A significant amount of research has been done to show that the student’s experience outside of the classroom can often times be just as significant towards his or her development as the time spent within the classroom. The advisor role offers professionals opportunities to facilitate student development outside of the classroom. Often students will point to their experience in a student organization as the most meaningful experience in their college career. With that in mind, it is important to note that the role of the advisor is a very important one. Information or assistance of any kind is always available to faculty or staff members seeking more resources on advising.
Northern Illinois University’s proud history as an institution of higher education has always included co-curricular activities that provide opportunities for students to develop their leadership skills. Co-curricular activities provide students with opportunities to practice the theories they learn in classroom, but also to develop additional skills needed to enter the work force. The advisor is an integral part of every campus student organization. As a member of the faculty or staff of the university, the primary function of the advisor is to actively advise, counsel, and serve as a resource for the student organization.
Northern Illinois University is host to over 200 different student organizations. Annually 60-65 organizations are recognized by and receive funding from Northern Illinois University’s Student Association. This guide is designed to provide the advisor with concrete information on how to be a successful advisor. While advising an organization does require some additional time demands, the rewards gained by advising more than compensate for this.
The Definition of an Advisor
The real definition of an advisor floats somewhere between being a counselor, supervisor, educator, and mentor, in which no single label applies entirely to the role An advisor is one who gives ideas, shares insight, provides a different perspective, and counsels. In general, advisors have three main functions:
1. To help with the growth and development of students.
2. To add to the continuity of the groups as members graduate.
3. To assist in the area of program content and purpose.
Resources available to advisors and student organizations:
The Office of Student Involvement and Leadership Development offers a variety of student organizational services to advisors. To find out more information about advisor training programs or other information related to student organizations please contact Kelli Bradley at 753-6505. Additionally, the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership Development houses a variety of printed materials that cover a wide range of topics including: meetings, icebreakers/team builders, communication skills, leadership styles, ethics, recruiting members, fundraising, problem solving, multicultural awareness, presentations and programming, publicity, stress management, volunteerism, training, delegation, conflict resolution.
• Maintenance functions:
The advisor can help maintain the existence of the student organization by providing continuity with past history and traditions. Such activities may include consulting on University policy, serving as a role model, arbitrating group conflicts, and keeping files on past organizational functions.
• Group growth function:
The advisor can improve the operation and effectiveness of the group and help it progress toward its goals. Such activities might include: teaching the techniques of good leadership and fellowship, coaching the officers in the principles of good organizational and administrative practice, developing self-discipline and responsibility among members, teaching the elements of effective group operation, developing plans and procedures for action, keeping the group focused on its goals, and stimulating or even initiating activities and programs.
• Program content function:
The advisor can question the educational rationale for the organization's existence and lead its members into activities that will contribute to their intellectual and social development. Such activities might include introducing new program ideas, helping group members practice skills and concepts learned in the classroom, pointing out new perspectives and directions, and supplying expert knowledge and insights.
• Networking Opportunities:
The advisor can help provide opportunities for organization members to interact with different people in their field of interest, helping them to develop new contacts for possible future careers. Such opportunities to network might include identifying guest speakers, field trips or site visits, or attending conferences related to their area of interest.
Roles and Responsibilities of an Advisor:
Student Affairs professionals typical refer to the multitude of roles their job has as “hats”, meaning that we wear a different hat for every role we assume. Advising is an excellent example of a position where the individual wears multiple “hats”. Commitments of the advisor and several other factors determine the level of involvement the advisor will have with the group. An advisor should be committed to the group’s success, may need to sometimes go above and beyond the call of duty, and should never be resigned to only serve as a signatory on forms. Considering their expertise and experience, advisors can often supply significant insights on group matters such as goal setting, program ideas, conflict resolution, and group growth. It is often the advisor who can aid in maintaining an organization by providing continuity and by serving as an information source.
In short, a good advisor can help nurture an organization’s success. The pattern of teamwork between an advisor and the organization must be individually tailored to the personalities and needs of both parties. Some guidance is necessary in developing such a relationship. The following functions and responsibilities should direct the advisor toward appropriate behaviors and roles within the group.
Responsibilities to the Student Organization:
Responsibilities to Individual Group Members:
Responsibilities to the University