In my experience advising student organization, I am often questioned about what it means to be an advisor to a student organization. It often attracts more attention than my other duties in my position when explaining to people what I do. So what is an advisor? You can always default to the definition provided in the Student Organization Manual which reads:
“An 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. An advisor is a full time faculty member, staff member and/ or graduate assistant of TAMU that agrees to be an educational resource and consultant for an organization and its members. The advisor should be a caring individual with a genuine interest for students, the organization, and their programs and activities.”
In speaking with faculty and staff colleagues that serve as advisors, they shared words like coach, mentor, facilitator, and guide when asked what it means to them to be an advisor. Every organization has a different need for their advisor(s), and even in the same organization those needs can change from year to year. The role of advisor is often one that seeks to support students in their efforts to make the best decisions to assist the organization in fulfilling its mission. Some advisors will need to be more involved with their student organization leaders, regularly meeting with them, attending events and meetings, etc. Others might have less interaction, meeting with the student leaders only to check in, follow up, and make sure the organization is succeeding in fulfilling their mission. Both types of interaction with an organization is important, and will largely depend on the needs and scope of the organization itself.
In my role as an advisor, I share with my students that my goal is to ensure the fulfillment of the organization’s mission. Following that, my goal is to ensure that my students gain skills to assist them in being competitive in whatever field they choose after their time at Texas A&M. Often times, my wording is “I do not want you to come back and visit me in a few years and tell me that you were fired or removed from your academic program, because you did not know how to work in a team, to respect someone different than you, or how to navigate a globalized working environment.”
It is important that we as advisors make time to reflect on why we advise. For some it is a part of their position description, but for the majority of advisors on campus it is a voluntary role. Is it because you are passionate about the mission of the organization? Is it the opportunity to mentor and develop college age students? Is it an opportunity to give back or pay it forward because of something someone did for you when you were a student? There is not one perfect answer, but there is an answer each of advisor. I have found that reflecting on these types of questions assists me in navigating the challenges I face as an advisor.
In the Department of Student Activities “we are committed to developing leaders of character dedicated to serving the greater good.” If we can ever assist you in your advising experience, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Thanks and Gig ‘Em,
Andrew Carruth ’04