Why Your Chapter Needs an Alumni Advisory Board

Tom Bymark and Tim Huffmyer_CofC 2013

Advisory boards allow many young members the chance to interact with an older alumnus who can help them navigate the difficult waters of being a chapter leader.

By Ben Nye (Arkansas) and Todd Denson (Nicholls State)

If you’re chapter is like many across the country, it could stand to have more alumni advising. The problem is complicated: many chapters are advised by one or two overextended alumni while other alumni don’t know how to be involved or hesitate to commit to advising because of other activities. Fortunately, the alumni advisory board (AAB) model addresses these problems while providing an avenue for multiple alumni to be involved in the advisement of the chapter.

Spreading the Workload

According to The Atlantic, the average adult between 25 and 54 with children only has 2.6 hours per day for free time and leisure. That time has to be distributed among competing priorities such as family, work responsibilities, and community involvement.

Busyness undoubtedly prevents many alumni from committing to advising and overextends the ones who are involved. Fortunately, a well-constructed advisory board gives each board member smaller commitments and a focused area of advisement. As each member of the board picks a different officer to advise, the advising is spread across the entire board. Each advisor can then focus on their particular area and develop a more specific advising strategy.

The Theta Kappa AAB, at Georgia Southern University, has used this to their advantage. In an interview with Theta Kappa AAB Chairman Bill Geddy, he pointed to the work of John Austin in the area of risk reduction advising. John Austin, the risk reduction advisor on Theta Kappa’s AAB, has developed a unique curriculum that he is able to train the new Risk Reduction Chairman on each year. Brother Austin’s contributions have been the result of a focus on purely risk reduction related topics and would likely have not happened had Austin not been allowed to specialize in one area of advisement.

Opportunities for Mentorship

Courtesy of Flickr use USFWSmidwest.

Courtesy of Flickr use USFWSmidwest.

Writing about mentorship for The Art of Manliness, Bret McKay reflected that, “In addition to providing some guidance in navigating through life as a man, mentors can expand one’s view of what it means to be a man.” Mentorship is exactly what alumni advisory boards give to officers in Sigma Nu, and for many, this is a deep need. Many officers are getting their first taste of leadership and are at a particularly crucial point in their development.

Advisory boards allow many young members the chance to interact with an older alumnus who can help them navigate the difficult waters of being a chapter leader. This is the type of mentorship that can pay dividends years down the road.

Training Alumni Leaders

Another positive aspect of AABs is that they help in identifying new alumni leaders. Because advisory boards have a much greater number of advising positions available, it is possible to get younger or previously disengaged alumni involved.

It is also possible to groom younger members of the advisory board for more senior positions on the board. Theta Kappa’s advisory board members begin serving as members-at-large and then transition into specific advising positions. Having this transition period allows for the new members to determine a time to pick a role and then learn under the previous advisor.

Having a system like this in place allows the alumni advisor the chance to learn the ropes and many alumni advisory boards will transition leaders after a pre-determined period. This allows for other board members to get engaged in specific advising roles or in leadership of the board.

In addition to providing some guidance in navigating through life as a man, mentors can expand one’s view of what it means to be a man.

Improves Accountability

Lastly, alumni advisory boards can help hold chapter leaders accountable. As an example, the Georgia Tech alumni advisory board meets monthly with the officers of the chapter. During this monthly meeting, the alumni review the goals and progress of each chapter officer. The advisors also ask questions and provide suggestions to the officers.

This additional perspective ensures that each officer is focused on his duties and tasks that need to be completed. Whether it is monthly, quarterly, or semesterly, the advisory board reviews the progress of the chapter leadership and can help steer the chapter in the right direction.

Getting Started

Chapters benefit when they have AABs: collegians benefit from mentorship and accountability and alumni benefit from a decentralized workload and specialized advisement. What remains is building an alumni advisory board for your chapter. This will be the subject of our next post in the area of alumni development.

In the meantime, the Best Practices Library (BPL) is designed to give specific examples of how Sigma Nu chapters have achieved excellence in alumni relations and helps provide a road map for other chapters to do likewise. The BPL includes specific practices submitted by many of the most successful chapter advisors, alumni advisory board members, and housing corporation board members in Sigma Nu.

For more information about alumni programming and resources, contact Todd Denson, director of alumni and volunteer programs (todd.denson@sigmanu.org).

2 thoughts on “Why Your Chapter Needs an Alumni Advisory Board

  1. billg0219 says:

    Great read and this is an important read for all our chapters and alumni. One important thing to note though: When it comes to Advisory Boards – one size or type does not fit all. Many chapters use a combination of their Advisor, House Corporation, Faculty, and sometimes Alumni Chapters to fill the same role. It is the intent of widening and deepening your advisement team wherever it comes from that is important not what you call it. An example is the Mu Chapter, which very effectively uses the Home Association, Advisors, past Commanders, and other alumni to serve in this capacity (I think I have that right). You need to take advantage of what works for your chapter and if you need help you have the staff, alumni, and your Division Commander there to assist.

  2. Steve O'Keefe says:

    Thanks for this good piece.

    Steve O’Keefe
    ZX 304
    ZX AAB Chairman

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