Advisor Role

Many individuals are called upon to serve as advisors to student organizations, but the role of the advisor often remains vague. Institutional and student pressures may pull the advisor in opposite directions.

About the Role

The advisor should get to know the members of the organization and assess the contributions they can make to the organization. The student's overriding commitment must be to their academic responsibilities; Greek organization commitments are secondary. The advisor and student(s) should have an open, honest relationship and have the opportunity to share ideas, receive feedback, and build trust.

The responsibilities you have as an advisor to a Greek organization at Dartmouth College varies depending on the specific needs and strengths of the organization and the officers within that organization. The best way to determine and understand your responsibilities is to communicate with the officers, who are speaking on behalf of the chapter, and discuss their expectations of you and your expectations of them and of the role.

Points to remember as a new advisor

  • The responsibility for building a relationship must be shared between advisor and student.
  • View the relationship as a partnership.
  • The relationship must be based upon direct and open communication.
  • Share needs, responsibilities, and expectations with each other.
  • Be prepared to negotiate.
  • Both must recognize the other's various roles and responsibilities outside of their position.
  • Know each other's commitments and let each other know their impact.
  • Both the advisor and the student are human beings who make mistakes, follow their own value systems and work in individual, professional, and personal styles. Everyone makes mistakes. Accept, discuss and learn from them.
  • Both the advisor and the student are continually changing, growing and learning; each within their own unique stages of development.
  • Challenge and support each other.

Starting Point

The advisor and the organization should jointly determine the advisor’s role.

  • Let the student’s discuss what they feel the advisor’s role in the organization should be.
  • The advisor should state a definition of the role, including the institutional pressure that affects it.
  • An open and joint discussion about the advisors role should be the next step.
  • The advisor must follow this agreed-upon role. If changes take place, ‘renegotiate’ the role.
  • The role should be an active one of giving information and advice as well as assisting the organization when necessary.
  • Advisors should make students aware of different alternatives.
  • Students are free to make their own decisions but there may be some cases where the advisor would want to veto.
  • The advisor does have the power of persuasion and should use it.
  • Have faith in students to make good decisions.
  • Remember, students have the right to make mistakes but the advisor should not ‘set them up’ to make errors. Offer the best advice possible, including warning them when you think that they are wrong.
  • Do not use student organizations as a vehicle for expression of your leadership ability. Your task is to develop leadership in students.
  • Develop a style which affects a balance between being an active and passive member.
  • Be aware of the various roles you will be filling from time to time:
    • Consultant
    • Information source
    • Clarifier
    • Counselor
    • Facilitator
  • Be aware of the institutional power and structure — both formal and informal.
  • Challenge the organization to grow and develop.
  • Be creative and innovative.