What to Know about Being a Student Organization Adviser

As an adviser to an AAUW student organization, you guide students in leadership positions, act as a confidant in both personal and AAUW-related matters, share AAUW’s history and mission, and assist in the student organization’s day-to-day operations. In short, you play a critical role in ensuring the student organization’s success.



I am particularly inspired by the journey of the AAUW-TAMU executive team. By the end of each year, I find that the AAUW-TAMU executive experience has truly brought out the leader in each of them.

— Heather Wheeler, program coordinator for the Women’s Resource Center in the Division of Student Affairs at Texas A&M University

Below are some of our most frequently asked questions about advising AAUW student organizations. Have more questions? E-mail us at leadership@aauw.org.

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Can I be an adviser?

First and foremost, follow your university guidelines. In most universities, advisers to student organizations must be full-time faculty or staff members. Undergraduate students may not advise AAUW student organizations. Additionally, only graduate students who are also employees of the university in some capacity may co-advise undergraduate AAUW student organizations.

What are the benefits of becoming an AAUW student organization adviser?

Becoming an adviser can be beneficial to both the adviser and the students of the organization. Here’s a look at what some of those benefits include.

  • Work with students as they learn and develop confidence and skills.
  • Share your knowledge and experiences with others as an ongoing mentor.
  • Develop a professional relationship with both students and the national AAUW community.
  • Further personal goals or interests by working on behalf of women’s equity.
  • Help create an inclusive team.
  • Make connections through a national AAUW adviser network.
  • Gain access to additional leadership resources through AAUW.

What questions should I ask the AAUW student organization before I agree to become an adviser?

As groups vary in their expectations and needs, it is important that you, as an adviser, develop an understanding with the organization about the nature of your involvement. The adviser and group should agree on a set of expectations. Here are some questions you should ask to help you define your role as an adviser.

  • How much involvement is expected or needed from me?
  • How experienced are the student leaders?
  • What are the needs of the organization?
  • How do my skills match the needs of the organization?
  • What are some of the ways that I can be more helpful to the group?
  • Are there areas of the organization that are “hands off” to me as the adviser?

Next, get acquainted with AAUW’s mission, issues, and programs. Once you know more about the organization you’re advising, make sure you understand the policies involved with AAUW student organizations. Don’t be afraid to reach out to AAUW staff to gather more information.

What are my responsibilities as an adviser?

Each adviser will bring a unique perspective to their student organization. Some advisers play very active roles by attending meetings, working with student officers, and assisting in program planning. Others have a more distant relationship to the organization. Whatever your style, here are the most important hats we ask all advisers to wear.

  • Have regular contact with the organization and with the AAUW national office.
  • Accept responsibility for staying informed about the student organization’s activities.
  • Advise student officers on the appropriateness of activities and the general merits of policies. Advisers should be both accessible and interested and should provide whatever advice a group or its members might need.
  • Help students understand the campus culture as well as student policies and procedures.
  • Play a pivotal role in helping the student organization connect with resources, key administrators, faculty members, and local AAUW branch members.

What are some of the roles I might assume as an adviser?


Many students will come to see their adviser as a mentor. These relationships can last for years and be rewarding for both the student and the adviser. You may be approached to review resumes, to connect students with community resources, or to be a sounding board for ideas students want to pursue.

Team Builder

When new officers are elected or new members join the organization, you can help transform the group from individuals with separate goals and expectations into a team. Team building is important because it enhances the students’ relationships  with each other. Training students in effective techniques for team building will keep students invested in the organization and teach them how to build a team.

Conflict Mediator

Students join organizations with different agendas, goals, and ideas of how things should function. When working with students who have a conflict, it may be necessary to meet with them and help them resolve their issues with each other.


As an adviser, your role will often be to model behavior, guide students in reflecting on their actions, and answer questions. One of the most difficult actions to take as an adviser is to do nothing, but sometimes this can be the most important action of all. Allow the students to make their decisions even if they do not agree with your ideas. The key is to give the students a safe place to reflect on their experiences.

What are some of the skills I should possess as an adviser?

You must be able to move from one communication style to another in order to meet the needs of different students and handle the various situations that both you and the group will encounter.Diagnosis
Learn how to diagnose the needs of the students you advise so you can help them figure out what they want and what they truly need.Negotiation
When working with your students, come to some agreements, but learn how to push back on demands.

What are some don’ts of being an adviser?

Always remember that you are an adviser, not the leader. Students should know you can provide guidance, insight, and perspective as they work on projects, but you won’t be doing the work. Be careful you aren’t taking on the work for a student project. The students make the decisions; they are accountable for those decisions and for the successes and failures of their group.

What are the responsibilities of the student organization to the adviser?

For you to succeed in your role, students must be held accountable. Here are some of the students’ responsibilities.

  • Establish and share a job description for the adviser that clearly defines their responsibilities and preferred lines of communication.
  • Notify the adviser of all meetings, activities, and programs.
  • Establish an attendance schedule at organization meetings, which is mutually agreed upon by the adviser and the student organization.
  • Meet regularly with the adviser to discuss organization matters.
  • Consult the adviser prior to making significant changes to the structure of the organization.
  • Show respect for the adviser.
  • Consider all advice and guidance with an open mind and a sincere interest in the improvement of daily operational and special event or activity needs.

Make sure to meet with the student leading the organization to discuss the roles and responsibilities of each person involved. Write down these expectations and have both parties keep a copy. We recommend having one-on-one meetings with your student leaders to check in on the organization’s progress and to assess your adviser/organization relationship.