‘Alcohol and Our Learning Environment’ a go for second year

September 10, 2009 By Kiera Wiatrak

The “Alcohol and Our Learning Environment” symposium is returning for its second year on Tuesday, Sept. 22.

Sponsored by University Health Services (UHS), the Offices of the Dean of Students and the Campus Alcohol Task Force, the symposium will provide new perspectives on alcohol on campus and equip faculty, staff and students to have conversations about alcohol in and out of the classroom.

The symposium is free and will take place between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the Pyle Center, rooms 325, 326 and others to be determined.

“As a state, Wisconsin has a drinking problem,” says Susan Pastor, UHS community health specialist and co-chair of the Alcohol Task Force. “We lead the nation in binge drinking rates, underage drinking and drunk-driving statistics. As a university, we can turn this vulnerability into an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and turn out graduates who can address these problems in their communities.”

The program will begin at 8 a.m. with refreshments and opening remarks from Sarah Van Orman, UHS executive director.

Space may be limited, so participants should register for the symposium on or before Sept. 15.

Due to requests from last year’s participants, Kevin Strang, a physiology faculty associate, and Paul Grossberg, a UHS physician and clinical professor of pediatrics, will return to give talks on “The Science of Drinking” and “Effective Conversations with Students About Alcohol,” respectively.

Strang will speak first at 8:45 a.m., and Grossberg will take over at 9:45 a.m.

Returning participants will also have the option of attending a workshop, “Brief Motivational Interventions to Reduce Alcohol-Related Harm,” led by UHS psychologist Alex Faris instead. Participants should register in advance for the workshop by e-mailing Pastor at spastor@uhs.wisc.edu.

The morning will conclude with the session “Alcohol Use and Dependence,” led by Paul Moberg, senior scientist in the School of Medicine and Public Health and an assistant director of the UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, at 11 a.m.

Lunch, with a vegetarian option, will be provided at noon.

After lunch, participants will pick two of at least four hour-long breakout sessions. Faris will repeat his two-hour workshop at this time for participants that didn’t attend his morning session. Registration for these sessions can be made by e-mailing Pastor.

Breakout sessions will include “Learning Circle: Impact of Student Drinking and Non-Engagement on Student Learning,” led by engineering physics and mechanical engineering professor Greg Moses, where participants will be encouraged to share their experiences and perspectives.

A student panel will also be offered that will feature students in recovery from alcohol dependence.

“We hope that will be something that will also be of interest to faculty and staff,” Pastor says. “We often don’t think that students are possibly bringing those issues from home already when they arrive, or are acquiring that challenge once they become our students. So we’re hoping to generate awareness of that.”