By Sean Smith
Boston College's progress in alcohol and drug education has earned it a major United States Department of Education grant administrators say will enable the University to build upon the success of recent initiatives.
The $99,278 grant BC received was one of only six such awards given by the Department of Education in its annual competition to identify innovative and effective programs targeting alcohol and drug abuse in higher education.
According to Assistant Dean for Alcohol and Drug Education Kimberley Timpf, the funds could be used for campus groups interested in staging non-alcohol events for the BC community that promote socializing and collegiality. In addition, she said, the grant could help to invite experts for campus lectures or discussions on alcohol and drug-related issues as well as support a marketing campaign to encourage responsible fan behavior at athletic events.
Timpf said the funds also would provide some much-needed administrative assistance for her office and its activities, which will include organizing a national conference on alcohol and drug issues in higher education to be held on campus next summer.
Because the announcement of the awards came later than had been expected, Timpf said some initiatives and activities outlined in BC's grant proposal will likely have to be modified or scaled back. But she said there was no question of the benefits the University would derive from the grant.
Assistant Dean for Alcohol and Drug Education Kimberley Timpf, second from right, with student members of the Peer Education Network: (l-r) Keri Bayley '02, Reh Hassan '03 and Raul Reyes '03. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
"To have this grant in place even for just a year is a big help," said Timpf in a recent interview. "It will aid us in evaluating how effective our existing programs are, and in disseminating information about our resources to the campus and beyond.
"The most important goal here is to continue building a coalition of people who see the need for alcohol and drug education initiatives, and the positive results they bring to the University community. We're seeing a lot of conversation taking place here about the choices and consequences that go with alcohol and drug use, and it's a trend we want to encourage."
At a time when increasing numbers of BC freshmen claim never to have drunk alcohol prior to college - almost 30 percent, Timpf said, up from 18 percent in the mid-1990s - campus events focusing on non-alcohol activities offer great appeal, Timpf said. She pointed to the University barbecue attended by some 400 freshmen on the Campus Green prior to the first BC home football game on Sept. 1.
She also cited the success of Another Choice on Campus, a student group which organizes alcohol-free social offerings, and whose co-founder John Richardson was recently honored by a national organization [see related story].
Timpf said the Department of Education grants serve as an endorsement of the alcohol and drug education programs to which the funds are given. "The winners are referred to as 'models,'" she said. "It's all well and good to have ideas, but you have to demonstrate success in alcohol and drug education to be a candidate for the grants."
One measure of Boston College's success, she said, can be found in the growth of the University's Peer Education Network, a group of students who help develop and implement alcohol and drug awareness programs, in addition to addressing other social and personal issues of concern to the college-age population. PEN's membership has risen from seven to 40 during its seven years of existence, Timpf said, and this year 45 students applied for 19 available positions in the group.
"PEN members don't get paid and they don't get academic credit," said Timpf. "But it's become tremendously popular, which indicates how seriously BC students view alcohol and drug issues."
Dean for Student Development Robert Sherwood said, "Incidents involving alcohol abuse inevitably get attention from the media and general public. Unfortunately, too often these incidents obscure the fact that thousands of BC students are taking part in academic and extracurricular activities that serve the community, build leadership skills and develop character. It's gratifying to receive national recognition of our efforts to deal with alcohol and drug issues."
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