Your Place In The Chapter

Introduction

By agreeing to serve in an advisory role to the undergraduate chapter, you are exemplifying the lifelong commitment and loyalty to Phi Kappa Tau that is described in our Creed. As an advisor you will have the opportunity to positively influence the undergraduate chapter and to make an impact on the lives of each and every member of the organization.

A chapter’s strength is dependant on alumni support; a strong alumni-advisory board will make for a consistently strong chapter. With each year comes a new set of undergraduate officers. These officers often are forced to relearn their role and spend most of the year developing. As an advisor you can be instrumental in providing the continuity and experience that makes the transition between undergraduate officers easier. As an advisor you will serve as a valuable resource to the chapter, ensuring that lessons of the past are not forgotten.

As an advisor, you should do just that, advise not lead. A major component of the undergraduate fraternity experience is the personal development gained through the various leadership opportunities that it presents. The chapter leadership and the undergraduate voting membership, in most cases, should be the decision making body. Only by taking control of their own affairs, and learning from their mistakes and failures will they have a truly rewarding experience. Therefore, your role is to offer advice and scenarios for the membership to consider in rendering decisions, and to educate the group on the consequences and outcomes of their decisions.

Advising is a true two-way communication experience. Some helpful points to remember when advising undergraduate chapter operations follow.

Best Practices

  • Be a role model. You should model the type of behavior you would like to see in other alumni members of the fraternity. You serve as the most visible example of what an alumnus should be.
  • Hold the chapter to high standards. Help the chapter set high standards and methods of maintaining accountability.
  • Clearly establish your role with the chapter. The chapter and its officers need to know and accept the role of the advisor.
  • Try to attend chapter meetings. Periodically attending chapter meetings, executive board meetings, and formal associate events and meetings will help maintain a good relationship with the chapter.
  • Ask for the chapter’s input whenever you present a new idea or opinion. Members will be more accepting to change and new ideas if they feel as if they have played a part in their development or adoption.
  • Give the chapter, and individual chapter offices and members, the same respect that you demand they give you. Your role should be viewed, in some respects, as a professional commitment; your interaction with the officers on chapter business should be professional as well. If chapter officers are not treated as equals, they will not respect the advice conveyed and the effectiveness of the advising board will be compromised.
  • Work closely with the chapter officers. Open dialogue between officers and the chapter advising structure will improve your relation with the chapter and result in more buisiness being accomplished.
  • Be cautious about talking about the chapter or University’s past. Chapter members usually do not like to hear about “the way it used to be.” When addressing problems in the chapter, rather than using the examples of the past, use your knowledge of what happened in the past to paint a picture of how the current chapter can be better, without referring to the past.
  • Allow mistakes to be made. Easier said than done, but what distinguishes an adequate advisor from a good advisor is the ability to gauge the impact of the resulting disaster and determine when intervention is not only desirable, but also necessary. However, if you are too quick to intervene, the chapter officers will feel smothered and as if they have lost the ability to make decisions for themselves.
  • Build on an officer’s strengths. An undergraduate’s personality is largely developed by the time he reaches college, but what can be developed are manners, behaviors, skills, and knowledge. Look at performance, not at promise, and focus on strengths and not weaknesses.
  • Function as a liaison. There will be times when you can be a more effective means of communication with the University, the National Fraternity, and alumni members.

Above and Beyond Expectations

  • The challenge for you as a chapter advisor is to push the chapter to strive for a higher level of excellence each and every day. Your goal should be to ultimately create a better chapter year after year during your tenure as chapter advisor. The following are ideas of ways to go above the basic expectations from the previous section.
  • Set aside a specific time or a part of a meeting to discuss and negotiate the role, which you will play as the chapter advisor. Discuss the following areas: attendance and participation, input into decision-making, accessibility, etc.
  • Have the chapter that you work with meet Maxwell level expectations (See CMPG)
  • Conduct a Ritual retreat to ensure that our values remain the focus
  • Assist the chapter in establishing a career/job placement network
  • Establish a working Standards Board for the chapter to hold members accountable
  • Contact the parents of each new associate member (pledge) to discuss the purpose, objectives, annual costs, and opportunities (i.e., scholarships, chapter leadership, service learning) provided by the chapter and National Fraternity
  • Network with other chapter advisors from area Phi Kappa Tau chapters as well as other advisors on your campus to generate new ideas or in order to attack situations of common concern.
  • Attend and participate in the Ritual

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