Support for Student Organization Advisors
The Advisor's Role
Every registered student organization at Oklahoma State University is required to have an advisor who is a current faculty, staff member or someone closely associated with the University. Advisors serve as mentors, counselors, allies, liaisons, and friends. They play key roles in the development and continuation of student organizations both to the students as individuals and to the organization as a whole.
- Why should I become an advisor?
Advising provides the opportunity to contribute to the growth and development of students. Student organizations provide opportunities for students to learn outside of the classroom and to expand their leadership skills. As an advisor, you will have a central part in this process. Not only will you make a difference in students’ lives, but you will also receive the satisfaction of watching an organization grow and become successful.
- Why does the organization need an advisor?
Advisors maintain continuity within the organization from year to year, providing a sense of history for your organization. Advisors act as advocates for students, and they can also provide helpful resources and knowledge. Student organizations have the opportunity to choose their own advisor, so they should choose someone with whom they will enjoy working.
Understanding Your Role as an Advisor
- To advise, not lead
The advisor must serve as a resource in your area of expertise, introduce new program ideas in line with the organization’s mission and goals, and challenge the students to meet high standards and expectations for performance. Advisors offer suggestions about the best course of action but are not voting members of the organization.
- To caution when necessary
The advisor should alert the group when they feel they are about to make a decision before all known facts are gathered or when the group appears to be functioning outside the boundaries established within their constitutions, by the university or legally.
- To function as a liason
There are times during fact gathering or after a decision is made that the group will need the assistance of an advisor in making appropriate contact with school officials, faculty, etc.
What to Do as an Advisor
- Set expectations
- Outlining your expectations for your offices and vice versa helps avoid disappointment and define your personal and professional standards.
- Outline how to hold each other accountable for these expectations
- Review them regularly
- Agree on on modes of communication
Include how best to reach one another, contact information to be shared, and how and when to meet
- Agree on time committment
Determine how much time you can allot to your organization
- Allow the group to succeed and fail
Give students a chance to work through problems without interference. When they succeed, it will encourage them to be involved in other activities; when they fail, they will learn valuable lessons in planning and responsibility.
- Know your limits as an advisor
You are an advisor, not a member of the organization. Not everything is your responsibility; not everything that goes wrong is your fault.
- Be visible
Your presence at meetings and events lets the group know the university cares about them as people and productive members of an organization.
- Be consistent with your actions
Fairness in advising is critical. Make sure you remain objective.
- Teach leadership
Leadership is the most important skill that organization members learn through their involvement in the group. By teaching leadership, the group ensures strength in replenishing members and smooth transition between officers.
What Not to Do As An Advisor
- Don't control the group
- Don't manipulate the group
- Don't take ownership of the group
- Don't close communication
- Don't be afraid to let the group fail
- Don't be a know it all
- Don't take everything too seriously
- Don't say “I told you so”
Working with Student Organizations, Officers and Members:
- What a student organization officer may expect from an advisor
- The advisor assists the group in formulating long-range goals and in planning and initiating short-term projects.
- The student organization will find the advisor invaluable as a resource person. Oftentimes the advisor has had previous experience and can provide the officers and members with background information.
- The advisor may suggest ways by which the group meetings can be improved.
- The advisor represents the group and its interests in staff and faculty meetings.
- The officers and members will find the advisor able to assist them in evaluating group projects, performance, and progress.
- The advisor is generally able to make suggestions that will permit the officer to improve leadership skills.
- The advisor is familiar with campus facilities, services, and procedures that affect group activities.
- The advisor takes an active part in the orderly transition of responsibilities between old and new officers at the end of the year.
- What an advisor may expect from a student organization officer
- The officer should keep the advisor informed as to all organizational activities, meeting times, locations, and agendas.
- The advisor should receive the minutes of all meetings. These meetings typically serve as occasions for discussion of the officer’s role within the organization. It is here that the primary responsibilities of the advisor are discharged.
- The officer should meet regularly with the advisor and use him/her as a sounding board for discussing organizational plans and problems.
- The officer can make or break an organization. The officer’s influence is, and should be, even greater than that of the advisor.
- A good vehicle for discussion at meetings with the officer is the planning of the agenda for the next meeting of the organization. This will not only provide a structure for conducting the organization’s meetings, but it can also act as a point of departure for the discussion of other areas of mutual concern.
- Discussions with the officer should be based on genuine concern for the creative and personal development of the officer and the members of the organization.
- What the University expects from student organization advisors
- Be familiar with the organization’s objectives, constitution, and bylaws.
- Meet regularly with student leaders to give them support and encourage them to accept their responsibilities, meet their objectives, and develop as leaders.
- Be familiar with university policies and risk management procedures to assist leaders in their efforts to conduct business on campus.
- Be able to help members explore alternatives as they plan activities and events, realizing that final decisions and organizational management is the responsibility of the members.
- Help leaders during periods of transition in an effort to maintain continuity.
- Assist the organization in their efforts to secure funding from campus and/or community sources within approved guidelines.
- Alert student leaders to potential organizational problems.
- Working with the student organization
- If the officer, with the advisor’s assistance, has developed a good agenda, the advisor will have very little to do at student organization meetings. This is as it should be; the advisor is not the leader of the group! There are, however, occasions when active participation by the advisor may be necessary.
- The following techniques are suggested when an organization is planning a questionable activity:
- Other ideas may be replaced by the ones that are unsatisfactory.
- The difficulties inherent to the plan can be pointed out.
- The advisor may request that the group obtain the opinion of the individuals or agencies affected by the action.
- The advisor may keep in mind that the Center for Student Involvement is available when an advisor has questions about the advisability of an organization’s plans.
- When members seem unnecessarily bound by tradition or non-creative thinking in their planning, the first thing an organization will do is to pull out the report from the previous year. This then becomes a blueprint with little or no deviation. Instead of group members approaching a program creatively, they frequently tend to rely on approaches from the past; namely those of last year’s committee. What can be done to turn the group into its own resources?
- Advisor duties during events
- Not to serve as police
- Make helpful suggestions regarding neglected areas and unwise practices
- Be available and prepared to assist in an emergency
- Are encouraged to be present during the entire event
Helpful Questions for Student Organization Advisors
- Have I thought of my responsibilities as the advisor of a student organization?
- Do I know the purpose of the organization?
- Do I know how to find the Constitution?
- Have I read the organization’s Constitution?
- Have I discussed my role as advisor with the organization’s leadership?
- Have I attended advisor meetings and training sessions sponsored by the Center for Student Involvement?
- Do I personally know the members of the organization, and do they know me?
- Do I meet with the organization leaders on a regular basis?
- Are the organization’s projects evaluated yearly for their value to the organization and to others?
- Have I discussed individually and collectively with the officers their objectives and goals for the organization?
- Do I have many informal contacts with the students of the organization?
- Do the majority of members in the organization participate on committees, at meetings, or in projects?
- Is group participation distributed broadly or limited?
- Are meetings and activities announced effectively?
- How much do I involve myself with the organization’s programs and projects?
- Do I maintain effective communication with the members and officers of the organization?