Wellness and Health Advocacy

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Substance use is one of the most significant problems on college campuses. Over 1800 college students per year die from unintentional alcohol-related causes (NIAAA, 2015). College students are among the highest risk populations for substance misuse, often resulting in resulting in lower grades, academic performance, participation, and graduation. College students' substance use is also responsible for development of harmful habits, delayed communication, social skills, and brain development, and potentially negative health outcomes. Reducing substance use is a key to creating a safe, healthy atmosphere in which our students can flourish. As an instructor at UWL, you have incredible influence on campus health and safety through your impacts on students. Here are some simple ways that you can influence the decisions your students make with regards to drugs and alcohol outside of the classroom through the tools you have inside the classroom. 


Curriculum Infusion

Create an assignment. Substance use, misuse, and usage trends deeply influence our society, our health, and our culture. Prevention measures and responses to crises are influenced by theories and research in diverse areas of study including social sciences, economics, sociology, anthropology, history, criminology, political science, health education, nutrition and physiology, and the sciences. Include a lesson on substance use, alcohol or drug-related issues, or the ways chemicals work in the human bodies in your courses. I took an introductory Biology class here a LONG time ago from the intentional, entertaining, and effective Faye Ellis. There was a lesson on how our bodies process alcohol that stays with me to this day. In social sciences, consider a conversation about how social norms impact personal decision making...if you think everyone around you is using drugs, how does that affect your decision making? 

Dedicate a lesson to substance-related issues. Substance use is a factor in the health related decision making of your students. Work with Wellness & Health Advocacy to find ways to integrate discussions and/or trainings on substances and bystander intervention into your classroom. At UWL during Spring of 2016, Dr. Michele Pettit invited staff from Wellness and the Counseling & Testing Center to come to her classroom and do a Campus Connect Training. Campus Connect discusses mental health promotion (including issues related to substance use and misuse), along with suicide prevention in an interactive and skill-building manner. Step Up! is a bystander intervention program administered by Athletics and Wellness, and Bringing in the Bystander-Upstander Training addresses bystander intervention with regards to relationship violence and sexual assault. Contact Kate to find out what other trainings or presentations are available for your classroom. 

Create a Research Project. Have your students collect data on alcohol or drug use, or other substance-related issues. Substance use issues cross disciplines as well as connecting to the student experience. These can be excellent research topics, and can easily be integrated into research from varying perspectives including student use, community usage trends, effects of usage on success of specific populations. In Fall of 2015, Dr. Kate Evans from Recreation Management had her REC 351: Civic Engagement Class consider how student drinking is impacted by, and/or impacts stakeholders in recreation in the La Crosse Community. Students took many perspectives and presented in-depth considerations about the impact of student drinking on recreation in the La Crosse area.

Service Learning. Faculty can incorporate service learning into work for academic or course credit. Opportunities for students to provide services with ongoing alcohol and other drug prevention and education efforts happen every day within Wellness and Health Advocacy at UWL. Students can even design their own service learning projects working with support from Wellness. At UWL, during Spring of 2016, a group of students from the undergraduate Community Health Education program completed course requirements by planning, implementing and evaluating a session of Yoga on the Green, focused on anxiety reduction and prevention. During Fall of 2015, our students provided valuable volunteer hours cleaning up after Oktoberfest, and also volunteering in the Family Zone. For more information or ways to get connected, contact Kate: kebert@uwlax.edu; wellness@uwlax.edu or call 608-785-8977.


The Power of Your Syllabus

As a tool that sets the stage for course progress, expectations, timeline, and norms, your syllabus has incredible power. Consider adding information about substance use and its effects on academic performance as you set expectations for student behavior. Add Wellness as a resource for help with substance-related issues. Utilize all five days of the week. By keeping scheduled Friday class times and having assignments due on Fridays, you dissuade your students from misusing substances on Thursday nights. Make assignments due by 11:59pm instead of by 8:00am to encourage students to get a healthy night's sleep.


During Class

Substance-related issues are regularly in the news on campus, locally, and nationally. Take advantage of teachable moments when it comes to these serious situations and guide a discussion about appropriate behavior, balancing social and professional/academic life, the effects of substances on academic/professional performance, and challenge students' misconceptions about drugs and alcohol. According to the NCAA-II Survey (Spring 2015), our students clearly overestimate how often their peers use drugs and alcohol. It's important for our students to know that all college students don't drink and use drugs. Many choose to abstain.


Language/Role Modeling

Consider the power of your language with your students. Monitor your personal language to avoid promoting alcohol or other drug misuse or abuse.


Your Connections

As educators, you make significant connections with your students. Many of you are involved in your students' lives beyond the classroom. These relationships are powerful and significant in students' perceptions of their value, and their self-efficacy as learners. Your connections also give you the opportunity to identify possible problems and make referrals to campus resources. If you notice something is not right with one of your students, bring it up in a personal conversation. Advising is an excellent opportunity to address substance use when you are concerned it may be impacting your students' academic performance. 


You aren’t usually taught to do this. Some do it naturally and others find it overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to share your observations. Make a referral if it’s out of your comfort zone. You can do it as easily as filling out the CARE Person(s) of Concern Reporting Form located on the Student Life webpage. The CARE Team offers additional resources here.


Making a Referral 

As a professional member of the UWL campus community, you have a responsibility to help our students grow academically as well as personally. If you have concerns about a student with regards to alcohol and or drugs (dependency, risky usage, overdose), make a referral to a campus or community resource. Common signs of dependency include: not showing up to classes; a drop in performance or success with assignments, personality changes, showing up with injuries from accidents, and deterioration of appearance and hygiene. Go with your gut. If you notice or have suspicions about any of your students, document them and use them to share your concern with your student. If that’s out of your comfort zone, refer your student to Student Life Care Team, Wellness, or another alcohol and other drug resource on campus or in the community. Follow-up with your student when appropriate to let them know that you care. 

Campus Resources


Counseling & Testing


Student Health Center


Student Life-CARE


Wellness & Health Advocacy     


Community Resources


Coulee Council on Addictions
Driftless Recovery Services



Partners in Prevention, Partners in Learning

If you need to be away from class, schedule a class presentation with the Wellness Coordinator instead of cancelling. You can choose from a "packaged" lecture, or work with Kate to develop a class session tailored to your course and your students. To schedule, contact Kate: kebert@uwlax.edu. If you are interested in continuing conversations about substance use prevention and reduction at UWL, please contact the Wellness Coordinator to get involved in alcohol and other drug coalitions and task forces on and off campus. It takes a village to create the community and culture we want and our students deserve. We can't do this alone. We acknowledge the power of your relationships with your students, the power of their relationships with their parents and families, along with the power of the campus culture. We will continue working to support healthy decisions and to create a culture of wellness at UWL so that our students flourish in the classroom, as well as outside of it.


Interested in how other colleges are doing it? 

Check out these great resources or the information in the Family resources link on this webpage.



If you have questions, comments, suggestions or want to get involved, please contact the Wellness Coordinator: kebert@uwlax.edu or wellness@uwlax.edu.