Each advisor and organization leadership should openly discuss what kind of role the advisor should play with the organization. Some organizations have a pool of advisors to assist them with different aspects of the organization (financial, scholarship, programming, etc.) Some advisors have a high level of involvement with every aspect of the organization; others have a very limited role. It is up to the organization and the advisor to set the parameters of involvement.
With those thoughts in mind, the following list is a guideline to the “dos” of student organization advising:
- Assist officers with procedural matters. Be knowledgeable of the organization’s purpose and constitution and help the general membership adhere to them.
- Be knowledgeable about, and comply with federal, state and local laws and ordinances, as well as campus policies. Inform the group of pertinent policies.
- Empower students to take action and to take satisfaction in seeing the student organization succeed.
- Allow the group to succeed, and allow the group to fail. Learn when to speak and when not to speak. Remember to let the students make the decisions while you provide guidance and advice.
- Represent the group and its interests in staff and faculty meetings. Reach out to other advisors or departments for assistance.
- At the beginning of each academic year, develop clear expectations about the role of the advisor and your relationship to the organization.
- Read the group’s constitution.
- Get to know all of the members on an individual level. Learn what they want to get out of the organization. Maintain a complete officer and membership list with addresses and phone numbers (or know where to easily find one.
- Develop a strong working relationship with all the officers. Establish as needed meetings with individual members of the organization who need additional guidance in their officer or committee positions.
- Discuss concerns with officers in private and praise them in public.
- Meet with the officers and help them set goals. Encourage the club officers to communicate regularly with general club members.
- Orient new officers and members to the history and purpose of the group and help them to build upon it. Help members look toward the future by developing long-term goals and communicating those plans to future members.
- Help to resolve intragroup conflict.
- Enjoy the impact you can have on the students’ development. Help to develop the leadership potential within the group.
- Be visible and choose to attend group meetings and events. At the same time, know your limits. Establish an attendance schedule at organization meetings, which is mutually agreed upon by the advisor and the student organization.
- Know your group's limits. Help students find a balance between activities and their academic responsibilities.
- Keep your sense of humor and enthusiasm. Share creative suggestions and provide feedback for activities planned by students.
- Serve as a resource person. The advisor does not set the policy of the group, but should take an active part in its formulation through interaction with the members of the group. Since members and officers in any organization are ordinarily active only as long as they are students, the advisor can serve as a continuity factor for the group.
- Be consistent with your actions. Model good communication skills and listening skills. Develop good rapport.
- Be available in emergency situations.
- Head off situations that might give rise to poor public relations for the student group or University.
- Introduce new program ideas with educational flavor; point out new perspectives and directions to the group; and supply the knowledge and the insight of experience.
- Familiarize yourself with the group's financial structure, from where the treasury is derived (dues, fundraising), for what the money is used, how money is allocated, and how the money is budgeted; assist in budget development and execution.
- Learn the strengths and weaknesses of the group. Offer support when necessary; but also allow people to make their own mistakes and learn from them.
- Encourage feedback from club officers and other club members.
- Plan and encourage attendance at leadership training.
- Do things right and to do the right things. Guide and assist students in becoming responsible leaders.
- Provide support. Give the group autonomy but offer feedback, even when it is not solicited. Let the group work out its problems, but be prepared to step in when called upon to assist.
- Promote club events and fundraisers in the work place and in the advisor portal on Mountain Lion Connect.
- Encourage clubs to utilize Mountain Lion Connect and take advantage of all of the different functions.
Once again, this list is not meant to be totally inclusive or applicable to every organization, but it may serve as a guideline when determining the role that you will play.
It is also important to bear in mind that the job of advisor is not always an easy one. At times you may have to make a difficult decision or take an action which is not popular with the organization. It is important to realize that your first responsibility is to the health and well being of the students and to uphold campus and community policies and regulations. It may be necessary on occasion to use your authority to ensure that you meet these responsibilities.
- Be the leader or “run” the meeting.
- Say I told you so.
- Impose your own bias.
- Manipulate the group, impose, or force your opinions.
- Close communications.
- Tell the group what to do, or do the work of the president or other club officers.
- Take everything so seriously.
- Take ownership for the group, be the “parent,” or the smothering administrator.
- Miss group meetings or functions.
- Be afraid to let the group try new ideas.
- Become such an advocate that you lose an objective viewpoint.
- Allow the organization to become a one-person organization.
- Be laissez-faire or autocratic.
- Assume the group handles everything okay and doesn't need you.
- Assume the organization’s attitudes, needs and personalities will remain the same year to year.
Some information provided by Jim Mohr, Advisor for Student Organizations and Greek Life, Eastern Washington University; Office of Student Leadership Development Programs at East Carolina University; and Jon Kapell, Associate Director of Campus Activities, Drexell University; and adapted from the Wesley College Student Organizational Manual and Boland, Paul A., Student group advising in higher education, ACPA Student Personnel Series No. 8; Schreiber, V. and Pfleghaar, E. “Supervising vs. Advising”, UMR-ACUHO, 1999; and Adapted from Leader Bits, University of Kansas.
Some information adapted from Schreiber, V. and Pfleghaar, E. “Supervising vs. Advising”, UMR-ACUHO, 1999