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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI leads local and national coalition-building efforts to tackle student alcohol problems

Media Contact: Jhodi Redlich, 401-874-4500

URI Sponsored Meeting to be held in Newport, April 11-12

KINGSTON, R.I. -- April 8, 2005 -- Next week, leaders in the effort to reduce student alcohol problems on college campuses nationwide will meet for two days to share information about their works in progress. The University of Rhode Island's Alcohol Team will lead the conference with researchers and community teams from seven other institutions throughout the country.

Participants have team research/coalition projects underway that are funded by the federal National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) initiative, "Rapid Response to College Drinking Problems." The program calls for research teams to work with university administrators to address the problems associated with college student alcohol abuse.

Representatives from Western Washington University, the Prevention Research Center in Berkeley, CA, Wake Forest University, and Ohio State University are attending the meeting being held at the Marriott in Newport. Experts from Boston University and Harvard University will also be presenting their research. URI is the only institution that received funding to support both its research and coalition team efforts.

"The work presented and discussed at this meeting is fundamental in helping to reshape the national agenda on college student drinking," said Associate Professor Mark Wood of the Psychology Department, who, along with Dean Fran Cohen, are the principal investigators on URI's grants to support development of national models for addressing college student alcohol abuse. "The people and the work of the Narragansett-URI Coalition and the Greek Advisory Council, who will participate in this conference, represent what we believe to be the most critical element for success in this effort. It is our hope that solutions to this problem will come from this NIAAA-sponsored initiative that can be implemented nationwide."

URI Psychology Professors John Stevenson, Paul Florin, Robert Laforge and Boston University School of Public Health Professor William DeJong are co-investigators on URI's NIAAA research grant.

The conference will include opening remarks and presentations by leading NIAAA officials including Roger Hartman, Public Health Analyst, and Ralph Hingson, Director of Epidemiology and Prevention.

URI Psychology Professors John Stevenson and Paul Florin will discuss "Applying a Framework for Coalition Development," and Elissa Weitzman of the Harvard School of Public Health will present an evaluation of the “A Matter of Degree Program,” a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded community coalition-initiative to reduce binge drinking and related harms among college students.

Ronda Zakocs of Boston University School of Public Health will discuss lessons learned through participation in “Fighting Back,” a program also funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to combat drug and alcohol-related problems. Dr. Zakocs’ work shows that community coalitions that focus on better alcohol policies, stricter enforcement, and alcohol treatment can produce reductions in alcohol-impaired driving.

URI President Robert L. Carothers will address the conference and recognize members of the Narragansett-URI Coalition's Common Ground Steering Committee.

Other conference participants will include Dean Julie Bell-Elkins and Tom Szigethy from the University of Connecticut and James Bryant, Manager of Youth Advocacy Programs from the national office of MADD.

The Narragansett-URI Coalition steering committee members at the meeting will include: Narragansett Police Chief David Smith; Town Manager Maury Loontjens; realtor Joe Robenhymer; Narragansett-area homeowner George Tracy; Nancy Devaney, Narragansett Youth Task Force Coordinator & Chair of the Common Ground Subcommittee; and Common Ground Subcommittee member Joe Meister.

URI representatives to be acknowledged for their efforts include Tom Dougan, vice president of Student Affairs; Fran Cohen, dean of students; Kristin Pedicone, Off-Campus Housing; Clarissa Nault, Student Senate; and URI student Jon Frederickson who serves as coalition moderator.

Other steering committee members include: Eileen Desforges, Carol Stuart and Pat Zito of the neighborhood association, and David DeRouin. The newest committee members are: Krista Garrett, Narragansett Town Council; Toni O’Neill, package store owner; and James Hurton of the Chamber of Commerce, and immediate past members include: Jerry Sahagian, package store owner and Town Council member Annmarie Silveria.

About the NIAAA and the University

The University of Rhode Island’s strong leadership role in battling substance abuse on its campus has evolved through careful planning, research, and prevention efforts undertaken by individuals at various levels — from the president to professional staff to faculty to student mentors to community members.

In 1999, NIAAA formed the Task Force on College Drinking. Carothers was one of the first university presidents appointed to the task force. Their work culminated in a report in April 2002, entitled “A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges.”

Based on this report, in December 2002, NIAAA requested proposals for “Research Partnership Awards for Rapid Response to College Drinking Problems.” The request sought established alcohol research scientists with expertise in college drinking research to team with and serve as a resource for college and university administrators.

In 2003, the University's Alcohol Team was one of five research groups, nationally, funded under the first stage of NIAAA’s Rapid Response initiative. They were awarded a $3.5 million grant from NIAAA for research on "Environmental Methods for Reducing College Drinking." In a separate grant, the group was also awarded $2.1 million to test the unique and combined effects of a parent-based intervention along with individualized counseling with incoming freshmen.

The following year, URI's Office of Student Life was awarded a competitive $816,447, three-year grant from the NIAAA to address substance abuse among college students both on- and off-campus. The grant, entitled "Common Ground," provided the means to implement new approaches and continue on-going work with the Town of Narragansett and on-campus Greek coalitions. Fran Cohen, dean of students and director of the Office of Student Life is the principal investigator with Dan Reilly, director of URI's Substance Abuse Prevention Program. This award teamed the Student Life department with URI's own Alcohol Team researchers.


For more information about the Narragansett-URI Coalition
Click here for more about the RhodeMap to Safety campaign.
For background about URI's alcohol-related research, policies and programs.