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By: Lauren Koppel and Jordan Weiner, Michigan State University

Hello to all peer educators and advisors!  We are Master’s students in the Student Affairs Administration program at Michigan State University where we also serve on the National Peer Educator Study (NPES) research team.  As former student leaders and rising student affairs professionals, we are passionate about peer education and hope that blog posts from our research team will be helpful in contributing to the development and success of peer educator programs.

The NPES, conducted through the BACCHUS Network, NASPA, and Michigan State Uengageniversity, engages undergraduate peer educators at participating institutions in a survey designed to assess the motivation, behavior, and growth of students who hold the peer educator position.  The NPES research team sends personalized result packets to peer educator advisors each spring, detailing their peer educator team’s self-reported results, benchmarking these results to those at similar institutions, and offering recommendations for increased peer educator development.  Our work is highly influenced by the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS).

In 2008, CAS developed learning outcomes for students in higher education, integrating its previous learning outcomes with those proposed by Learning Reconsidered 2.  These learning outcomes fit into six broad learning categories, known as domains.  The domains include: knowledge acquisition, construction, integration and application; cognitive complexity; intrapersonal development; interpersonal competence; humanitarianism and civic engagement; and practical competence (CAS, 2014).

The NPES measures participating peer educators’ growth within the Learning Domains. Based on the survey results, the NPES research team has developed tips and suggestions to facilitate growth in each learning domain.  Below are selected suggestions for advisors to incorporate into trainings, meetings, and advising practices.  For a more comprehensive list, we suggest advisors register for the survey through their NASPA and BACCHUS affiliations. The NPES team provides each participating institution with a customized report on students’ learning domain scores and associated tips for training.

Knowledge acquisition, construction, integration, and application

  1. Have students coordinate and facilitate segments of training for each other in a topic of their interest or expertise.
  2. Create learning contracts for students to connect the relevant knowledge/skills gained to future goals/aspirations. For further information on learning contracts refer to Learning is Not a Sprint.
  3. Encourage collaborations between different peer education topics or with other campus partners to illustrate interconnectedness of ideas and experiences.

Cognitive Complexity

  1. Incorporate reflection activities into individual or group meetings.
  2. Encourage evidence based decision-making by introducing students to multiple means of information gathering and assessment.
  3. Encourage innovative problem solving by facilitating problem solving or case study situations.

Intrapersonal Development

  1. Provide goal setting opportunities and check-ins at multiple points throughout the year.
  2. Facilitate values exercises to help articulate values throughout one’s life, rank values personally and professionally, and compare values with others.
  3. Encourage ethical thinking by facilitating case studies that place students into morally challenging situations.

Interpersonal Competence

  1. Invite a Career Services representative or other authorized individual to facilitate the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or another personality assessment with the peer educator team.
  2. Frequently empower peer educators to lead activities and conversations.
  3. Provide both formal and informal opportunities to give feedback.

Humanitarianism and Civic Engagement

  1. Teach peer educators how to track social dynamics in group conversations and interactions and to name their observations and express if they feel triggered.
  2. Encourage peer educators to research current events related to peer education nationally and globally and incorporate these perspectives into peer educator meetings and programs.
  3. Coordinate collaborations with middle school or high school peer educator groups, i.e. workshops, volunteering, presentations, program planning.

Practical Competence

  1. Begin peer educator training by asking peer educators to reflect on and articulate their goals for the peer educator experience and how these relate to their personal and professional goals.
  2. Utilize campus resources to engage peer educators in finance and budgeting workshops or similar programs.
  3. Invite professionals from different departments on campus to speak to peer educators about their experiences.



CAS Domains:



Learning Reconsidered 2:


Learning is Not a Sprint:



ncaaw-2014-coverBy: Dr. Ann Quinn-Zobeck, Senior Director for BACCHUS Initiatives and Training

National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week (NCAAW) has been celebrated on campuses across the U.S. for more than 25 years. Traditionally held in the third full week of October, this week is a great time to reflect on how we are addressing collegiate alcohol use. The BACCHUS Initiatives of NASPA has created an online toolkit, #makeSMARTchoices, to assist collegiate peer education groups to develop effective, comprehensive alcohol abuse and impaired driving prevention programming. Here are some things you should know about NCAAW.

  1. Its Historic

As institutions of higher education entered the decade of the 1980s, it became increasingly apparent that existing efforts to reduce alcohol and drug abuse on the campuses were not achieving the desired results. Campus leaders continued to identify the misuse of alcohol as a primary institutional concern for the future success of the students they served. In recognition of this growing concern, a group of individuals gathered together to discuss the ways higher education might more effectively address the problems associated with alcohol abuse and to create a more unified and effective approach to building awareness and campus-wide support for prevention programming.

The original leaders in this effort included: Dennis Roberts representing the American College Personnel Association (ACPA); Tom Aceto of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA); Paul Olivaro from the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International (ACUHO-I); and Gerardo Gonzales, the Executive Director of BACCHUS. Two of the BACCHUS board members were also instrumental in this early effort. They were Dr. Thomas Goodale, Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of Denver, and Gary North, Director of Residence Life at the University of Illinois.

  1. One Week is Not Enough

The first few months of the academic year are critical times to convey your campus’ unique messages about alcohol abuse to all new and returning students, in efforts to avoid tragedies, and to keep healthy and safe lifestyles as the norm. NCAAW is the foundation to building a year-round program, keeping alcohol abuse prevention at the forefront, and assisting students in finding support for alcohol-related issues. Alcohol abuse prevention is not a one-week activity; promoting responsible alcohol consumption is a year-round effort.

  1. Students Want to Be Involved

BACCHUS began with the recognition that peer education can be a useful and effective tool in addressing safety and health issues on college campuses. Today, numerous studies have documented the need for peer education on college campuses and the positive outcomes of peer education. Peer education has a beneficial effect on our campuses, communities, peers, and peer educators. Involving students in your alcohol abuse prevention efforts enables you to reach more students and provide students with a rich leadership experience.

  1. There Are Effective Strategies to Address Collegiate Alcohol Abuse

From using Motivational Interviewing (MI) strategies to environmental management to social norms marketing, there are many strategies campuses should be undertaking to proactively and comprehensively address alcohol abuse within their student population and campus community. The strategies outlined in the #makeSMARTchoices Toolkit will help peer education groups address the different populations on campus to reinforce lower-risk options (from abstaining to lower-risk drinking), to build upon prevention with intervention strategies such as screening and brief intervention, and to support a healthy campus community with policy and enforcement work. The more comprehensive a campus’ approach to prevention, the greater likelihood the campus will see decreases in alcohol abuse and related behaviors.

  1. It’s a Great Way to Celebrate Your Success and Renew Your Commitment to Promoting Health

Use NCAAW to build and promote your alcohol abuse and impaired driving prevention program, as well as gain campus and community support. Recognize the students, faculty, staff, and community members who have contributed to your efforts. Invite campus media to write about your programs. Invite key stakeholders to discuss your campus data to identify successes and areas needing additional attention. Remind students of the services, programs, and healthy alternatives available.

The #makeSMARTchoices 2014 NCAAW Toolkit is available for download at http://www.bacchusnetworkstore.org/ncaaw-toolkit-pdf-263. You will find additional educational materials, trainings, and #makeSMARTchoices promotional items at the BACCHUS Network Store. Here is to a great NCAAW!



Featured Program: UNLV Recovery Support Group

unlv-logoBy: Starr Wharton, Advisor; Michael Fildes, Omid Mahban, Nick Ohlson, and Oliver Wright

Tell us briefly about your peer education program.

  • UNLV’s recovery efforts include weekly support group meetings (based on 12-step format) for student experiencing recovery, drop-in hours in our Wellness Promotion offices and outreach presentations where students in recovery share their story and experiences. We have presented to Fraternity & Sorority Life, academic classes and conducted programs including, “How To Help A Friend With Addiction”. They are expanding the program to include a support group for friends/family members of addicts and invite speakers from AA and NA to the support group meetings.

How did this project come about?

  • In 2012, a student organization was started by students working with a local recovery foundation. UNLV Student Wellness was approached to partner with the student organization for meeting space for support and referrals to campus health and mental health services.

How have you incorporated peer educators into the recovery program?

  • The peer educators first became involved with the recovery program when the President asked about alcohol and other drug awareness programming. As they began to learn more about the group and found they fit perfectly on campus as a Peer Education/Advocacy Group. The original advisor took another position and the Assistant Director for Wellness Promotion was asked to step into that role. The President of the organization was interested in CPE Training and felt the group leaders would benefit from it. They have chosen to call themselves peer mentors rather than educators and it fits well!

How does it work? What is the structure/staffing?

  • Our recovery group is a registered student organization on campus. Membership is voluntary and open to any student on campus experiencing recovery. They have an elected executive board, staff advisor, but no funding at this time or dedicated safe space for meetings and socializing on campus. The group would like to apply for a Stacie Mathewson Foundation Grant and find other funding sources in the next year to help establish a dedicated space and paid peer mentor positions. They have a dedicated campus email address, webpage and social media networks.

What are some lessons you have learned from doing this work?

  • From Starr Wharton, Advisor:
    • Addiction touches more lives than we may realize. From my experience, students are likely to know someone who is, or has had, an addiction to alcohol or other drugs (including prescription drugs). They may not know this person is in recovery or even has had the addiction. For those that have dealt with addiction in their personal lives, we want them to know they are not alone and do have support on campus.
  • They are dedicated peer advocates who have overcome adversity and want to help their fellow students to do the same. They are inspirational, resilient and have a unique perspective on life that I have learned from and feel others could too.
  • Find a dedicated space! While we cannot compare ourselves to other campuses, we know from research and anecdotal evidence a dedicated space, regular meetings and staff support academic performance and personal well-being. Dedicated space is one of the top 3 critical components of successful collegiate recovery programs (Capacity Building for Youth Recovery, Publication 2. Edition 1. 2013. Stacie Mathewson Foundation). A place for students in alcohol and other drug recovery to visit while on campus helps provide a substance-free, safe, comfortable, private space for resources, studying and meetings. This space may be used for impromptu meetings/programs and provide a location where they can support each other through the tough times.
  • The idea of peer mentors/educators in addiction recovery (especially substances) is concerning to some mental health communities/providers. Consider your local environment and be prepared to discuss evidence-based practices.

Have you done other evaluation of the program?

  • We ask students to evaluate their experience with the group and program evaluations at each presentation/program/event.

What are some suggestions/tips you would give campuses that might like to do something similar?

  • Develop relationships with related campus departments/services and community organizations.
  • If you choose to partner closely with a community organization, ensure there is a MOU (memorandum of understanding) in place.
  • Find a dedicated space, funding and staff support first (including your counseling/mental health department)
  • A student-led support group may gain more support than a professional staff-led formal program. Carefully consider your campus climate and environment.
  • Use the Transforming Youth Recovery website. It has outstanding resources!

Featured Program: Clemson University Water Drop

By: Josh Arrage, Area 9 SAC, Clemson University

High-risk drinking is a serious problem on many college campuses. Some students consume large amounts of alcohol in relatively short amounts of time. It is hard to completely stop this dangerous habit, but there are ways to teach students how to more safely consume alcohol. At Clemson University, this is where CU Water Drop comes in to play.

CU Water Drop is an organization, started as a creative inquiry, which will drop off cases of water at events where high-risk drinking may be problem. These events range from large fraternity parties, to university-sponsored events, to small personal parties. This helps promote drinking water in between drinks to make drinking a little safer. Water has been shown to decrease the effects of alcohol on the system and even help with the next day hangover feeling.

Free cases of water are given out to these events. Clemson’s Board of Trustees, Parents’ Fund, and being a Creative Inquiry supports funding for this organization, while the Vice President of Student Affairs leads the group. This has allowed them to market themselves on campus through handing out cups and magnets that accompany each drop and across campus. It takes a team effort to make sure the water is ordered on time, delivered, picked up, stored, and distributed, but this group has been able to have a good degree of success. In just two years of existence, the number of drops has gone from ten a semester to almost 500. In follow-up surveys, 83.7% of students said they used the water for hydration purposes, and 57% said there were fewer overly drunk people.

The group still faces some roadblocks ahead. Like many programs on campus, they will need to find ways to be sustainable in terms of people and resources. The group will also have to continue to market the service and, eventually, alter social norms related to the problem of high-risk drinking.

For more information on the CU Water Drop, please click here.


Helpful Hints for Selecting New Peer Educators

A Q&A with Triniti Halverson, advisor at Montana State University – Billings and Area 3 Consultant

How do you advertise peer educator openings or recruitment periods?

  • Peer educator openings are posted on our website with an online application.
  • Postcards are given out at events.
  • We have a recruitment fair at which we set up seven different tables that have individual displays representing different topics that we cover. Students go to each table and talk with a current peer educator about that topic and how we educate on it. They then get a stamp on their ‘passport’. They bring the passport to the final table and give it to our president and vice president and they talk to them about getting involved and give them a swag item for attending.
  • We also do a lot of recruitment at orientation.
  • We send out an email with all of the volunteer positions (including peer educators) available in Student Health Services to all of the students living in the residence halls.
  • Our group gives presentations to specific classes and degrees that are easily linked to peer education (health promotion, education, human services, etc).
  • We also send out emails to campus professionals that work with students (diversity center, 1st year seminar staff, etc) and ask them invite specific student leaders to join. I then reach out to those individuals.

Is there a particular time of year you conduct recruiting?

  • We recruit in the Spring and over summer at Orientation.

What is the process for applicants—interviews, agreements, training expectations?

  • First, they complete an online application.
  • We conduct an interview and have the person give a five minute presentation on a health topic
  • Once accepted, there is a week-long training followed by a weekend retreat
  • We ensure they know the expectations, go through confidentiality training, and sign contracts.

Are there particular qualities you look for in peer educators? What are they?

  • I look for:
    • Genuine desire to help others
    • Willingness to learn or improve on areas that they have identified as areas of opportunity (i.e. if they “aren’t good at public speaking” are they willing to learn and practice?)
    • Ability and desire to be a healthy role model
    • Non-judgmental attitude towards a diverse populations as well as struggles that may be different for students
    • Goal-driven

What are some lessons you have learned about selecting new peer educators?

  • By nature, we start to recruit the students that we already see involved on campus because they are genuinely good student leaders. This starts to become a problem because these students are involved in everything and they typically don’t have much to give to the group and/or it starts to hinder their ability to do well in classes.

    I think you need a combination of very involved students and brand new students. It’s also nice to have a combination of freshman through seniors so that they don’t all graduate at once.



By: Dr. Gerard Joyce, Vice President for Student Life
DeSales University

Peer education at DeSales University started in 2004 when the university’s counseling center introduced PACE (Peers Advising Counseling Educating). PACE members provide peer education programs to underclassmen that focus on alcohol, tobacco, violence, sexual health and safety, justice issues, and more. PACE mentors receive special training and certification through BACCHUS initiatives of NASPA.

The emotional well being of the students at DeSales University is fundamental to the mission of its student affairs department. PACE is instrumental in supporting this mission by emphasizing and demonstrating personal responsibility, deep respect for others, leadership development, concern for the common good, and service to the Church and society―all standards for successful student development.

As peer educators, PACERS gain leadership experiences that enhance their personal development. Interacting with their peers helps them to gain a deeper sense of themselves and to improve their communication skills so that they can better assist fellow students achieve academic, physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness.

The PACE program at DeSales University is based specifically on the university’s mission of Christian Humanism. The DeSales mission emphasizes respect and dignity of the human person. DeSales peer educators emulate this mission in their approach to all students, thus creating an atmosphere where students feel safe, understood, cared for, and empowered. Given appropriate challenges and receiving strong support from their peers, students come to realize their academic and development aspirations as a member of the DeSales community.

The unique perspective of peers educating peers can relieve the anxieties that can exist between undergraduates and professional staff members. At DeSales University, students receive support and education from fellow undergraduates who empathize and relate to their journey as a college student. The various types of educational programs provided at DeSales include: studying self-image, time management, physical and mental health awareness, substance abuse issues, and more. The transferable skills students gain through peer education programming is applicable beyond their higher education experience. Peer educators and the recipients of such education, learn life lessons which are not necessarily experienced inside the classroom.

Establishing a peer education program requires knowing and understanding the mission of the university and the student affairs department; conducting a needs assessment of existing campus resources that support your students’ success; talking with undergraduates and asking them to describe what peer education means to them; and using this data to determine how a peer education program could add to existing student resources and enhance every students’ educational experience. It is best to start small and then to evaluate the program as it develops.  The best approach to assessing the needs your students is to seek feedback directly from them.

The best way student affairs leadership can support peer education programs like the PACE program at DeSales University is to promote the benefits of the program to the president and other members of your institution’s senior staff. In addition, do not underestimate the involvement of the faculty. The faculty can serve as resources for students in crisis and also help identify undergraduates who would serve as excellent peer educators. As a Chief Student Affairs Office, regular interactions with and support of peer educators can energize student leadership groups. Supporting their training and development through regional and national conferences, will create an atmosphere that is conducive to the well being of the entire undergraduate population.


The new academic year is upon us! We asked some of our peer education advisors for their best tips on how to make the most of the year and get started immediately.

What are some things that peer education advisors should be doing when school starts? 

  • Planning the training and meetings for the year, setting regular meeting times, welcoming students back, making sure students are connected with your program via social media, developing a plan for attending General Assembly!

What are some mistakes you made when planning for a new school year that others can learn from? 

  • As an advisor, I waited until all of my students were back in the fall to make plans.  That led to our group being delayed, which was unnecessary and not helpful to the peers.  Once I learned to plan during the spring and the summer and work with a small group of peer educators who were around for the summer on planning, I felt more calm and the peers had a clear direction for the year at the first meeting.

How can peer educators be best utilized in the early days of a new school year? 

  • Orientation, welcome back events, staffing the office for drop-ins, wearing social norming swag around campus so that students are exposed to positive social norms

What helpful tips to you have for people planning out the entire year? 

  • Design goals for the year and then plan accordingly.  Begin with the end in mind and always make sure to include self-care in the schedule.

In better preparation for NEXT academic year, what can advisors make note of/plan out now? 

  • Make a plan to evaluate the process of the year throughout the year so that when summer comes, you will have a great set of notes to use as a starter-set for your planning for the fall.

Campus Law Enforcement: Engaging New Partners

By: Joan Masters, University of Missouri

Upon reflection of his work as an inventor, Alexander Graham Bell once wrote, “Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds.”  In our peer education and prevention efforts, we know the value of teamwork and work daily to ensure that our student groups work well in cooperation and collaboration.  However, we often spend little time considering those outside our peer education groups.   What about those who interact with students daily on issues related to those we educate about?  Are we really reaching out to those who sit on the front lines of our colleges and universities to help ensure a safe environment for our students?

Whether your peer education group deals with issues such as alcohol and other drug use, healthy relationships, violence and sexual assault, or sexual health issues, it is important to recognize that campus and community law enforcement are an essential partner for your work.

I have to admit, when I was a student peer educator, working with law enforcement scared me a little.  After all, I made good choices and lived a healthy lifestyle so that I could avoid the police.  However, since starting to work with law enforcement and hearing the stories about their work, I came to appreciate how much they could help me in my efforts to make my campus safer.

Sometimes on a college campus, we tend to get stuck in our singular worlds: peer education and prevention provides outreach programs and activities and law enforcement “catches the bad guys”.  In fact, we think we are collaborating simply because we are doing similar work at different points in time.  However, we often make a big mistake when we engage in that assumption.  In fact, law enforcement or campus public safety can be helpful to our peer education in a variety of ways you may not have explored yet.  Some ideas to consider:

Training for Peer Educators:  Invite law enforcement or public safety professionals into your regular training for peer educators.  Many of them are certified professionals trained in a variety of topics such as drug recognition or handling conflict.

Co-Present:  Consider law enforcement and public safety representatives as valuable co-presenters.  Co-presenting with law enforcement can help get important information to students and show your fellow college students that you respect and appreciate the police presence on campus.

Host a monthly meeting:   Invite law enforcement or public safety representatives to your local campus-community coalition or campus task force meetings.  Or, encourage your peer educators to host a conversation with law enforcement on a monthly basis so that they can find out about the newest trends and peer educators can get updated on what law enforcement is seeing on campus.  Invite police from your city or town who can give you a perspective on off-campus student behavior.

Participate in “community policing”:   Start a community policing program in your residence halls or dorms.  Walk through halls with police and help students get their questions answered about laws and campus policies.  This type of outreach cuts down on policy and law violations and helps students feel safer in their environment.

At first, engaging partners can be scary and intimidating.  However, in my experience, law enforcement and public safety officials are willing partners that would love to hear more about your peer education efforts.  I work with law enforcement on a daily basis and when I asked them what they want students and advisors to know, here are just a few things you might find interesting and helpful to your work.

  1. They don’t always want to be “the bad guys”.   In all my years of partnering with law enforcement, I have learned a big lesson:  members of law enforcement are very nice people.  They have families, lives, and many of them used to be college students. They entered their profession to help people stay safe, not just arrest people.
  2. They do not love getting students in trouble.  Most law enforcement and public safety professionals I know do not celebrate every time they give a student a ticket for alcohol consumption or drugs.  They know that the ticket will have consequences for the student and they would rather help prevent the situation than respond to an emergency call or a violation.
  3. They want to help, but they don’t always know about campus programming.  They want to know about you and your efforts and they want to help you, but if you don’t take the opportunity to reach out and educate them, they might never know how great it would be to work with you.
  4. They have a lot to learn (and we do too).  Members of law enforcement have tremendous skills, resources, and knowledge that peer educators and advisors can use to make our programs and outreach efforts better.  On the flip side, law enforcement love to hear from students about what they think the emerging issues are and how they can prevent crime from happening.

Whether you work or serve as a peer educator at a campus with two public safety officers or a fully accredited police force, a great opportunity awaits you.  If you are already partnering- great!  Think of ways to expand your partnership.  If you are not, stop and think:  what if I could reach more students, save more lives, and change more behavior by making one single phone call?  I think you probably already know the answer.


Of Dignity Quality

Members of the BACCHUS Initiatives staff were lucky enough to participate in one of NASPA’s semi-annual community service days. On Tuesday, May 6, the NASPA staff visited A Wider Circle in Silver Spring, Maryland and helped connect those in need of basic home furnishings with “dignity quality” items for the home. The organization also provides adult education, job interview preparation, and professional interview attire. A full summary of our experience can be found on the NASPA blog.

NASPA volunteers at A Wider Circle, May 6, 2014

NASPA volunteers at A Wider Circle, May 6, 2014

All of us were impressed with the mission and scope of A Wider Circle. If you are in the D.C. area and would like to help out, the organization welcomes gently used furniture, linens, and baby clothing. They are also always looking for volunteers, especially those willing to drive the trucks that pick up donations.


The FDA announced initial plans to include a wide range of products, including e-cigarettes, little cigars, and hookah, in the definition of “tobacco products” and make them subject to some regulations established under 2009 legislation.

This is encouraging news, though we are concerned that the proposal is not as strong as it could (and should) be. For example, we know that youth frequently initiate tobacco use by trying a flavored product such as chocolate cigarillos. Often, that leads to a lifetime of addiction to more “traditional” tobacco products. The new FDA proposal does not prohibit youth-oriented flavoring in these products, despite there being a similar ban for cigarettes.

The FDA is accepting public comments on the proposed regulation until July 9, 2014. We encourage campuses to share relevant scientific information and survey data from their institution and/or surrounding community.

As mentioned in an earlier blog post, there may come a day when e-cigarettes are approved as a valid cessation aid. For that to occur, the evidence base will need to be significant, and manufacturers will need to apply for cessation medication designation. Neither of those has happened yet. In fact, e-cigarette manufacturers are not even required to disclose their ingredient list to consumers.

We hope that the final draft of the FDA’s proposal is strong enough to adequately protect public health and help prevent youth from becoming addicted to tobacco and nicotine products.