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The Role of the Advisor


The Role of the Advisor

What is the Role of an Advisor?
Advisors are first and foremost educators. In this role you will provide information, present alternative, 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.

Planning Assistance
The advisor will advise students in planning projects, competitions, 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 ordering the process, involving other members or logistical considerations. They may not know the questions to ask.

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 group with problem solving, decision-making, and 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.

Resource Guidance/Policy Interpretation
Advisors serve as liaisons between the university and the organization by providing information regarding university procedures and guidelines and making appropriate contacts. It is not the responsibility of the advisor to find monetary resources but students frequently need some guidance in deciding where to start.

Many organization need assistance in transitioning officers. As advisor you can help by offering to meet with the out-going and in-coming officers to discuss expectations and re-cap the previous term of office. Your presence as facilitator will guide the students to exchange needed information.

Suggested Tasks for Advisors

  • Create opportunities for the educational and personal development of students.
  • Have knowledge of all plans and activities of the group.
  • Discourage domination of the group by any individual or small groups.
  • Assist in the orientation of new officers.
  • Be available to meet with members of the organization at their regular meetings and events sponsored by the group.
  • Provide guidance in the planning and evaluation of programs.
  • Assist the group in setting realistic goals and objectives for the academic year.
  • Promote closer involvement between students, faculty and staff.
  • Assist the group in abiding by all University policies, procedures, and regulations.
  • Be familiar with the Student Organization section of the student handbook as well as the constitution and by-laws of Student Association Senate and the specific organization by-laws.

Techniques of Advising
Understanding what a student officer expects of an advisor and what an advisor may expect of a student officer may enable one to more effectively fulfill the role of an advisor. It is strongly suggested that prior to the first meeting of the year advisors should meet with the student leaders to determine mutual expectations. Listed here are guidelines that may be helpful in determining these expectations.

What a Student Officer May Expect of an Advisor:
  • Assist the group in formulating long-range goals and in planning and initiating short-term projects.
  • Assistance with University procedural matters.
  • Suggestions of ways the group meetings can be improved.
  • Assist in evaluating group projects, performance, and progress.
  • Make suggestions that will permit the officers to improve leadership skills.
What an Advisor may Expect of a Student Officer
  • Keep advisor informed of all organizational activities, meeting times, locations, and agendas.
  • Provide advisor with minutes of all meetings.
  • Meet regularly with advisor and use him/her as a sounding board for discussing plans and problems.

Different Approaches to Advising
The most important aspect of advising is to remember that one’s main role is just that- to advise. The suggestions listed below are meant to help the advisor work more effectively with the student organization in the role of an advisor.

  • Point out issues relating to ideas presented by the officer without imposing bias.
  • If an idea is inappropriate, the advisor should encourage the students to consider other alternatives.
  • Informal meetings are conductive to open and worthwhile discussion.
  • f the officer asks “What should we do?” or “What do you think?” the question should be rephrased and handed back. The advisor is there to assist the offer but not to solve the problems for the student.
  • The advisor may wish to periodically evaluate the student in their effectiveness as an officer.
  • The advisor may feel comfortable participating in group discussions when the members have learned to recognize and accept the advisor’s role as a co-worker whose opinions are respected for their value. This participation should not inhibit the prerogatives of anyone else.

The Role of the Advisor
Listed below are some expectations student leaders have of their advisor. The list is designed to help advisors and student officers arrive at a clear and mutually agreed upon role of the advisor in club or organization affairs.

  • Attend all general and executive committee meetings
  • Call meetings of the executive committee when they believe it is necessary
  • Explain University policy
  • Meet with the President/Chairperson prior to all meeting
  • Speak up during discussion when they have relevant information
  • Take an active part in formulating the goals of the group
  • Initiate ideas for discussion when they believe they will help the group
  • Check all official correspondence before it is sent and keep a copy on file
  • Be custodian of all group paraphernalia, records, etc., during the summer and between change over of officers
  • Keep official files in office
  • Inform the group of infractions of their constitution and bylaws
  • Keep the group aware of its stated objectives when planning events
  • Veto a decision when it violates a stated object, constitution, bylaws, or University policy
  • Mediate interpersonal conflicts that arise.
  • State what their advisor responsibilities are, or as they see them, at the first meeting of the year
  • Let the group work out its problems, including making mistakes and “doing it the hard way”
  • Insist on an evaluation of each activity by those students responsible for planning it
  • Take the initiative in creating teamwork and cooperation among the officers
  • Let the group thrive or decline on its merits; do not interfere unless requested to do so
  • Represent the group in any conflicts with members of University staff
  • Be familiar with University facilities, services and procedures which affect group activities
  • Take an active part in the orderly transition of responsibilities between old and new officers at the end of year
  • Approve all candidates for office in terms of what the constitution and by-laws stipulate
  • Cancel any activities that may violate policy or are poorly planned
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Last updated: 5/10/12