There are over 115 Student Organization Advisors on our campus, and if I were to take a general poll asking each advisor what their relationship looks like with their student organization, I would wager I would come up with no less than 115 different approaches to advising a student organization. Those results would be due, most in part, to the lack of structure given to our advisors as they take on the role of student organization advisor. As a result, many of our faculty and staff members are not sure where to begin to develop their role as an advisor to a campus organization.
As new student organizations are created, the students are asked to follow a few required steps that help our office prepare them to operate successfully on our campus. One of those steps is selecting a fulltime faculty or staff member to serve as their advisor. Each organization has complete discretion as who that person should be. Once an advisor has been selected, it is up to the organization and the advisor to determine what their relationship will look like moving forward.
The role of the advisor can be a relationship ranging from an occasional signature on a campus form, to an advisor who is at every meeting, every event, and completely involved with the day to day workings of the organization they support. There is no one correct way to advise a student organization; it is truly an organic process, but the Office of Student Life is always going to encourage organization advisors to maintain some level of involvement with their organization. Hopefully something a little more than signing a campus form every now and then; but whatever direction the relationship goes, the hope is that it is student driven. I have included some suggestions of levels of involvement that may create an appropriate or inappropriate advisor/ organization relationship.
|Successful Advisor/ Organization Relationship||Unsuccessful Advisor/ Organization Relationship|
|Invest time in the organization||Dictate the direction of the organization|
|Set expectations and encourage respect||Make all the decisions for the organization|
|Balance and prioritize your responsibilities||Abuse student organization resources for personal benefit|
|Support member motivation||Fail to share important information with the organization|
|Serve as a resource on campus policies||Not support organization programs and events|
|Model appropriate behavior||Do all the work for the Organization|
Our office is in place to support the operations of student organizations. When we see groups that are being controlled by a heavy handed advisor, the result is typically a lack of continued motivation by the students in the group that leads to less retention of members, and then in most situations, a slow disappearance of the organization all together. An important piece of information to remember when advising student organizations is that they are just that: student organizations, created by students and managed by students, with the support of our faculty and staff.
As unique as the advisor role can be, so can be the amount of time any one person has on campus to support an organization. Balancing responsibilities is probably the hardest part of the whole process, but the support of an on-campus advisor for our organizations is one of the most valuable experiences our students have. The role of the advisor is essential to the continued growth of student involvement, and is defined and then continually refined by the mission and purpose of each organization. I encourage all of us as advisors to take a few moments of your valuable time to answer the question, “What is my role as an organization advisor?” it perhaps may save some time somewhere else in the semester, and help you to better support your organization.