relationship of trust the student will benefit from guidance in areas such as assertiveness, budgeting, time management as well as helping the club with problem solving, decision-making, cohesiveness. The advisor may work directly with officers in developing individual skills like public speaking and letter writing, or officers may ask him or her to assist in ways to increase motivation. An advisor can definitely play a large role in a student’s personal and leadership development.
A Resource Guide / Policy Interpretator
Advisors serve as liaisons between the college and the organization by providing information regarding college procedures and guidelines and making appropriate contacts. It is the advisors responsibility to keep updated with current policies and procedures. Student Programs facilitates this process by holding regularly scheduled training.
A History Buff . . . A Consistent and Reliable Figure
An advisor adds to the continuity of the group as members graduate. Advisors can provide the consistency and communicate the goals, legacy and history to future generations of members. An advisor can also help by offering to meet with the out-going and in-coming officers to discuss expectations and re-cap the previous term of office.
The advisor must take an active role, rendering advice and counsel as circumstances dictate.
The advisor should be aware of all plans and activities of the group and inform the group of institutional policies that may affect these plans.
The advisor should see that the group and its officers know where policies are listed, what the policies are, why they exist, and the channels to be followed for changes, revisions, or exceptions to policies.
The advisor should discourage dominance of the group by any one individual and should encourage quieter students to take initiative. Eager leaders often steal the limelight more often than necessary. This can lead to resentment by some or pressure others into silencing themselves. The advisor can help provide a balance by pointing out such concerns in a one-on-one setting with the students or the organization leadership.
The advisor may need to refer students to counseling. Invariably, during interaction with the group’s members, the advisor will encounter students with personal problems. The sympathetic interest in an individual student on the part of an advisor is a traditional role of the college teacher and one that has a long proud history in higher education. The counseling role might require individual consultation on a personal level or referral to the student counseling service.
The advisor should provide continuity within the group and should be familiar with the group’s history and constitution. Membership turnover in student organizations is high and often the only link with the immediate past is the advisor. The advisor can steer group members clear of mistakes and help them avoid the proverbial reinventing of the wheel. Serving as the group’s memory and continuity link, the advisor can help new officers build on history and develop long term plans for the future of the organization.
The advisor should offer ideas for projects and events. The advisor will perform his/her greatest service by providing opportunities for the students to exercise initiative and judgment and to enjoy a proper measure of autonomy in self-directed social, educational, recreational, cultural, and spiritual activities. He or she should not dominate the program planning process. However, advisors should ensure that the group understands a program’s complexity and has discussed the necessary steps that need to take place in order for the program to be successful. The advisor should remember that it is the task of the active members to operate the organization. Removing this responsibility from the members would deprive them of an important educational experience.
The advisor should assist the group in evaluation. This includes evaluating individual programs as well as doing a complete evaluation at the end of the academic year. The advisor must be willing to give constructive criticism when necessary and offer words of praise for work well done.
Responsibilities to Individual Group Members
The advisor should help the students find balance between their academics and their co-curricular activities. Student leaders often have the tendency to burn the candle at both ends and will overextend themselves if not held in check. The advisor has a unique opportunity to remind students of their academic obligations and personal needs.
The advisor should encourage each individual to participate in and plan group events. Some students fade into background if not effectively encouraged. Being a member of a student group can provide students with valuable interpersonal and/or leadership skills, but these will not develop if the student is not involved.
The advisor should encourage students to accept responsibility for specific roles within the group. The advisor should help them realize the importance of these roles. From officer positions to committee members, each student should feel invested in and accountable for their specific role.
Responsibility to the University
The advisor should work with the group, but not direct its activities. Although the advisor’s role is not regulatory or disciplinary, the advisor has a responsibility to both the institution and the organization to keep their best interests in mind. At times, the advisor may need to remind the organization of institutional policies so that violations do not occur. The advisor may also work with the organization’s officers to establish and maintain internal group standards and regulations for conduct.
Occasionally, an advisor can help an organization during an emergency. Although this type of intervention is rarely necessary, the advisor’s good judgment can be the saving grace in the event of mishaps, internal conflict, or personal crisis. Assisting the group’s president as a spokesperson or serving as the main contact for the University can help in these cases.
Examples of what the University expects of advisors:
The role of advisor is a volunteer position. The advisor will uphold the best interests of the university and organization. The advisor will work with the organization to ensure the organization takes reasonable precaution in its activities in order that policies and laws not be violated, and the welfare of individuals are not endangered. Participation in the organization to the fullest extent without actually making decisions or setting policies for the organization.
Attendance at annual funding workshops when requested.
The advisor is expected to be present during activities of the student organization when necessary as a resource for the students and to act in the event of an incident. If the advisor is the "advisor in attendance" of an event, he/she is expected to be present for the entire event.
Please do not accept the position of advisor or continue to serve as an advisor if you are not prepared to fulfill the expectations of such.
• Give an organization undivided attention
• Direct energy to the organization
• Provide consistency
• Gets to know and fully understand the organization’s dynamics, executive board, and membership
• Share workload for advising and attend events as needed
• Double the brainpower and feedback opportunities
• Provide varied perspectives
• Can work specifically with members of leadership or particular programs
Retaining An Advisor Over the Years
• Provides continuity and stability
• More easily provide advice on history of organizational affairs
• Establishing rapport is generally easier when the organization has observed the advisor’s performance over a period of time
• This allows more faculty or staff members to have the opportunity to serve as advisors
• Allows for some sharing of the advising load
• A new viewpoint, a fresh and perhaps more creative approach is possible with new advisors.
• There is also the possibility that some members of an organization know faculty or staff members that they would like to have involved with their organization.
Advisors Impact Students’ Lives . . .
Advising provides the opportunity to contribute to the growth and development of students. As an advisor, you have the opportunity to work with students within the organization as they learn. The following are a few more reasons why faculty and staff members enjoy serving as a student organization advisor.
Advisors Assist Student Organizations . . .
In addition to the above listed roles and responsibilities, an advisor can assist an organization in many ways:
Maintenance functions: the advisor can help maintain the existence of the student organization by providing continuity with past history and traditions. Such activities may include consulting on College policy, serving as a role model, arbitrating group conflicts, and keeping files on past organizational functions. The advisor might wish to store all prior and present documents in their office to ensure proper transition from year to year.
Group growth function: the advisor can improve the operation and effectiveness of the group and help it progress toward its goals. Such activities might include: teaching the techniques of good leadership and fellowship, coaching the officers in the principles of good organizational and administrative practice, developing self-discipline and responsibility among members, teaching the elements of effective group operation, developing plans and procedures for action, keeping the group focused on its goals, and stimulating or even initiating activities and programs.
Program content function: the advisor can question the educational rationale for the organization’s existence and lead its members into activities that will contribute to their intellectual and social development. Such activities might include introducing new program ideas, helping group members practice skills and concepts learned in the classroom, pointing out new perspectives and directions, and supplying expert knowledge and insights.
Networking Opportunities: the advisor can help provide opportunities for organization members to interact with different people in their field of interest, helping them to develop new contacts for possible future careers. Such opportunities to network might include identifying guest speakers, field trips or site visits, or attending conferences related to their area of interest.
Every student organization will differ and may require a different approach by the advisor. Using the following information will serve as a beginning point.
In the beginning of the advising relationship, agree on clear expectations about the role of the advisor and the role of the student organization. Discuss philosophies and reach a consensus.
Read the constitution of the group, get to know the members, attend events, and generally make yourself seen so that they know who you are.
Assist in the establishment of responsibilities for each officer and member.
Develop a strong relationship with the president or chairperson and other officers. This is essential because these students will be your main contact with the group.
Discuss concerns with an officer’s performance in a one-on-one setting. Whenever someone does something extremely well, be sure to let others know.
Maintain a sense of humor!
Be honest and open with all communication. The students need to feel that you are just in your dealings with them.
Help them see alternatives and provide an outside perspective.
Realize that you have the power of persuasion, but use this judiciously. The students sometimes need to learn how to fail.
Remember: praise in public, criticize in private.
Find a balance between being the strict naysayer and the laissez-faire friend.
The students must feel that you are supportive of them and yet that you will hold them accountable.
Helpful Guidelines for Advisors
Tools to "keep in the know":
The organization is planning a questionable event
The difficulties inherent in the plan should be pointed out and other ideas suggested. The advisor may request that the group obtain the opinion of the individuals or groups affected by the action. A meeting may be set up with the appropriate members of the Office of Student Involvement staff to clarify any questions.
You are no longer comfortable being the advisor of the organization
Explain to the executive officers of the organizations that you are no longer comfortable being the advisor of the organization. Give them a reasonable amount of time to find a new advisor. When changes are made, the office of Office of Student Involvement must be notified.
You sense major problems within the organization
Meet with the officers and discuss your observations. Brainstorm solutions and get a plan of action. Members of the Office of Student Involvement staff are willing to help mediate or seek solutions.
You find out your organization is in violation of university policies and/or federal, state or local laws
Advisors have a responsibility to bring violations to the proper governing board, i.e. Student Affairs office, Office of Student Involvement , Campus Security, etc