New changes, coordinator for URI-Narragansett Coalition

Published: Friday, February 11, 2005

02/11/05 - The URI-Narragansett Coalition, along with the help of newly appointed full-time coordinator Paula Santos, hopes to begin implementing many new changes in an effort to benefit all constituents of the local community.

"It takes a coalition to engender a community," Dean of Students Fran Cohen, who is also co-chair of the coalition, said. "If there isn't communication between the two, it's unlikely that you will have a happy healthy community."

Cohen said in an effort to strengthen both the coalition and the community they have already been collecting data on people's opinions of the coalition.

"We are already working hard," she said. "The preparation time is critical, getting everyone on board."

Cohen said they hope to eventually put designated driver programs into practice and make sure local bartenders are providing responsible beverage service for students.

"I would expect by next fall that some of the initiatives we are preparing will be very visible," she said.

In order to make these ideas a reality, the coalition was given an $816,000 grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

"We are very grateful for this grant in order to make the coalition empowered to do all of these things," Cohen said.

Along with the grant, the coalition recently appointed Paula Santos as the first full-time coordinator.

"The real plus is she is a Narragansett resident so she knows the town and she knows the issues," Cohen said. "She also has two degrees from the school, so she knows the university. She's the perfect combination."

The Search Committee, chaired by Dan Reilly, assistant director of student life for substance abuse prevention services, played a major role in choosing Santos for the job.

"There were approximately 30 candidates," Reilly said. "The Search Committee narrowed it down to four candidates for interviews, and three were able to meet with us."

Reilly said they were mainly looking for someone who was "fairly knowledgeable and savvy about Rhode Island politics and the Narragansett situation."

"We were really looking for an advocate for all of the constituents," he said.

Santos said she is the "coordinator of the grants and coalition in an effort to develop win/win strategies in which all the constituents benefit."

Santos wants the application of "environmental strategies" to help make changes as a way of preventing the various forms of alcohol and substance abuse.

During the past few months, the coalition's Steering Committee has been reworking itself in terms of its vision, mission, membership make-up and structure.

"I am working with the Steering Committee, facilitating their new structural changes," Santos said. "They are absolutely committed to a collaborative and cooperative relationship between this community and the Narragansett community."

While the coalition continues to restructure itself, Santos said she hopes that she can "help them and support them through those changes," and "make sure they have the necessary resources."

The URI-Narragansett Coalition will be having its monthly meeting this Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Narragansett Town Hall.

"Students are encouraged to come," Cohen said. "The more students there, the healthier the meetings are."

"All of the constituents are very inviting of students coming and offering their insight and input," Reilly said.

Students looking for more information on the URI-Narragansett Coalition can visit the website at www.uri.edu/alcohol/coalition.