October 23, 2015
With a strong commitment to ensure students' safety, Texas Tech University recently created the Risk Intervention and Safety Education (RISE) office to provide prevention education and services to students on various topics such as alcohol, drugs, relationship violence, suicide prevention, overall wellness and more.
One particular area the RISE office specializes in is alcohol education.
The RISE office has two programs for students regarding alcohol education: AlcoholEdu for College and an eCheckup to Go self-assessment. Because RISE wants to create more customized alcohol educational tools for students, the RISE staff plans to implement new services in the near future, such as peer-to-peer education and other programs.
Director Kimberly Simón said RISE brings a harm reduction approach to how the staff talks about alcohol on college campuses.
"Students will choose to drink or not drink regardless of what 'education' they receive," she said. "Where we think we can make the biggest impact is to ensure our students are getting accurate information in order to help them make the best possible decisions. We sincerely believe most students really do want to take care of themselves and their friends, but when you're working off assumptions, falsehoods, 'Google truths,' or what your buddy's older brother told you, students can unintentionally put themselves or others in bad situations."
Texas Tech, along with several other colleges and universities, have adopted the AlcoholEdu for College program, an interactive online course designed to reduce the negative consequences of alcohol-related incidences with college-aged students. The program educates and quizzes students about the amount of a standard drink, how alcohol affects the body in general and at different levels, statistics about alcohol and many other topics. While the program is not required for higher education institutions, Texas Tech has made it mandatory for all students.
Simón said while AlcoholEdu is vital, she wants Texas Tech to take alcohol education even further and make it more applicable to students.
"A lot of Texas Tech students have an idea of what the drinking culture will look like once they get on campus," Simón said. "Essentially, that everyone drinks all the time. But I think it's important for our students to know that doesn't represent the biggest demographic of their peers. The perception is that everyone is drunk all the time when the statistics here at Texas Tech say otherwise and that is harmful to students. Students should choose to drink or not drink based on what is right for them, not what they perceive is expected at college.
"Here at RISE, we want to help our students think critically about what they are doing, why they are doing it and how they could be doing these things in a safer way. We also want our students to know if they have questions, need clarification or aren't sure where to go for help, the RISE office can help get them these answers. We want to be an accessible place on campus for students to get real information about real issues."
Another asset the RISE office has is its eCheckup to Go program where students can participate in an anonymous assessment about their drinking, receive feedback and access online resources if they choose. The assessment is completely anonymous and does not share any personal information about the student or any of the student's answers.
Simón and the RISE staff plan to implement the peer-to-peer education program soon so students will have a more comfortable outlet to speak about alcohol-related topics rather than a professional setting.
"Students are more likely to speak to their peers about alcohol and other topics rather than someone who is older than them and is not living the same lives they are," Simón said. "With the peer-to-peer program, students will have access to their peers who have gone through training and will know how to speak to students about the things they are needing help with. We know students will be another great resource for other students."
The RISE office, located in the Student Wellness Center in Suite 204, also offers education and services on many other topics as well and hosts fun, free events for students.
During this past Alcohol Awareness Week (Oct. 19-24), RISE hosted a MythBusters Wall to help crack the myths surrounding alcohol consumption, a Be Aware information fair and drinking-while-intoxicated simulators to help students understand how alcohol and other drugs affect their driving.
RISE is hosting future events on topics such as sexual health, men's health and relationship violence. To see RISE's upcoming events, visit its events page.
"The amazing thing about the RISE office is we get to do this work full time, all day, every day as our 'real' job," Simón said. "RISE provides prevention education and programming in areas that are vital to our student body – alcohol and other drugs, healthy relationships, safe sexual relationships, relationship/sexual violence prevention, suicide prevention, general wellness and bystander intervention. We get to work with students to help keep them physically, mentally and emotionally safe while they are at school, which absolutely contributes to their overall experience at Texas Tech and helps them be more successful academically and overall."
For more information about RISE, visit its website at rise.ttu.edu.