Switching Roles: Advising Student Organizations

by Olivia Miller

As I start my fourth week of school I have quickly found my practicum work and experience to be one of my favorite things about the semester. This fall I am working with K-State First, Kansas State’s first year experience program, and have already learned so much in a short amount of time. This office has four programs for first year students – CAT Communities (Living Learning Communities), First Year Seminars, Guide to Personal Success (a mentoring program) and the Kansas State Book Network (our common read program). In additional to these four programs, this semester K-State First has been given responsibility to advise the freshman honorary Phi Eta Sigma.

This shift in advising duties comes during a busy time for the honorary, the first meeting of the semester is on the 14th, and the new member induction ceremony is next Sunday the 20th. I, along with another K-State First practicum student have been asked to assist the new advisors during the semester. Now, I have had my fair share of involvement in student organizations and know my way around student-led meetings, low membership numbers and involvement, but I have never been on the other side of the table as an advisor. I am excited, and nervous, to be involved in the advising role for the first time.

After attending the first officer meeting of the year last Monday it is clear that our chapter faces similar challenges to other student organizations. In organizing the first member meeting, when asked how many people to expect, the secretary responded “no more than 10,” including officers. Member involvement is key to a successful student organization and without it those who are involved (the officer team), quickly experience burnout. As an academic honor society most students join and list it on their resume without batting an eye, so member involvement is more difficult to achieve. How do we get students involved in something that does not require them to do so? Also, how do we keep officer morale high throughout the year as their hard work goes unnoticed by members?

These are just two of the issues I hope to improve on throughout the semester. However, after meeting with the past advisor there are other areas I hope to improve – fundraising efforts and service projects. Fundraising is necessary as funds are limited which in turn makes available scholarships limited. Yet, what are some new ideas that actually bring a return? Also, service is a primary focus of this honorary so our members should also be focused on this. Yet, again how do we get students involved?

While issues such as these are not new to student organizations, it is my first time dealing with them in an advisor role. My hope is to learn from the current officer team, bring new ideas to the chapter, and leave it better than I found it last week. This work is not easy, but the commitment and efforts of advisors in student organizations is a key piece to success. As always, this is an opportunity to learn – from these students, my K-State First team and also from you the readers. So, for those of you who advise a student organization – what is your most important piece of advice as I begin this journey?

Student Affairs - the First Years

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