All student organizations are encouraged to have a faculty or staff advisor. While an advisor is not required for an student organization to exist, we strongly encourage organizations to select an advisor. An advisor must be affiliated with Hamilton College, such as a full-time faculty or staff member. Exceptions may be made for unaffiliated advisors who have a particular expertise that is not available on campus. If the latter, the individual must be approved by the Director of Student Activities, in writing, to serve as advisor to a student organization. The Director of Student Organizations will make decisions to approve unaffiliated advisors in consultation with the associated department (e.g. Athletics for club sports, Chaplaincy for religiously affiliated organization). The extent of an advisor's involvement with their organization must be agreed upon by the advisor and student organization officers.

Advising Expectations

Some general advising expectations include:
  • Meeting with the organization’s chair or president at least once a month.
  • Meeting with the group’s executive board at least once a semester. (Additional meetings may be scheduled as needed or desired.)
  • Attending at least one meeting/event with the entire organization.  (Additional meetings may be attended as needed or desired.)
  • Requesting and receiving regular updates/minutes from organization meetings.
  • Acting as a liaison between the organization and the College's administration.
  • Getting to know students on an individual level. Learn what they want to get out of the organization.
  • Reaching out to other advisors or departments (i.e. Student Activities) for assistance and support.
  • Empowering students to take action and to take satisfaction in seeing the student organization succeed.

Advising is a developmental process in which an advisor shares ideas and insights, provides a different perspective, counsels students, and facilitates learning to assist students in their academic, personal, and professional development. An advisor facilitates the maintenance of a strong organization by providing continuity and keeping new members and officers informed of the history of the organization. The advisor does not control the organization, and does not make all the decisions for the students, but instead provides a balanced perspective so students can make the most informed decisions possible.

Developmental Advising Approach

What do we mean by saying that advising is a developmental process? A developmental advising approach...

  • Is concerned about human potential and growth.
  • Requires establishing caring relationships with students.
  • Encourages students to take responsibility for their actions.
  • Provides opportunities for students to explore their ideas.
  • Encourages values of volunteerism, civic engagement, and social responsibility.
  • Builds connections between academic and student affairs to assist students in achieving goals.
  • Engages the advisor and the student with both making equal contributions to the relationship.

The above description of the developmental advising approach was adapted from Academic Advising for Student Success and Retention (Hovland, Anderson & Associates, 1997).

Advisor Functions

It may be helpful to think of the advisor's role in terms of three major areas:

  1. Maintenance or custodial functions
  2. Group growth functions
  3. Program content functions

Within each of these broad areas, the group advisor may perform certain duties that call for considerable activity on his/her part in some specific situations and instances or none at all.

Maintenance Functions

These are advisory activities that serve to maintain the existence of the student organization and to keep it out of difficulty. Examples of such advisory activities include:

  • Providing continuity within the organization by having historical context regarding past club activities and traditions
  • Intervening when club activities may result in poor public relations for the organization or College
  • Providing advice to the organization officers and members when called upon
  • Preventing the group from breaking the College's rules and ensuring the group abides by all financial policies and expectations
  • Serving as an exemplar of intellectual virtue and honorable citizenship
  • Arbitrating and mediating intra-group disputes

Group Growth Functions

These are advisory activities that improve the operation and effectiveness of the group and help it progress toward its goals. They are facilitating functions that are useful without particular reference to the program content. Related advisory activities might include:

  • Teaching the techniques and responsibilities of being a good leader and follower
  • Coaching the organization officers in the principles of good organizational and administrative practices
  • Developing self-discipline and responsibility among group members
  • Teaching the elements of effective group operation, running successful meetings, and planning events
  • Developing procedures and plans for action to guide the organization toward their goals
  • Keeping the group focused on their mission and goals
  • Connecting the organization to relevant colleagues, conferences, competitions, and resources through your professional network
  • Ensuring the sustainability of the organization by helping the officers to recruit new members and new officers for outgoing leadership

Program Content Functions

A student organization should exist for other purposes than to perpetuate itself and improve its internal operation. It is in the area of program content that the faculty/staff advisor assumes a genuinely educational function and one that can parallel, complement, or supplement the formal curricular offering of the College. It is here that the advisor can stimulate the intelligence and ability of the student participants and help them to plan activities that will contribute to their own intellectual development while enriching campus life. Advisory activities related to program content might include the following:

  • Introducing new program ideas and pushing the group to try new activities, dream bigger, and push the envelope
  • Providing opportunities for the practice of classroom-acquired skills
  • Helping the group to apply principles and concepts learned in the classroom
  • Pointing out new perspectives and directions to the group
  • Supplying expert knowledge and insights of experience

Keep in Mind ...

Here is a list of some things to keep in mind when working with student leaders:

  1. It is important not to direct the activities of the club. Allow students to make their own decisions and learn from their experiences.
  2. Failing is part of the learning process. Mistakes and poor decisions will happen. While it may be your first reaction to intervene and fix all the mistakes you see, this is not the role of the advisor. You can help students to think through their actions and to consider various possibilities but the final decisions must be theirs. Take advantage of failures and use them as teachable moments with students.
  3. Remember, it is your responsibility to ensure that students understand what the consequences are for their decisions. Be proactive when a controversial situation arises, but let them make the decision on how to proceed. Help students take ownership of their decisions and responsibility for any consequences that may follow.
  4. Assist students with the development of a budget and the spending of their funds. Do not control the finances of the club. Your primary role is to monitor the expenses, provide feedback on the budget, and review expenditures.


Kaity Werner

Assistant Director of Student Activities

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