Student Life & Activities thanks you for taking on this important leadership role and volunteering your time, energy, and expertise to help our clubs/organizations be successful. Recognized organizations and clubs are an important part of the Brookdale experience. Involvement in student groups encourages students to develop leadership skills, to explore values, and to begin laying the foundation for their professional careers. In addition to adding to Brookdale’s campus culture, research demonstrates that students who are engaged in campus life are more likely to stay in college and to graduate.
While we encourage our students to take on responsibility and lead their organizations, without the support and stability that you provide, many groups would fail. Your role as an advisor is crucial and your efforts are vital to both the student’s success and our institutional retention. Use the following links to access Advisor Materials: Advisor Manual, Advisor Expectations Checklist, Advisor Training.
Each advisor perceives his/her relation to a student organization differently. Some advisors play very active roles, attending meetings, working with student officers, and assisting in program planning and development. Others maintain a more distant relationship to the organization. It is expected that each advisor will maintain regular contact with his/her organization. An advisor accepts responsibility for keeping informed about activities of the organization and for advising officers of the organization on the appropriateness and general merits of policies and activities.
The responsibilities of the advisor can be divided into three main categories:
- Responsibility to the organization
- Responsibility to the individual members
- Responsibility to the College
Responsibilities to the Organization
The advisor should:
- Develop clear expectations about the role of the advisor and the relationship to the organization.
- 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 students’ time, abilities, energy, and funds.
- Be well informed about all plans and activities of the group. This can be achieved through regular attendance of meetings and/or frequent meetings with student officers.
- Discourage domination of the group by any individual or group of members.
- Assist in promoting group interest by evaluating programs.
- Assist the group in making sure that proper paperwork is submitted to the Office of Student Life.
- Assist officers with procedural matters.
- Check all and receive copy of all official correspondence before and after it is sent.
- Be knowledgeable of the organization’s history, purpose and constitution and help the general membership adhere to them.
- Be visible and establish an attendance schedule for organizational meetings.
- Be available, especially in emergency situations.
- Be consistent with actions in serving as a mentor and mediator of conflict.
Responsibilities to the Individual Members
The advisor should:
- Seek to assist the students in maintaining a balance between the academic and the co-curricular aspects of student life.
- Encourage each 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.
- Be aware of the goals and directions of the organization and help members evaluate their progress towards those goals.
- Develop a strong working relationship with all the officers. Establish as needed, meetings with individual members of the organization who need additional guidance in their officer or committee positions.
- Maintain a complete officer and membership list with addresses and phone numbers (or know where to easily find one).
Responsibilities to the College
The advisor should:
- Work with students to help them plan programs that are beneficial to students and consistent with the educational objectives of the College.
- Become familiar with the policies and procedures pertinent to student organizations and ensure they are followed.
- Be knowledgeable about, and comply with federal, state and local laws and ordinances, as well as campus policies. Inform the group of pertinent policies regularly.
- Cancel any activities when you believe they have been inadequately planned, violate College policy or are unsafe.
- Represent the group and its interests in staff and faculty meetings. Reach out to other advisors or departments (i.e. The Office of Student Life) for assistance.
Adapted from Office of Student Engagement at Missouri State University
Role of an Advisor
As an advisor to a student organization, your service and support can be defined in several advisor roles. The following are some of the important roles you will have as a student organization advisor;
- A RESOURCE –As a faculty or staff member at Brookdale Community College, you can be a valuable resource for information about the College, the organization, and the various campus policies or procedures. An advisor cannot be expected to know everything down to the last detail, but as an advisor you have many more connections than the students to find the answers they seek.
- A CONSULTANT –Without a doubt, there will be times that the organization you advise will get stuck on something. That is where you come in. A student organization needs to be able to consult with their advisor on issues of programming (whether or not a program is worth the time or money, what risks are involved, how to best execute the program), on policies they may not understand or they disagree with, or on any number of other subjects. Organizations may need assistance in event and meeting planning, budgeting, fundraising, and development of organization rules and procedures.
- A MEDIATOR – From time to time issues may arise between the members of a student organization, different organizations, or between your organization and College administration. Your role as an advisor is to step in and take necessary measures to resolve the situation. Most of the time it will be as simple as having a discussion with the parties involved. Remember, the College is a big place with many experts, and advising is a collaborative effort. Guide and refer your students when necessary and appropriate.
- A MENTOR – As someone with experience in campus life, students in your organization may look to you as a mentor. One of your roles is to provide them with advice and share your life experiences to help with their academic career and beyond.
- A LIAISON – An advisor can be a very useful person to bridge the gap between student organizations and college administration or even within the student organization community. As an advisor, you should look for opportunities to advocate on behalf of the student organization and assist them in connecting with the appropriate office and departments on campus.
Advising Styles and Skills
Situational advising allows you to change your advising style to match the development needs of the individual or organization you advise. Your advising style is the way you advise when you work with someone. It is how you conduct yourself, over time, when you are trying to influence the performance of others.
You will need to vary these based on your assessment of the students/groups readiness level. Many times, advisors may struggle with students because they believe that they need a higher level of interaction or direction when the student is actually able to accept more of a delegating style and vice versa.
- Directing: The advisor provides specific instructions and closely supervises task accomplishments. Use this style with students/groups that are at a low level of readiness.
- Coaching: The advisor continues to direct and closely supervise task accomplishment, but also explains decisions, solicits suggestions, and supports progress. Use this style with groups that have a few leaders that are at a higher readiness level who will need your support with the rest of the group to get things accomplished.
- Supporting: The advisor facilitates and supports the efforts toward task accomplishments and shares responsibilities for decision making with the students. Use this style with students/groups that are just starting to understand the concepts that will lead to success – the group is just starting to “get it”.
- Delegating: The advisor empowers the students to conduct their own decision making, problem solving, and delegating. Use this style with students/groups that are at a high level of readiness.
- Flexibility: You must be able to move from one style to another in order to meet the needs of the different types of students and multiple circumstances you will encounter.
- Diagnosis: You have to learn how to diagnose the needs of the students you advise. Determining what is needed as opposed to what is wanted is sometimes a difficult task. It is also important to note that what is needed is not always the thing that will get the most positive response – it is what will lead the student through a problem, set the standard for the future, or help to teach the student a valuable life lesson.
- Contracting: You have to learn how to come to some agreements with students. It can be helpful to work together to reach an agreement as to which advising style they seek from you. This is a valuable lesson for assisting students with understanding the rules of engagement and interaction that will be carried forth as they mature.
Establishing Ground Rules
Because advising is a voluntary service to a group, you have a right to negotiate some ground-rules for your relationship. The areas listed below are key areas where boundaries should be set right away in order to get things started effectively.
One of the basic obligations of students to an advisor is keeping you informed about what is happening with the group. Ask the group to send you copies of meeting minutes and to keep you posted about plans for all meetings, events, fundraisers, etc. You may also want to schedule a regular meeting with the President or Executive Officers to discuss organizational matters.
Ask the group you are working with to set a meeting time that will allow you to attend when needed. If you cannot ever attend a meeting, your effectiveness as an advisor is immediately diminished. While you don’t have to attend every meeting, you should be present from time to time (many advisors would recommend at least once a month) in order to see the group in action, check, and witness the leadership so that you have a true sense of what is happening in the group.
Although the advisor of student groups cannot vote as a member of the group, he/she does have the right to speak up during meetings, ask questions, and hold students accountable to policies of the College, other chapters and affiliates, and the greater membership.
Advisors provide essential feedback to student groups. In return, ask for feedback periodically from the group about how you are meeting their needs as an advisor. This will help you to know how you are assisting the group and where you can continue to improve.
Top 10 Qualities of a Great Advisor
- Is personally and professionally interested in being a good advisor.
- Listens constructively, attempting to hear all aspects of students’ expressed problems objectively and fairly.
- Is available to students and follows up on commitments made to advisees.
- Knows College policy and practice in sufficient detail to provide students with accurate, usable information; when in doubt, refers to the College Catalog, Student Handbook, or other available resources for clarification.
- Knows how and when to make referrals and is familiar with referral sources available to students on the campus.
- Does not make decisions for students, but helps students make their own decisions.
- Is a positive role model and respected by students.
- Communicates honestly with the group in a respectful manner.
- Continually tries to improve both the style and substance of the advising role by evaluating the effectiveness of his/her advising practices and willingly participating in advisor-training programs offered by the College for this purpose.
- Tries to establish a warm and open relationship with advisees by being genuine and allowing advisees to be themselves.
What is my liability/risk associated with being a club/organization advisor? Can I personally be held responsible if something should happen with my group?
The simple answer is no with a caveat. You should not be held personally responsible as long as you advise/guide in a manner consistent with common sense and follow Brookdale Community College Student Handbook policies and procedures. It is important for you and the group to review the Code of Conduct in the Student Handbook and ask questions if you don’t understand something. The handbook may not include everything, so you need to ask questions.
All employees of Brookdale Community College are covered by institutional liability insurance as long as they are working within their job description – and advising a club/organization falls within many job descriptions (e.g. service to the community, student learning, etc.).
However, it is very important for you to understand that if you suspect or have knowledge of any illegal activity or activities that are not in line with Brookdale’s policies or the Student Code of Conduct and take no action, you can be held legally responsible. Immediately report any violations or suspected violations to Brookdale’s Manager of Student Conduct and Compliance, Christopher Jeune, Phone (732)-224-2096 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To reduce your risk . . . .
- follow state and federal laws (drinking age, illegal drugs, assault, etc.)
- follow Brookdale’s policies and Code of Conduct (anti-hazing policies, non-discrimination policies, academic honesty, etc.)
- follow industry standards (wearing recommended protective gear, complying with film copyright laws, etc.)
- report any illegal activity or violations of Brookdale policy immediately
- ask questions and clarify if you have concerns or doubts
- keep in contact with your organization’s members and stay abreast of the group’s activities
- use common sense