Advising

The advisor relationship can be an integral part of your organization’s success. While all Registered Student Organizations are required to have a full-time faculty/staff member as an advisor, each organization works with this person differently. Understanding and establishing how your organization defines this relationship and ensuring you are on the same page as your advisor is critical. Below highlights some important information around developing the advisor relationship.

Advisors

Why is it important to have one?

  • The advisor will most likely have a lot of knowledge about the university than the members as well as having connections and networks on campus.
  • An advisor can take some of the workload from the organization.
  • Members can seek advice from the advisor. Advisors can be mentors, supporters, and advocates for the organization and its members.
  • An advisor is often a symbol of continuity with the organization and can often bridge former members with those operating the organization, building an alumni network.

The Member's Role in the Relationship

  • The members should explicitly talk to the advisor about the responsibilities he or she is expected to have with the organization. If the organization and advisor are not on the same page, the relationship may not fit for either party.
  • Board members should be responsible for consistently keeping in contact with your advisor and discussing any matters present. It the university’s expectation that board members are updating the advisor regularly with important campus and organization information.
  • Inform your advisor about the meeting times and any upcoming projects/events. Advisors are expected to be involved in meetings and events, but it is up to your organization and advisor to establish what that expectations looks like.
  • Discuss any possible changes in the constitution, bylaws, or any procedures with the advisor before they are officially made.
  • Members should be aware that all the credit, whether good or bad, cannot be placed solely on the advisor. It is a group effort.
  • Responsibility for making decisions falls with the membership of the group (including registration, goal setting, fiscal responsibility, etc.).
  • Do not be afraid to confront the advisor for any advice or help that is needed. Your advisor is your first campus support.

The Advisor's Role in the Relationship

  • To guide the organization.
  • To make sure the group is following proper procedures and rules.
  • To give advice and help when needed.
  • Give out any connections if any and if necessary.
  • Be the mediator if any problems or conflicts arise among the members.
  • Express true opinions on decisions made by the members.
  • Be aware of what is happening in the organization.
  • Should be well-informed about the organization itself.
  • Should provide the cohesion in the group, especially in the times of officer transitions.
  • Should mentor and support board members while allowing the students to ultimately be the decision makers.
  • Should be happy in serving the organization.

Rewards of Being an RSO Advisor

Intentional student involvement on a college campus can lead to many rewards for the institution, advisors and the students. The institution can benefit from intentional student involvement because of increased student retention, recruitment, and students may feel a stronger sense of ownership towards the institution thus contributing to the betterment of the campus climate. The advisors can benefit from directly observing college student development, forming networks of people interested in similar interests and career paths, observing changes in fads, cultures and student life, and further a purpose important to the advisor. Students can benefit by finding balance within their lives by participating in their interests and hobbies, increased networking and relationships with advisors, transferrable skills, and increased knowledge about campus and community resources. Ideally, institutions, advisors and students work together to support one another throughout this endeavor.

Challenges of Being an RSO Advisor

Each institution may face challenges such as communication, legality issues, resource allocation, campus support for organizations, and education of student responsibility. A challenged faced at UNLV is educating campus about the difference between an institution "recognizing" or "registering" student organizations. Recognizing organizations is typically done at private institutions as most of the student organizations are directly promoting the university mission. Student organizations at UNLV are "registered". This allows the institution to know what organizations exist and it allows the registered student organizations to access benefits and resources. There is no implication that the institution endorses the purpose of each registered student organization. Registered student organizations do not carry the tax exempt status or non-profit title of UNLV. This poses a challenge to students trying to raise funds for their organization as donors may refuse to donate because the donation may not be able to be deducted from their taxes.

Advisors may be challenged to manage their time differently, communicating with students, clarifying expectations and to be patient with students at different stages in their development. Advisors will be challenged to encourage students to find creative solutions to their challenges, without over controlling the organization, even if it is well-intended. Students may also be challenged by a new or increased sense of responsibility, becoming overly involved and navigating a new environment. Students may struggle with advisors who are overly involved or with the lack of guidance from an uninvolved advisor. Students will also be faced with new ethical and moral dilemmas with more freedom to choose their own path.

Advisor Responsibilities

When planning an event some circumstances may require general liability insurance. Student Union and Event Services (Student Union 315, 702-895-4449) has a list of potential vendors for such insurance. It is the responsibility of the organization to obtain appropriate insurance for activities.

Students and registered student organizations may be held accountable for their actions on or off campus. It is important for all students and registered student organization functions to be in compliance with local, state and federal laws, in addition to the Student Conduct code.

Financial

Advisors are not fiscally responsible for the organization unless it is written into their PDQ as such; advisors are not to be signatories on financial accounts (bank credit union, etc.). Some University Organization advisors are responsible for the budget of the student organization as allocated by UNLV. Student organizations are responsible for filing appropriate federal documentation regarding financial income and expenditures. Student organizations should be encouraged to keep accurate and detailed documentation of all financial records and consult an accountant for additional financial guidance.

Organization and Institution Advocacy

It is important for advisors to provide neutral territory for students to ask questions and seek understanding while navigating the institutional policies and resources. Advisors can support students by providing resources, asking challenging questions and listening to the students' questions and concerns. The better understanding each advisor has regarding institutional polices, the better equipped they will be to answer student questions or guide students to finding the answers on their own.

Conflict

Conflict within groups is inevitable and can be healthy if managed appropriately. Some conflict can be managed by creating or maintaining a structured decision making process outlined in the constitution. Accurate and detailed record keeping for financial decisions, meeting notes, etc. may also help to alleviate some conflict before it elevates. Advisors may be asked to help resolve conflict within the student organization or the advisor might find themselves in the middle of conflict with the group. These situations may be a great learning opportunity for the students to witness appropriate conflict resolution strategies and in some circumstances grow closer as a group. More information is provided in the Leadership Library on specific conflict resolution strategies. Some basic tips include:

  • Address conflict early.
  • Seek understanding.
  • Withhold judgment.
  • Listen to all perspectives.
  • Be authentic.
  • Recognize those contributing to the resolution process.
  • Encourage the group to find a resolution.

Organizations that Need an Advisor

If you are a full-time faculty/staff at UNLV and you would like to advise a student organization, please see the list linked below. All organizations listed are currently looking for a new advisor! Please contact the organization directly. Once an advisor-organization match is made, we will remove the organization from this list. If there are any issues with communicating with the organization, please email Marni Dow, Assistant Director for Student Involvement: marni.dow@unlv.edu.

Organizations That Need An Advisor

Need Additional Resources?

Student Involvement & Activities strives to provide as many resources as possible to make sure RSO advisors are set-up for success. If you feel like you need more guidance or advice, we're here to help you. Some of our additional resources include:

  • Regular RSO Advisor workshops scheduled throughout the academic year. Keep an eye on your email as well as announcements in UNLV Today regarding upcoming workshops. You can also search the Events section of the Involvement Center for upcoming session dates.
  • Check out our archive of previous presentations for RSO Advisors.
  • Reach out to us for help or assistance! Marni Dow, our Assistant Director for Student Involvement, focuses on creating resources and training opportunities specifically for RSO Advisors. She is always happy to consult with specific advisors on a wide range of topics. She can be reached at marni.dow@unlv.edu, involvement@unlv.edu, or 702-895-2508.

Resources and Tips

There are plenty of resources out there around developing strategies and expectations for the advisor relationship. Some tips for maximizing these resources include:

  • Schedule a time early on in the year or immediately following officer elections with the advisor to re-establish the relationship.
  • Discuss with your advisor what you want their role to be and make sure you understand exactly what they want to get from the relationship. Sometimes developing an advisor agreement and both signing it can be a great way to establish these roles.
  • Appreciate and utilize your advisor. Advisors volunteer their time to support your organization so make sure they feel appreciated and welcome and don’t be afraid to ask them for help!
  • Registered Student Organization (RSO) Manual: The RSO Manual provides detailed information that all student organizations should know. Whether you are an existing student organization or thinking about starting a new student organization the RSO Manual is a great interactive resource to navigating the UNLV campus and student organization policies and procedures.