U of A Receives NCAA CHOICES Grant to Fund Student-Led Alcohol Awareness Campaign

Anne Marie Velliquette, from left, Jordan Platt, Michael Johnson, Heather Blunt-Vinti, Sarah Stokowski and Blakely Low are some of the faculty and staff members who worked on the proposal and will help implement the project.
Photo by Heidi Wells

Anne Marie Velliquette, from left, Jordan Platt, Michael Johnson, Heather Blunt-Vinti, Sarah Stokowski and Blakely Low are some of the faculty and staff members who worked on the proposal and will help implement the project.

The University of Arkansas has been awarded a $30,000 grant from the NCAA to educate students about the dangers of excessive alcohol usage.

The NCAA CHOICES grant, to be awarded over three years, will help establish a registered student organization to be called Razorbacks Offering Alcohol Resources, or ROAR, that will lead a public information campaign aimed at reducing alcohol abuse among U of A students. The campaign will include student-led initiatives such as bystander intervention training, public service announcements, alcohol awareness week and sober spring break.

"I'm so grateful that the University of Arkansas was selected for the NCAA CHOICES grant," said Sarah Stokowski, an assistant professor of recreation and sport management who is the principal investigator of the project. "We want U of A students to have every opportunity to succeed on campus and in life. According to a multitude of studies, heavy alcohol consumption not only decreases student success but there are several unintended consequences."

The grant project is a partnership among the College of Education and Health Professions, the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, the Sam M. Walton College of Business, Substance Education and Alcohol Resources, New Student & Family Programs, Housing, the U of A Police Department, Greek Life, and Counseling and Psychological Services.

"What perhaps makes this grant opportunity so special is that we want such initiatives to be student-led and student-driven," Stokowski said. "We want students to buy into what we are trying to do and to hold each other to a higher standard. Students will decide what type of programming will best assist their peers in making better decisions regarding alcohol consumption. I hope that this grant opportunity will have a positive impact on our campus and ultimately to create a culture in which students make positive choices."

The proposal offered several statistics about alcohol use in general and on the U of A campus, specifically. According to the most recent alcohol statistics, 19 percent of U of A freshman students in 2014-15 drank alcohol and demonstrated high-risk drinking behavior such as binge drinking, taking shots and chugging alcohol. Forty-one percent of the sample reported blacking out because of alcohol consumption, and 53 percent reported experiencing a hangover.

Given that the University of Arkansas student population continues to grow and members of Greek life, student-athletes, and first-year students (which together comprise nearly 40 percent of the student population) are considered at-risk in regard to alcohol abuse, it is vitally important to integrate students into a campus-wide effort to reduce alcohol abuse in line with the university's "students first" mentality, according to the proposal.

"We're excited about this campus collaborative effort and the positive impact it will have on students at the University of Arkansas," said Derita Ratcliffe, senior associate athletics director. "The recognition by the NCAA, in the form of financial support, underscores the importance of this work in providing awareness and education in our continuing efforts to ensure the health and wellness of our students."

Students enrolled in the integrated marketing communications course taught next fall by Anne Marie Velliquette, a clinical professor of marketing, will develop a marketing campaign to roll out in the fall of 2019.

"The objective would be to get our students involved in a more interactive, connected and creative way to understand the consequences of misuse and to help them make better choices regarding alcohol consumption," Velliquette said. "The marketing students will be tasked with coming up with creative social media and grassroots marketing ideas that will appeal to their generation through advertising messages and mediums that will gain their attention, and hopefully change their thoughts and actions when it comes to alcohol consumption."

Other faculty and staff named in the proposal with Stokowski, Velliquette and Ratcliffe are Michael Johnson, director of clinical and sport psychology in the athletic department; Heather Blunt-Vinti, assistant professor of community health promotion; Asher Morgan, director of Substance Education and Alcohol Resources in the Department of Wellness and Health Promotion; Blakely Low, assistant director of clinical and sport psychology; and Erica Nelson, director of student-athlete development.

"My hope for this opportunity is to empower students to become more involved in promoting and adopting strategies that encourage healthy alcohol consumption habits," Morgan said. "Students are in the greatest position to create a change in the culture of alcohol consumption behaviors and patterns on campus. Through education and motivation we can create a campus climate that promotes and engages in behaviors that allow students at the University of Arkansas to be successful now as well as engaged alumni once their time on campus is done."

Parice Bowser, director of Greek Life, also said the organization is excited about this student-led collaboration that will encourage responsibility and accountability.

"Over the years, research has shown peer-to-peer programming efforts to be the most effective with the greatest chance of meeting students where they are," Bowser said. "We are truly grateful for this grant from the NCAA and the positive outcomes that will come as a result of the new partnerships formed across campus."


Heidi S. Wells, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-3138, heidisw@uark.edu


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