One of the most important homework assignments for UNCG freshmen was due Oct. 15.
That was the deadline for first-year students to complete the second phase of AlcoholEdu, an online course that teaches them about the impact of alcohol on the body and how to deal with peer drinking.
Officials at UNCG expanded the online course this year to include all freshmen as part of a continued effort to be proactive about alcohol education. And they gave the initiative teeth: students must complete the course before they can register for spring classes.
Alcohol abuse is “the biggest problem on a college campus,” said David Wyrick, an associate professor of public health education in UNCG’s School of Health and Human Sciences and a recognized authority in intervention science. Wyrick said there’s evidence linking binge drinking, student health and wellbeing, retention and academic performance.
“Of all the issues on campus – and there are a lot of important issues – alcohol is one of the biggest issues we can address. If we could really make a dent, we’d probably get the biggest bang for our buck in terms of positive outcomes.”
The course includes two parts – one completed in early August before classes started and the other to be completed by mid-October. That’s the window of opportunity for influencing students to make wise choices, said Wyrick and Kim Sexton-Lewter, assistant director for wellness with UNCG’s Wellness Center.
AlcoholEdu has been in use at UNCG for about a decade, Sexton-Lewter said, but prior to this fall, the course was offered through a first-year experience course that not all freshmen took. Other alcohol prevention initiatives on campus include educational programs in residence halls and with clubs and organizations, guest lectures in academic classes, one-on-one debriefing sessions with students sanctioned for alcohol violations, social norms marketing campaigns, regular review of university policies and numerous awareness events.
Nationwide, about 57 percent of students enter college as non-drinkers, according to 2011-12 statistics from AlcoholEdu. While UNCG freshmen had a much stronger showing at 69 percent, the university wants to ensure its students know the facts about alcohol, and drink responsibly if they decide to drink.