Alcohol awareness class available Spring ’06

By Bridget Maiellaro

Alcohol Culture Explored Interactive Theatre, a new mandatory freshman orientation program approved in January 2005, began this fall.

Since then, the program has taken several steps in development, such as establishing a new course to train its future facilitators.

Sophomores, juniors and seniors were recruited during the Spring 2005 semester to assist in the new programs production.

“Announcements were made in classes and flyers were hung up throughout campus to grab students’ attention,” said Betsy Peterson, program coordinator and a visiting educational specialist with the Alcohol and Other Drugs Office.

While auditions were held to assemble the group of actors for the performance, other students were recruited as paid group facilitators.

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“Students who were interested in becoming discussion facilitators were interviewed, selected and trained in facilitation skills and basic alcohol education,” Peterson said.

Interviewees looked for students who were interested in engaging other students in discussions about the use of alcohol on campus and who had a background in public speaking.

A new course in the community health department, CHLH 199, is designed to train students into becoming small group leaders.

The three-hour credit course focuses on alcohol education and facilitation skills, which include learning how to become a paid discussion leader for the orientation program in the following fall.

“I think the concept is a great idea,” said Samantha Lloyd, sophomore in LAS. “Students are more likely going to pay attention to their peers instead of a bunch of adults.”

Students who take the course must be of freshmen to junior status. Seniors are not allowed to take the course since it is designed for students who wish to become Alcohol Culture Explored Interactive Theatre facilitators the following semester. Seniors will no longer be on campus during the Fall 2006 semester. As of right now, all 60 seats are filled for next semester.

“Currently, there are not enough spaces for other students,” Peterson said. “We need as many facilitators as possible.”

Instead of advising freshmen not to drink, the facilitators and actors of the Alcohol Culture Explored Interactive Theatre discuss the range of situations students might encounter when they drink on campus. Several handouts and packets are included in the discussions.

“It’s designed so they can make informed choices,” Peterson said. “Anyone who might be interested in learning leadership skills, how to dialogue with groups and the issue of drinking on campus is advised to become a facilitator.”

Erin McDonald, freshman in ACES, was one of the students to participate in the Alcohol Culture Explored Interactive Theatre this fall.

“At first I was mad that I had to attend because it was mandatory,” McDonald said. “I changed my mind about half way through the performance when I realized they weren’t urging us not to drink. Instead they were just informing us about the drinking situations here.”

During the Fall 2005 semester, all Alcohol Culture Explored Interactive Theatre sessions took place in room 112 of Gregory Hall. After the performance, students dispersed into smaller groups in separate classrooms throughout the building.

The 300 students who attended each session were broken down into groups of about 30, allowing student facilitators to have more intimate discussions.

“I think that making the groups smaller and having other students as the group leaders caused students to pay attention to and participate more in the discussion,” McDonald said.

A task force appointed by former Vice Chancellor Pat Askew, whose goal was to develop an alcohol education program for incoming freshmen, developed the Alcohol Culture Explored Interactive Theatre program.

Chancellor Richard H. Herman approved the program in January 2005.

“I was hired in February to develop the program and implemented the first presentations in August 2005 to approximately one third of the incoming freshman,” Peterson said.

Starting in the fall of 2006, all freshmen will attend an Alcohol Culture Explored Interactive Theatre program.