Students create campus AOD advocacy program

The Alcohol and Other Drug Advocacy program is a new service for Geneseo students who want to speak to a fellow student about their concerns regarding alcohol and drug use. The program offers confidential in-person consultations between students and a peer with multiple semesters of training and experience through the Pathways peer advocates program. The AOD Advocacy is made up of seven Geneseo students who collaborate with AOD Program Coordinator Sarah Covell. Students who wish to become an AOD advocate start off as Pathways peer advocates, which requires a 10-week training process culminating in an evaluation program.

After the student becomes a Pathways peer advocate, they are then given the opportunity to further their training by becoming an AOD advocate. This additional AOD training includes the acquisition of motivational interviewing techniques, which encourages conversation about behavior change. In addition, the AOD trainees are taught how to use Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention––commonly known as BASICS––surveys to help students in the most efficient way possible.

AOD advocate senior Jesse Strickler explained that the initial idea for the program came from professor of psychology and Pathways Peer Advocacy director Jennifer Katz when she learned of a motivational interviewing and BASICS workshop being offered at the University of Rochester. Along with two other peer advocates, Strickler attended the workshop and decided to form the AOD Advocacy program with Covell and Katz upon their return.

According to Strickler, the AOD Advocacy program is “a bridge between the AOD Program and the Pathways Peer Advocacy program. [They] took what [they] learned and integrated that with [their] peer advocacy skills.”

Strickler explained that the AOD advocates also stress the importance of talking to peers who they can relate to.

“Our approach to the program is to reduce harm to students,” Strickler said. “We are not telling students not to drink or to abstain from substance use. Our goal is to have meaningful conversations about students’ experiences and feelings about their behaviors and when it’s appropriate, as well as to provide information to help them engage in healthy behavior.”

Strickler emphasized that encouraging student health is the program’s main goal. “We want to student awareness and knowledge of healthy behavior regarding drugs and alcohol,” he said.

Students who are interested in speaking to an AOD advocate can contact them at aodadvocates@geneseo.edu. They are available at the Lauderdale Center for Student Health and Counseling from 4–7 p.m. on Tuesday evenings. Students are encouraged to fill out the BASICS survey prior to meeting with their AOD advocate so they can discuss a personalized feedback report during their session.

Students who are interested in becoming an AOD advocate can first become a Pathways Peer advocate, which is open for applications at the beginning of each semester and are then welcome to pursue AOD Advocacy training.