Under the leadership of Director Steve Clarke, Virginia Tech's Campus Alcohol Abuse Prevention Center is changing the drinking culture among students using unconventional, creative, and attention-getting marketing tactics and social media. 

Their Party Positive campaign aimed at reducing high-risk drinking recently won top honors from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, a lead organization for the student affairs profession worldwide. Clarke and others at the center received a NASPA Excellence Gold Award in the category of student health, wellness, and counseling, as well a Bronze Grand Award, at the NASPA national conference March 18.

“We are proud to promote the innovative work taking place on Virginia Tech’s campus, and encourage institutions to follow suit and join the movement,” said Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA. “Virginia Tech’s Party Positive: A Harm-Reduction Approach to High-Risk Drinking program demonstrates excellence in designing a comprehensive program that supports the social, academic, and personal development of college students by curtailing and preventing potentially harmful social habits.”

Party Positive emphasizes knowledge, planning, accountability, practicality, and moderation. Clarke said the peer-to-peer approach is effective because it acknowledges the actual behavior of students. High profile awareness campaigns, such as Hydrate or Hangover and the Party Positive mock bar, help spread the word about smart choices and educate students on the physiological effects of alcohol consumption. 

Peer educators assist students in discovering that there are many fun activities at Virginia Tech and in the Blacksburg community that can be an alternative to drinking, and that if students do choose to drink, they should do so responsibly.

Party Positive focuses on six main concepts:

  • Designate a nondrinking driver;
  • Choose when and what you drink;
  • Eat before you drink;
  • HYDRATE or hangover, you decide;
  • Track the number of standard drinks; and
  • Pace, it’s not a race.

“Both at-risk and high-risk drinking are at the lowest rates since we began surveying in 1998,” said Clarke. “For those who choose to drink, we recommend and support doing so in a legal, positive, and low-risk manner that reduces or eliminates negative outcomes. Students are expected to take responsibility for their alcohol-related behaviors, respect the choices of those who do not choose to drink, and hold peers accountable by intervening when their actions adversely affect health, safety, welfare, or civility.”

The Campus Alcohol Abuse Prevention Center has a long history of collaboration with Fraternity and Sorority Life and Student Conduct. Party Positive also relies on collaborations with the department of Housing and Residence Life, the Virginia Tech Police, Recreational Sports, and Student Centers and Activities.

“The Party Positive program has been successful at meeting students where they are, and has motivated students to make changes in their alcohol use behaviors,” said Byron Hughes, associate director of fraternity and sorority life. “They have connected with students by incorporating their messaging and interactive program at social and community events and the very popular Party Positive T-shirt campaign.”

Party Positive has also received attention from other college and universities looking to minimize alcohol abuse on campus. 

David S. Anderson, director of the Center for the Advancement of Public Health at George Mason University said, “The comments from colleagues throughout the state are those of continuous awe and respect, based on Steve Clarke’s creativity in developing a research-based program that has obtained very significant results. Dr. Clarke and the Party Positive program have helped reshape the role of alcohol in the lives of students.”

“Well-deserved congratulations go to the entire Campus Alcohol Abuse Prevention Center team,” said Patty Perillo, vice president for student affairs. “The important work around alcohol misuse and abuse on college campuses has been a shared concern of ours and many others in higher education.  I feel fortunate to be part of an institution that takes this work most seriously.” 



Share this story