Jake Vanderlugt (Adrian, Zeta Lambda ’14) first started serving the Fraternity as a volunteer in 2015 as the Southern Michigan Alumni Association’s Director of Communications. Since beginning his volunteer journey, he has served Pikes from his own chapter and hometown, Pike alumni in the Kansas City area, and the men of the Colony at Northwest Missouri State. As someone who volunteers with multiple groups in different states and who travels frequently for work, he is no stranger to remote advising.
Remote advising….is this a thing? When you hear the term advising its normal to think back to the personal experience you had with your chapter advisor or another advisor from your chapter’s Alumni Advisory Board (AAB). Regardless if it was 5 or 20 years ago, ask yourself what sticks out about these experiences? For me it was the fact our chapter advisor would drive well over two hours round trip in support of our weekly chapter meetings. We had another advisor who attended our meetings and helped instill the importance and fun in our community service efforts through his community connections. These gestures spoke more than words knowing we had the support of our advisors. The alumni presence at our chapter meetings allowed us to complete more business, staying on schedule, and helped bridge the gap between active members and our alumni.
Now with your pervious advisor of choice in mind, let me be the first to say you don’t have to measure up. I’m not saying you shouldn’t strive to have the same type of impact they had on your Pike experience, but rather don’t let the inability to drive two hours round trip from delivering your value and support to our undergraduate chapters. Each one of us might be at different points in our careers, starting a new family, or possibly helping our son in their college search; The Great Pause aside…we’re busy people and our calendars are full! But each one of us may share the same passion for Pi Kappa Alpha years after our undergraduate years and have wondered what reigniting that inner flame would possibly look or feel like. Face-to-face advising is ideal and likely best in building those relationships which can have a lasting impact on our undergraduate members. And as much as we might want to be this type of an advisor, maybe the distance between us and a chapter doesn’t allow us to be or maybe you’re only thinking about the time required to be an advisor and that’s holding you back. So, what’s second best to face-to-face advising? Welcome Remote advising!
I’ve had all the same concerns being six years out from college, moving to a new city, and establishing myself professionally. Not to mention all the other commitments I have in the community, my church, socially, etc. But I received word there was a newly established colony of Pi Kappa Alpha with zero former alumni from this university and in need of a fully functioning Alumni Advisory Board. Rather than add up all my other commitments and easily convince myself I do not have the ‘time’ to help advise, I remembered this term Remote advising and how it might apply to my current situation being four hours away roundtrip from campus.
Remote advising will look vastly different for each of us, but there are some best practices I would like to share with you which have helped myself and our AAB provide the best possible support over the past 18 months – This is remote advising after all so simply replace any of the below in-person interactions with a video conference. I’ll be the first to tell you I’m the furthest thing from a perfect advisor and have missed on some of these best practices, but having this knowledge and a desire to provide support will set you up for success as a remote advisor:
- Rather than meeting weekly face-to-face, a bi-weekly phone call is a great touchpoint with the undergraduate you are directly advising
- A simple structure for these calls might be – Small talk. How are we progressing on our goals since the previous call together? What has been tracking over the past two weeks? Are there any concerns? What do you need from myself/how may I best support you these next two weeks?
- If possible, attend 1-2 in-person chapter meetings on campus each semester
- Not only will you strengthen your direct advising relationship, but also will meet some of the chapter’s newest members. Some of our best chapters preach the benefits of Pike after college/professionally so when these newest members can personally experience this through your presence, you’re directly assisting in member retention and their continual recruitment efforts. Win-Win!
- How do you work with other local/remote alumni advisors who are on the same AAB?
- Establish a monthly call cadence where each advisor may share what they’re tracking on with their undergraduate member and where assistance might be needed
- Set up a group text, GroupMe, or whatever is easiest for your AAB to communicate in between your monthly calls
- Try to schedule an in-person meeting at least once a year where the entire AAB and active chapter can work together (think goal setting retreats)
- Maybe this meeting coincides with another alumni event which would already bring you and the AAB into town (Homecoming, golf tournament, etc.)
- Leverage the alumni resources available to you from the International Fraternity
- Meet with Chapter Consultants if they happen to be in your neck of the woods! Chapter Consultants are Pike’s boots on the ground and meet with many different advisors throughout the year and across North America. If you’re able, grab lunch with them as they’re a great resource to learn from on how other remote advisors are providing value from afar.
Regardless of the above and your current situation, if you’ve read this far it tells me you’re currently advising our undergraduate members (thank you!) or you have the inner desire to begin advising. Have I mentioned you can advise a chapter other than your own? Or maybe you’d like to become an advisor but don’t know where to start? With over 150 Pi Kappa Alpha Alumni Associations across North America, reaching out and getting involved with your local alumni association is the perfect place to start. Begin meeting other Brothers in your area and learn where there might be a need for another remote advisor. From one advisor to another, thank you for all you do for Pi Kappa Alpha.