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Advisor FAQs

Who is eligible to be an advisor?

Any current and full-time Northwestern University faculty or staff member is eligible to serve as an advisor. 

In addition, graduate students who are also employed at Northwestern (as graduate assistants, teaching assistants, or in other roles) are eligible to serve as an advisor. We recommend consulting your supervisor before committing to advising a student group.

While faculty or staff on leave may continue to serve as the advisor on record, it is often best for an interim advisor to step in since campus presence is often needed to support a student group's activities.

What are the expectations for the advisor?

The student members of the RSO are responsible for keeping the group in good standing. This includes items such as meeting annual RSO requirements, knowing and operating in compliance of campus policies, and more. There are some steps advisors should take to ensure the group is successful: 

  • The advisor is listed as an officer on the group's Wildcat Connection page AND in the 'About Us' section of the page. A current student officer of the group should be trained in making these updates.
  • While not every group has a SOFO account, most do (and all should!). Your student contact should have acquired a Change of Advisor form with any outgoing advisor's signature on the outgoing line. Please ask the finance officer or your student contact for this document so you can sign in to the group's SOFO account. No formal SOFO training is needed for advisors at this time, but it may be helpful to attend an advisor training on the topic when it is offered for new advisors. Look for announcements about this event in the RSO-Advisors email list or in the Upcoming Events tab.
  • Add yourself to the RSO-ADVISORS email list. Instructions can be found here. This is where advisors learn about trainings, resources, and opportunities for themselves and their groups.
  • Sign the Advisor Acknowledgement Form to confirm your role with the group. Agreements typically go into effect September 1 - August 30 as that is the cycle of re-establishing recognized status for RSOs. In addition to uploads during annual registration, a group officer should upload this signed document to the group's Wildcat Connection page's documents section.

I'm interested! How do I become the official advisor on record for a group?

Please email Hayley Kretchmer and tell us a little about yourself, your interest in advising an organization, and we can get you connected with prospective groups.

How many groups can I advise?

There is no limit on the number of groups you can advise. However, it is recommended for a first-time advisor to start with the responsibility of one group to get a sense of the time commitment and energy needed to advise. Note that different groups require different levels of support or time commitment from their advisor. This may impact the overall amount of time spent advising.

What is the standard time commitment for advising?

This is the most common question from folks who are considering advising an RSO. While there is not a simple answer, it is recommended the advisor meet with a student representative at least a few times per quarter to discuss the group's initiatives, progress, and goals. For groups with institutional funding or who put on large-scale events, weekly meetings may be necessary. Many groups will email advisors with questions or asking about availability. A conversation with a student representative early in the relationship regarding your availability and time commitment can be helpful in setting expectations, boundaries, and maintaining a positive and successful advising relationship.

Advisors are also encouraged to attend group events as they are able such as a new exec board meeting where new faces are introduced, planning retreats to start the year, or a group's signature annual event to show support for what your students do. 

Where can I find a list of registered student organizations including those who need advisors?

All RSOs are listed on Wildcat Connection. Search by keyword, category, or name.

A list of groups currently in need of an advisor is updated frequently at this link. 

A few notes before browsing the pages on this platform:

  • There are some non-RSO pages in the platform (e.g. social fraternity & sorority chapters, departments, and residential units). 
  • If a group had an advisor recently transition out, it is likely the group has not updated this on their Wildcat Connection page. Feel free to reach out to whoever is listed to learn about the group.
  • If a group has minimal information on their page, it is likely this is a brand new, recently approved group just getting started. If a group you are interested in fits this category, reach out to Hayley Kretchmer for more information about the group.
  • Some groups are more active than others in Wildcat Connection. If you do not have success hearing back from a group, follow up with Hayley
  • Once you have identified a group you are interested in advising, email Hayley Kretchmer and she can connect you with the students.

Where can I find a comprehensive advisors' guide with campus policies and procedures?

It's coming soon! This guide will include best practices for advising, campus resources, and an index of policies and procedures that apply to registered student organizations you advise.

Until then, Student Organizations & Activities recently published a guide for RSO members on their website.

What am I supposed to do with a contract for my organization's event?

Most campus (and some off-campus events) require contracts for everything between venue, audio-visual needs, speaker/guest honorariums, performers (including enrolled students), media rights, and more. More information about when a contract is needed including the process for processing them can be found in the org officers section of the SOA website.

In the meantime, remember two quick facts: 

  1. RSO Advisors are not authorized to sign student group contracts unless they are a university signatory. Students should not be signing these agreements on behalf of Northwestern either.
  2. At a minimum, contracts should be turned into the appropriate Northwestern signatory office (frequently, Campus Life in Norris) at least two weeks prior to the organization's event. For contracts with more money involved, events with alcohol, and other conditions, six weeks in advance of the event is more appropriate.

What resources are available to support my success?

Anyone can sign up for the RSO-ADVISORS LISTSERV. This is our main form of communication with advisors and prospective advisors about upcoming trainings, new policies and procedures, resources, and other announcements. We send out a weekly newsletter every Friday of the academic year.

In addition, we host training topics with input from our current advisors. If you have topics you want to know more about, please let us know

Student Organizations & Activities and Leadership Development & Community Engagement offices are here to support you. Stop by and see us in the SOURCE on the third floor of Norris or email us to schedule an appointment.

What does it mean to be a mandatory reporter?

All RSO Advisors serve as mandatory reporters or Campus Security Authorities. This is a part of the Clery Act, a federal policy that requires students, university employees, and contractors to report specific crimes they have indirect knowledge of or witnessed firsthand. More information is available on the University Compliance website. All Northwestern employees are required to complete training on this topic each year.

What if it doesn't work out?

Whatever the reason may be, advisors are not required to "stick it out" if the relationship with their RSO is not successful. Be sure to connect with Hayley Kretchmer to discuss next steps.

I have additional questions, who can I ask for more information about becoming an advisor?

For all other inquiries related to advising a registered student organization at Northwestern, email Hayley Kretchmer.