The University at Albany (UAlbany) is home to almost 13,000 undergraduates and 5,000 graduate students from around the world. For more than a decade, UAlbany has experienced steady declines in student alcohol use and related problems. This trend is due in large part to the work of the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), which is recognized as a national leader in the prevention of underage drinking.
Dr. Estela Rivero, CAPS director, and Dr. Dolores Cimini, CAPS assistant director for prevention and program evaluation, organized a Communities Talk: Town Hall Meetings to Prevent Underage Drinking event geared toward campus, community, state, and national leaders. The panel event was offered on campus in person and via on-demand webcast. Speakers included Albany’s mayor, a member of Congress, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention Director Frances M. Harding. Attendance was standing room only, and the event reached hundreds through an online webcast.
How They Did It
Members of the planning team sought approvals to host the Communities Talk event and asked the university’s government relations office to assist in inviting government officials. Students were an integral part of the planning process and had an important role both in recruiting fellow students to attend the event and in participating in the Communities Talk panel presentation.
Goals for the event included identifying key campus and community issues for discussion, selecting knowledgeable panelists who represented diverse stakeholder groups and viewpoints, and planning a program that moved the prevention conversation forward. The team also addressed logistical issues early in the planning process, such as reserving the venue and getting funding for refreshments for the networking reception and agency resource fair that occurred after the meeting. In addition, media and communications colleagues spread the word about the event and designed the event invitation.
The components that enhanced UAlbany’s Communities Talk event included the following:
- Providing an online option.
Because UAlbany is recognized as a national leader in college underage drinking prevention, event organizers wanted people from anywhere in the country to be able to participate. Webcast views were logged from as far away as Oregon and California, and the webcast was recorded to allow people to watch at their convenience. The event had 250 live and on-demand webcast views as of June 2017.
- Encouraging networking after the event.
Event organizers wanted to stimulate conversation among in-person participants to keep ideas flowing, so they held a reception after the formal part of the program. A resource exhibit was set up as the backdrop, and it featured nine campus and community organizations offering prevention, treatment, and recovery services.
- Collecting participants’ contact information.
This allowed event organizers to reach out after the event to keep up the momentum and expand grassroots efforts focused on underage drinking prevention throughout the country.
UAlbany’s reputation in underage drinking prevention enabled it to gather local and national partners to learn from ongoing efforts and rally around future initiatives. The university also earned a new contract with the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. Under this contract, UAlbany will receive $625,000 during the next five years to move its comprehensive prevention program forward. This achievement was due in no small way to UAlbany’s efforts at the recent Communities Talk event.
A Community in Action
UAlbany stakeholders plan to:
- Develop a collegiate recovery program focused on health, home, purpose, and community issues for college students in recovery.
- Collaborate with campus and community partners to continue comprehensive efforts to prevent underage drinking in New York State’s Capital Region.