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Mini-grant program on substance abuse succeeds beyond expectations
Mini-grant program on substance abuse succeeds beyond expectationsFebruary 07, 2002Nicci Brownnicbrown@syr.edu
The first round of the University’s mini-grant program to integrate substance abuse prevention issues into course curricula has exceeded all expectations of success, according to Dessa Bergen-Cico, associate dean of students and director of the Substance Abuse Prevention and Health Enhancement (S.A.P.H.E.) Office.
In fact, the program, which is part of the University’s 12-Point Plan for Substance Abuse Prevention and Health Enhancement, has been so successful that a call for new proposals has been issued with a deadline of April 19. Bergen-Cico says depending on the availability of funding (each of the five winning applications in the first round received a stipend of up to $1,500), she would like to see the program become an ongoing feature at SU. In light of recent incidents, including the shooting death of graduate student Simeon Popov (who interrupted a drug-related robbery while delivering fast food), Bergen-Cico would also like to see the connection between alcohol and other drug abuse and violence incorporated into course curricula.
Bergen-Cico says she was impressed by the diversity of subject areas covered by winning proposals in the first round of the program. These included “African American Studies Seminar on Social Change: Focus on Urban Youth” (AAS/SOC 410, taught by Professor Rae Banks); “Alcohol and Other Drugs in Health and Human Services” (HSHP 400/600, taught by Professor Paul Caldwell); “America: The Alcoholic Republic” (ETS 443, taught by Professor John W. Crowley); “Reporting and Advanced Newspaper Editing courses” (NEW 305/NEW 509, taught by Professor Steve Davis); and “Organic Chemistry I” (CHE 275, taught by Professor James Kallmerten).
John Crowley, professor of English in The College of Arts and Sciences, has taught “America: The Alcoholic Republic” about six times over the past decade and always to a full class. The course examines the historical, moral and public policy aspects of alcohol. Crowley believes the Curriculum Infusion Faculty Mini-Grants Program provides an important avenue for more courses to do the same thing-that is, examine alcohol and other drugs (AOD) in an academic sense. “It seems to me this is a relatively inexpensive, but potentially highly effective way for the University to address these problems,” he says. “It’s the University responding with its highest suit, not through police monitoring and surveillance, but with things of the mind. It encourages people to take the issue seriously within the framework of their own academic disciplines. It’s a very sophisticated, subtle response.”
That subtlety was of prime importance to Jim Kallmerten, professor of chemistry in The College of Arts and Sciences, when he incorporated information about drugs into his “Organic Chemistry I” class, held in the fall semester. He says he often didn’t reveal the street name of a compound until well into the discussion about that particular compound and its effects. “I didn’t want to sound preachy,” he says. “I wanted to lay out the facts and give people the information to make a ‘cost-benefit’ decision about drugs. I think when people realize what these compounds do, it’s a strong argument not to use drugs.” For instance, Kallmerten says many students were surprised to learn that the “in-vogue” club-drug Ecstasy is virtually indistinguishable on a chemical basis from a drug with a far “darker” reputation; methamphetamine, otherwise known as speed.
For Davis, professor of communications in the Newhouse School, the mini-grant program came at a time when he had incorporated a similar theme into his reporting and advanced editing classes. “I wanted to get the editing class to conceptualize an idea for a project, and then work with the reporting class to make that project a reality,” he says. Last spring, this approach evolved into a project that examined drug use on campus and was published in the April 30 edition of the Student Voice newspaper. Davis says students conducted their own research, which included a survey on student drug use, mirroring one done by the University. The results of the two surveys were comparable. Davis says that sort of questioning and analysis is an important lesson in good journalism. The subject matter for this semester’s classes is due to be decided by the students soon. “We want to establish different ways to look at the issues involved,” says Davis. “There are already enough of the ‘this person got arrested for that, this week’ type of stories.”
In “African American Studies Seminar on Social Change,” which is being held this semester, Banks, assistant professor of African American Studies in The College of Arts and Sciences, wanted to link alcohol and other drug abuse with the course’s focus on black urban youth in the context of globalization. Examining black youth in America, the Caribbean, Africa and Europe, she says “I think drugs are an integral part of what many people call the under-development of black urban youth across the globe,” she says. “Drugs-and drug policy-have a detrimental effect on not just individuals, but on whole communities.” Banks notes that sentences for drug crimes tend to be more punitive for people of color and the poor than they have been historically for other groups. “There have been times in American history when there was no punishment at all for certain drug use, and these happened to be times when more Euro-Americans and middle-income people were involved.” Banks says she hopes the course will help students understand the relationship between political, economic and social structures and the problem of drug abuse.
“Alcohol and Other Drugs in Human Services” is also being taught this semester, and will examine the nature of alcohol and other drug use, its impact on the well-being of individuals, families and communities and its relationship to critical social issues. The course is coordinated by Paul Caldwell, associate professor of social work in the College of Human Services and Health Professions. It will also involve instructors from various other HSHP units and the local community. “It’s more than just offering a course,” says Caldwell. “It’s an important exercise in collaboration.” Caldwell says the course is relatively unique in that it involves inter-related professions dealing with the issue of drug abuse. Social issues covered will include domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, the criminal justice system and the relationship of AOD issues to race, gender, sexual orientation, age and disability. The course will also look at practice and applied perspectives for treating alcohol and other drug abuse.
Funding for the first round of mini-grants was provided by the U.S. Department of Education’s Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention Models on College Campuses Program. In June 2000, the University’s 12-Point Plan for Substance Abuse Prevention and Health Enhancement was recognized by the department as a model program. The University received a grant totaling nearly $100,000 to support the plan, to implement new University-wide initiatives (of which the curriculum infusion mini-grants were one), and to help disseminate information about the program to other colleges and universities through presentations, publications and the Internet.
The 12-Point Plan was developed by Barry L. Wells, senior vice president and dean of student affairs and approved by Chancellor Kenneth A. Shaw in 1999. It is an interdisciplinary, University-wide effort to raise awareness and to educate students about issues surrounding alcohol and other drugs, and how the issues relate to quality of student life on campus.
Bergen-Cico says programs like SU’s curriculum infusion mini-grants have been conducted at other universities in the U.S., but with a lesser degree of success. “All bias aside, the quality of the substance abuse prevention curriculum our faculty developed at Syracuse University has exceeded similar programs at other universities,” she says.
More information about the call for 2002 Curriculum Infusion Faculty Mini-Grants Program proposals is available at http://sumweb.syr.edu/health/curriculum.htm
The Web site for the 12-Point Plan can be found at http://students.syr.edu/12pointplan/