What Students Say: SSA Chapter Advisor Best Practices

In the our Affiliation Renewals, we asked SSA affiliate groups what they had to say about their advisors - either things that they should strive for in particular, or things they should avoid.  We've compiled that information into seven main areas so that you can see how you can best support your SSA affiliate.

1.  Offer Public Support
As an advisor, you should be willing to publicly support the group you advise. Do your best to attend group functions and keep up with the latest events. This lends legitimacy to the group and may help reduce harassment from the administration or the campus at large.

2.  Offer Private Support
Just as important as being willing to support the group publicly is being willing to support the group privately. Are you willing to spend time with the group, either attending meetings/events or online? Can you talk to other professors about the group? Are you willing to help student leaders with bumps in the road?  Sometimes groups have special needs that you can help with, such as chaperoning for special events or conferences.

3.  Ropes and Red Tape
Students have a lot to learn, and there’s plenty you can teach them from your position. You can help them out with red tape, forms, formal budgeting, and other skills the leaders may not have mastered. You might also know how to get rooms for meetings or other nifty tricks that could help the group. Eventually the group will transition to new leaders, and you can run through the process again with a new generation.

4.  Offer to Speak
Student groups are often tight on funds, and can use help anywhere they can. If there’s something you can talk about (say, your research or classroom material), offer to do a presentation for a discussion meeting! Perhaps offer incentives for your students to come to a relevant lecture outside of class hosted by the group.  If you aren't up for speaking yourself, you may know other professors with related research who might be interested. See if you can connect them with the group.

5.  Engage and Mentor
Don’t be a stranger! A lot of student activity takes place at the group meetings, but social media is also a key hub for groups. Don’t hesitate to join in on discussions and bring something to the table. The group will feel more comfortable coming to you if they know who you are. Keep in mind, running a student group can be stressful. Be available for advice and words of encouragement if they are needed. Many students might be dealing with issues at home or in their social circles as a result of the group, which can add to the natural stress of studenthood - they could use a friendly mentor.

6.  Maintain Insitutional Memory
The population of student groups changes quickly, and it is easy to lose institutional memory. You can help keep records of past group events, and be a common thread as the group grows and transitions. You can also keep track of key information (such as the university's funding process or room reservation system) and materials (tabling supplies and group business cards). Having a stable presence can make transitions much less harrowing for everyone involved with the group.

7.  Stay Close, But Not Too Close!
Be accessible and available to the students, but don’t try to run the group! Remember that you are in a supporting role. At the same time, don’t abandon the group entirely to their own devices. Many of our groups tell us they wish their advisors were more involved in supporting the group and attending functions.