Roles of an Advisor

Roles of an Advisor
Adapted from the Clemson University RHC Advisor Manual.

  • A resource person:  any staff member will know the general services of the campus and community
  • A planner:  the advisor will actively help the members plan, promote, carry out, and evaluate their programs.
  • A financial counselor:  advisors are responsible for overseeing the budget supervising expenditures.
  • A supervisor:  the advisor should not run the meetings, but will be there to lend support and direction when needed.
  • A role model:  advisors will be willing to help officers begin the year and will continue this guidance and support throughout the year.  Advisors will aid in these tasks to the best of their ability.
  • A consultant:  many times students will need help setting up budgets, obtaining support, etc.
  • A sounding board:  advisors will be willing to give opinions and direct students to the appropriate college officials for further discussion as needed.
  • A liaison:  advisors will provide a balance of professionalism between the group and the college, and will aid in the group’s growth and development.
  • A developer:  the advisor will encourage and stimulate the development of leadership and interpersonal skills.  Also, they will help educate the RHC on the importance of integrity and accountability. 

General Functions of an Advisor

  • Assist the group in negotiating group members’ roles.
  • Express sincere enthusiasm and interest in the group and all its activities.
  • Be open to criticism from the group.  Work with them to re-evaluate your role.  Be willing to be wrong.
  • At times, it is wise to allow the group to be on its own.  You can demonstrate your trust in them by stepping back for a short time; however, do not pull back too far because the group may feel you have lost interest.
  • Act as a positive critic to the group.  Give them constructive and encouraging feedback on how they’re doing.
  • Be aware of any and all regulations that affect the group.  Assist them in adhering to them.
  • Encourage the group to keep records and evaluations in files.  Procedures for passing this information on should be developed.
  • Try to encourage the assignments of meaningful work to all members.  If a member merely comes to meetings and listens, he or she will quickly lose interest.
  • Use the tools you have to assist the group.  This includes discussion methods, goal setting, role negotiating, small sub-groups, group representatives, role-playing, etc.
  • Share problems with other professionals in order to get advice.

Even More on the Role of an Advisor

Starting point:  the advisor and the group should jointly determine the advisor’s role

  • Let students discuss what they feel the advisor’s role in the group should be.
  • The advisor should state a definition of the role, including the institutional pressures that affect it.
  • Have open and frank discussions.
  • The advisor must follow up on the agreed upon role.  If change takes place, renegotiate the role.
  • The role should be an active one of giving information and advice as well as assisting the group when they get overwhelmed.
  • Advisors should make students aware of alternatives.
  • Students are free to males their own decisions.  The advisor should not have veto power.
  • The group advisor, however, does have the power of persuasion and should use it.
  • Have faith in students to make good decisions.
  • Remember, students have the right to make mistakes but advisors should not “set them up” for frustration.  Offer the best advice possible including warnings when you feel it’s necessary.
  • Do not use the student group as a vehicle for expressing your leadership ability.  Your task is to develop leadership in students.

Evaluate the role:  it is important for the advisor to periodically become involved in the evaluation of his/her effectiveness.  It is most helpful when the advisor does a self-evaluation and then one is done by the group.  These evaluations should be written and then reviewed openly.  Here are some areas to consider in the evaluation process:

  • Is the advisor following the agreed upon role?  Is there a need to renegotiate the role?
  • Is the advisor available to the group?
  • Is the advisor appropriately involved in meetings?
  • Is the advisor helpful to individual officers and members?
  • Does the advisor offer constructive criticism and appropriate suggestions?
  • Does the advisor share information concerning institutional policies and procedures with the group?
  • Does the advisor assist leaders in learning and using group development tools?

Advisor Should and Ought List

By sharing knowledge and experience, the advisor can assist the group in its activities.  In addition, the advising relationship helps to foster valuable and mutually rewarding out of class connections between students and faculty and staff.

The relationship between an advisor and organization will vary, not only with each organization, but from time to time within an organization.  Nevertheless, the general concerns of an advisor remain constant and encompass the following points:

  • The advisor recognizes and supports the participation in student organizations for its contributions to the educational and personal development of students.
  • Advisors work with student organizations but should not direct the group’s programs or activities.  However, the advisor should be frank in offering suggestions, considerations, or ideas for the group’s discussion.
  • The advisor stays well informed of the plans and activities of the group.  The expectation is that the advisor will attend meetings and activities of the group and will consult frequently with the officers.
  • The advisor is well aware of the goals and direction of the group and helps the organization evaluate its process toward reaching these goals.
  • The advisor provides continuity within the group and is familiar with the group’s history.  The advisor should also be familiar with the constitution and by-laws of the group and be prepared to assist with their interpretation.
  • The advisor ensures the group’s compliance with college policies and procedures.
  • Advisors should be aware of the financial status of the group and encourage the keeping of accurate records.
  • The advisor should monitor group functioning and encourage members to fully participate, to assure appropriate responsibility for group activities and co-curricular commitments.
  • The advisor should attempt to learn the names of all group members.
  • The advisor assists in training new officers and developing member leadership skills.
  • The advisor should be prepared to deal with major problems or emergencies within the group.
  • The advisor may be consulted by members of the group about personal problems.
  • The advisor should strive to develop relationships that are productive and mutually satisfying.

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