Role of the Advisor

The role of the advisor varies from organization to organization. If your organization is a university group, the role may be defined by the sponsoring department. However, if the organization is an independent group, it's important to be sure your role and expectations are clear from the beginning - to both you and the students.

Some advisors choose to take a very active role within the student organization by attending weekly meetings of both the executive board and general body, meeting with executive board members one-on-one, and attending events regularly. Others choose to attend meetings periodically or when needed, and may not attend any events. The hope is for advisors to play more of an active role with their group.

Many advisors believe their role is to:

  • Serve as a sounding board off of which you can bounce new ideas
  • Support your group
  • Intervene in conflicts between group members and/or officers
  • Be knowledgeable of policies that may impact your organization’s decisions, programs, etc.
  • Run “interference” with University departments
  • Provide continuity and stability as student leadership changes
  • Provide an “outside” point of view or perspective
  • Provide your group with connections
  • Help deal with organizational crises
  • Give honest feedback to group members

Regardless of how active you choose to be, you should meet with the student leaders of the organization to review their expecations of you. This also provides a good opportunity for you, as the advisor, to discuss your expectations of the group. During these meetings, here are some questions to review:

  1. How often does the executive meet, and should the advisor attend?
  2. How often does the general body meet, and should the advisor attend?
  3. Do you prefer the advisor have an active role in the meetings, or just observe?
  4. How many events does the group plan to sponsor each semester?
  5. Is the advisor expected to attend each event?
  6. How experienced are the current student leaders?
  7. Do the students undergo a training program? If so, is the advisor involved?
  8. How do you secure a budget? What is the advisor's role with the financial aspect of the group?
  9. Where is your budget currently held (on campus, outside bank account, etc.), and who has access?
  10. Who administers your budgets (pays bills, taxes, etc.)?
  11. Are there any areas that need development where the advisor can be helpful?

As the relationship between the advisor and student leaders becomes better established, so too will the expectations. Students will learn from the advisors, and advisors will learn from the students. An important thing to remember is that students change every year, and often times, so will the expectations of the group.