Joining a group of nine other universities across the U.S., the University of Arizona has been honored for the implementation of a program designed to educate and train students about the dangers of alcohol abuse.
Health Communications, Inc. announced that the UA is the recipient of the 2012 TIPS Award of Excellence, having first implemented the Training for Intervention ProcedureS, the TIPS program, during the 2008-09 academic year.
"For fraternity and sorority program staff, it is an honor to be recognized for best implementation of the program," said Johanne Ives, the UA's assistant dean of students.
"I think the biggest honor for us is that participant evaluations and comments regarding their training was considered," said Ives, who also directs the UA's Fraternity and Sorority Programs. "What our students are saying is that the training is great and that they benefited a lot from this program. That's the goal of why we've implemented it."
More than 1,200 higher education institutions and organizations across the U.S. have implemented TIPS, and Health Communications, Inc., or HCI, grants the awards based on an internal review, along with direct feedback from students.
"The University of Arizona has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to preventing the misuse of alcohol on its campus and in its community by training its students in an effective alcohol-education program," Adam Chafetz, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based HCI, said in a statement released this month.
"The University of Arizona takes a unique approach to alcohol prevention by ensuring that fraternity and sorority members are properly trained in TIPS for the university program," Chafetz said.
The National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices, a project of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, recently recognized the TIPS for the University training program by awarding high marks for both the quality and effectiveness of the program.
At the UA, four full-time staff members along with two graduate assistants in Fraternity and Sorority Programs are currently trained in TIPS and facilitate the program.
To date, about 1,700 UA students and advisers have been trained in the two-hour program, which typically is held twice each semester. Also, once students are trained, their certification is valid for four years. It's two years for trainers, and staff are retrained annually.
"It is important to know how to act in certain situations in case they ever arise. As president, I have to deal with various situations and I feel prepared for these situations due to TIPs training," said Neusha Vakili, a political science senior and Sigma Alpha Epsilon's president.
Vakili said he and his fraternity members have invited UA Fraternity and Sorority Program staff to offer the training in-house and plan to continue doing so, including this fall semester.
"When students first come to a big university like UA, they are normally uneducated in this area," Vakili said. "TIPs is very helpful to freshmen and sophomores because it teaches and prepares them."
In fact, fraternity and sorority chapter presidents, advisers, social chairs and health advocates are automatically trained. Also, those organizations that violate codes and are sanctioned must complete the training, though many also volunteer, Ives said.
Matthew Pacheco, a UA marketing senior, was one of those required to participate given his position in Greek Life, and said the training has proven to be "extremely beneficial" and has served him well.
"The most beneficial part of the training was not only on how to prevent underage drinking, but more importantly how to recognize signs of alcohol poisoning and react to the situation correctly," said Pacheco, a Pi Kappa Alpha member and co-chair of Greeks Advocating the Mature Management of Alcohol, or GAMMA. The UA chapter of GAMMA serves as a liaison between Greek chapters and the UA's Fraternity and Sorority Programs.
"The TIPs award is huge for the University. It proves that we are educating our Greek chapters with excellence, and our Greek members are then conducting themselves with great responsibility," Pacheco said, adding that GAMMA also holds meetings with chapters to inform and educate members on a range of topics, including alcohol policies and laws, the prevention of underage consumption and proper party management.
"The University is ensuring that underage alcohol consumption prevention is a top priority and something we are always concerned about. Prevention and education will continue to be a major topic within the University and within Greek Life," he also said.
One of the reasons why the UA program has received national accolades is because it moves beyond basic instruction about alcohol content and blood-alcohol concentrations in the body. Under the UA program, trainees learn about general information around alcohol and the law and also how to gauge how risky a situation might be before employing the appropriate intervention.
"Most of the training is about noticing the early signs of when a student has had too much to drink or when a situation is becoming risky. Talking about intervention is the most important part of what we do with our students," Ives said. "They may find themselves at a party and, with no staff around, we want to help them to make sure they know how to talk to a peer."
And the UA program is interactive. Trainees engage in different scenarios, which should help improve their instant recall should they find themselves in a challenging situation, Ives said.
"We give them strategies and go through different guidelines, making sure they remember to speak in 'I' statements and in ways that are non-threatening," she said.
"It's easier to intervene when you've had some practice, and that's been the most important and most helpful that we've found," Ives said. "We like the program because part of it is in giving them some context, and a bigger portion is about how you recognize when you need early intervention, how you intervene safely and how you can avoid being a passive bystander."