Justine Shenher, Project Coordinator for What’s Your Cap? at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada provides an insight into a student-driven approach to changing social norms around binge drinking.
The University of Saskatchewan Student Binge Drinking Prevention Initiative (BDPI) was created out of an assignment in Dr Colleen Anne Dell’s 2011 Sociology/Public Health Studies in Addictions. At the end of the term, Dr Dell extended her help to support the development of a BDPI. Four undergraduate students were hired for the summer to draft a proposal, research ethics, and do a literature search prior to a rapid assessment on our campus to see whether or not binge drinking was really a problem at the U of S.
With the help of volunteers (one of which I used to be!), we began our rapid assessment, running focus groups, key informant interviews with people on campus (ie. college deans, staff and administration, residence coordinators, the student government, etc.), and quick anonymous surveys about personal drinking behaviour.
From September 2011 to March 2012, we managed to have 1,000 students share their thoughts about alcohol with us. A Masters student from the School of Public Health conducted an environmental assessment at the same time, looking at how our campus may influence student drinking behaviours and what resources are available.
By the end of our first school year of research, we had established that binge drinking was a concern on our campus and our new initiative had been endorsed by almost every dean on the University of Saskatchewan campus.
Last summer, I was hired as the Project Coordinator and Christina Meeds McGowan was hired as the Research Coordinator. Along with Dani Robertson-Boersma, one of the “founding four,” we continued the work on the rapid and environmental assessments. We also rebranded our initiative, and What’s Your Cap? was born! We used the summer to prepare for the official campaign roll out in the fall at Orientation/Welcome Week 2012.
Over this past school year, we have held numerous awareness events and collected almost 2,000 surveys for our research and evaluation (a description of events can be found on our website here).
We have become well known for our unique swag (free give-aways) and the mocktails that we serve. We have also had the privilege to present at conferences across the country and actively create relationships with organizations within the university community, provincially, nationally, and internationally. We have also been featured on many media spots as our initiative continues to grow at an exciting pace!
We are eager to see the first draft of the new campus alcohol policy, which was found to need an update when we began our research. Soon we will be publishing our own research as well as a “how to” guide for campuses who wish to implement a similar initiative on their campus.
I have been so lucky to have been given the opportunities I have while working with What’s Your Cap?. I am very proud of our work, and look forward to when moderation is the new social norm on university campuses!
More information about this project can be found on our website at www.whatsurcap.ca
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected]