RSO Advisors

Welcome to the world of advising student organizations. Advisement provides a wonderful opportunity for you to get to know students and to gain the satisfaction of knowing that you helped guide students in the development of a successful organization or program.

The Office of Student Engagement would like to thank you for donating your valuable time to clubs & organizations at Montana State University. It is this commitment to the integration of academic and leadership development that makes our students so successful.


Check out our other helpful club resources HERE


If there are any questions regarding any information in this handbook, please contact the Office of Student Engagement by email at [email protected] or call 406.994.2933

Our office appreciates student organization advisors! Your role and support are integral to the success of student groups.

Your commitment to serve as an advisor to a registered student organization at Montana State University is appreciated. The advisor plays an integral role in helping student leaders create an environment within their organizations that is productive, safe, enjoyable, and educational. You also play a vital role in assuring that the experiences of a student organization is meaningful to students, and you are essential to providing assistance in managing institutional risk and liability.

Advisors for student organizations are important catalysts for the learning that happens out of the classroom and have the potential to influence and develop that learning. Student organizations are avenues for students to implement theories they have learned in class; to discuss what they are learning in the classroom; to develop friendships; to network with professionals; and to improve their interpersonal, communication, and leadership skills.

The purpose of student organizations is to provide students with opportunities to participate in activities that develop their intellectual, emotional, spiritual, physical, and professional abilities. These organizations are important components of the academic life of the University. To meet all the different developmental needs of students, the Office of Student Engagement offers a multitude of student groups covering the following areas: academic, professional, religious, political, honor, military, service, cultural, special interest, recreation, and more! Every student is encouraged to become a member of those organizations that appeal to their interest.

Involvement in student organizations:

  • Improves students’ interpersonal skills;

  • Gives students a greater satisfaction and sense of belonging with their college experience;

  • Provides useful experience in obtaining a job and providing job related skills;

  • Develops lifelong values of volunteerism and service to others;

  • Has a positive influence on skills in leadership, communication, teamwork, organizing, decision-making, and planning.

The purpose of registered student organizations at MSU is to compliment and add value to student academics and to enhance the overall educational experience of students. Registration of an organization does not constitute the University’s intention or responsibility to sponsor, endorse, or otherwise support particular Student Organizations. Consequently, the fact that a Student Organization has access to University facilities should not be construed, nor may a particular Student Organization represent, that Montana State University sponsors, endorses, or otherwise supports the organization or any of its views, philosophies, or activities 

Student Organizations, including social sororities and fraternities as well as residence hall organizations, must comply with the criteria listed below to be eligible to use facilities at Montana State University-Bozeman under applicable regulations.

With the understanding that Montana State University is committed to a philosophy of non-discrimination under guidelines including, but not limited to, the Civil Rights Act, '504, Title IX, and the Montana Human Rights Act, and to the opportunity for individuals to assemble and associate under the First Amendment, the following guidelines will be followed by registered student organizations, its leaders and members:

  1. Are aware of University regulations and policies regarding student organizations and the use of facilities at MSU, and comply with these stated regulations and policies. This includes complying with all alcohol, non-discrimination and facilities use policies.

  2. Agree to read and abide by the policies in the Registered Student Organization Manual (this document) published by OSE.

  3. Agree to show sponsorship (example: “This event sponsored by student organization name”) on ALLpublicity for each event sponsored by our student organization. Becoming a registered student organization does NOT indicate or imply sponsorship by OSE or MSU.

  4. Agree to uphold the policy that 80% of your student organization membership MUST be currently enrolled students at MSU-Bozeman and ONLY students can hold officer positions. Club Sports must be 100% students.

  5. Agree your organization does not deny membership, voting rights or officer positions on the race, color, religion, national origin, creed, service in the uniformed services (as defined in state and federal law), veteran’s status, sex, age, political ideas, marital or family status, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, genetic information, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Except an organization may restrict membership based on the provisions of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, such as fraternities and sororities, in regard to gender, for membership criteria.

  6. Club Sports: 

    1. Understand that schools can maintain separate teams for members of each sex if selection for teams is based on competitive skills or if the sport in question involves physical contact. Contact sports are considered to be boxing, wrestling, rugby, ice hockey, football, basketball, and other sports involving bodily contact. However, if opportunities to participate in sports activities have previously been denied to one sex, members of that sex must be allowed to try out for whichever team is the only one offering the activity.

    2. Membership must be 100% students.

  7. Agree to notify OSE of any student organization travel and abide by the Student Travel Policyas well as the process published by OSE found on the Student Organizational Travel page.


  9. Submit all revisions, such as alterations to organizational name or purpose, change in leadership or advisor, to the Office of Student Engagement in a timely fashion.

  10. Understand that with any activity there are inherent risks and organizations are responsible for managing this risk in a reasonable manner.

  11. Club funds are to be deposited and managed in a club bank account. Club funds may only be used by club leaders and advisors to further the mission of the club and are not to be used for personal purposes. Alleged violations of any of the aforementioned policy may result in your student organization or individual leaders/members being reported to the Dean of Students’ office and/or MSU Campus Police.

  12. Do not seek to accomplish organization objectives, goals, purposes or activities through the use of violence. 

  13. Agree to abide by the MSU Student Code of Conduct section 622.00 regarding Harassment, Hazing, and Bystanding. 

  14. Agree to not engage in activities that present a danger to property, personnel, students, community members and/or orderly function of the university.

  15. Agree to comply with federal or state laws, and university policies.

  16. Must not engage in activities that interfere with the normal activities of the university or with the rights of others.


Policy Compliance

Please note, being a registered student organization is considered a privilege, not a right, as are any and all benefits associated with being a registered student organization. If policies and procedures are not followed, or if there are difficulties which arise as a result of the activities, statements, or actions of the organization and/or any of its members, OSE reserves the right to place that student organization on probation for a minimum of one year. Furthermore, OSE reserves the right to refuse funding to any registered group which applies if that group is not in compliance with these policies. Group recognition as a student organization depends not only on initial compliance with the foregoing requirements, but also on continued compliance. Eligible organizations are permitted to register and maintain registration unless the university finds that the organization has failed to meet any of the listed policies/responsibilities stated above.

For the full Student Organization Policy List, please visit this website.



  • Free use of University meeting rooms and facilities (certain areas and types of events may have rental fees)

  • Free use of SUB mailbox (based on availability)

  • Free use of club locker space (based on availability)

  • Inclusion on the RSO list on the OSE website to allow others to view your club information

  • Inclusion on the RSO listserv hosted by OSE

  • Ability to participate in Catapalooza and the bi-annual Involvement Fair to recruit members

  • Use of the Office of Student Engagement flyer posting service

  • Access to training and leadership development by OSE

  • Eligibility to apply for student organization funding (available through the student activity fee) through OSE and the RSO Funding Board

  • Use of SUB advertising space: Includes banners, posters, table tents, and information tables. All of these items must be reserved through Conference Services.

  • Use of the OSE SUB Union Marketplace TV advertising space

  • Support from OSE staff for event planning, club travel, organization management and more!

Why does a student organization need an advisor?

An advisor can prove to be a valuable asset to your organization by sharing their life experiences, wisdom, providing continuity, providing organizational memory, and providing connections to resources. The key role of the advisor is to serve as a resource for the organization. Take some time to discuss reciprocal expectations with your advisor(s). Try to establish open lines of communication that will enable you to work together effectively.

As an Advisor, you must agree to the following,

  1. You are a full or part-time faculty or staff member or a graduate student at Montana State University and that you will notify the student organization you are advising immediately if your employment status changes.

  2. To assist your student organization in developing realistic goals for the academic year. This will contribute to the educational and personal development of the students involved.

  3. To be familiar with the student organization’s constitution and all other governing documents, so that you may advise effectively.

  4. To attend executive office, general meetings, and organization events when possible.

  5. Assist the organization in keeping their financial and organizational records current, and be aware of the expenditure of student time, abilities, duties, and finances within the program.

  6. To assist in the orientation of new members and with the leadership transition process each year.

  7. To answer policy-related questions, guide the group and its officers to follow established policies and protocols, and explain the consequences for choosing to operate outside their parameters.

  8. Encouraging opportunities within the organization that will contribute to the students’ development and education.

  9. To read email updates from the Office of Student Engagement regarding your role as an advisor.

  10. Be well informed of all plans and activities of the organization, and attend formal activities as available.

  11. Assist the organization in managing risk and liability, on- and off-campus.

  12. I will serve as a Campus Security Authority (CSA) as defined in the Clery Act. As a CSA, I will annually complete the Clery Trainingrequirements as well as complete and submit a complete and submit a CSA Crime Statistic Report, when necessary.

  13. Have taken the online Title IX Training, which is required of all MSU employees.

  14. Be informed of the policies and procedures in the Registered Student Organization policies.

An advisor must sign the Advisor Agreement Form each year during registration periods. 

Good advisors keep the following three sets of responsibilities in mid while working with student organizations:

  1. Responsibility to individual group members

  2. Responsibility to student organizations

  3. Responsibility to institution – Montana State University

 Responsibility to Individual Organization Members

  • The advisor may help the students find balance between their academics and their co- curricular

  • Student leaders often have the tendency to burn the candle at both ends and will overextend themselves if not guided to balance these various responsibilities. The advisor has a unique opportunity to mentor students through their academic obligations and personal needs.

  • The advisor may encourage each individual to participate in and plan group events.

    • Some students fade into background if not effectively encouraged. Being a member of a student group can provide students with valuable interpersonal and/or leadership skills, but these are best developed when the student is involved.

  • The advisor may encourage students to accept responsibility for specific roles within the group.

    • The advisor may help them understand the importance of these roles. From officer positions to committee members, each student should feel invested in and accountable for their specific role.

Responsibility to Student Organizations

  • The advisor may assist the group in developing realistic goals for the academic year.

    • This will contribute to the education and personal development of the students involved. It is often a positive experience when the advisor takes an active role, rendering advice and counsel as circumstances allow.

  • The advisor may be aware of all plans and activities of the group and inform the group of institutional policies that may affect these plans.

    • The advisor may recommend 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 may encourage collaboration and shared governance within the organization, and also encourage quieter students to take initiative.

    • Eager leaders may occupy the limelight more often than appropriate. This can lead to resentment by some members 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

  • The advisor may need to refer students to 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.

  • The advisor may 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 may 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. Advisors may help the group understand a program's complexity and discuss the necessary steps that need to take place in order for the program to be successful. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the active members to operate the organization; however, advisors are vital to the learning that occurs during this important educational experience.

  • The advisor should assist the group in evaluation.

    • This includes evaluating individual programs as well as doing a complete evaluation at the end of the academic The advisor must be willing to give constructive criticism when necessary and offer words of praise for work well done.

Responsibility to The Institution- Montana State University

  • The advisor may 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 guide the organization to operate within 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.

As an advisor you will assume numerous roles; all the possible roles are not even mentioned here. A key idea to remember is that you are an advisor not the leader. You provide guidance, insight, and perspective to students as they work on projects, but you should not be doing the work.

Students will learn if they are engaged. Be careful of being challenged into doing the work for a student project. The students make the decisions and they are accountable for those decisions and for the successes and failures of their groups.

Again, there are many different approaches to advising and you will develop a style that is most comfortable for you and the students you work with. In most cases, it is best to be involved with the students and to talk them through the process they are going through when they are trying to turn their ideas into action. Students will challenge you to assume and work with different roles depending on the situation. Following are some of the roles you may assume as an advisor. 


Many students will come to see their advisor as a mentor and the success of these relationships can last many years and be rewarding for both the student and the advisor. Because of the nature of student organizations, your mentoring role may meet different needs.

Dunkel and Schuh (1998) describe mentoring as a one on one learning relationship between an older person and a younger person based on modeling behavior and an extended, shared dialogue. They identify five qualities that characterize good mentors:

  • Good mentors have been successful in their own professional endeavors

  • Good mentors behave in ways worthy of emulation

  • Good mentors are supportive in their work with They are patient, slow to criticize, and willing to work with those who are less well developed in their careers.

  • Good mentors are not afraid to delegate tasks to colleagues and are not threatened by others who exhibit talent and initiative. They provide support for protégés who have been unsuccessful and provide plenty of praise for those who have been successful

  • Good mentors provide periodic, detailed, and honest feedback to the protégé


There are many similarities between advising and supervising and many of the skills and styles are transferable. Dunkel identifies the components this style as a supervisory cycle many of which are transferable to effective advising. The six stages of the supervisory cycle are team building, performance planning, communication, recognition, self-assessment, and evaluation.

  • Team Building – In team building, your role is to work with the president and executive board soon after their appointment or election. Team building establishes relationships that will enhance the ability of the organization's leadership, members, and adviser to work

  • Performance Planning – This includes writing position descriptions, determining and listing expectations, and setting

  • Communication – The third stage of supervision is regular communication which includes the transfer of both knowledge and Keep in mind that communication comes in many forms and is both verbal and nonverbal.

  • Recognition – As an advisor, you may participate in meetings with individual These students may express a wide range of emotions, and to respond effectively in unexpected situations, a working knowledge of these characteristics and backgrounds can be helpful. Some situations may require documenting the incident for your protection and the protection of the institution. Written documentation should include the specific nature of the exchange, the date and time, the individuals involved, and the outcome of the exchange.

  • Evaluation The sixth and final stage of supervision is formal Some institutions, national organizations, or oversight bodies require students to complete various

evaluations. You should know what forms the students need complete as part of the duties of their office or in order to fulfill all of their requirements. A formal evaluation is an opportunity for you to provide feedback to the organization or to individual members. Your participation in the evaluation process should be understood early in your relationship with the organization so as not to come as a surprise to the students.

Team Builder

When new officers are elected, or new members join the organization, you may need to take the initiative in turning the students from individuals with separate goals and expectations into a team. Team building is important because it enhances the relationships of the students between one another and the advisor. Positive relationships help the organization succeed and work through conflicts and difficult times.

Team formation does not occur by accident but rather through an intentional design and process. To accomplish the goal of creating an effective team, it is necessary to conduct a workshop (if you and the students have the time, a full scale retreat encompassing team building and goal setting could be planned) to engage students in this process. As the advisor, you may consider working with the student officers to develop a plan and to have them implement it. Training students in effective techniques for team building will keep students invested in the organization and give them the opportunity to learn what it takes to build a team. If you need resources on team building activities, Student Activities can provide them or the office can conduct a workshop with your organization.

Conflict Mediator

Inevitably, students are going to join the organization with different agendas, goals, and ideas about how things should function and the direction they should be taking. This is a natural part of running an organization and conflict that is properly managed can lead to a more successful and active group. If conflict is ignored and not handled, the potential for the organization to become inactive is increased. When working with students who have come in to conflict, it may be necessary to meet with them and have them discuss their issues with each other. In many cases, it may be necessary to remind them that they both want what is in the best interest of the organization, ask them how they think they can work together, and to point out the

organization’s mission and ask how their conduct is helping the group achieve its mission. Sometimes, one student may be causing problems with other students. In many cases this student may not realize that their actions are causing a problem. In this case, speaking with the student individually could be helpful. Chances are no one has met with the student previously and discussed how their attitudes are impacting other people, and how those attitudes or actions can be changed to make everyone feel better. In many cases, the student will appreciate honest feedback.

Reflective Agent

One of the most essential components to learning in “out of classroom” activities is providing time for students to reflect on how and what they are doing. As an advisor, you will want your officers to talk to you about how they think they are performing, their strengths, and their weaknesses. Give them the opportunity to discuss their thoughts on their performance. Then be honest with them. Let them know when you agree with their self-perceptions and, in a tactful manner, let them know when you disagree. Remember any criticism you provide students should be constructive and you will want to provide concrete examples of actions the student took that seem to contradict their self-perceptions. When students discuss their weaknesses, ask them how they can improve those areas and how you can help them. Students usually have the answer to what they need; they just don’t like to ask for help. Remember to have students reflect on their successes and failures. Student Activities can provide self-assessment tools for students to complete. There are also organizational and programmatic assessment tools available so groups can assess how they are functioning.


As you work with student organizations, students will undoubtedly look to you for guidance and assistance. In your work with them, you will find ample opportunities to help them learn. There may be formal educational moments such as workshops on how to run meetings or event planning or a seminar on topics related to the organization’s purpose. There may be informal moments when a student doesn’t follow through on a commitment or when a project doesn’t occur as anticipated. As an advisor, your role of educator will often come through the role modeling of behavior, guiding the student in reflection of their actions, and being there to answer questions. One of the most difficult actions to take as an advisor is to do nothing; however, sometimes this can be the most important action of all. Allow the students to make their decisions even if their actions do not agree with your ideas. Sometimes students will

succeed and other times they may fail. The key for you is to fill the role of a reflective agent and by doing so give the students a safe place to reflect on their experiences. 


As an advisor, you may have to motivate students to excel, to carry out their plans, and achieve their goals. Some students are easily discouraged and at the first sign of difficulty they may want to quit. You will need to be their “cheerleader,” working to keep them excited about all of the potential successes they will experience. You can motivate students through the recognition of their efforts, by appealing to their desire to create change, and by helping them connect their experiences here at the University to the experiences they will have in the community.

Policy Interpreter

Student organizations operate under MSU policies, procedures, and rules. Some student organizations that are affiliated with national or international organizations are responsible to those entities as well. At times, students may not be aware of these policies and may do things in an inappropriate manner. The more you know about these policies the better advisement you can give to the students on their actions. You can find student organization policies online or by contacting the Office of Student Engagement. For national or international organizational policies you should the visit the website for the organization in question.

The style an advisor uses to work effectively with a student organization should be matched to the developmental stage of the group. Allen (1983) and McKaig and Policello (1984) presented models in which students progress through four stages of development. Different styles may be needed as the students and group mature over time.


Group Development Styles

Advisory Styles

I. Infancy: Students demonstrate low levels of commitment to the organization, programming skills, and responsibility for their actions.

I. Program Director: High concern for product, low concern for process. The advisor takes the role of group member - takes part in group activities like a member; or a programmer - identifying, planning, and implementing programs and activities for the student group.

II. Adolescence: Students demonstrate increasing programming skills, interest, commitment, and responsibility.

II. Teacher/Director: High concern for product, high concern for process. The advisor takes the role of advocate - persuading students on the appropriateness of activities; authority -

monitoring students’ compliance with legal requirements, as well as institutional procedures and regulations; or expert - offering suggestions to students based on experience or specialized knowledge base.

III. Young Adulthood: Students demonstrate competency in programming skills and an increase in commitment, plus a willingness to take responsibility for their own actions.

III. Advisor/Teacher: Low concern for product because students have taken over this concern, high concern for process. The advisor takes the role of educator - designing and encouraging student participation in developmentally powerful experiences; resource - providing alternatives and suggestions; evaluator - assisting the group in collecting data to be used in decision making and program planning; or process consultant - assisting students with increasing the effectiveness of group functioning.

IV. Maturity: Students demonstrate a high degree of competence in programming and group skills. A strong commitment to the group and a willingness to take responsibility for their own and their group’s actions.

IV. Consultant: Low concern for product and process because students assumed responsibility for both. The advisor takes the role of reflector - serving as a "sounding board" for students’ ideas and plans; or fact finder - providing information to students on request.


Attributes of a Good Advisor

Aware:  Knows what is happening with the group at all times, including all group meetings, travel and events.

Dedicated:  Always willing to assist the organization when necessary. Enjoys being associated with the group and is involved.

Visible:  Attends meetings, social functions and other special events of the group when possible.

Informed:  Familiar with the rules, policies and regulations of the University and the bylaws of the organization constitution. Is prepared to assist with interpretations.

Supportive:  Provides encouragement and praise to group members.

Open-Minded:  Willing to consider new ideas and approaches even if not in complete agreement.

Respected:  Earned through being trustworthy and honest as well as demonstrating a genuine interest in the welfare of the group.

What should you do/not do as an advisor?


Allow others to fail

Allow others to succeed

Know your limits

Be visible

Be consistent with your actions

Trust yourself with the group

Direct the group where to find the answers

Teach the art of leadership

Control the group

Manipulate the group

Take ownership for the group

Be afraid to try new ideas

Know it all

Be the leader or give the answer





It may be helpful to think of the role as an Advisor in terms of three major areas:

Organizational Maintenance

These sometimes “routine” activities but are essential to the ultimate success of an organization and may include:

  • Ensuring organizational continuity by periodically reviewing the constitution, minutes, files, and/or traditions with students.
  • Serving as a resource for students, especially regarding University policies, regulations, and procedures.
  • Coaching the officers in the principles of good organizational and administrative practice.
  • Helping and encouraging officers to fully register their group each academic year.

Organizational Growth

One of the most rewarding aspects of working with student organizations is assisting an organization in setting its vision for the future. Your experience and guidance can prove invaluable by:

  • Keeping the group focused on its development and goals.
  • Remembering and assisting groups as they develop and mature.
  • Pointing out new opportunities, perspectives and directions to the group.
  • Developing self-discipline and responsibility among group members.


Many students need nothing more than encouragement from someone who has an active interest in what they are doing. Advisors can motivate students in ways that ensure that they are learning and having fun. Advisors can encourage and support an organization by:

  • Attending organizational meetings, retreats, and events whenever possible.
  • Remaining as available as possible to assist the organization.
  • Supplying expert knowledge and insight through experience.
  • Providing problem-solving suggestions serving as a role model for creative decision-making and flexibility, because problems can create stressful circumstances for students.
  • The Office of Student Engagement encourages advisors to support all areas of student organization engagement especially through direct interaction. This practice may vary from organization to organization, based on the group’s needs and goals.
  • Each year, the student leadership of the organization and the advisor should meet to determine the role and expectations of the advisor and the advisor’s expectations of the students.

An Advisor Agreement Worksheet can be a means of communicating expectations of the organization-advisor relationship. The Office of Student Engagement has created a worksheet to get the conversation started for advisors and organization leaders. Please email OSE at [email protected] to get a copy emailed to you.


  • The appropriate role of the advisor is not to become "one of the gang" nor is it to remain conspicuously aloof from the group. The effective advisor is one who will render advice when it is requested and offer counsel even though it may not have been sought.
  • Remember to let the students make the decisions while you provide guidance and advice.
  • At the beginning develop clear expectations about the role of the advisor and your relationship to the organization.
  • Read the group’s constitution and know University policies regarding student organizations.
  • Get to know all of the members and attend their events.
  • An advisor should attempt to learn the names of organization members as quickly as possible.
  • Develop a strong working relationship with the president and other officers.
  • Discuss concerns with officers in private and praise them in public.
  • The advisor should be aware of the fact that at times they will be called upon to serve as a personal confidant in organization-related This is a particularly sensitive role. The advisor, most likely, will want to provide assistance to the person seeking advice (usually in regard to a problematic situation). However, the advisor cannot compromise their relationship with the group by showing favoritism to one or a small group of individuals.
  • The advisor can expect to be asked to provide quick solutions to problems, which they may be unable to render as rapidly as the group would like.
  • The advisor might be expected to serve as a counselor by individuals with personal problems unrelated to their organizational affilliation. 
  • An advisor should not hesitate to engage in the general discussion of organizational matters at meetings; however, they normally should not dominate discussions or become the focus of attention.
  • An advisor should not feel offended if they is not asked to be involved in all of the organization's activities.
  • An advisor should realize that students often may not accept their advice as "gospel". The advisor should expect to be challenged; however, this should not be interpreted as an indication that their help is no longer desired.
  • Failing is part of the learning process. Mistakes and poor decisions will happen. While it may be your first reaction to intervene and fix all the mistakes you see, this is not the role of the advisor. You can help students to think through their actions and to consider various possibilities but the final decisions must be theirs. Take advantage of failures and use them as teachable moments with students.
  • Remember, it is your responsibility to ensure that students understand what the consequences are for their Be pro-active when a controversial situation arises, but let them make the decision. Help students take ownership of their decision and responsibility for any consequences that may follow.
  • Assist students with the development of a budget and the spending of their funds, do this in a way that you and the group have determined appropriate. Do not dominate the finances of the organization. Your primary role is to monitor the expenses, provide feedback on the budget, and approve reimbursement for expeditures.
  • The advisor should strive continually to help the organization become as self-sufficient as possible. The advisor will perform the greatest service by suggesting the students of the organization do for themselves what they should. It is the task of the active members to operate the organization. An advisor who attempts to remove this responsibility from the students deprives the members of an important educational experience.
  • The advisor should be aware that one of the advisor's strongest devices is their own example. The advisor is under continual scrutiny from members and must demonstrate adherence to the practices which the organization advocates.
  • The advisor's role is a dynamic that must continually be reshaped if there is to be an effective advisor relationship.
  • The advisor should be just as interested in the members as individuals as in their collective welfare as a group.
  • At times it may be wise to leave the group on its own, to step back for a short time. It shows trust in their decision-making. If you step back too far, they may feel that you are not interested. If you never step back, they may feel that you are the "mother hen".
  • Sometimes make suggestions through group members rather than directly to the group.
  • Share problems with other staff members to benefit from different perspectives.
  • Be a coach. Encourage, motivate, and acknowledge positive behavior.
  • Communicate on a regular basis.
  • At all times, keep your sense of humor.
If for whatever reason, you decide to leave your role as the organization’s Advisor, we recommend the following:
  • Inform both leaders of the student organizations and Office of Student Engagement of the date on which your role as Advisor officially ends. Please try to give the organization leaders as much advance notice as possible.
  • Remind the members of the organization that if an Advisor resigns, the organization must find a new Advisor.

Dunkel, N.W., Shuh, J.H. (1998) Advising student groups and organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Floerchinger, D. (1992) Enhancing the role of student organization advisors in building a positive campus community. Campus Activities Programming, 26(6), 39-46.

Hovland, M., Anderson, E., McGuire, W., Crockett, D., Kaufman, J., & Woodward, D. (1997) Academic Advising for Student Success and Retention. Iowa City, IO: Noel-Levitz, Inc.

Johnson, D.W. & Johnson, F.P.(1991). Joining Together Group Theory and Group Skills. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Lorenz, N. & Shipton, W. (1984). A Practical Approach to Group Advising and Problem Solving. A Handbook for Student Group Advisers. Schuh, J.H. (Ed.). American College Personnel Association.

Material adapted from: University of Texas, San Antonio Advisor Handbook, Baylor University’s Student Organization Advisor Handbook (2013-2014), Virginia Commonwealth University, and the Student Organization Advisor Handbook, University of South Florida.

As stated in our student organization requirements, all organizations are required to have an advisor. Please pay close attention on the steps to have your advisor complete the Advisor Agreement Form.

Please visit our club travel page for more information.

As an advisor, you are required to complete the following trainings,

The following information is to assist Student Organization Advisors and Field Trip Advisors at MSU-Bozeman understand and know the requirements/resources for the Clery Act, Title IX and Students of Concern.

Quick Overview

As a student organization advisor, you must report certain criminal offenses that take place on campus when a student brings to your attention.


No person shall on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any academic, extracurricular, research, occupational training, or other education program or activity operated by the university. Sexual harassment and sexual assault are forms of discrimination on the basis of sex.

All university employees are required to report to MSU whenever they learn about sexual harassment or sexual misconduct involving students. The reports are made to the Title IX Coordinator:  Office of Institutional Equity, 406.994.2042, [email protected] , 114 Montana Hall.

A person of concern is any individual who demonstrates disruptive or problematic behavior, expresses personal difficulties, exhibits mental or emotional instability, or otherwise causes another member of the campus community to feel apprehension for their safety or for the safety
of the person of concern.

The MSU Dean of Students welcomes Students of Concern reports to help these students.

Reporting a student of concern is not a requirement, however, highly recommended to assist our students.

Office of Clery Compliance
Office of Institutional Equity
Office of the Dean of Students

The Clery Act

In 1986, Jeanne Clery was raped and murdered in her dorm room by another student she did not know. In 1990, Congress approved the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act, later renamed the Clery Act, which took effect in 1991. The Clery Act is a federal mandate requiring all institutions of higher education (IHEs) that participate in the federal student financial aid program to disclose information about crime on their campuses and in the surrounding communities. Campuses that fail to comply with the act can be penalized with large fines and may be suspended from participating in the federal financial aid program. View the MSU Annual Security and Fire Safety Report.

Clery Responsibilities of advisors

Part of your role as a student organization advisor or field trip advisor is to serve as a Campus Security Authority (CSA). Club advisors are considered CSA’s due to their involvement with student activities.

What does that mean?

  • Our institution is required to disclose statistics concerning the occurrence of certain criminal offenses. 
  • You must be trained/informed about these offenses and how to report them appropriately.
  • In a nutshell, we want you to know what crimes are considered under the Clery Act and how you would go about reporting them if they are reported to you.      

What am I Required to Report?

The Clery Act requires the college to collect and report statistics on the following crimes.  Detailed definitions can be found on the Clery Crime Definitions page.

Reportable Clery Act Crimes

  • Murder
  • Non-negligent manslaughter
  • Forcible sex offenses 
  • Non-forcible sex offenses 
  • Robbery
  • Aggravated assault 
  • Burglary 
  • Motor vehicle theft 
  • Manslaughter
  • Arson
  • Domestic violence
  • Dating violence
  • Stalking

Hate Crimes

If any of the offenses listed were motivated by bias (race, gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability) PLUS:

  • Larceny (theft)
  • Simple assault
  • Intimidation
  • Damage/destruction/damage of property

Arrests or disciplinary referrals for:

  • Weapons (possessing, carrying, etc.) law violations
  • Drug law violations
  • Liquor law violations

How do we Report Crimes?

For an urgent issue, contact campus police 994-2121. Even if a reporting party wishes to remain anonymous, there may be some crimes reported to a Campus Security Authority that would require the college to issue an alert or emergency message (when the crime indicates continuing threat to the community).

For non-urgent notifications, complete a Clery Crime Reporting Form within two business days.

When interacting with a crime reporting party, CSAs need to gather incident information that would provide sufficient detail to properly classify the incident. CSAs should not investigate the crime or attempt to determine whether a crime, in fact, took place. When in doubt, a CSA Crime Reporting Form should be completed.

What Information to collect

  • On campus location or building.
  • Detailed location (inside building, outside building, cross streets, etc.)
  • Date & time incident occurred.
  • When the person reported it to you.
  • Detailed description (nature of the crime)
  • Identities of any known suspects or witnesses
Helpful Reporting Tips
  • If informed about a crime or incident, you must report.
  • Include reports from a witness, third party, victim or offender.
  • Share the information as related by the person.
  • CSAs are not responsible for determining whether a crime occurred; it is not your responsibility to find the perpetrator.
  • Detailed information will help correctly categorize the Clery crime.
  • Tell the person who disclosed the crime that you must share the information for reporting purposes.
  • Responsible Employees must report all Title IX offenses
  • Help connect the person to available options and resources
  • When in doubt, REPORT!
  • Encourage them to seek the resources of Campus Police, Health Services, Counseling Services, Dean of Students and other resources.

Are there any times when I do not need to Report an Incident?

If the incident disclosed to you occurred before the student came to campus, during a non-college period (such as spring break, vacation, etc.), or during recreation time not organized by the college (visiting a party at another campus, dining at a restaurant off campus, etc.) you do not have to disclose the incident as a Clery incident.  However, Title IX requirements may be triggered.

Examples of Clery Situations

Scenario 1

You are the advisor to the Outing Club. A student in the club asks if they can talk to you. That student tells you they were sexually assaulted last weekend along a roadway on campus. The student didn't see the person coming and they pulled the student into the bushes. You are acting in your role as a Campus Security Authority and need to bring the sexual assault to the attention of Campus Police. Because this incident poses a threat to the safety of other students and employees on campus, you should contact Campus Police as soon as you know enough information so Campus Police can issue a timely notification.

Scenario 2

You are on the faculty. After class, you ask a student to come see you because the student is behind on a number of assignments. While talking to the student, the student discloses that two weeks ago they were sexually assaulted in their dorm room and that has made it hard to do any of their work. In this situation, you are not acting in a role with "significant authority for student activities," and you are not required to report this situation for Clery purposes. HOWEVER:

  • You have TItle IX responsibilities. Please refer to those procedures for more information.
  • If the assault was a random incident that poses a threat to others in the community, we encourage you to share what details with Campus Police so they can make a determination as to whether or not a community notification should be issued.
  • You should encourage the student to report the incident to Campus Police (if they are willing) and to the Title IX Coordinator. Both authorities can assist students in obtaining additional resources to help them cope with the incident. Students reporting incidents to Campus Police DO NOT have to press charges.

Title IX Reporting

  • Any campus employee informed of an allegation of sexual violence involving a student must promptly notify the Title IX Coordinator.
  • All MSU faculty and staff have been given the duty of reporting incidents of sexual harassment /misconduct (or any other misconduct by students to the Title IX Coordinator)
  • A Sexual Misconduct/Violence Reporting Form should be completed and submitted at:

What if I’m concerned about a student?

  • In order to promote student safety and wellness, the Campus Safety and Welfare Team through the Dean of Students addresses behaviors that are disruptive or concerning and may include mental health and/or safety issues.
  • Please visit Student Safety and Welfare for more information or to report a concern.


Clery & Title IX Pocket Guide-Download

MSU's Annual Security Report

U.S. Department of E

ducation Campus Safety & Security Handbook



University Police: 406.994.2121

VOICE Center 24/7 Support Line: 406.994.7069

MSU Title IX Coordinator: 406.994.2042

MSU Clery Compliance Coordinator: 406.994.2826 - [email protected] 

Counseling & Psychological Services: 406.994.4531

Office of the Dean of Students: 406.994.2826

One question Advisors often ask is, “What is my liability as an Advisor to a student organization?” Every time we undertake an activity, we assume a certain level of risk. Each time you get in your car, you run the risks related to other people’s driving, risks related to construction work, risks related to weather, etc. Therefore, yes, there are risks associated with being a student organization Advisor.  

The level of risk that student organizations pose relates directly to the activities they engage in. The type of liability assumed varies greatly depending upon the type of organization and what activities are involved. However, this might change depending upon the level of active risk management within the organization. An arguably dangerous activity could be rendered extremely safe if the student organization takes the appropriate steps to mitigate all unnecessary risks. Your level of involvement can contribute to this risk-mitigation.  

1) You should anticipate risks that may arise out of any decision or situation. Regardless of what organization or activity is involved, there always will be an opportunity for something out of the ordinary to happen – a risk. However, if decisions are made with consistency and in good faith, and reasonable precautions are taken, the risk involved can be minimized.  

2) Be aware of the scope of your authority. If you remain within the designated responsibilities of this position, you will be able to avoid many unnecessary risks.  


Risk: The possibility of suffering harm or loss; (mental, physical, social).  

Liability: The state of being legally obligated; responsible.  

Risk Management: The act, manner, or practice of controlling risk.  

To minimize liability, student leaders and their Advisors need to consider various methods of managing risk. These include:  

Risk Avoidance: the elimination of the problem or the risk.  

Reduction Control: controlling the frequency and/or severity of the problem or incident that is threatening libelous action. Implementing “Due Standards of Care” is key to reducing risk.  

Risk Transference: transferring the risk through contractual arrangements, disclaimers, waivers, or insurance.  Advisors should encourage student leaders to act responsibly and make reasonable and prudent efforts to manage risk. This is your best defense; but more importantly, it is the key to providing a safe environment for organization members, participants, residents and others.  

Please remember that in this role, like all other roles at MSU, you are a campus resource and a mandated reporter of all known inappropriate conduct. You may consult our Office of Student Engagement, The Dean of Students Office, Safety and Risk Management, or Institutional Equity with further questions.

Office of Student Engagement
Office Location: SUB 221/222
Phone Number: 406.994.2933 


Conference & Event Services
Office Location: SUB 211
Phone Number: 406.994.3081 


University Catering
Phone Number: 406.994.3336


Office of the Dean of Students
Office Location: SUB 174
Phone Number: 406.994.2826


The role of the Advisor is determined in part by the Advisor. They must determine the level of priority that they will give to this function. The effort and time allotted will be determined by the other demands on the Advisor’s time. An Advisor may become disenchanted with the organization they advise. There may be personality conflicts with a new president. Whatever the situation, an Advisor should not advise an organization unless they feels the rewards are sufficient to merit the time and effort involved.  

1) Meet regularly with officers and members. 

  • Discussions about agenda, projects, goals, etc. offer an opportunity to develop a rapport and provide an opportunity to make suggestions to members.  
  •  Informal meetings often allow members and the Advisor to share information not directly related to the organization and become better acquainted.  

2) Let the situation determine the advising (or intervention) style.  

  • Often it will be necessary for the approach to range somewhere between non-directive and very directive. As the skill level of the organization’s leadership increases, the need for a directive style of advising decreases.  
  • Strive for the group to be self-sufficient where the members resolve their own conflicts and solve their own problems. Students grow more from their own choices than following orders.  

3) Offer feedback to members.  

  • Suggest alternative approaches when planning a project. Constructive criticism or praise presented at the appropriate time can be very instrumental in the development of members and of the organization.  

4) Stay up to date on university policies, procedures and resources. 

5) Let officers and members know what is expected of them, and determine their expectations of you.  

  •  Develop a written understanding and review it often – a good understanding of your relationship with organizations can make the advising experience more rewarding.    


Remind your officers of re-registration requirements (each Fall Semester by September 30th) . It is good practice to discuss legacy and transition of officers all year long to gauge interest and longevity of the organization.  

Read the Organization’s Constitution/By-Laws – it is the most important organizational document.  It gives the organization and membership purpose, direction, and guidance. The document is not intended to be static; rather it should be reviewed periodically so that it fits the needs of the student group.  

Keep an eye out for leadership programs and other opportunities and resources on campus available to your students through the Office of Student Engagement. These are advertised throughout campus and on CatsConnect.  

Nominate your students for the Student Leadership Awards – held annually each spring.