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The Number One Challenge Students and Organizational Advisors are Facing, and Other Insights

As you might have seen, I’ve been investigating the concept of the Advisor Role in Organizational Development and Growth through a surveys on Facebook and Twitter to better understand the depth of understanding that advisors have around organizational challenges, as well as their preparedness and approaches to assist student organizations to overcome the challenges that they are experiencing.  I’m  still unpacking the results as a whole, but there are a few insights that I thought might be interesting, and would generate some meaningful fodder along the way.

Before I start, what I didn’t mention is that I’ve also been pursuing student reactions around these same questions (both via survey and more qualitatively through one-on-one interviews), and a few interesting things are bubbling to the surface.

Most Organization Advisors Surveyed have between 4-6 and 10+ years experience

There were two larger groups that emerged from the survey respondents– professionals with between 4-6 years experience, and 10+ years experience, with a significant majority (95%) classifying themselves as Student Affairs Administrators (n=20).

Advisors and Students Agree Around Primary Organizational Challenge
Of the challenges shared in the qualitative responses from Advisors, I coded 6 primary categories of organizational challenges that I then shared across several different Facebook groups (full of Student Organization Advisors, and students, respectively).  Combining these responses, there were two organizational challenges that far outweighed others in frequency, with nearly one-third of Organization Advisors, and nearly half of student leaders, identifying Member Retention being the primary organizational challenge that their organization is facing.
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Advisor Survey Results (n=123)
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Student Survey Results (n=42)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advisors Feel Confident they Understand Student Organization Challenges, Less feel Comfortable Facing Them

While 70% of advisors “Strongly Agree” that they understand the problems facing their organization, the majority of advisors felt less comfortable in their ability to assist students in facing those challenges, and about half of advisors said they have a defined plan in place to  confront challenges facing their organizations (n=23).

strategiesforproblemsolving

Moreover, when asked how they confront the challenges that their organizations are facing, the  answers varied widely, and rarely incorporated specific frameworks.  With that said, the most common approaches involved students in “brainstorming” solutions.

These insights represent just the beginning of my exploration of the topic (both in research, and in synthesis).  I have a framework and a theory in mind that I believe can serve as the starting point to effectively equip student organization advisors, and students, to confront the challenges that they’ve identified in their organizations.

 

Getting students “in”volved: A view from outside the circle

Over the last few weeks I have been part of several conversations about the constant evaluation and evolutionary process of the leadership programs at my internship.  Not only are we continuing to develop program and learning outcomes, but also evaluating the structure and format of the programs themselves, and the resources that are allocated to them.

While the benefits of getting students involved are well-documented (often correlated to higher retention, GPAs, stronger engagement, and opportunities to build all kinds of beneficial skill sets and through their experiences), what continually sticks out to me, is that many of the programs and initiatives coming out of our offices of student involvement and activities are year long, or multi-year programs.  These allow us to not only build connections to student over time to see (and document) their growth, but also develop strong connections between students as well.  Everyone wins, right? Read more