Student Organization Advisors

A significant amount of research has been done to show that the student’s experience outside of the classroom can often times be just as significant towards his or her development as the time spent within the classroom. The advisor role offers professionals opportunities to facilitate student development outside of the classroom. Often students will point to their experience in a student organization as the most meaningful experience in their college career. With that in mind, it is important to note that the role of the advisor is a very important one. Information or assistance of any kind is always available to faculty or staff members seeking more resources on advising.

NIU's proud history as an institution of higher education has always included co-curricular activities that provide opportunities for students to develop their leadership skills. Co-curricular activities provide students with opportunities to practice the theories they learn in classroom, but also to develop additional skills needed to enter the work force. The advisor is an integral part of every campus student organization. As a member of the faculty or staff of the university, the primary function of the advisor is to actively advise, counsel, and serve as a resource for the student organization.

We host to over 200 different student organizations. The Student Government Association recognizes a number of student organizations every year and provide funding to those organizations.

This guide is designed to provide the advisor with concrete information on how to be a successful advisor. While advising an organization does require some additional time demands, the rewards gained by advising more than compensate for this.

Roles and Responsibilities of an Advisor
The Definition of an Advisor

Advisor Roles and Responsibilities

Each organization must have an advisor who understands and agrees to the following responsibilities before the organization may be considered for recognition:

  • Meet regularly with executives of the organization to discuss goals, event planning, and other needs of the organization.
  • Act as fiscal advisor of the organization if receiving SA allocated funds and ensure expenditures are authorized in the SA’s budget allocation to the organization.
  • Ensure that the organization files appropriate recognition and registration paperwork annually, and that officer forms are updated whenever any changes occur.
  • Attend organization meetings when appropriate.
  • Work with executives of the organization to ensure that the organization is inclusive in its recruitment of members and selection of officers.
  • Act as a resource for members of the organization while directing them to appropriate university departments for assistance.
  • Ensure that actions of the organizations and its members are in accordance with the established policies and procedures of NIU and its respective departments.

Responsibilities to the Student Organization

  • The advisor should assist the group in developing realistic goals for the academic year. This will contribute to the educational and personal development of the students involved. The advisor must take an active role, rendering advice and counsel as circumstances dictate.
  • The advisor should be aware of all plans and activities of the group and inform the group that institutional policies may affect these plans. The advisor should see that the group and its officers know where policies are listed, what the policies are, why they exist, and the channels to be followed for changes, revisions, or exceptions to policies.
  • The advisor should discourage dominance of the group by any one individual and should encourage quieter students to take initiative. Eager leaders can steal the limelight more often than is necessary. This can lead to resentment by some or pressure others into silencing themselves. The advisor can help provide a balance by pointing out such concerns in a one-on-one setting with the students or the organization leadership.
  • The advisor may need to refer students to counseling. Invariably, during interaction with the group’s members, the advisor will encounter students with personal problems. The counseling role might require individual consultation on a personal level or referral to the student counseling service. Get more information about the Counseling and Consultation Services.
  • The advisor should provide continuity within the group and should be familiar with the group's history and constitution. Membership turnover in student organizations is high and often the only link with the immediate past is the advisor. The advisor can steer group members clear of mistakes and help them avoid the proverbial "reinventing of the wheel". Serving as the group's memory and continuity link, the advisor can help new officers build on history and develop long term plans for the future of the organization.
  • The advisor should offer ideas for projects and events. The advisor will perform their greatest service by providing opportunities for the students to exercise initiative and judgment and to enjoy a proper measure of autonomy in self-directed social, educational, recreational, cultural, and spiritual activities. He or she should not dominate the program planning process. However, advisors should ensure that the group understands a program’s complexity and has discussed and registered the event with the appropriate NIU staff. The advisor should remember that it is the task of the active members to operate the organization. Removing this responsibility from the members would deprive them of an important educational experience.
  • The advisor should assist the group in assessment. This includes evaluating individual programs as well as doing a complete evaluation at the end of the academic year. The advisor must be willing to give constructive criticism when necessary and offer words of praise for work well done.

Responsibilities to Individual Group Members

  • The advisor should help the students find a balance between their academics and their co-curricular activities. Student leaders often have the tendency to "burn the candle at both ends" and will overextend themselves if not held in check. The advisor has a unique opportunity to remind students of their academic obligations and personal needs.
  • The advisor should encourage each individual to participate in and plan group events. Some students fade into the background if not effectively encouraged. Being a member of a student group can provide students with valuable interpersonal and/or leadership skills, but these will not develop if the student is not involved.
  • The advisor should encourage students to accept responsibility for specific roles within the group. The advisor should help them realize the importance of these roles. From officer positions to committee members, each student should feel invested in and accountable for their specific role.

Responsibilities to the University

  • The advisor should work with the group, but not direct its activities. Although the advisor's role is not regulatory or disciplinary, the advisor has a responsibility to both the institution and the organization to keep their best interests in mind. At times, the advisor may need to remind the organization of institutional policies so that violations do not occur. The advisor may also work with the organization's officers to establish and maintain internal group standards and regulations for conduct.
  • Occasionally, an advisor can help an organization during an emergency. Although this type of intervention is rarely necessary, the advisor's good judgment can be the saving grace in the event of mishaps, internal conflict, or personal crisis. Assisting the group’s president as a spokesperson or serving as the main contact for the University can help in these cases.

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Advisor Training Programs

The real definition of an advisor floats somewhere between being a counselor, supervisor, educator, and mentor, in which no single label applies entirely to the role. An advisor is one who gives ideas, shares insight, provides a different perspective, and counsels. In general, advisors have three main functions:

  • Help with the growth and development of students.
  • Add to the continuity of the groups as members graduate.
  • Assist in the area of program content and purpose.

The staff within the Student Involvement offer a variety of student organizational services to advisors. Student Involvement hosts Monthly Town Halls and specialized trainings for new advisors and additional training opportunities for returning advisors. For more information about advisor training programs or other information related to student organizations please contact Alex Pitner at

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