Statewide Symposium on High-Risk Drinking Highlights Successes at Johnson State College
Johnson State College played a prominent role at an Oct. 9 symposium focused on high-risk drinking on college campuses in Vermont. Sponsored by the Vermont Department of Health, the gathering drew representatives from 14 Vermont colleges and universities to Castleton State College to share best practices on addressing this important topic.
Johnson State College views the problem of binge drinking from a comprehensive, public health perspective, said JSC Dean of Student Life and College Relations David Bergh, who facilitated the day-long event and served on the symposium planning committee.
Bergh was joined by Associate Dean of Students Michele Whitmore in presenting the steps JSC has taken to address high-risk drinking on campus. A key focus at JSC is involving parents.
"We recognize the importance of strengthening our collaboration and partnership with parents when it comes to substance use on campus," Whitmore said. "Substance abuse is often a barrier to academic success. We want to work with parents to help keep their students on track and reach their ultimate goal, which is graduation."
JSC introduces the topic of high-risk drinking to families at summer orientation and sends letters to parents if their underage students violate the college’s alcohol and drug policy. Parents have appreciated the opportunity to become partners in helping their students avoid problem drinking and other high-risk behaviors that can compromise their college success, she said.
Another step JSC has taken in recent years is partnering with regional organizations such as the Lamoille Prevention Campaign to create social marketing campaigns and special campus events that promote healthy choices. This multi-year collaboration has resulted in a number of popular campus initiatives, including October’s Alcohol Awareness Week, which features high-profile student activities and contests each day, and year-long campaigns based on the themes "80 Things to Do on Campus Besides Drink" and "Don’t Be That Guy/That Girl."
"Our collaboration with JSC has given us a better understanding of the kind of support colleges need and helped us develop social marketing campaigns targeting young adults that are effective and sustainable for the college," said Lamoille Prevention Campaign coordinator Carol Plante, who led a session with Whitmore about their work at JSC.
By showcasing efforts under way at Johnson State and other Vermont colleges to address high-risk drinking and substance abuse in general, the symposium provided valuable information about strategies that are raising awareness and helping to curb the incidence of high-risk drinking among college students.