Become an Advisor

VISION’s vision statement

VISION works to affect positive social change in the St. Thomas, national, and global communities. We believe this change can happen when there is an opportunity for relationship between these communities. 

Through VISION, therefore we take up the challenge of traveling to sites across the United States, Latin America, Europe and Africa. We are generously taken in as guests by the communities that allow us to work, live, and learn with them. Since VISION began in 1986, we have seen the incredible power of this coming together. 

VISION explores this experience through the Six Components: Service, Spirituality, Justice Issues, Community, Cultural Exchange, and Simplicity. On trips, students experience the diverse beauty of the world’s cultures, grapple with issues of poverty and injustice, and reflect as a group on issues of faith and life. In the end, our hope is that they take this experience and live it. In this way, the communities we visit change us forever.  

The sites we visit also are changed. For years we have worked tirelessly alongside these communities building clinics and schools, planting trees, painting, teaching, and mentoring. We bring to these communities our curiosity, energy, willingness to work, and our own unique culture. 

In this encounter, each of us is made more whole, more able to love, more aware of the interconnectedness of us all, more aware of the face of God in the world.

Some Background on Advisors

For the past 25 years VISION has utilized staff and faculty from around the University to serve as advisors on trips throughout North, Central and South America, Africa and the UK.

VISION runs 14 trips a year in both January and Spring break.  Of these 14 trips, 5 trips travel to international sites in January and must have a University staff or faculty present.  For our international trips, advisors accompany 2 student leaders and 9 student participants.  They play an active role from orientations in early October to VISION re-entry meetings in February.  

How advisors are selected

In October, VISION collects written applications which include a reference letter by a St. Thomas student. 

Perspective advisors interview with both VISION staff and student leaders.  Based on both their application and interviews, advisors are placed on trips.

It is VISION’s goal to get staff and faculty advisors from as many areas of the University as possible.  Therefore we do our best not to focus on certain individuals or departments.   

Preparation for the VISION Experience

Meet regularly with your student leaders – From October- December, Advisors meet about once a week with the student leaders to plan trip orientation sessions, talk in-depth about expectations, assist the student leaders in logistical planning and develop a cohesive leadership team.

Attend and take an active role in group orientation sessions– Advisors assist the student leaders in running the 3-4 trips orientations sessions with their trip participants. 

Attend staff orientation sessions- Advisors also attend 2-3 training sessions specifically meant to answer questions about what it means to be an advisor on a trip.

Write a letter- Advisors write letters to the parents of participants of their trip telling them about themselves and ensuring parents of their presence on the VISION experience. 

While On the VISION Site

Safety- is the responsibility of the entire group but staff and faculty advisors play a special role in mitigating risk.  Along with the student leaders, advisors are trained and certified in CPR and First Aid and take on the role of a supervisor.  The represent the University in an official capacity and help the group make safe decisions. If necessary advisors may make executive decisions with the student leaders for the sake of the entire group. 

Discipline- Advisors are responsible to use discipline where necessary. In the case where a participant breaks the law, is destructive to the group, the site, or themselves advisors may along with student leaders, send the student home.  Participants are made aware of this in the VISION Agreement document that they sign at the Large Group orientation.

Communication- Advisors are responsible to assist in communication with St. Thomas and Campus Ministry as well as assist each participant in communication with home. Advisors are responsible to assist the student leaders in communication with the site on a daily basis and help communicate daily activities to the VISION group. It is also an advisors responsibility to meet regularly with the student leaders during the trip to gauge the experience.

Mentor- VISION trips are often intense experiences as student grapple with cultural differences, poverty and injustice.  Advisors bring the invaluable asset of their life experience and ability to understand complex issues.  A large part of an advisors role while on site is helping students synthesize what they are experiencing. 

Budget- There is a budget sheet to document spending at the site.  There will be a cash advance for groups that need to purchase exit visas.  Other purchases like gas for the vans, and food are made on a credit card and reimbursed on return.  The advisor and student leaders must decide who will make purchases during the trip.  It is advisable to consolidate all spending to the leadership team, avoiding having participants paying for things on behalf of the group.  Advisors and student leaders will be reimbursed immediately upon return.   

Returning from the VISION Experience

Reorientation- Advisors and student leaders are expected to meet 1-2 times when they return from their trip.  This is a time to reconnect, look at pictures, and share stories.  This is also a time to talk with the group about how they will incorporate what they learned into their life.  Advisors continue to play a crucial role in helping participants integrate their experience into their life back at St. Thomas.

Building Relationships- Advisors should look for ways to connect with both the participants and student leaders from their trip.  Now that they know the students they have a unique ability to offer valuable insight and guidance regardless of their position at St. Thomas.

Benefits to Staff/Faculty Advisors

VISION enhances advisors commitment to student development 

VISION creates opportunities to experience diversity and enhances advisors cultural competency 

VISION gives staff and faculty advisors a way to participate in St. Thomas’ dedication to the common good

Participation in VISION provides a change in work responsibility that permits the advisor to contribute to the university in a different way.