Western Carolina University campus fired up over SPARC

CULLOWHEE – Ask about how to prevent students’ alcohol abuse, and everyone’s got an opinion. But the facts are harder to find. That’s why Western is taking part in a national research project that may become the model for how to reduce high-risk drinking on college campuses. And all members of the campus community can help.

Elizabeth Likis-Werle, a licensed professional counselor and an alumna of Western’s community counseling graduate program, is Western’s new campus and community organizer for the Study to Prevent Alcohol-Related Consequences (SPARC). The study is supported by state and federal funds through a grant from Wake Forest University ‘s School of Medicine.

SPARC’s premise is that high-risk drinking among college students is part of a culture that can be changed and that social norms – the behavior that is accepted and expected – must also change. Deciding how to do that effectively is the work of a coalition Likis-Werle has put together, including business owners, law enforcement and other public officials, the faith community, university faculty, staff and students, and others.

As the SPARC coalition identifies and implements the combination of strategies most likely to work at Western, a research team from Wake Forest will be collecting data from student questionnaires, surveys of university housing staff members, and alcohol-related incidents. That information will indicate whether the drinking culture and student behaviors are, indeed, changing over the study’s three-year cycle.

“What makes this project unique is working together on overall strategies that research shows can make a difference,” Likis-Werle says. “The goal, of course, is to change those elements of the campus and community environments that contribute to high-risk drinking and to make those changes effective and lasting.”

Faculty, staff or students who would like to be a part of the effort, should call Likis-Werle at (828) 227-7469 or send a message to elikis@email.wcu.edu . For details, go to https://news-prod.wcu.edu/2004/02/western-joins-2-4-million-alcohol-abuse-research-effort/