The Role of the Advisor
Clearly, as explained in the Student Senate Constitution, advisors are required in order to receive funding. But what do they do? The role of the advisor may or may not be spelled out in the organization’s constitution, and it does vary from organization to organization. But there are some traits and practices which we can identify that assist a faculty or staff member to successfully act as a group’s advisor.
The advisor first and foremost is an educator who acts in accordance with the goals, values and mission of the College. Advisors must have knowledge and skills which enable them to empower students within the group they advise. Advisors must also role model ethical behavior and, when appropriate, pro-vide direction to organizations which is consistent with College policy.
Advising a student organization can be a rewarding experience, but can also be nerve-wracking. Enthusiastic new advisors can easily fall into the trap of over-advising, or micromanaging, a student group. Conversely, well-meaning advisors can adopt a “hands-off” attitude which can significantly lower the morale and productivity of a student group. As advisors, we often search for balance: we struggle to balance the demands of our “job” with the demands of this “outside” influence. It is our hope that this manual will help advisors in this quest for balance and will be a useful resource for all advisors and the clubs and organizations that they advise.
The Basic Roles of an Advisor are to:
- Provide leadership development and skills training.
- Serve as a resource on policies, procedure, contacts, etc.
- Serve as troubleshooters.
- Provide access to internal and external networks.
- Ask questions that will better prepare students.
- Channel information.
- Monitor expenditures, policies, and goals.
- Provide continuity from year to year.
- Provide a sense of organizational history.
- Provide for smoother leadership transition.
In any advisee/advisor relationship, expectations will flow two ways. Advisors and student leaders must articulate their expectations of each other. Under-standing and respect are necessary if they are to build a solid base for communicating with each other and work together as a team. Here are some basic assumptions that exist universally in student organizations.
What a student leader expects of an advisor:
- The advisor assists the leader/organization in formulating long-range goals and in planning and initiating short term projects.
- The advisor is a resource person, and evaluates projects, performance and progress.
- The advisor offers guidance by reviewing goals, objectives, and the progress of the organization.
- The advisor assists the student leader with college procedural matters.
- The advisor suggests ways in which the organization may be strengthened or improved.
- The advisor may have access to internal and external networks and information which may be helpful to student groups.
- The advisor represents the organization and its interests in staff and other College meetings.
- The advisor is able to make suggestions that will permit the student leader to improve his or her leadership skills.
- The advisor is accessible, and is available whenever emergency situations/problems arise.
- The advisor should be willing to be wrong and be open to criticism and evaluation.
- The advisor will be willing to allow the group to act on its own and to make mistakes.
- The advisor will encourage the group to maintain records.
- The advisor will encourage the division of labor among group members to sustain member interest.
- The advisor will be willing to assist in role negotiation for each group member.
What an advisor may expect of a student leader:
- The leader keeps the advisor informed as to all organizational activities, meetings, agendas and topics under discussion within committees or the organization at large.
- The student leader meets regularly with the advisor and discusses plans and problems.
- The student leader acts in the best interests of the organization at all times.
- The student leader represents the organization and its interests both to other students and to the College in meetings and at events.
- The student leader assists other students in the organization to develop skills and to provide activities which will significantly enhance the College environment.
- The student leader will be willing to share responsibility with other group members.
- The student leader (or someone assigned by the leader) will document group activities.
- The student leader will help create the group identity.
- Obviously, the advisor role is varied and complex. However, there are several tips that are helpful in establishing a good working relationship with the group:
- Learn as much about the group as you can. Get to know the organization’s purpose, how it was formed, and the organization’s place in the campus culture.
- Get to know the leader and let the leader get to know you. Help that person understand both your roles as an advisor and their roles as a leader. Develop his/her confidence in you.
- Meet with the leader before group meetings begin and discuss the agendas and any current issues or concerns.
- In early meetings, encourage the leader to help the group define its mission and its working procedures. It is important for the group to see the big picture of what it is trying to accomplish.
- Observe the leader with the group. How does he/she function in the group? What type of personality problems does the group have? What are the strengths and weaknesses of its various members as well as its leader? Find out what the leader has observed about this area, comment on strengths you have seen, and offer suggestions on weaknesses you may have noticed.
- Meet regularly with the leader and be available for consultation when something occurs that she/he might need help with outside the regularly scheduled meetings.