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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.


Today, The White House released the first report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. NASPA staff members have been involved with the process, and all of us are grateful for increased attention to this important work.

Many BACCHUS peer education groups have devoted countless hours to reducing sexual violence on campus. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed, as peer education is a recommended strategy to implement on campus. In addition, research says that, “Bystander intervention shows promise as a strategy to prevent sexual assault, particularly in college/university settings.”

The White House also announced the launch of a new website for protecting students from sexual assault, NotAlone.gov. We encourage peer educators and advisors to explore the website and become familiar with the resources. Share with us the strategies that are effective on your campus. Increasing the evidence base for violence prevention will ultimately benefit all campuses.

What would you like to see from NASPA and The BACCHUS Initiatives? How can we help you increase safety on campus?


This article originally appeared in a print version of The Peer Educator.

Peer educators tend to be a humble group, which may be why they often have difficulty describing the many things they do for health education. If you are looking for a job, internship, or are near graduation, it is time to build and fine-tune a résumé that reflects your valuable experience. “But wait,” you might be saying, “I don’t have any experience!” In reality you have a lot of experience, and it is time to highlight your skills!

#1: Look closer and make a list

Have you ever met with your fellow peer educators late into night in order to prepare for an upcoming event? Have you been given the task of seeing a project through from start to finish? Have you facilitated the work of many different team members in order to build a cohesive finished presentation? Chances are, you have done these things and more. These are called transferable skills, and they are what they sound like. The skills you gained as a peer educator will transfer to “real life” situations in the working world. You may want to start a list of all the transferable skills and abilities you have showcased or utilized as a peer educator.

Look at the various projects you have helped with or led. How do those reflect some of the values that employers look for, such as communication skills, problem solving, multi-tasking, creative ingenuity, creating and following a budget, public speaking skills, and the ability to work with a team? Don’t forget to make note of the skills you have gained through trainings and conferences such as CPE training and General Assembly or Area Conferences.

#2: Put it in action!

Once you have built a list of all the things you have learned and accomplished as a peer educator and leader, begin to brainstorm action verbs to describe them. You will want to create concise sentences that have a lot of “punch” through the use of action words. Some words you may want to use include: created, coordinated, led, built, organized, facilitated, managed, recruited, or strengthened.

#3: Keep your address book handy

Since you will be newer to the job market than most people, strong references will be an important piece of your self-marketing. Employers will want to create a mental picture of your character and work ethic. Begin to ask various people who have known you over the past few years if they would be willing to be listed as a reference when you apply for jobs. You should create a list of these people with their most up-to- date contact information. They most likely will not receive a phone call unless an employer is seriously considering you for a position, but you will want the person to be ready just in case. You may want to ask your advisor, a professor, a student leader, or another employer to be your references.

#4: Volunteer

Your dream job may not be available right after graduation, but that is okay. Often, it takes time to find something that fits you well. If you have your sights set on a particular organization or a related group, you may be able to volunteer with them. You will not receive a paycheck, but you will gain valuable experience while there, and when jobs become available, the organization will already know you. Volunteering also gives you a chance to figure out if the organization or field is the right fit for you. More than anything, volunteering is an excellent opportunity to network within a particular field, especially if you are entering the health or non-profit sector.

#5: Join the club

Most jobs are not necessarily found through the classifieds or on job sites. In many cases, the old saying “It’s who you know” still holds true. One of the best ways to network is to join professional organizations related to your particular field. Many of these groups have student rates, making the dues more reasonable. Attend events sponsored by the professional organizations and take the time to introduce yourself. Be sure to practice your 30-second “elevator speech” that describes your peer education group and/or your work related to various programs. This will also come in handy when attending career fairs.

#6: Resources

Many campuses have a career services office or some type of career resource library. Though it is never too late to start your career planning, the earlier you begin, the better. Talk with a career counselor about your goals, and ask them to review your résumé. There are also countless books and online resources available on career searching. Take some time to explore the resources available. The work you put in now will help contribute to a fulfilling professional life down the road.

More Career Seeker Tips:

  • Pair up with a friend and practice interview questions.
  • Talk to exhibitors at conferences—ask them what they like about their job.
  • Set up informational interviews with companies/organizations.
  • Ask if your school has a list of alumni mentors who are willing to offer career advice.
  • Ask a career counselor about assessments that indicate your strengths, personality and/or interests.
  • Do not get discouraged! Job seeking takes patience and believing in yourself.