Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

Ronald Williamson, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Carmen McCallum, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Calvin McFarland, Jr., Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jaclynn Tracy, Ph.D.


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand how student government advisors and members of campus communities where they work, understand and conceptualize their critical duties and responsibilities, and reconceptualize this role as one critical in supporting campus advocacy and activism giving changes within the higher education landscape. Through the application of a 360-degree analysis approach, this study focused on the experiences of advisors serving in full-time, part-time, or voluntary capacities to student government organizations at three institutions in the Midwest. This study also introduces transformative advising as a viable model to be implemented by student government advisors and potentially others who support student organizations involved in advocacy and activism on campus.

Data collection procedures in this study included qualitative interviewing and document analysis procedures. Student government organizational constitutions, operating procedures (rule and protocols for day-to-day operation), and handbooks were collected and analyzed from each of the three institutions. The data analysis process took a pragmatic thematic analysis approach that collected data from transcribed conversations using quotes and common ideas, identified data patterns, and combined patterns into themes.

Completing and analyzing data collected from the semi-structured qualitative interviews illuminated the challenging nature of serving as the student government advisor by participants situated throughout each organization. Interpretation of the findings through the lens of challenges translated into role marginalization, tension, and power. Determining ways to support student activism on college and university campuses is a pressing matter and both supporting and challenging individuals that sit at the front lines of this work—the student government advisor— is critical. However, as illuminated by the findings, there is little focus on the role of the advisor and ensuring there are structural supports from the institution to carry out their work in inclusive, transformative, and productive ways that benefit all members of the campus community.