July 13, 2015

SIU receives alcohol education grant from NCAA

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale will use a $30,000 NCAA Choices Alcohol Education Grant to fund videos, social media campaigns and other innovative methods of promoting healthy behaviors among students. 

The three-year competitive grant will fund the SalukiChoices program, a collaborative effort involving Student Health Services, Saluki Athletics and the Department of Health Education and Recreation in the College of Education and Human Services. Although the grant comes from the NCAA, the goal is to encourage healthy behaviors and reduce harm related to alcohol use and misuse campus-wide, according to Dawn Bloyd Null, wellness coordinator for Student Health Services-Wellness and Health Promotion Services. 

“The purpose of the SalukiChoices program is to create positive change on campus. By fostering harm-reduction behaviors we hope to reduce the number of SIU students who misuse alcohol, enabling students to flourish academically, personally and professionally,” Null said. 

SalukiChoices includes several elements. Jan Thompson, professor of radio, television and digital media and faculty adviser to the university’s award-winning “alt.news 26:46” TV magazine team, will assist in creating fun music videos or music parodies incorporating the campaign’s messages. Think of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” videos and you get the idea. With any luck, the videos will be so appealing, they’ll go viral, organizers say.

In addition to the music videos, there will be a social media campaign, print materials and T-shirts, along with other giveaways. Null said they will use student focus groups to ensure the messaging is student-friendly and effective.

Often times, students drink to excess because of peer pressure or the misconception that everyone else is doing it or drinking more than they really are, Kathy Jones, senior associate athletic director, said.

SalukiChoices incorporates several strategies, including “Positive Paw Pressure,” student advocacy and an alcohol task force. Positive Paw Pressure is a peer mentorship initiative in which through existing campus groups such as the Wellness P.E.E.R.S (Peer Educators Educating Responsible Salukis), students mentor one another and set examples with healthy lifestyles and choices. 

“They will help their fellow students understand there is more than one way to be a happy college student these days,” Jones said. 

The alcohol task force, comprised of various stakeholders including students, faculty and staff, will review existing campus alcohol policies and procedures and make recommendations for changes members feel would benefit students. 

Through evidence-based techniques, the SalukiChoices program uses multiple intervention methods that combine behavioral and environmental strategies to encourage harm reduction and healthy decision making. Its success will be evaluated through various assessments including the National College Health Assessment survey and the Core Alcohol and Drug Survey.