Amelia Carpenter

Miami University has been selected as one of seven institutions to receive the Prevention Excellence Award for 2008-09.

Leslie Haxby McNeill, assistant director for health education, applied for the award in fall 2008.

The award is given out by Outside the Classroom-an organization committed to tackling high-risk drinking in high school and higher education-at the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Annual Conference March 7 to March 11, according to the NASPA Web site.

There are generally around 30 to 45 applicants and between six and eight are chosen each year, according to Kimberley Timpf of Outside the Classroom.

According to Barbara Jones, vice president for student affairs, Outside the Classroom has relationships with some of the leading associations in the United States devoted to student health and safety, including NASPA and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

Along with the award, Miami has been honored with one free registration to the 2009 NASPA Annual Conference, an invitation to the Prevention Excellence Reception at the 2009 NASPA Conference, a press announcement and letters to President David Hodge recognizing the recipient’s efforts.

The Highest Honors Institution each year receives a donation of $10,000. The Highest Honors Institution winner is determined by a points system based off a list of prevention efforts and successes by the college or university.

All applicants were notified on Feb. 5 of their standings.

As another effort toward education and prevention of high-risk use of alcohol, Miami will be among the first in the country to join a new coalition that focuses on alcohol behaviors through a federal grant, according to Jones.

This award is especially relevant for Miami considering recent statistics of the current first-year class. According to data from the 2008 Cooperative Institutional Research Program Freshman Survey administered by UCLA, 67 percent of Miami students engaged in alcohol use during their senior year in high school compared with 46 percent at other highly selective public universities.

“More Miami students come to us having engaged in drinking behaviors in high school,” Jones said at the Dec. 6 Board of Trustees meeting.

Miami has a number of groups and organizations working against the use of alcohol by students.

AfterDark is a student-run, alcohol free late night organization that puts on alternative activities such as movies or live performances. Afterdark has had as many as 1,200 attendees on some weekend nights, according to Jones.

Other peer groups-such as Health Advocates for Wellness Knowledge and Skills (HAWKS)-provide programs and awareness campaigns to students. New member educators from the Greek community have also been trained to conduct follow up awareness sessions.

Classes like Choices and AlcoholEdu also strive to educate students about their alcohol use. This year, Jones said 3,560 students completed the two-hour class AlcoholEdu.

“Many of the initiatives that we’ve undertaken have been grant-funded,” McNeill said. “Afterdark and AlcoholEdu (were) initially funded with grants. Miami has stepped up to the plate to help sustain those efforts.”

Other alcohol education efforts include a variety of intervention classes, substance use/abuse assessments, referrals and therapy. The local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous, which is available at 800-589-9536 meets weekly and letters are sent to parents before any Greek organization’s mom’s and dad’s weekend encouraging them not to buy drinks for students.