Advisor Role

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).

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.

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 there are concerns about a student, 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.

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.