The Student Involvement Advising Philosophy
The advisor’s primary role is to educate, advocate and coach. Educators make involvement a learning experience. Advocates provide a link between students and the University administration. Coaches provide guidance and support. Advisors have the authority to intervene when an organization is breaking federal and local laws, University policies or the organization’s own constitution. However, organization members assume responsibility for their decisions and actions.
Being involved in a student organization helps students gain additional skills not acquired in the classroom. If the advisor tries to run the organization, the students in that organization miss out on such skills. Therefore, advisors do not dictate or determine the mission, direction, or programs of the organization and advisors don’t initiate or complete the work for the student organizations. Remember, although the advisor plays an important role, the organization is run by the students, not by the advisor.
Being an RSO Advisor at Mason
In order to be a recognized club or organization at George Mason University, all Tier 2 Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) must have a faculty/staff advisor. This individual must be an employee of the faculty or staff at Mason on any of the campuses who is sincerely dedicated to assisting the organization in reaching its desired goals. Tier 1 RSOs are not required to have an advisor, but definitely welcomed.
The role of an advisor is critical to the success of the organization. An advisor serves the group in a number of ways including, but not limited to, the following:
- Giving direction to the organization when needed
- Assisting in the personal development of the organization’s members
- Offering ideas and input as another option to consider
- Serving as a point of reference and resource
- Playing devil’s advocate to help members see both points of view
- Making recommendations based on past experiences, expertise and facts
- Being a motivator and cheerleader
- Serving as a role model for the students
Advisors generally have ten main responsibilities to the organization. These responsibilities will vary from group to group and from advisor to advisor.
- Leadership development
- Consultation with officers and chairpersons
- Continuity during changes in leadership
- Personal assistance for members
- Interpretation of policy
- Supervision to adhere to public and institutional policy
- Financial supervision with records and budgets
- Assistance with the maintenance of organizational records
- Social activity support and guidance
- Regular meeting attendance
The relationship between the student organization members and the advisor, and their expectations of each other should be discussed periodically. Although advisory relationships are unique from organization to organization, all advisors and organizations should abide by the Student Involvement Advising Philosophy.
RSO Advisor 101
What is an advisor?
An RSO advisor is a faculty or staff member who provides support and guidance to officers and members of a student organization. The advisor not only serves as a representative of the group in an official capacity, but also as a student advocate. An advisor is one who gives ideas, shares insight, provides a different perspective, and encourages organization members.
Why become an advisor?
Advising a student organization means acting as a resource and mentor to the students of the organization. It is a chance to engage students outside of a classroom setting and assist them in pursuing their goals and interests. You may have been asked to advise a student organization whose purpose fits your own interests or expertise. This can be a great opportunity to participate and connect with students that will look to you to share your knowledge.
Conversely, you may have been approached by students whose organizational purpose is a completely foreign concept or something you know nothing about. Do not be worried by this! Take this as an opportunity to expand your horizons and learn more about a specific student culture. Students will not expect you to have all of the answers. If you tell them up front that you are not knowledgeable about their specific purpose, but express interest and a willingness to learn about their organization, students will eagerly teach you about the organization’s culture.
In either situation, this is a great way to develop personal relationships with students and observe students as they grow and develop. When in doubt of your ability to advise a student organization, remember, the students chose to ask you! Even if you are unfamiliar with the student organization, as long as you are willing to learn and commit to providing a positive role-model for the students, the students would not have asked you if they did not believe that you were capable.
Who is allowed to advise?
In order to advise a Mason student organization, you must be a staff/faculty member at Mason. Each advisor must be listed as an officer on the Mason360 Group Page for the group they advise.
Working with Your RSO
An advisor can be a valuable resource if you know what to expect and how to communicate with your organization. Below is a list of roles that you may take in working with your organization.
- Problem Solving Agent: The advisor may be the impartial third party that helps the organization work through problems and conflict.
- Counselor: The organization members may find that the advisor is the type of person they can go to with personal concerns.
- Information Resource Person: Hopefully, the advisor has been around long enough to know some of the ins and outs of getting things done at Mason. The organization should use your experience and expertise!
- Idea Resource Person: The advisor should help discover new ideas when the organization’s creative juices dry up.
- Sounding Board: If the organization wants to try out a new idea on an impartial party before proposing it to the entire group, they should try it out on the advisor.
- Administration Liaison: The organization will rely on the advisor for advice on who in the administration can help with projects.
- Interpreter of University Policies and Procedures: The organization will rely on the advisor’s expertise.
- Analyzer of the Group Process: The organization will use the advisor as an observer if the organization is not accomplishing its goals.
- Role Model: A positive one, of course!
- Attendee/Participant at Events: The organization should be sure to keep you informed so that you can at least make an appearance to show support.
- Continuity Provider: Since the advisor is there from year to year, as the student leaders change the advisor can provide a sense of the group’s history.
- Educator Regarding Organizational Philosophy: The advisor can help the organization leaders plan the training that the group needs to successfully understand its mission.
- Educator/Trainer of Student Members: The advisor can help the organization leaders plan the training that the group needs to successfully accomplish its mission.
- Conflict Resolution Assistant: The organization should use the advisor as an impartial mediator.
- Financial Supervisor: The organization should use your experience with University procedures to help stay on top of the organization’s finances.
- Meeting Attender: The organization should be sure to inform the advisor of all meetings so that you can attend.
- Assistant in Evaluating the Organization: The organization should use the advisor as a resource to determine what the organization leaders should be evaluating and when.
- Empowers Students: The advisor should be a valuable resource who helps the organization reach good decisions.
The responsibility for building the relationship must be shared between advisor and student.
- View this relationship as a partnership.
- The relationship must be based upon open, direct communication.
- Share needs, responsibilities, and expectations with each other.
- Be prepared to negotiate.
- Both must recognize the other’s various roles and responsibilities in/outside of their activities position.
- Know each other’s commitments and let each other know their impact.
- Both advisor/student are human beings who make mistakes, follow their own value systems, and work in individual, professional and personal styles.
- Accept, discuss, and learn from mistakes – then move on.
- Both advisor/student are continually growing, changing, and learning: each within their own unique stages of development.
- Challenge and support each other.
This checklist will help you remember the most important aspects of advising. Reference this list often and check things off as they are completed.
- I know what the organization expects of me this year.
- The organization I advise has re-registered for the upcoming academic year. Organizations can re-register by completing the appropriate re-registration forms on Mason360. Please be sure they this is done by the re-registration date.
- The organization I advise has a working copy of their constitution. If any changes are made, a new copy must be turned in to the Office of Student Involvement each academic year by the re-registration date.
- The organization I advise has reviewed and updated their bylaws/guidelines. It is important that all internal rules and regulations are reviewed and reflect the mission of the organization. All members should have a clear understanding of the organization’s bylaws.
- The organization officers have attended all required trainings. Required trainings are dependent on the organization’s registration.
- I have provided the officers my contact information and discussed proper use of such
- The organization I advise has selected dates and times for executive board meetings
- Meetings will be held________________.
- The organization I advise has selected dates and times for general body meetings this year.
- Meetings will be held________________.
- I know where Student Involvement is located, as well as important contacts within the office.
- I have worked with the organization on a budget for the upcoming year and have helped with funding requests from SFB.
- I have an up-to-date roster of the organization’s members and ensure I am listed on Mason360.
- I know the goals, events, and plans of the organization for the academic year and am available to sign any necessary documentation for the organization to facilitate events.
- The organization knows what to expect from me.
Transition-If/When an Advisor Leaves
If, for whatever reason, you decide to leave your role as the organization’s advisor we recommend the following:
- Inform both the leaders of the student organizations and the Student Involvement office of the date on which your role as Advisor officially ends. Please try to give the organization leaders as much advanced notice as possible.
- Advisors should try to leave only at the end of the academic year so the organization can submit the Registration Form with the new advisor information in March/April.
- If an advisor is going on sabbatical or taking a leave of absence, the best practice is to inform the organization as soon as possible to allow them to find an interim advisor. This process should be discussed and solidified with the organization at the beginning of the academic year so if this situation occurs, there will be a plan in place for the organization executive board to follow. All advisor changes or interim advisor additions should be submitted to Student Involvement to RSO@gmu.edu.
Any Questions? Please reach out to Sara Heming, Associate Director for Student Involvement at firstname.lastname@example.org