Become a Better Student Organization Advisor

Become A Better Student Organization AdvisorMy work as the advisor to Pi Beta Phi is not what I was hired to do, but it’s a major component of what I do every day, Monday through Friday, and even some Saturdays. In 2015, I will strive to become a better student organization advisor.

Seek Out Advising Opportunities

I oversee an internship program on campus. While I do collaborate closely with students in my role, much of my duties focus on employer relations, professional development and programming, and teaming up with faculty to streamline the internship process across disciplines. After building a solid framework during my first semester in the job, I wanted something more. I wanted to get involved with Greek life, something that my undergraduate institution lacked but an experience that I found to be one of the most crucial aspects of student life.

I reached out to the Director of Greek life during the summer, vouching for my advising skills in any way that I could, assuring him that I could learn on the job and that I could make an impact if I had the chance. I chose to work with Pi Beta Phi because the organization’s values line up closely with mine, and I could see myself working with the Fraternity in different capacities in my lifetime.

Growing Into the Advising Role

I worked closely with the Alabama Alpha chapter all semester, with my role primarily focused on being a listener. (Tweet this!) I wanted to learn everything I could about the way the chapter works, what the group dynamic looks like, and where improvement may be useful for this student organization.

Now that the chapter’s new leadership has been elected for 2015, I’m ready to take on a more active role as advisor. Here are five of my goals for 2015, as I strive to become a better advisor. While my story focuses on Greek life, I firmly believe that these activities could apply to other student organizations, or even more informal student advising opportunities.

5 Ways to Become a Better Student Organization Advisor

Meet each advisee one-on-one

I’d like to do more of this in 2015, and I would encourage advisors of any student organization to do the same. It’s been helpful for both my internship students and my Pi Beta Phi advisees. This goal is truly a continuation of the work I did in the fall, as I met with each member of the 2014 and 2015 Executive Councils in addition to a handful of our other members. I’ve learned that knowing my advisees, learning their stories, and making a personal connection with them has allowed me to build trust and recognition amongst the chapter. (Tweet this!) Holding office hours for Pi Beta Phi made a world of difference because I created a safe space for each member of the chapter to meet with me and openly discuss their ideas and stories.

Attend at least 5 events per semester

This is a great idea for professionals who work closely with student organizations, within and outside of Greek life. I attended four events sponsored by Pi Beta Phi in the fall (the alumni and family weekend tailgate, the bi-annual scholarship dinner, one proceeds dinner, and the annual ugly sweater party). Making an appearance at these four events allowed for me to observe the group dynamic in diverse settings, giving me the opportunity to think through what sorts of events would be most beneficial and exciting for our chapter. Ideally, I’d like to be there for at least five events, as well as one Panhellenic event that includes our other wonderful organizations. That way, I can get a better idea of the chapter dynamic outside of our organization as well as have a good time!

Take advantage of advising professional development opportunities

I missed the AFA (Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors) Annual Meeting this year, but at the start of 2015 I’d like to join the organization and actively seek out volunteer and development opportunities to inform my work as an Advisor. By the time #AFAAM15 rolls around I’ll be ready to network in the field, learn from more experienced advisors, and bring material back to my chapter. In turn, attending conferences such as the AFA Annual Meeting and becoming more involved in professional development opportunities will afford me more transferable skills that I can utilize when I advise my internship students.

Start a blog

I’m still torn on whether or not I’d like to start a blog that focuses on student organization advising, but I do believe that it would be a great way to share my story, connect with other advisors, and learn from more seasoned professionals. I’d like to obtain a little bit more experience in the area of advising before I start writing, but I’d like to have at least a framework and strong support from my colleagues by the year’s end. Either way, blogging is a great opportunity to collaborate with other advisors and figure out the best ways to impact the students we serve.

Participate in advising Twitter chats like #acadv & #greekchat

I started getting involved with #sachat about halfway through the fall term, and I’ve learned so much already through answering questions and reading through my colleagues’ thoughts on a variety of topics. I didn’t do a great job of continuing the conversations, however. I’d like to extend the reflection and learning over to advising through weekly Twitter chats, with the ultimate goal of making connections and advancing the conversations well past the one-hour weekly time slot. (Tweet this!) Meeting other professionals who wrestle with the same triumphs and tribulations that I do on a regular basis will inform my daily practice and allow for me to better serve my advisees on a daily basis, whether the issues are social, academic, philanthropy-related, or due to leadership dynamics.

Reflecting on my Advisor Role

My role as a student organization advisor takes up a large chunk of my day, and I see my Pi Phis more than I see my internship students some weeks. I’ve jokingly told my colleagues that my advising role has taken over my life, exclaiming, “This is not what I signed up for!” That’s not entirely untrue; this isn’t what I signed up for. But I couldn’t begin to articulate how grateful I am to be the advisor to such a strong chapter; I can guarantee that my advisees have had a bigger impact on me than I have had on them. (Tweet this!)

One of my big-picture goals would be to transition to Greek life full-time in the future, though I’m happy where I’m at now. I need a few more years of good advising experience before I can achieve that, but I’m confident that these five “micro-goals” will put me on the right track, providing me with development opportunities that will inform my practice as well as impact the chapter through active engagement.

About the Author

Kimberly White PhotoKimberly White is the Internship Coordinator for the rise3 Initiative at Birmingham-Southern College, an experiential learning and critical reflection opportunity for students in the domains of faculty-student research, internships, and service-learning. She also serves as the Advisor to the Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women, Alabama Alpha chapter. She is a recent graduate of the HESA program at Boston College and resides in Birmingham, Alabama. You can find Kimberly on Twitter at @whiteoi, and on LinkedIn.


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3 Comments on “Become a Better Student Organization Advisor

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