Thursday, May 21, 2009

Care and Feeding of Advisors

The following post is an email that fellow SigEp Ron Binder sent to members of the Association of Fraternity Advisors. There are some excellent points here that can be adopted by local AVCs, the National Leadership, and the HQ staff.

Karen and Others,

The issue of engaging advisors with our groups is a daunting one, both for our campus based professionals as well as the headquarters. All can agree that an engaged advisor improves our chapters, provides mentors for our undergraduates, lowers the high-risk behaviors, and generally helps our groups achieve their intended outcomes. The tricky part is how to recruit, train, and reward these volunteers. While there is no magic formula, here are some suggestions that I have found that help.

  1. Treat your advisors as equal partners in the relationship between your office and the chapter.
  2. Copy advisors on almost all communication to the chapter.
  3. Use inclusive language whenever possible (Grad Advisor, Chapter Advisor).
  4. Try to learn the various titles of advisors (Chapter Counselor, Purple Legionnaire, High Pi, etc.).
  5. In any disciplinary action, be sure to include the advisor (either by calling yourself or making sure they are called by the chapter president).
  6. Send advisors internet stories, both good and bad, that will educate them (I attach them to the weekly email to presidents and advisors).
  7. Provide training for advisors, realizing some are seasoned and some are not.
  8. Try not to have them play the “heavy” in situations. Staff member are much more in a position to do this.
  9. Realize advisor’s capabilities and don’t overload them.
  10. Encourage an Advisory Team approach to advising, rather than a Jack of All Trades advisor (who probably has never existed).
  11. Realize that advisors don’t sign up for life, but rather go through stages in their lives; much like undergraduates (see Erik Erikson’s theory).
  12. Use the summer to spend quality time with advisors (lunches, coffee, etc.).
  13. Meet advisors on their own turf (houses and their office), not always in your office.
  14. Take new advisors out to lunch or coffee to orientate them to their new position (don’t assume the previous advisor transitioned them).
  15. Realize that things have changed since many advisors were undergrads and bring along your advisors.
  16. Most advisors don’t go around the rules, rather most don’t know the rules have changed (rarely have I found a bad advisor, just those who are not up to speed).
  17. Provide books for them to read. At a recent meeting I took along some books from the office and let them borrow them. Volunteers: How to Get Them, How to Keep Them by Helen Little is a good book to buy advisors (we are doing this for the fall).
  18. Provide an outstanding Grad/Chapter Advisor award. We make them for small, medium and large chapters to include more advisors.
  19. Remember they are always volunteers and treat accordingly (this is not their job).

If we want quality advisors then we need to spend quality time with them. The same way we develop good undergraduate leaders, by investing our time in them, we need to do with our advisors. The best advisors I know don’t spend all their time with undergraduates, rather they spend some of their time with those that interact with undergraduates (advisors, headquarters, parents, campus administrators, etc.), especially if they want their message to undergraduates reinforced.

Other suggestions from advisors?

Dr. Ron Binder
Director of Greek Life
University of South Carolina

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