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Adviser Information

The Student Organization Adviser

The Student Organization Adviser provides leadership and holistic development through experiential learning opportunities, advocates for the mission and vision of the organization in which they are associated, and counsel officers and members of the organization regarding their responsibilities. Advisers also help student leaders manage the administrative, programmatic, financial, and logistical operations of their student organization(s).

At Vanderbilt, student organizations must have a faculty or staff Adviser in order to be a registered student organization. By serving in this role for a student organization, a faculty or staff member chooses to play a significant role in the development of students. Advisers serve as a consultant, mentor, role model, and educator to an organization. Furthermore, they assist in the growth and development of the group by providing direction by helping student leaders navigate administrative responsibilities at Vanderbilt, providing appropriate organization advice, helping everyone gain an understanding of the University structure, and helping student organization leaders grow through challenge and support. An Adviser’s role will include but is not limited to:

Guidance and Student Leader Support
  • Fostering an environment that promotes a sense of belonging, education of the whole student, and development of socially responsible leaders;
  • Helping students find a balance between their academics, personal needs, and co-curricular activities;
  • Facilitating a learning experience for student leaders and members by enabling their success, or, when necessary, by illustrating that failure often teaches as much as success;
  • Clarifying their role to group members, in order to have a shared understanding of responsibilities;
  • Attending meetings occasionally or frequently, depending on agreed-upon responsibilities;
  • Motivating the group in setting annual organizational goals;
  • Providing guidance in planning programs and events;
  • Informing officers about leadership development opportunities such as conferences, workshops, and scholarships;
  • Offering constructive feedback where appropriate and facilitate creativity and innovation for the organization;
  • Affording continuity from year to year in the face of frequent officer turnover;
  • Acting a conscientious and caring manner to promote student growth;
  • Consulting the Office of Student Organizations, Leadership and Service for advice, guidance, and more information at
Financial Authority
  • Assisting with budgetary planning and spending in the Oracle finance system;
  • Authorizing spending by granting organization permission to reserve check out card, arranging grant reimbursements, to pay for student group expenses, or delegate signature authority to a second designee (often another staff member or department secretary);
  • Authorizing student organizations to request travel;
  • Guiding officers in the maintenance of accurate records and bookkeeping;
  • Discuss the posting of items for sale in the Marketplace for their student groups.
Policy Compliance
  • Acting as an interpreter of University policies that govern registered student organizations;
  • Approving registration paperwork;
  • Encouraging groups to review and update their constitution annually;
  • Provide administrative guidance and support to student leaders;
  • Consulting Student Organizations, Leadership and Service for advice, guidance, and more information at
  • .
Liability Concerns

When a faculty or staff member accepts the position of coach for a student organization, they also accept responsibility for the actions and activities of the organization. Advisers act on behalf of the University and are expected to exercise that responsibility reasonably, diligently, and in good faith. The type of liability or risk varies greatly depending on the type of organization being supported and the type of activities planned by that organization. Some suggestions to guide advisers follow:


Advisers should anticipate risks which may arise out of any decision or situation. Regardless of what organization or activity is involved, there will always be an opportunity for something to happen that might create a liability for the University. However, if decisions are made in good faith and reasonable precautions are taken, the risk involved can be minimized.

Review Student Handbook

It is important to be aware of University policies and regulations as they affect student organizations. The Student Handbook is the student information manual and a source for many University rules and regulations. Advisers should review the handbook, particularly those sections that apply to community life, student organizations, and guidelines for organizational activities. The Student Organizations, Leadership and Service staff, and Student Affairs Liaisons (SAL Pals) can also serve as resources for advisers and their student organizations.

Know Their Limits

Advisers should act only within the scope of their authority. Advisers may make certain decisions or take certain actions within their stated responsibilities. For example, they may approve purchases necessary for the day-to-day operation of an organization. However, they do not have the authority to sign contracts or to legally bind their organizations or the University. The Dean of Students is authorized to sign contracts.  For more information about liability and risk management, advisers may contact the General Counsel’s Office at 615-322-8331 or the Office of Risk and Insurance Management at 615-936-0660.

Student Affairs Liaisons

Student Affairs Liaisons (SAL Pals) provide additional support in assisting student organizations with guidance on how to complete operational duties and may temporarily fill the role of Adviser to support a student organization in their Adviser’s absence.  SAL Pals have been trained on Vanderbilt’s financial system, policies, and procedures (including Protection of Minors), travel, reimbursement, and the RSO Registration/Re-registration Process.

Advisers needing additional support may send an email to one of the following email addresses based on the category that best represents their organization:

Advisers Vs. Sal Pals

To help differentiate these roles, please note the following:

Advisers are responsible for answering questions from student org leaders that sound like the following:

  1. Should we…
  2. I would like to…
  3. Do you/Can you approve our org to…
  4. What do you think about…

In the case that the Adviser is unable to provide answers, SAL Pals are responsible for answering:

  1. How do we…
  2. What is the policy on…
  3. Where do I find…

In short, advisers provide administrative support their student organizations and SAL Pals primarily support Student Organization Advisers.

Interested in Advising a Student Organization?

If you are a Vanderbilt University faculty or staff member and are interested in becoming a Student Organization Adviser, you may send a message to