University of Wisconsin–Madison

Advisor Information


Advisor’s Responsibility to the Group

  • Assist the group in setting realistic goals and objectives each academic year, ensuring opportunities for educational and personal development.
  • Help the organization justify its expenditures of the students’ time, abilities, energy and funds.
  • Be well informed about all plans and activities of the group. This can be achieved through regular attendance at meetings and/or frequent meetings with student officers.
  • Encourage collaboration and teamwork among group leaders and members, rather than dominance by individuals.
  • Be familiar with the history of the organization.
  • Assist in promoting group interest by evaluating programs.
  • Assist the group in maintaining updated information in the Wisconsin Involvement Network (WIN) so the Center for Leadership & Involvement has the most accurate information (primary contact information, constitution, etc.)
  • Be aware of the University policies and the Student Organization Code of Conduct.
  • Attend organizational meetings and functions as often as possible.
  • Provide certification of the expenditures of the organization when authorization is necessary.
  • Provide suggestions and constructive feedback regarding the operation of the organization

Advisor’s Responsibility to Students

  • Seek to assist students in maintaining a balance between inside- and outside-the-classroom activities.
  • Be aware of the goals and directions of the organization and help the members evaluate their progress toward those goals.
  • Encourage each individual to participate in and plan group events.
  • Encourage students to accept responsibility for specific parts of programs and help them recognize the importance of their roles in relation to the group.
  • Be concerned about developing the leadership skills of members, particularly the executive board, by discussing and helping to analyze group interactions and decision-making.

Advisor’s Responsibility to the University of Wisconsin-Madison

  • Work with students to help them plan programs that are beneficial to students and consistent with the educational objectives of the University.
  • Work with the student leaders to assist them in setting and achieving goals that will benefit the organization.
  • Become familiar with the policies and procedures pertinent to RSOs and strive to see that they are followed.
  • Become familiar with the responsibilities of departments who choose to sponsor student organizations on campus and/or co-sponsor activities or programs, listed on the Departmental Sponsorship section of this guide (under the “Benefits” tab).

Campus Security Authority

As part of the University’s compliance with the Clery Act, all RSO advisors must complete Campus Security Authority (CSA) Training on an annual basis.  Advisors will be expected to complete this training using the link below.  The training is estimated to take 20 minutes to view, plus the time to complete the 10 quiz questions.  Please keep a copy of the certificate for your records.

If you have further questions about this training or your completion, please contact the Clery Program Staff at UWPD.

Advisor Risk Management and Legal Liability

The most common legal issue with RSOs is negligence – Personal injuries sustained while attending an activity sponsored by a student group.  The general standard in this situation is that you must behave the way a reasonable person would in a similar situation.  Does not call for extraordinary insight or some other quality that an average person normally would not apply to similar circumstances.  Check out the Risk Management section under the “Student Org Essentials” menu.

Advisor Traits

A student organization advisor is asked to assume many roles. These will vary greatly, depending on the philosophy of the advisor and the student group. Some of the roles an advisor may be responsible for include:

  • Teacher or Educator- Advisors do teach though the classroom is informal and attendance is voluntary. It’s a “raw” type of education. Advisors must lay themselves open to students’ calling on their expertise, knowledge, and human relations skills to enable effective teaching.
  • Resource Person- As the years go by, advisors gain a great deal of experience, which becomes extremely valuable to an organization. Knowledge of university policies and services, where to find pertinent information, and an historical perspective are just some of the dimensions of a resource person.
  • Coordinator and Expediter- This role is certainly close to both that of a resource person and a teacher, but it tends to be more action involved. The advisor can act as a motivator and an overseer for the organization. Step in, as need be, to provide direction and to be a communication link towards the group goal.
  • Listener- The ability to lend a listening ear and offer suggestions to the student is important. If serious problems arise, the advisor should make a referral to University Health Services at 333 East Campus Mall, 7th floor, 265-5600 (Option 9).
  • Accountable Administration Official- The advisor possesses the skills of follow-through and consistency, especially in matters of university policies and paperwork. There may be times during the year when the advisor must work through the proper channels, straighten unresolved matters, and cut through red tape.

Overview of Student Development

An understanding of student development can be extremely beneficial to advisors. Below are brief overviews of both Nevitt Sanford and Arthur Chickering’s models of student development.

Nevitt Sanford created one of the most widely used models for working with students. He proposes that there must be sufficient challenge present in order for students to grow. If the challenge is too great and there is an absence of appropriate support, students will not develop and may retreat back to earlier stages of development. It is important to have a good balance between challenge and support. When advising a student organization, be sure to see that student leaders are gently pushed and encouraged into new involvement opportunities but are not thrown into positions too challenging for their level of development (Evans, Foreny, & Guido-DiBrito, 1998.)

Another student development theorist, Arthur Chickering, proposed that student development occurred along the lines of seven developmental vectors (areas of competence.) He used the term vectors because each seems to have direction and magnitude, although the direction may be more appropriately represented by a spiral than a straight line (Evans, Forney, & Guido-DiBrito). Learning more about each vector can provide you with useful insight as you work with student leaders; you can use this knowledge to help identify and meet needs of organization members so that they are more satisfied with their overall experience.

The following is a summary of Chickering’s seven vectors (Evans, Forney, & Guido-DiBrito, 1998):

  • Developing competence– this vector involves three areas of competence: intellectual competence, physical and manual skills, and interpersonal competence. Students in this vector are developing the confidence to cope with challenges and achieve goals successfully.
  • Managing Emotions– with this vector, students develop the ability to recognize and accept emotions in addition to expressing and controlling them in a responsible manner. The feelings a student may face range from negative emotions like anxiety, anger or guilt to more positive emotions such as caring, optimism, or inspiration.
  • Becoming Autonomous– this vector results in increased emotional independence, which includes freedom from continual and pressing needs for reassurance, affection or approval from others. Students also develop instrumental independence, which involves self-direction and problem-solving skills. As students become autonomous, they hope to be viewed as adults capable of making their own decisions while maintaining positive relationships with others.
  • Developing mature interpersonal relationships– in this vector, students develop intercultural and interpersonal tolerance as well as the appreciation of differences and the capacity for healthy relationships with partners and close friends.
  • Establishing identity– this builds on the other vectors that come before it and includes comfort with body and appearance, a clear self-concept and comfort with one’s roles and lifestyle. Students who are facing identity issues often struggle with the identity given to them by others and are seeking roles and lifestyle that they will find meaningful.
  • Developing purpose– with this vector, students develop clear vocational goals, make meaningful commitments to specific personal interests and activities, and establish strong interpersonal commitments. This also includes intentionally making and sticking with decisions, even in the face of opposition. Students who are developing purpose are sometimes attempting to find a life direction that makes sense for them.
  • Developing identity– there are three stages associated with this vector. They include humanizing values, personalizing values, and developing congruence. Students’ progress from rigid, moralistic thinking to a more humanized value system where the interests of others are balanced with one’s own interests. Students examining their own personal value system where values have implications for actions.

Arthur Chickering is widely used as a model for determining what types of educational programs to offer students. He suggests development can be enhanced if the following occurs:

  • Students are engaged in making choices.
  • Students interact with diverse individuals and ideals.
  • Students are involved in direct and varied experiences.
  • Students are involved in solving complex social and intellectual problems.
  • Students are involved in receiving feedback and making objective self-evaluations.

While these are only a couple theories of student development, it is important to consider when working with students where they are in their development. As an advisor, you must be aware of how to best serve your students and the organization and being aware of these theories can help the organization and its members grow and prosper.


Advisor Newsletter

The “Wiser Advisor” Newsletter is sent out with relevant information and tips for a successful year.  All Registered Student Organization Advisors currently listed in the Wisconsin Involvement Network (WIN) are automatically part of our listserv (with an option to opt out).  If you are interested in being a part of this listserv, please send a email to:

Advisor Training Series

The Center for Leadership & Involvement values the contributions Advisors offer to student organizations. In order to serve as a valuable resource to the organization, it may be helpful to receive some training. We offer a training series each year and hope to see you there.  Check out the next tab for more information!

Help and Information

CfLI works hard to be your “one-stop” department to assist you and your student group with getting questions answered, suggestions on advising issues, policy interpretation, and referrals to other resources that can help you and your student group. Please contact our office with questions, comments, concerns and we will do our best to assist you.

What you can expect when you contact CfLI:

  • Polite, respectful and friendly service
  • Prompt follow-up
  • Accurate information or referral: we strive to refer you to the appropriate office first, not simply another office who may then refer you to another office
  • Assistance as it relates to student organization management issues, policy interpretation, guidance and advice, complaint procedures, and general responses to frequently asked questions
  • Working hard to assist you with your organization
  • Basic information about student programs housed in our office and how to get in touch with their staff

Registering a Student Organization

Registration is the first process a student organization must complete each year to be recognized by the university. A Registered Student Organization is a campus-based group that has registered with the Center for Leadership & Involvement (CfLI) in order to be eligible for certain privileges and access to university facilities. RSOs enjoy benefits as well as have responsibilities. In addition, it should be noted that only currently enrolled students may register as a student organization.  Registration is facilitated through the Wisconsin Involvement Network, or WIN (  The organization will not only complete the application through WIN, but they will also be granted an organization WIN page once they become officially registered.

Resource Access Request for Off-Campus Advisors

If you advise a Student Organization but are not UW Faculty or Staff, this option is for you. Through the “Resource Access Request Form for Off-Campus Advisors,” you can request

  • guest user access to WIN
  • a volunteer letter affirming your role as an official advisor (which provides you coverage by the State’s liability protection program so long as you perform your duties within the scope of the description you provide.)

Please follow this link if you are interested in these services. If you have any questions, contact the Center for Leadership & Involvement at or 608-263-0365.

Discipline and Accountability

As a Registered Student Organization (RSO) the organization, through its primary contact, has agreed to the Student Organization Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct and complaint procedures were most recently modified by the Committee on Student Organizations and approved by the Chancellor in 2015.

The Committee on Student Organizations is an ASM Shared Governance Committee whose members represent the student body, ASM, Chancellor’s Office, Dean of Student’s Office, Faculty, and the Center for Leadership & Involvement.

The committee is made up primarily of students. All student representatives are appointed by the ASM Shared Governance Committee and the Center for Leadership & Involvement. Any interested students should contact either the ASM Shared Governance Committee or CfLI for the application.

Departmental Sponsorship

Registered Student Organizations can received departmental sponsorship for events and programs that they host. The University department and the organization should ensure that the nature and extent of the sponsorship is clearly understood by both parties. The department should be aware of the minimum expectations when sponsoring a student organization. Please visit the “Departmental Sponsorship” tab within the “Benefits” section of this Resource & Policy Guide, or download the PDF document below.

Department Sponsorship Minimum Requirements


There are currently no planned Advisor Training Sessions. Please check back for new opportunities.


Student Organization Advisor Orientation

This workshop is designed for anyone who advises student organizations. We will discuss student organization advisor’s roles and expectations and student organization advisor resources. There will be time for questions and discussion.

In the event that you missed our Fall Orientation, feel free to review these slides and/or list to the recorded session to see what we shared!

Fall 2017 RSO Advisor Orientation Slides

Student Organization Diversity, Social Justice, & Inclusion Session

This workshop aims to provide student organization advisors with the knowledge and skills to respond and initiate conversations about diversity, social justice, and inclusion within the student organization.

In the event you missed our Fall 2015 session, here is a handout shared during the conversation.  Diversity Session Handout

Student Organization Advisor Financial Management Workshop

This workshop aims to provide student organization advisors with the knowledge and skills about financial management within a student group.  The session will highlight budget tips, fundraising policies, grant opportunities, and university expectations.

If you happened to miss the Fall 2016 workshop, feel free to check out our presentation slides or our session recording!

Fall 2016 Financial Management

Fall 2016 Financial Management Recorded Session

Student Organization Advisor Risk Management Workshop

Let’s hear from the experts! A representative from UW Risk Management, UW Legal Services and University Health Services will be on hand to guide us in a discussion of common risk management issues encountered by Student Organizations and their Advisors… and how to successfully prepare for and handle risk.

Risk Management Worksheet

Transitions and Technology

This workshop is designed to educate advisors about how to improve the transition of leadership from one year to the next. We will also hear from a representative from the Center for Leadership & Involvement on the technology resources available to RSOs. Whether you have been advising an organization for 10 years or have just started in your role, you are more than welcome to come and share your ideas!


Interested in learning about these workshops as they are scheduled?  Subscribe to our Advisor Listserv by sending an email to: