Chapter 5: Advisors
An advisor is an educator in a “non-traditional classroom.” The advisor uses personal expertise and perspective to stimulate individual development of members and the overall development of the organization.
McKaig, R. & Policello, S. (1984). Group Advising-Defined, Described, and Examined. In Schuh, J.H. (Ed.), A Handbook for Student Group Advisors 47.
Selecting an Advisor
When selecting an advisor, consider the following factors in your decision:
- find a UT Dallas faculty or staff person who will have the time to devote to your organization and will take the role seriously;
- make certain that she or he has a clear understanding of the organization’s purpose;
- find someone who has knowledge or skills related to the mission/purpose of the organization;
- choose someone who shares some of the same interests as the organization, and who has previously interacted with the leadership of the organization; and
- allow the person a reasonable length of time to consider her or his decision.
Discuss with the potential advisor what is required of her or him, her or his duties, and the time commitment involved. Be open and honest with the potential advisor about the types of activities in which the organization may participate.
The SOC Staff is available to help guide you in advisor selection.
The Role of the Advisor
The Student Organization Center requires all registered student organizations to have one fulltime faculty/staff member as an advisor. The Student Organization Center believes that by sharing both your knowledge about UT Dallas and personal experience, the advisor can be an integral part of the organizations success. In addition, valuable, mutually rewarding, co-curricular relationships between students and advisors are fostered. In order to serve as an advisor, faculty or staff must sign the Advisor Agreement which states the required and suggested roles of an advisor.
The Advisor Agreement can be found on OrgSync. For more information please contact the SOC staff.
By sharing both knowledge about UT Dallas and personal experience, the advisor can assist the organization in its activities. In addition, valuable, mutually rewarding, co-curricular relationships between students and advisors are fostered.
The relationship between an advisor and an organization will vary from year to year and individual to individual. However, the student/advisor relationship can be crucial to the success of the organization. It is important that the advisor and the organization communicate their expectations to each other. The advisor should be very clear about the things she or he will do, and the things she or he will not do. The expectations will vary according to the needs of the organization and the advisor.
An advisor should:
- recognize and support participation in student organizations for its contribution to the educational and personal development of students;
- attend mandatory risk management training session;
- work with student organizations but not dictate the group’s programs or activities;
- be frank in offering suggestions, considerations or ideas, and discussing possible consequences;
- be well informed about the plans and activities of the organization;
- attend some meetings and consult frequently with the organization’s officers;
- know the goals and directions of the organization;
- help the organization evaluate its progress;
- be aware of the constitution and bylaws of the organization and help with interpretation, if applicable;
- provide a source of continuity within the organization and be familiar with the organization’s history;
- be familiar with university policies and procedures and help the organization comply with them;
- be aware of the general financial condition of the organization, and encourage good record keeping;
- help train and develop the leadership skills of new officers;
- be prepared to deal with major problems or emergencies within the organization; and
- monitor group functioning and encourage members to fully participate while maintaining a balance between academic and co-curricular activities.
The Organization’s Responsibilities to the Advisor
Keep in mind that the advisor is voluntarily associated with the organization. It is the organization’s responsibility to inform the advisor on the activities of the organization.
The Texas state legislature has mandated that student organization advisors participate in risk management training in order to serve as an advisor. Information about the training can be found at www.utdallas.edu/soc or by calling 972-883-6551. Dates and locations of the training will be sent via email each semester.
An organization should:
- notify the advisor of all meetings and events;
- consult your advisor in the planning of all activities;
- consult her or him before any changes in the structure of the organization, or in the policies of the organization are made, and before major projects are undertaken;
- understand that although the advisor has no vote that she or he should have speaking privileges;
- remember that the responsibility for the success or failure of the organization project rests ultimately with the group, not the advisor;
- talk over any problems or concerns with the advisor;
- acknowledge the advisor’s time and energy are donated, and express appreciation;
- be clear and open about your expectations for your advisor’s role; and
- evaluate your advisor and give appropriate feedback at the end of each semester.
Suggestions for Effective Advising
The maturity and/or skill level of the organization and its members should dictate your style of advising. If members have beginning skill levels, you may need to be more actively involved with the organization. As the leaders’ skill level matures, you can then decrease the amount of direction you need to provide the organization. Below are some suggestions for effective advising.
- Express sincere enthusiasm and interest in the group and its activities.
- Be open to feedback from the group. Talk with them regarding your role as advisor. Be willing to admit mistakes.
- Provide feedback to the group and the leaders regarding their performance.
- Be familiar with this manual so that you can be a knowledgeable resource for the group.
- Participate with the organization and get to know the members. Be available and accessible to them. They will feel more comfortable with you and be more open to your input if they know you.
- Following organization meetings, discuss any problems encountered during the meeting with the officers.
- Be careful of becoming too involved with the organization. Remember that you are not a member. Your role is to advise, assist, and facilitate.
Updated: July 24, 2012