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What kinds of things should a fraternity look for in an alumni advisor? What things should they avoid? Is age an issue?
I have been asked this question time and again by groups when their advisor has left or they are a new fraternity. The first thing I tell them is to have a list of expectations for their next advisor. It can be something simple (come to meetings once a semester/quarter) or extensive (meetings/talk to the new members/etc). Once they have done that, then I tell them to start their search.
In a perfect world, you should have a group of people who are willing to advise the fraternity. In my fraternity structure (Phi Kappa Psi) we ask for at least 3 Brothers to work with the groups. One serves as the Chapter Advisor and the other 2 as assistants. That doesn’t always work (places where there aren’t a lot of alums, etc) so we require that there be at least 1 guy there.
You want your chapter advisor to have some enthusiasm for the job. You want him to be excited about the possibility to mentor the group. You would like him to be excited about FRATERNITY – not just your fraternity or just your Chapter, but for him to understand that you are a part of something much bigger than your little speck on campus. You need him to understand that to help protect the undergraduates from all of the things that might get in the way of their excellence.
You also want him to be excited about the chapter. He needs to speak of his membership in the present (I’m a Phi Psi, not, I was a Phi Psi). He has to be the biggest cheerleader for them, while also tempering that with some realism. I often say that my job is to be a cross between a slightly stern Dad and a cool uncle.
Age? If it’s someone from the same chapter, then you’d like them to be at least 5-7 years out of school. That way he’s not really friends with anyone currently in school. That can make for some pretty interesting conflicts. If he’s not from the chapter, or it’s a colony situation, then age doesn’t matter at all, so long as he has a good head on his shoulders and wants to help the undergrads succeed.
As the school year has already started for one of my chapters and is about to start for the other one, I’m really excited about the year. I know that I’m going to change the lives of some young men and I can’t wait.
Marc A.S. Dumas
– This answer was written by Marc A.S. Dumas, an alumni brother from Phi Kappa Psi and new contributor for the thefraternityadvisor.com. If you are interested in writing for thefraternityadvisor.com – let us know (CLICK HERE)!
In 1991 Marc helped found the Colony that later became his Chapter (in 1993) of Phi Kappa Psi at DePaul University in Chicago. When they started there was only 1 national fraternity on campus and a bunch of locals. While he was in school, he served as the #3 officer in the Chapter, and was elected President of the school’s Greek Council, the first African American ever elected before or since. He was awarded his chapter’s Brother of the Year 2 years in a row, Fraternity Man of the Year in 1993 and Student Affairs Senior Leader of the Year. Now they are the oldest of 6 national groups and the system is growing everyday, with 4 more groups scheduled to come in the next 3 years. He has served as the Chapter Advisor since 1999, after stints as the House Corporation President and President of the Chicago Alumni Association. In his time as Advisor, his chapter has doubled in size, increased its community service by 65% and its grades have gone up 1 full point (from 2.09 to 3.1). He has been awarded the Chapter Advisor of the Year award 8 times at DePaul. In 2003, he decided to help start a Colony at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a year later they were chartered with 37 men. With the exception of 2 years (he was having children and my wife made me drop one) I’ve been their only Chapter Advisor. He has been awarded the National Chapter Advisor of the Year award in 2003 and been a finalist 4 times.
Marc lives in Chicago where he works in sales (he sells apparel and promo merchandise to college groups) and raises his 2 children, Olivia (6) and TJ (3).