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Student Organization Advisor Manual

The advisor manual provides you with information about the available resources for you and your organization. We also encourage you to become familiar with Policies and Rules for Student Organizations. Both of these resources provide you with a great deal of important information about student organizations.

The services we provide advisors and student organizations are continually changing and improving. If you have suggestions or comments about this manual, or other services for student organizations, we would be happy to hear them.


Student organizations provide a unique, rewarding opportunity for students to gain practical skills and enhance the out of classroom experience. As important additions to the organization, advisors guide student organization members by enhancing this experience, and effectively operating the organization. In addition, advisors often act as confidants in both individual and organizational-related matters, rendering knowledge about the organizations’ history and tradition, and providing valuable context to the operations of student organizations.

Whether you volunteered or were assigned to this role, you will devote a significant portion of your time to making the students’ experiences at Penn State a rewarding one. This dedication rewards both the students and the organization. It will also bring personal satisfaction to the advisor.

Here is an example of three types of student organizations that require advising:

  • Interest and Service groups
  • Religious and Greek Letter organizations
  • Sport groups that engage in high-risk activity

A more comprehensive list of categories is available in the Penn State Student Organization Directory

Becoming an advisor can be very beneficial to both the advisor and the students of the organization. These benefits include but are not limited to:

  • Working with students as they learn and develop new skills.
  • Sharing one’s knowledge and experiences with others.
  • Developing a personal relationship with students.
  • Furthering personal goals or interests by choosing to work with an organization that reflects one’s interests.
  • Helping a disparate group come to an understanding of differences.
  • Coming together to share common interests and working toward a common goal.

Advisors to student organizations must be full-time Penn State faculty or staff members. Undergraduate students may not advise other student organizations. Additionally, only graduate students who are also employees of the University may co-advise undergraduate student organizations. All graduate student organizations must be advised by either a faculty or staff member and not a graduate student who also works for the University. (It is important to note an individual does not need to be an employee of the University serve in an co-advisory role for a student organization.)

There are three ways to become an advisor:

  • Assignment: University faculty or staff can be assigned to work with registered student organizations as part of their job responsibilities.
  • Request assignment: You may request an advising assignment by sending written notification to the Chief Student Affairs Officer at a Commonwealth campus or the Program Coordinator for Student Organizations at University Park (814-863-1437).
  • Be requested: A student organization may approach you and ask you to serve as their advisor.

Important Note: Those who choose to volunteer as an unofficial advisor and do not complete the Advisor Approval Form shall do so in a personal capacity and not as employees, representatives, or agents of the University. Such individuals are not covered by University insurance for liability associated with their advisor activities. More information about insurance for advisors is available on page 16 of this manual.

If the student organization you are advising is considered a “high-risk” organization, a formal administrative review is required. The appropriate academic or administrative officer will conduct this review. At University Park, the Associate Director for Student Organizations will conduct the review. At all other campuses, the Student Life Office administrator will conduct the review.

Once the Office of Student Leadership and Involvement at University Park, or the Student Life Office at any other campus collect all the details regarding the purposed student organization, the staff member will forward the information to the Office of Environmental Health and Safety or Office of Risk Management at University Park.

The general process for administrative review involves assessment of:

  • The nature of the organization in question.
  • The provisions of University insurance coverage.
  • The closeness of the advising assignment to the person’s faculty or staff duties.
  • Verifiable experience and/or expertise on the part of the proposed advisor.

If additional information is required, it shall be the responsibility of the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs to acquire such information and to provide it to the appropriate official. A final decision regarding assignments of “high-risk” organizations must have the concurrence of the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs, who will notify all involved parties of the decision. These offices can be reached at:

  • Office of Ethics and Compliance
    The Pennsylvania State University
    227 West Beaver Avenue
    State College, PA 16801
    814-867-5088 (p)
  • Office of Global Programs
    The Pennsylvania State University
    410 Boucke Building
    University Park, PA 16802
    814-865-7681 (p)

Guidelines for Advising Student Organizations

The amount of attention student organizations need from their advisors will vary. It is helpful to discuss expectations that the organization has of you, and vice versa, at the beginning of the academic year. Moreover, the Student Leadership and Involvement staff is available to assist you should any problems arise. The information below includes suggestions and general guidelines to use when advising your student organization. After you read through the descriptions of the different advisors, feel free to take a look at the Advisor Self-Evaluation and Student Evaluation in the Appendices to help determine where improvements can be made on your end.

One particular requirement of student organization advisors falls within the purview of The Student Right to Know and Campus Security Act of 1990, or more widely known as the Clery Act. This piece of federal legislation the Penn State Police Department is required to report “statistics concerning the occurrences of certain criminal offenses reported to the local police agency or any official of the institution who is defined as a ‘Campus Security Authority.’ Student Organization advisors are considered a campus security authority because they have “significant responsibility for student and campus activities”.

What does this mean for advisors?

This means advisors have the authority and the DUTY to take action or respond to particular issues on behalf of the institution should they know of a crime that has taken place.

For detailed information and documentation, please visit the Advisors Resources webpage. Documents listed under the “Clery Act Information” link include the following:

  • Campus Security Authority Crime Stats
  • Campus Security Authority Sexual Assault Stats From
  • Generic Overview of the Clery Act
  • Security Authority Definition

OrgCentral is the student organization online management system specifically for Penn State recognized student organizations. Through OrgCentral student organizations can manage their university records annually. Advisors to student organizations do have a role within OrgCentral.

Advisors fill out the Advisor Approval Form found through the Student Activities page within OrgCentral. The form for advisors for newly forming organizations is found in the online registration process. The form for currently recognized organizations is publicly available through OrgCentral.

OrgCentral will automatically notify advisors to accept the invitation after submitting the form.

  • Mentor:
    Mentors have the responsibility of creating a one-on-one learning relationship based on modeling behavior and an extended, shared dialogue. Students may look to mentors for advice regarding their career, activities, or personal goals. Good mentors exhibit enthusiasm, genuine interest, understanding, and an honest rapport, along with the desire to stimulate and expose others to new experiences.
  • Team Builder:
    Team Builders work with their new officers to establish relationships that will enhance the ability of the organization’s leadership and members to work together. A team builder facilities an environment in which he/she assists students in understanding their strengths, weaknesses, work styles, and goals.
  • Motivator:
    Motivators are aware of their students’ needs, wants, desires, and impulses. You can motivate students through recognizing their efforts, appealing to their desire to create change, and connecting their experiences at the University to the experiences they will have in the community.
  • Mediator: 
    Conflict mediators work with the students to resolve any conflict within the group or other University party. Successful mediators only get involved when students cannot resolve their issues on their own. It is important to remain as impartial as possible so as not to show a bias toward any one student within the organization. The ultimate goal is to reach a win-win situation for the students and the organization.
  • Reflective Agent: 
    Reflective agents encourage their students to engage in activities that contribute to each individual student’s ability to make meaning of his/her own experiences. Reflective agents ask probing and honest questions to challenge their students to really learn about themselves and the world around them. Remember to have student reflect on their successes and failures.
  • Policy Interpreter:
    A policy interpreter must adhere to Policies and Rules for Recognized Student Organizations. Advisors are asked to familiarize themselves with this document so that they can assist students in their understanding of how to work within University parameters. Being able to interpret policies and rules to the students is extremely valuable.

There are multiple styles of advising student organizations, and those styles can be fluid and change based on the readiness of the organization leaders and members. Here is a synopsis of these different advising styles:

  • Developmental: 
    The advisor provides guidance in the decision making process and opportunities for growth.
  • Administrative: 
    The advisor provides the organizational structure of events and focuses on policy and budget.
  • Delegator:
    The advisor empowers the students to conduct their own decision making, problem solving, and delegating. Use this style with students/groups that are at a high level of readiness.
  • Coach:
    The advisor continues to direct and closely supervise task accomplishment, but also explains decisions, solicits suggestions, and supports progress. Use this style with groups that have a few leaders that are at a higher readiness level who will need your support with the rest of the group to get things accomplished.
  • Supporter: 
    The advisor facilitates and supports the efforts toward accomplishments, and shares responsibilities for decision making with the students. Use this style with groups that are just starting to understand the concept that will lead to success - with a group that is just starting to “get it.”
  • Director: 
    The advisor provides specific instructions and closely supervises task accomplishments. Use this style with students/ groups that are at a low level of readiness. Use this style with newly formed organizations or organizations that did not have a smooth officer transition from the previous year.
  • Programmatic:
    The advisor provides skill development for students and event planning.

Advising Dos and Don'ts

DO Follow General Procedures

  • Be knowledgeable of the organization’s purpose and constitution, and help your members to adhere to these policies and procedures.
  • Learn and comply with federal, state, and local laws/ordinances, in addition to campus policies.
  • Keep members up to date on pertinent policies. See Policies and Rules for  Student Organizations
  • Address situations that might lead to a poor public perception of the student group or University.
  • Plan and encourage member attendance at leadership trainings offered by the Office of Student Leadership and Involvement.
  • Familiarize and be fluent with the group’s financial structure, including where the treasury is derived (dues, fundraising, etc,), how the money is allocated and used, and how the money is budgeted, as well as assisting in budget development.
  • Develop clear expectations about the role of the advisor, and your relationship with the organization.

DO Provide Effective Leadership within the General Body

  • Empower students to take action in seeing the student organization succeed or fail.
  • Learn when to speak up and when to be passive. Remember to let the students make their own decisions while you support them with guidance and advice.
  • Represent the group and its interests in staff and faculty meetings. Reach out to other advisors or departments (i.e. Union and Student Activities) for assistance.
  • Strive to know as many of the members as you can on an individual level. Learn what the students want to get out of the organization. Maintain a complete officer and membership list with addresses and phone numbers (or know where to access one).
  • Know your group’s limits:
    • Assist students in finding a balance between activities and their academic responsibilities.
    • Be visible and attend group meetings and other related events, while knowing the limitations of an advisor.
    • Establish attendance schedules at organizational meetings that are mutually agreed upon between by you, and the student organization.

DO Develop an Effective Board and Officers

  • Develop a strong working relationship with all the officers in order to help develop leadership potential within the group.
  • Establish meetings (as needed) with individual members of the organization who need additional guidance in their respective officer or committee positions.
  • Discuss concerns with officers in private while praising them in public.
  • Encourage the Executive Board to release important statements, such as financial reports to the general membership on a frequent basis.
  • Introduce new officers and members to the history and purpose of the group, and help them to build upon it throughout their terms.
  • Assist members in looking toward the future by developing long-term goals and communicating those plans to future members.
  • Guide and assist students in becoming responsible leaders.
  • Encourage integrity among all involved members.


  • Be afraid to let the group try new ideas.
  • Become such an advocate that you lose an objective viewpoint.
  • Assume that the group handles everything okay and doesn’t need you.
  • Do everything.

DO Continue to Support Operations

  • Be consistent with your actions.
  • Exhibit and encourage good communication and listening skills.
  • Share creative suggestions and constructive criticism for activities planned by members.
  • Introduce new educational program ideas.
    • Point out new perspectives and direction to the group.
    • Supply the knowledge and the insight of experience.
  • Encourage feedback and a continued evaluation process.
  • Facilitate different avenues for resolving intergroup conflict.
  • Serve as an additional resource. Take an active role in the formation of the group through interaction with the members.
  • Provide the structure of being a continuous fixture, since most officers are active during their time as a student.
  • Learn the strengths and weaknesses of the group. Officer support when necessary, but also allow people to learn from making their own mistakes.


  • Say I told you so.
  • Manipulate or impose/force your opinions on the group.
  • Close communications.
  • Take everything so seriously.
  • Miss group meetings or functions you committed to attend.
  • Attempt to learn the names of organization members as quickly as possible.
  • Find a balance between being “one of the gang” and being overly authoritative - or worse, absent. The effective advisor is one who will render advice when it is requested, and offer counsel even though it may not have been sought.
  • Know when to step in: “We let students walk to ward the edge, but we never let them fall over.” - Anonymous
  • Be familiar with “Policies and Rules for Student Organizations” in order to assist with problem solving more effectively.
  • Realize that students may not accept your advice. This should not be interpreted as an indication that your services are no longer desired.
  • Be receptive to feedback from the group. Talk to them regarding your advisory role so that everyone knows the expectations you have for the group, and the expectations they have for you as the advisor.
  • Expect to offer counseling to individuals with personal problems unrelated to their organizational affiliation, but do not feel like you need to solve all problems. Be aware of other services Penn State offers, and refer students if needed.
  • Remember to take care of yourself. It is ok to say “no” sometimes. Be aware of your limits and balance your professional commitments, personal life, and other responsibilities with your advisory role.
  • If you have difficulty finding that balance, help your student organization find someone who can devote more attention to them.
  • If you are of aware that the organization is knowingly or otherwise violating policy, step in and correct the behavior.
  • Take advantage of the many developmental programs the Office of Student Leadership and Involvement provides to advisors:
    • Advisor Monthly Workshops
    • New Advisor Training

Managing Your Student Organization

A key idea to remember is that you are an advisor, not the leader. It should be conveyed to the students that the advisor can provide guidance, insight, and perspective to students as they work on projects, but he/she should not be doing the work. The advisor should be careful of being left to do the work for a student project. The students make the decisions; they are accountable for those decisions and for the successes and failures of their group.

This section gives some pointers on how to maintain a happy and healthy relationship with your advisor.

  • Establish a job description for your advisor. This should clearly define his/her responsibilities and also decide which lines of communication are best. Once decided upon, make sure to keep it updated, since contact information such as an email address changes!
  • Make sure you utilize the lines of communication you established! Notify your advisor of all meeting, activities, and programs so they can attend them when necessary.
  • Provide copies of meeting minutes in a timely manner.
  • Designate a specific person in your organization to regularly met with your advisor. This will keep your advisor up to date on current events within your organization. The amount of meetings will vary depending on the organization and advisor relationship. Establish a schedule accordingly.
  • Consult your advisor prior to making significant changes to the structure or policies of the organization.
  • Show respect to your chosen advisor! Allow them to share their ideas and listen with an open mind;  they have the organizations best interest at heart.

While you may wish to attend all organization meetings, you should meet on a regular basis with the executive officers of the organization(s) you advise to:

  • Assist with the development of organizational programs.
  • Discuss the direction and goals of the organization.
  • Discuss the financial status of the organization, including the identification of problems and their potential solutions.
  • Discuss internal organizational difficulties (communications, delegation of responsibilities, etc.), and assist the leadership with their resolution.
  • Familiarize yourself with the organizations’ national structure and services, if applicable.
  • Articulate campus policies and procedures of the University, and assist the organization in understanding these policies.
  • Provide constructive criticism when it is deemed necessary.
  • Acknowledge positive organizational accomplishments.
  • Be aware of the fact that, at times, you will be called upon to serve as a personal confidant in organization-related matters.
  • Provide assistance to the person seeking advice (usually in regard to a problematic situation). However, the advisor cannot compromise their relationship with the group by showing favoritism to one or a small group of persons.
  • Understand that the association between you and the students should continue as long as all parties believe the relationship is productive and mutually beneficial.

The basis for a strong student organization is good communication. Below are a few suggestions that can help you communicate effectively with the organization:

  • Be sure the organization’s mission and vision are clear and well-known.
  • Post meeting times so they are accessible to all members.
  • Distribute minutes of the meetings and other group material, or make them available online.
  • Request regular updates on budget, events, etc.
  • Appropriately discuss conflicts with the organization’s leadership to solve problems before they worsen.
  • Make yourself visible and available by attending events/meetings, posting open office hours, etc.
  • Show appreciation for the work students put into the organization on a regular basis.
  • Discuss appropriate email communication and online presence. People are open to interpret electronic text how they wish, so make sure this doesn’t hinder your organization’s operatio

There are a few suggestions and tips that will strengthen your relationship with student volunteers:

  • Have an open door policy.
  • Put up a volunteer suggestion box.
  • Arrange for discounts.
  • Greet them by name.
  • Enable them to grow on the job.
  • Recommend them to prospective employers or serve as a reference.
  • Attend other events they are involved in.
  • Give ‘kudos’ at group meetings.
  • Try and praise each member for a job well done throughout the year.
  • Show an interest in their personal/academic lives.
  • Have an informal ‘thank you’ event such as a pizza party, or an ice cream social.
  • Utilize them as consultants.

One of the key elements to ensure an organization’s smooth transition from academic year to academic year is how well they transition their officers. An advisor can and should play an active role in the transition process. There are many methods of transition, including passing on notebooks and electronic records, having one-on-one meetings between incoming and outgoing officers, or planning day long or overnight retreats. When your organization transitions, acting on the following elements is important:

  • Selecting new officers.
  • Identifying key information to be shared.
  • Communicating key information to new officers.
  • Officers assuming their new roles.

In addition to these four key elements, some very helpful hints to utilize during and/or after your transition process are:

  • Review the organization’s leadership roles.
  • Plan a retreat (see pg. 19)
  • Create a map of the organization’s journey.
  • Be honest about the past and realistic about the future.
  • Take time to learn your available resources.
  • Build a relationship between group members and the advisor(s).
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new in your organization.

Managing Finances

The University Park Allocation Committee (UPAC) is a student-run board of 35 members that considers budget requests for programs that enhance the out of class experience, and/or improve the educational climate at Penn State. Every full-time student at the University Park campus of Penn State University pays a student initiated fee. UPAC determines how to best distribute a portion of the Penn State Student Activity Fee. UPAC allocates the Student Activity Fee money to student organization to:

  • Put on programs.
  • Attend educational conferences and/or programs.
  • Perform service, or present a performance.
  • Travel to competitions or events.
  • Buy club equipment.
  • Enable broadcast media.
  • Print publications.

UPAC will accept funding requests from individuals that are University-affiliated (students, faculty, staff ), and all recognized and non-recognized student organizations. All requests should be submitted a minimum of 40 academic days prior to the date of the program and/or travel. Please contact the UPAC office for more specific deadline dates. All request forms are available in the UPAC office. Any questions or concerns should be directed to the UPAC office at 814-863-8951 or UPAC will also consider funding $50 per registered student organization for general operational expenses. UPAC is located in 208 HUB; feel free to stop by to get more information.

Associated Student Activities (ASA) was established as part of the University to aid recognized student organizations in keeping proper accounts of their financial activities. ASA’s primary functions are those of banker, accountant, paymaster and advisor on fiscal matters. ASA provides integrity to the financial affairs of recognized student organizations by providing a purchase order mechanism and a check writing service.

ASA serves as the “bank” for all recognized student organizations and is here to advise students on all of their organization’s financial activities. ASA is responsible for the custody of the student organizations’ funds, and the authority to ensure that those funds are used in accordance with University, ASA, and University Park Allocations Committee (UPAC) policies. Every recognized student organization is assigned a restricted and an unrestricted account in the ASA office. Any funds raised by the organization and for the organization must be deposited in ASA. Student organizations are not permitted to have any accounts at outside banks or credit unions.

In accordance with The Pennsylvania State University’s policy on the financial affairs of recognized student organizations, all recognized student organizations are:

  • Required to affiliate with ASA for their banking and bookkeeping services.
  • Subject to an annual audit performed by the Office of Finance and Operations.
  • Required to conduct their financial affairs according to the written regulations of the ASA office.

The President and Treasurer of the organization can have access to the organization’s accounts. In addition to this, the organization’s treasurer is responsible for:

  • Keeping the organization’s financial ledger. There is no “official” record-keeping requirement, but we would suggest Microsoft Excel or another spreadsheet application. The organization’s treasurer or advisor may request a detailed transaction report from ASA at any time to ensure that there are no discrepancies.
  • Acting as a liaison between their organization and ASA. Certain transactions are to be initiated and completed only by the treasurer including check requests and transfers.
  • Maintaining an up-to-date Treasurer Card. This card is used often by ASA to aid in notifying the treasurer and/or advisor of problems with requests or processing transactions. Delays occur when this information is illegible or out-of-date.
  • Signing off on all expenditures (except Purchase Orders by authorized users).
  • Checking the Treasurer File as needed. We suggest this file is checked weekly. Each organization has a Treasurer File which may contain unpaid bills, paid invoices, and other correspondence.

The Treasurer’s Guide can be found under Associated Student Activities (ASA) Financial References. 

Types of ASA Accounts

Every organization has an Unrestricted account (Fund Source 30) at ASA. This is comprised of money that the organization generates either through dues collection, donations, fund raising, equipment sales, etc., which can be spent however they deem fit (within University guidelines).

Organizations can petition University Park Allocation Committee (UPAC) for Student Activity Fee (Fund Source 10) funds. Each time an organization is allocated funds, UPAC will provide ASA with an allocation letter that states exactly what the funds are to be used for. UPAC funds MUST be used for the purposes dictated in the allocation letter. If a request is submitted that includes items not included in the allocation letter, ASA will process that portion of the request from the account until UPAC provides ASA with an allocation letter.

All Activity Fee funds that are remaining in an organization’s account at the end of the fiscal year (June 30) will be returned to UPAC. More information about UPAC is included at the end of this section.

Income Processes

Any member of your organization may deposit funds into your unrestricted account. These funds are the monies collected by the organization from dues, memberships, donations, etc. To ensure safety and security of your collected funds, always deposit your money in a timely manner. ASA has a limited supply of bill and coin wrappers available for organizational use, if needed.

Payable Processes

The following are ways an organization can make payments:

  • Purchase Orders 
    Purchase Orders (PO’s) are the most convenient method of payment to a vendor. Organizations are encouraged to use POs whenever possible. This eliminates the need for an individual to pay with his/her own money and seek reimbursement from the organization. The treasurer can authorize up to three additional group members to request POs by adding names to the Treasurer Card. The advisor is always permitted to request PO’s. Those individuals are only authorized to get a purchase order, not sign for Check Requests or any other requests.

ASA will automatically pay bills only if a purchase order is referenced. If you did not get a purchase order, they will out the invoice in your Treasurer File and it WILL NOT BE PAID until your organization’s treasurer authorizes the expense. A purchase order already has a signature, authorizing the expense, and requires no further action from the treasurer, which is why it is preferred method for expenditures.

  • Check Requests 
    Check requests are used to reimburse individuals for expenses incurred related to an organization’s activities. For example, a person may have purchased office supplies or decorations for an event with his or her own money. If the organization’s leadership has approved of this purchase, the person can be reimbursed via check request. The individual seeking reimbursement MUST get a receipt showing the dollar amount as being “paid.”

It is the treasurer’s responsibility to make sure the request form is filled out properly and to attach the original receipt. AN ORIGINAL RECEIPT MUST ALWAYS BE PRESENT IN ORDER TO RECEIVE REIMBURSEMENT. Original receipts eliminate the possibility of duplicate reimbursement. If a request is turned in without proper documentation, it will be returned to the treasurer and no refund will be given.

Many organizations purchase products online. During the ordering process, the purchaser should print out a page showing the total (paid in full) and the method of payment. You CAN NOT use a printout of the product and its cost if you are seeking reimbursement for an individual; ASA must have a printout showing some form of transaction. Credit card statements are not valid receipts for this or any expense.

Again, many vendors accept purchase orders. Whenever possible, take the time to get a purchase order; it will save an individual from having to front the cash.

1099 Qualifying Payments

Individuals who provide a professional service (speaker, DJ, performer, referee, instructor, etc.) must provide either a Social Security Number or Federal EIN (Employer Identification Number) when contracting with the University. 1099 qualifying payments are processed through a University system separate from ASA; therefore, it takes significant more time to process. The University will process year-end reporting of earned income on cumulative payment(s) of $600.00 or more for the calendar year on IRS Form 1099 Miscellaneous for individuals who provide a Social Security Numbers for these service payments.

Individuals or businesses that provide a valid Federal EIN number will not receive IRS Form 1099 Miscellaneous but are required by the IRS to report these earnings on their own. Penn State University employees (full time, part time, fixed term, wage/payroll, or work study) are not able to receive 1099 payments, and must provide ASA with an EIN number for payment processing.

Please contact the ASA office for more information or with any questions and concerns at:

Associated Student Activities
Office - 240 HUB-Robeson Center
Phone - 814-865-1947
Fax - 814-863-5524
Web - Associated Student Activities


The following is a brief description of the insurance provisions contained in the major liability insurance programs provided by the University, which includes all employees as insured. Coverages are predicted only is the individual is acting within the scope of his or her assigned University duties. Coverage is automatic when an employee is REQUIRED by the University to be an advisor to a registered student organization as part of his or her assigned duties. This is common with Student Affairs employees.

The Central Procurement Office provides adequate liability insurance coverage for exposures confronting employees performing their assigned University duties. The Office continually reviews those programs with the University’s insurance brokers and liability insurance carriers in an effort to provide a comprehensive program. Questions relating to the University’s Liability Insurance Program should be forwarded to:

Central Procurement Office
101 Procurement Services
University Park, PA 16802

An important feature of all the above insurance coverages and policies relates to legal and related defense costs, which are integral, part of the coverages. The following are general descriptions of the key insurance coverage available to student organization advisors:

  • Automobile Liability: 
    Automatic when using University owned vehicles. Excess is required when using a non-University vehicle as part of your assigned University duties.
  • General Liability:
    Provides tort protection for bodily injury, property damage, and personal injury claims at all locations. This includes all University operations including in classrooms, in laboratories and on field trips.
  • Workers’ Compensation: 
    Governed by Pennsylvania’s Statutory Law, coverage is provided for injuries on the job with payment of medical bills and wages for lost time from work.

Liability Insurance Coverage for Recognized Student Organizations

In addition to the insurance referenced, an insurance policy has been procured to protect the student officers and members of Recognized Student Organizations from civil liability. This includes Organizational activities, on and off campus. A complete description of this insurance program can be found at the Student Organization Insurance webpage.

University Park Campus:

Insurance coverage is extended to any employee who has confirmed they are an advisor through OrgCentral, the student organization online system. The president of the organization should have submitted the advisor’s name in OrgCentral which generates an automatic email to the advisor asking them to confirm their role.

Commonwealth Campuses:

Insurance Coverage is extended to any employee who has a current Advisor Approval Form completed, approved, and on file with the Student Affairs office at their respective campus. The Advisor Approval Form must be completed annually.

Administrative Operations

Student Organizations can reserve space to hold meetings or events at the Event Management Office or at 25Live. The office is located on the first floor HUB 125D. Depending on the complexity of the event the staff may assist students in the planning process. You can find information at the Events Management office regarding the specifics of space and advertisement reservations, including:

  • When to make a reservation
  • How to reserve a space
  • Room confirmation process
  • Audiovisual needs
  • Internet and video projection needs
  • Cancellations or charges
  • Day of the event
  • Rental rates
  • Room descriptions
  • Audiovisual equipment
  • Floor plans

Moreover, the Event Management Office can support students in:

  • Reserving facilities or space.
    • HUB space
    • Academic Space
    • Outdoor Space
    • Athletic Space
  • Reserving banner space.
    • Two available spaces at Osmond Lab.
    • Three spaces inside HUB-Robeson Center above HUB Dining.
  • Reserving information Tables in the HUB-Robeson Center.
  • Processing work orders for the Office of Physical Plant Service.
  • Completing Event Registration Forms.

Please note that STUDENTS, not advisors, must make reservations for HUB resources. To reserve space, roster information for an organization MUST be updated.  SPACE CANNOT BE RESERVED IF THE ORGANIZATION IS NOT IN GOOD STANDING WITH THE OFFICE OF STUDENT LEADERSHIP AND INVOLVEMENT.

To contact:
Events Management
125D HUB-Robeson Center
814-865-7973 (p)
814-863-0812 (f)

President and Advisor Listservs

Office of Student Leadership and Involvement maintains one listserv of all student organization presidents, one of all primary advisors, and one of all co-advisors. These lists are used to maintain communication about information critical to the operation of a student organization and other important issues. We only use the lists for important information to maintain their significance. If you are not receiving this information and would like to be added to the listserv, please contact the Student Organization office at 814-863-1437 or

Communication/Mail Files

Every active registered student organization has a communication file located at the HUB Information Desk. You need to remind officers and/or members to check the file at least once a week for important announcements. Student organizations may schedule a time to place announcements and flyers in the communication files as long as they are organization related and not a “for profit” advertisement. The name of the sponsoring organizations must be prominently displayed on all announcements and promotional materials. The file should not be used as a means to collect money for dues, t-shirt sales, etc. as we cannot insure that these files are completely secure. Money should be deposited through Associated Student Activities in 240 HUB-Robeson Center.

Student Organization Office Access

The Hub-Robeson Events Management staff maintains access to student organization offices. Each student organization office has student ID card access. When your student organization has elections and a new set of executive officers, please remind the president that they need to contact HUB Events ( in order to update who should have access to their office space.

The president needs to gather the full names and student IDs (9-xxxx-xxxx) of each student to be granted access and then email that list to HUB Events ( while asking that the previous list be removed (if your group has an office in the HUB the previous year). The HUB-Robeson Center is open 24 hours a day as are the student organization offices. In order to gain entry into the office, the students must have their student ID with them at all times.

Planning Events and Activities

When beginning to plan events or activities for student organizations, there are a lot of aspects to be considered. Resources are available to aid an organization in this process from start to finish. The following sections outline the procedure to be followed to successfully plan an event, including registration, location, and other important criteria. These areas can be used as a guide for advisors as well as students.

Assisting Organizations in Event and Program Planning

An advisor plays a critical role in helping organizations develop programs, events, and activities that will enhance campus life and support the educational mission of the University. In order to accomplish this task, an advisor must encourage the students to think about the role of their programs, as well as how the programs align with the organization’s mission. It is important to consider how the programs will enhance campus life and support the educational mission of the University.

Guide your organization into planning events that fit with these overall goals:

  • Introduce new program ideas, but keep in mind that students are more likely to support programs they create. Ideas that the students develop and make their own will be more effective.
  • Provide opportunities for students to use skills they are gaining in the classroom such as analyzing an idea, researching a performer, or developing a publicity plan.
  • Point out new perspectives and directions to the organization that they may not already be considering.
  • Ask your organization to consider the effect of their decisions on the community and the university as a whole, and prepare them for possible negatives.

RSO Event Consultation

The Office of Student Leadership and Involvement offers a variety or resources to assist students when planning a program. To register a program (on campus or off campus) check out Recognized Student Organization Events.

Students MUST fill out the Program Registration Form if the answer to any of the following questions is “yes”!

  • Are you requesting UPAC funding?
  • Are you requesting space in the following locations:
    • HUB-Robeson Center
    • Academic Space
    • Outdoor Space
    • Athletic Space
    • Eisenhower or Schwab Auditoriums
    • Nittany Lion Inn or The Penn Stater
    • Bryce Jordan Center
  • Are you using a HUB information table to:
    • Collect money
    • Conducting commercialization
    • Holding giveaways

Reserving Space for Large Events

Student Organizations who wish to hold a large event can do so through the Center for Performing Arts. Eisenhower & Schwab Auditoriums are commonly used for such events. While the involvement of faculty/staff advisors is appreciated, the student members of the organization are expected to manage all aspects of the sponsored events. All correspondence concerning an event will be sent to the organization’s designated student representative. Copies will be made available to advisors, if requested. Advisors are strongly encouraged to attend production meetings, where all the deadlines for additional information will be given. The advisor will be contacted if deadlines are not met, only as a last resort, and only if the advisor has asked to be so informed. If you have any questions regarding this policy if programming in Eisenhower Auditorium, please contact the Assistant Director for the Center for the Performing Arts at 814-863-7101.

The Center for Performing Arts provides the following services for student organizations:

  • Assistance with Contracting Process
    • Completing Standard University Agreement.
    • Replacing artist contract with Standard University Agreement.
    • Forwarding completed Agreement to artist/agency.
    • Compiling appropriate document for the University Risk Managements and Treasurer’s Office to finalize agreement.
  • Assistance with Budgeting
    • Providing preliminary estimate of expenses for production needs.
    • Updating estimates once Agreement is finalized.
    • Tracking expenses during event and notify sponsor of day-of-show changes will increase costs.
  • Operational Expertise
    • Providing professional technical staff during planning process and during event.
    • Providing professional house staff to facilitate safety and comfort of patrons.
    • Providing professional ticket office staff available for sale of tickets prior to and during event. (This staff will be fiscally responsible for all tickets sold at venue.)
  • Auxiliary Service Arrangements
    • Policing Services
    • Janitorial Services
    • Media & Technology Support Services
    • Crowd Control Ticketing Services
    • Piano Technician Services
  • Assistance with Marketing/Publicity
    • Locations available for receptions
    • Locations available in venues for press conferences.

Contracting a Second-Party Vendor

Contracts (University Standard Agreements) must be used whenever an organization/department is requesting a service from a second-party vendor (ex: DJ, Band, Comedian, Lecture, Sound Company) or whenever an organization is selling anything on consignment on Penn State property. A student organization should use a University contract when an outside entry requires a contract to engage in business. If a program is going to be held off-campus (on non-University property) you may not use the University Standard Agreement, however in order to process payment to the vendor or artist the organization should have some form of written agreement between both parties. All contract should be requested a minimum of 30 academic days prior to the date of the program to allow enough time for processing.

Contracts are necessary for several reasons. By clearly outlining the terms of agreement, the contracts protect the university, staff and student organization regarding the liability issues. It is also used to process payment for performances and to impose an approval chain for events to ensure that they are being reviewed and tracked.

When is a contract NOT required?

  • Your organization does not need a contract if the second party does not request fee reimbursement for charges, or payment of travel or lodging. But, the university recommends the issuance of the University contract.
  • Your organization does not need a contract if they are renting equipment and operating it themselves, unless the company requires a signed agreement. In this case, you must use the University contract.
  • Student organizations do not need a contract if the event is not sponsored by the University.
  • If the cost of the performance is over $10,000, your organization may use the Artist’s Agreement, but you must have an agreement.
  • If your organization is holding an event off-campus and paying an artist or speaker, they are not permitted to use a University contract, but they must have a written agreement to submit to the Associated Student Activities Office to process payment from their student organization account.

Contracts can be obtained depending on the location of the programs. For programs held in Residence Life areas, the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, or Eisenhower Auditorium, contracts must be issued by the area where the event will be held. Contracts for all other programs and vendors will be issued to student organizations as part of a contract meeting. To set up an appointment, a representative of your student organization can go to this booking link.

Procedures and requirements for contracts:

  • A copy with original signatures must be completed and signed according to the following procedure:
    • Sponsor emails a copy of the contract to the artist/vendor for signatures. The artist/vendor then returns signed contracts to the student organization or respective office. If the artist has special requirements, a rider must be attached.
    • Sponsor, University Department or Student Organization, obtains Facility Manager Signature on all contracts.
    • In certain situations depending on the nature of the event, the contract will need to be sent to the Office of Central Procurement for approval and Authorized University Signatures. In these situations extra time should be allotted.
      • If the information included in the rider and/or if the contract is over $10,000 and/or anytime an insurance certificate must be attached to the agreement.
      • An artist or vendors contract is being used.
      • NOTE: All contracts involving hypnotists or live animals need to be forwarded to 209 HUB for review.
    • Sponsor obtains Authorized University Signature on all contracts.
  • Once all original signatures have been obtained:
    • One copy of the contract gets emailed to the student.
    • The original copy is for University
    • The student organization should forward the emailed copy to the artist.
    • All finance officers have agreed to accept a photocopy of the contract to process payment.

On- and Off- Campus Events Where Admission is Charged

The following are University guidelines that must be followed if your organization is holding an on-campus event where a cover charge or admission fee is charged. There is no admission fee limit, but organizations must remember to administer tickets to individuals and complete a Ticket Accountability Form, available in the ASA office. If the event is on campus and less than $5.00 or more, a $0.75 Impact Fee will be assessed for every ticket sold and will be collected by either ASA or the Center for the Performing Arts. This means that your organization needs to create and print NUMBERED tickets, showing the ticket cost and stating that there is a $0.50 impact fee included in the price. If the event is off campus, there is no Impact Fee, but all other policies apply.

Student Organization Travel

While student groups may be presented with the opportunity to travel, procedures must be followed prior to a trip. Student Travel Registration Forms must be filled out prior to travel, for all students and/or student organizations regardless of funding source. In addition, student contact information as well as a detailed itinerary for each traveler is required. This information includes individual or group travel, air travel, bus travel, car travel (personal, rental, or fleet vehicle), and train travel. Travel expenses will not be approved, if this form is not completed prior to travel. Students may book their own air travel using any nationally recognized airline. However, when booking bus travel, student organizations must use a University approved company; approved companies can be found at the Approved Vendors webpage. Domestic and International Travel guidelines can be found at the Travel Policies & Regulations webpage.

Planning a Retreat for Your Organization

Retreats are one of the most useful activities that student organizations participate in and they are extremely valuable for a number of reasons. Students can get to know one another on a deeper level, engage in team building exercises, set goals for the upcoming year, develop leadership skills, and have a good time!

To Do List for Planning a Retreat

Establish the purpose of your retreat: Ask you executive board what they hope to accomplish during the retreat. This could include, but is not limited to: team building, skills training, communications, goal setting, planning, learning, orientation, socializing, transition, revitalization, and conflict resolution.

Determine who the retreat is for: Is the retreat going to be for new officers, the executive board, or all organization members?

Select a facility: Think about whether or not the group wants to stay on campus and whether the group prefers convenience or isolation. When looking for an off campus retreat location, consider nearby summer camps because they often charge cheap rates in the off-season. Be sure to check availability, accessibility, and accommodations and don’t forget about costs and contracts. If you do go off campus, you can use the facilities’ contract. The Office of Student Activities has contact names and numbers for retreat locations.

Transportation: If your event is off campus, members should be provided with adequate and safe transportation.

Food and Drink: Before deciding on a menu, consider costs, cooking facilities, preparation, and clean up. If possible, try cooking together. It can be a great team building activity.

Select the best format: Multiple formats are available to help you plan your agenda. You can arrange workshops presented by an “expert” that address topics such as advertising, program planning, public speaking, fund-raising, etc. the Office of Student Leadership and Involvement can provide these types of workshops; contact the Office of Student Leadership and Involvement in room 103 of the HUB. If you are at a camp-type facility, they tend to provide experiential exercises facilitated by their staff like team building, brainstorming, communication skills, rope courses, etc. Down time activities are important to include as well, such as recreational exercises, skiing, hiking, canoeing, biking, etc.

Select facilitators and presenters: Many resources are available to student organizations when it comes to facilitators and presenters. You could use the resources within your organization or you could ask advisors and other faculty or staff members to facilitate/present. You can contact the Office of Student Leadership and Involvement to formalize arrangements if you are interested in assistance from Student Affairs staff members.

Plan the retreat: A great deal can be said about students taking ownership of their programs. People support what they help to create. A great way to give students ownership during a retreat is to ask members to participate in committees. Some suggested committees include: Transportation, Food/Drink, Lodging, Recreation, Programming, and Clean-Up.

Evaluate the retreat: Evaluating your retreat is the best way to ensure that you have accomplished what you set out to do. Providing evaluation forms for the attendees is a simple way to evaluate the program. Ask members what they thought of the experience and what they would change, keep the same, or have made better.


New members are the lifeblood of every organization. They increase the organization’s person power, foster organizational growth, and take over leadership roles.

People join organizations for many reasons. They want to get involved, make new friends, develop skills, and have fun. Groups need new members because they bring new ideas and talents, in addition to replacing old members. It is vital that an organization has a well-conceived and executed recruitment and retention plan.

Recruitment and retention is the responsibility of every member of your organization! Every member must be involved in the planning and implementation of a recruitment and retention campaign. Some organizations create a Membership Committee that:

  • Oversees the design and implementation of a recruitment campaign.
  • Maintains membership information.
  • Plans and implements members training programs.
  • Coordinates the leadership selection/election process.
  • Plans social functions to enhance team building.

Know and Understand Your Organization

It is important that both the leaders and members know what the organizational goals and objectives are. Here are some suggestions to see if leaders and members are on the same page:

  • Have an organizational meeting to discuss goals and objectives. Are your goals still accurate? Is it time to update them? Where do you plan for the organization to be in six months? A year?
  • Decide on a direction to take. During this “organizational housekeeping” process, a certain theme or direction should become clear. What is this?
  • Develop a membership profile. What type of people do you need to help the group succeed? Who would you like to join? Who would complement your current membership?

Set Recruitment Goals

Now that you know the type of people you are interested in recruiting, the next step is goal setting.

  • How many new members can you organization reasonably assimilate into the group?
  • Will you allow people to join at any time or only during a pre-designated recruitment period?
  • Will you hold a mass meeting or is membership by invitation only?

Keep your Membership Profile in Mind

  • What places do these prospective members most likely frequent?
  • Do they have special interests?
  • What kind of publicity would attract their attention?

Remember what made you get Involved

Probably the most important step in designing a recruitment strategy is for you to think back to when you first became involved.

  • What attracted you?
  • How were you recruited?
  • If you weren’t recruited, how did you hear about the group?
  • Why have you stayed involved?

Get Everyone Involved

Have your current members identify people they know who might want to get involved. Personally invite them to attend a meeting. Word-of-mouth is the best and least expensive type of publicity you can use.

  • Talk about your group. Tell people what you have to offer. Ask them about themselves - and really listen.
  • Sell your organization and the benefits of membership. Tell them how the organization can benefit someone like them. Personalize the message to each potential member. Let them know how their talents, skills, and interests would help the organization.

Design an Advertising Campaign Using Visual Elements

Recruitment campaigns need to have a visual element as well.

  • Have those members with artistic talent work on your posters, flyers, banners, bulletin boards, etc.
  • Be creative.
  • Get the publicity out early enough.
  • Encourage the students to utilize the free services from the HUB Marketing Office.

Participate in Involvement Fairs

  • At the beginning of each semester, Student Activities sponsors an involvement fair. Student organizations are encouraged to register for this event that attracts thousands of students who are looking to get involved in the university community. Don’t let your organization miss this great recruiting opportunity.

Hold an Orientation for New Members

Developing and conducting an organizational recruitment campaign is very important.

  • Don’t make a mistake; train your new recruits. All too frequently, groups skip any form of orientation and place their new recruits directly on committees or organizational projects.
  • Teach them about your organization. Although involvement is crucial to the longevity of the group, understanding the organization along with its goals, objectives, structure, norms, and taboos is equally important. By taking the time to orient your new members to the privileges and responsibilities of membership, you create a more educated membership - people who can and will make significant contributions to the organization.
  • Elements of a successful orientation program include:
    • The rights and responsibilities or members.
    • Organizational governance, operating policies, and procedures.
    • Organizational history, traditions, and programs.
    • Assimilation of new members into the organization.
    • An overview of campus services, activities, programs for student organizations.
    • Information about any support groups or affiliations a group may have.

A Note on Hazing

After the recruitment period is over, newcomers are to be welcomed into the student organization wholeheartedly and without any forms of hazing. The Pennsylvania State University condemns all acts of hazing and expects all student organizations to refrain from such acts. All student organization advisors need to be well informed about the ANTI-HAZING policy AD-98. In addition to the University’s policy on hazing, advisors to Greek organizations should also contact the Inter-fraternity Council, Panhellenic Council, National Pan-Hellenic Council or the chapter’s headquarters to obtain their respective anti-hazing statements.


Penalties for Hazing

All Student Organizations must be made aware of the consequences for hazing that include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Probation
  • Loss of Social Privileges
  • Separation
  • Suspension or Expulsion
  • Loss of Charter
  • Legal Action

The University’s hazing letter will be made available on an annual basis.


Resources Available to Advisors

Penn State understands that student-run organizations are sometimes difficult to manage, so the university has created several resources available to organizations’ advisors. Whether you are seeking personal development as an organizational leader or are just looking to further the development of your organization as a whole, Penn State offers several services for advisors to take advantage of.

Students Helping Students

Student groups within Student Leadership and Involvement offer programs and services designed to enhance students’ personal and professional development and encourage students to become socially conscious leaders and responsible citizens. Specially targeted leadership development programs and service learning initiatives are offered for all students and student organizations. Leadership development opportunities provide a comprehensive array of leadership tools, which focus on the latest leadership trends. In addition, the Office’s volunteer program provides one-time service projects and longer-term projects for students to participate in the local community and learn how to become civic-minded citizens. Service learning projects also offer students and faculty a chance to connect with the community and apply what is learned in the classroom with real-world experiences.

Student Organization Consultants are student leaders that provide engaging workshops for organizations surrounding teambuilding, communication, problem solving, group dynamics and consultations for newly forming organizations. If your organization would like a custom workshop by the Student Organization Consultants, please use the request form found on the Student Organization Consultants webpage. Workshops are available for any size organization, including just new members, executive boards, and emerging leaders. For newly forming organizations, a consultation can be requested through the Office of Student Leadership and Involvement at At this consultation, students will be able to receive step-by-step guidance on the recognition process and constitution creation.

Marketing your Student Organization

As there are several channels to promote your organization, the Marketing Office can aid in the endorsement of your group. The Marketing Office provides several services to recognized student organizations:

  • Free marketing advice for meetings and programs
  • Advertisement design assistance
  • Public relations needs
  • UPAC funded posters
  • Toilet Paper ad space
  • Weekly newsletter published and posted in the HUB

For more help with your marketing efforts, please visit the marketing office within the HUB:
Marketing Office
201 Boucke Building
814-863-3398 (p)
Website: HUB Marketing Office


Additional Resources - Published Resources

  • Advising Student Groups and Organizations by Dunkel and Shuh
  • Astin, A.W. (1984). Student Involvement: A developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Personnel, 25, 297-308.
  • Hovland, M., Anderson, E., McGuire, W., Crockett, D., Kaufman, J., and Woodward, D. (1997) Academic Advising for Student Success and Retention. Iowa City, IO: Noel-Levitz, Inc.
  • Floerchinger, D. (1992) Enchancing the role of student organization advisors in building a positive campus community. Campus Activities Programming, 26(6), 39-46.
  • Johnson, D.W. and Johnson, F.P. (1991). Joining Together Group Theory and Group Skills. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
  • Lorenz, N. and Shipton, W. (1984). A Practical Approach to Group Advising and Problem Solving. A Handbook for Student Group Advisors. Schuh, J.H. (Ed.). American College Personnel Association.
  • Greenwall, GNA. (2002). Learning the rules of the road: A beginning advisor’s journey. Campus Activities Programming, 35(2), 62-66.
  • Vest, M.V. (2002). Years of experience are not enough: Seasoned advisors must continually adapt. Campus Activities Programming. 35(2), 62-66.
  • Dunkel, N.W. and Schuh, J.H. (1997). Advising student groups and organizations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.