As an advisor to a student organization at the University of Pittsburgh, you will provide support, guidance, and build rewarding relationships with members of your group. Given the myriad of purposes, activities, and objectives of student groups, the role of advisors will vary among organizations. You may assume one or more of the following roles:
As an advisor, your role of educator will often come through modeling behavior. Remember: do things right and do the right thing. You are guiding students to become responsible leaders by serving as a positive role model and resource person. If the organization needs to learn how to run a meeting, balance a budget, or plan an event, you may also find yourself teaching students about group processes and functions.
Many group members come to see their advisor as a mentor for their personal and professional development, especially if they are seeking an education and career in your field. Students may be looking for someone to review their resume, connect them to professionals in their field, or be a sounding board to discuss their futures. Mentoring relationships can be very rewarding for both you and your students, and last for many years to come.
You may have to motivate your group members to carry out their plans and achieve their goals. Some students will respond well to recognition and reward, while others work from intrinsic motivation and strive to feel competent or make a difference. Take some time to think about (or even directly ask) the type of motivation that your students best respond to, and find ways to incorporate it into your advising style.
Inevitably, students are going to join the organization with different agendas, goals, and ideas about how things should function. Conflict can occur among and between leaders, members, and other organizations. It may be necessary to meet with students and have them discuss issues openly with one another. Ask them how they can work together, point out the organization’s mission, and ask how their conduct is helping the group achieve its mission.
All SORC-certified student organizations are governed by a constitution, and operate under a set of policies, procedures and rules. Students may be unaware of or misinterpret the organization’s policies, causing them to act inappropriately. The more you know about the guidelines under which your group functions, the better advising you can provide on how policies should translate to action.
As the group elects new officers and new members join the organization, you may need to take initiative to provide intentional, team building opportunities. Team building is important because it fosters positive relationships among group members, which helps the organization function as a unit and work through conflict. You can conduct a workshop to engage students in this process, working with the group officers to develop and implement it.
One of the most important components to learning outside of the classroom is providing time for students to reflect on how and what they are doing. Ask your officers about how they think they are performing, their strengths, and their weaknesses. Discuss their thoughts on their performance, and provide honest feedback and constructive criticism. If students evaluate themselves higher or lower than you expect, provide concrete examples of actions they took that contradict their self-perceptions. Ask how they can improve areas of weakness and how you can help them.