Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
Apr. 17, 1998

Good advising = win-win equation

by Tracy Griffin, News Service intern

The benefits are numerous for students who get involved in campus organizations, but they aren't the only ones who are rewarded, according to John Schuh, professor of educational leadership.

Schuh, who arrived on campus last August, recently co- authored Advising Student Groups and Organizations with Norbert Dunkel, associate director for staff and student development at the University of Florida, Gainesville.

"The book is designed for advisers. One thing we tried to illustrate is how their lives can be enriched through advising," Schuh said.

He said when faculty become advisers, they have the chance to get to know their students better, learn what motivates students and relearn what it is like to be an undergraduate. Advisers benefit because they can incorporate all this information into their classes. They also can see how students apply what they are learning.

The book covers challenges and rewards of advising, the knowledge and skills needed to be a good adviser and ideas for improving student group advising.

"The book provides an umbrella for many of the issues they will deal with," Schuh said.

Advising Student Groups and Organizations includes research related to advising concepts, case studies and sample forms to help advisers with specific problems. There also is a self-evaluation form to help advisers identify their strengths and weaknesses.

In the book' s case vignettes, advisers can walk through a series of legal issues that may arise with student organizations. Schuh said some of the legal issues are taken from his past experiences.

He said it's important for advisers not to assume too much about their own advising skills before they begin. Schuh said many times advisers need to go through some kind of training with older members of the organization to know how it actually runs. Schuh also suggests that advisers really make an effort to get to know their students.

"The better people can relate, the easier it is to do advising," Schuh said.

Students sometimes don't think of their professors as having a role other than that of teacher, he said. But when they see their teachers outside the classroom setting, the professors seem multi-dimensional, with families and outside interests.

"This kind of informal interaction," Schuh said, "is beneficial in both directions."

For example, Schuh worked closely with the treasurer of the Wichita State University's student body government in 1996 and 1997. When the student came in to work on the budget, they would talk about the challenges and frustrations of being involved in student government.

Schuh said the informal interaction let the student know there was a senior administrator who was willing to take the time to listen to him. It also showed Schuh he can help students with their challenges.

Schuh said his current role is different than any he has had in the past because it doesn't include as much undergraduate student organization interaction. Besides teaching, Schuh helps graduate students prepare for careers in higher education.

"My position is less diverse, but in many ways just as complex," Schuh said.

Schuh worked with numerous undergraduate organizations in his former position at Wichita State, including Greek organizations, a senior honor group and several other honorary societies.

"It's fun to work with students who are learning what it means to lead an organization," he said. "It's why I got into the practice in the first place."

Schuh said his involvement in student groups goes back 20 years, to when he was director of residence halls at Indiana University.

"I was very interested in how students could maximize their time spent in universities," he said.

Schuh said students who are involved in campus organizations are more likely to stay in school and graduate. The more they are involved, the more likely they will meet their education objectives.

Schuh said he thinks Iowa State has a rich quality of life for students. He co-authored, Involving Colleges (1991), a book which cited Iowa State for its many student activities that offer out-of-classroom learning and leadership experiences.

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