Learning Mindfulness at #NASPA2
Posted by On Thursday, June 11, 2015

Earlier this week, we attended the NASPA Region II conference held at George Washington University in Washington, DC. It was a great experience, a wonderful complement to the National NASPA Conference we attended earlier this year in New Orleans. The conference was expertly organized and well-attended.

We had the opportunity to speak about how we transform compliance requirements into engaging learning experiences, and we valued the discussion with the audience afterwards. But what we enjoyed the most was the opportunity to meet with practitioners and attend other sessions.  We always learn a lot from these conferences.

One session we wanted to write about was actually the last one we attended. Yael Shy, the Director of Global Spiritual Life at NYU, presented on NYU’s Mindfulness Project. Director Shy outlined the Project’s popularity and rapid rise, discussed the current research on mindfulness, and led the session in a guided meditation, letting us experience what she was talking about.

According to the Project’s website, Mindfulness is “[t]he intentional moment to moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, sensations, and surrounding environment without judgement.” The practice of mindfulness usually involves meditation (meditation does not always have a spiritual or religious dimension). Having grown rapidly, NYU’s Mindfulness Project now offers weekly meditation and yoga classes as well as programs and events centered on Mindfulness and meditation. Besides detailing the success of the program at NYU, Director Shy argued that mindfulness could help address some of the challenges schools are facing today.

For example, according to the Higher Education Research Institute’s  (HERI) American Freshman survey, “students’ self-rated emotional health dropped to 50.7%” in 2014. This is the lowest level in the history of the survey. By itself this information should worry college administrators, but HERI’s research also suggests that poor emotional health hurts student engagement, negatively impacting affected students’ college experience.

Mindfulness might be one way to help elevate student’s emotional health. Although meditation and mindfulness research is still young, the results are quite promising. They suggest that meditation can enhance mood, promote a healthy immune system, reduce stress, improve sleep, benefit relationships, and even slow the loss of brain tissue associated with aging. If you’re interested in learning more, UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center has a good research summary on the positive effects of mindfulness and meditation.

Given this research, starting a mindfulness practice on your campuses could be a valuable goal to set for next year. A good place to start would be reviewing the website for NYU’s Mindfulness Project to look at their offerings. UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center also provides useful resources, including guided meditations and research. Also check out, a website with relaxing music, peaceful scenes, and timed, guided meditations. Or visit the American Mindfulness Research Association.

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5 Key Takeaways from #NASPA15 to Improve Your Prevention Efforts
Posted by On Friday, March 27, 2015

NASPA was an incredible experience this year. Our discussions with other attendees and all the conference sessions were incredibly fruitful. We are continually impressed with the dedication, thoughtfulness, and expertise of the people working in Student Affairs. It’s a field full of dynamic, innovative practitioners, and, as a result, the field is evolving quickly.

Here are five things we took away from the conference this year.

1.) Don’t Silo Prevention Efforts

One of the most valuable takeaways of any conference like NASPA is the opportunity to share ideas with people not just from other institutions and companies but also people from different departments, initiatives, spaces. This sharing helps us collect new ideas and understand different perspectives. It also helps us discover unexpected synergies and partnerships.

We built Think About It to address both substance abuse and sexual violence prevention because research suggested the two issues were deeply interconnected. At USF, they saw this connection and understood that one course was necessary. Similarly, one message we heard again and again this year was the importance of seeing connections between different prevention efforts.

For example, in their presentation, “Hazing, Bullying, and Sexual Violence: Connecting the Dots for Prevention,” Jane Stapleton and Elizabeth Allan suggested that recent research has highlighted the interconnection between Hazing and Sexualized Violence. But while sexualized violence is an important topic and at the center of numerous initiatives on campuses across the country, hazing remains in the shadows. Allan and Stapleton’s thesis was that the kinds of campus or student cultures that encourage hazing also support sexualized violence, and therefore it was important to address the two together. According to Allan and Stapleton, both sexualized violence and hazing involve 1) power and control, 2) issues of consent, 3) rigid gender norms, 4) the normalization of maltreatment, and 5) community norms that silence victims.

Stapleton and Allan pointed attendees to the CDC’s excellent guide, “Connecting the Dots: An Overview of the Links Among Multiple Forms of Violence,” as a valuable starting point for practitioners interested in thinking through these interconnections.

2.) Offer Skills Based Trainings

We all know that getting student buy in can be difficult. At CampusClarity, we incorporate focus groups into our course development process to make sure that what we’re creating resonates with our target audience. Similarly, tailoring a workshop or seminar to your audience is an important way to improve student engagement.

One of the interesting strategies we heard at several sessions was framing training around gender violence, social identity, and bystander intervention in terms of general skills. University of Michigan’s bystander program, Change It Up, is a great example. They framed their bystander training as imparting leadership skills, and, in fact, changed those leadership skills based on the audience they were addressing. For instance, when they addressed Engineering students, they connected their training to Forbes’s list of the 10 qualities that make a great leader. Similarly, administrators at the University of Missouri talked about a course they offered for fraternity members on hypermasculinity. They called the course a “Trojan Horse” because they framed it as a class about leadership. Though they had participants read Michael Kimmel’s book Guyland, they also had the class read Becoming a Resonant Leader, a book on leadership and emotional intelligence that directly pertained to the skills they were teaching.

3.) Be Intentional in your Language

We tell students to be sensitive in the language they use, but it’s as important that we’re sensitive to our language so that we can serve as positive role models for our students. This recommendation isn’t new, but it bears repeating.

For example, in the University of Michigan’s bystander program, the coordinators intentionally chose the language “change it up” and “take action” instead of “step up” or “take a stand” in order to avoid ableist language.

Similarly, Stapleton and Allan talked about “sexualized” violence, not “sexual” violence. Stapleton felt that with the term sexual violence, people sometimes focus on “sexual,” dismissing an action because it was just “flirting” or just a “hook up.” Sexualized violence, on the other hand, places more emphasis on the violence, which becomes the core of the act.

In short, when crafting the language around our campaigns it’s important to be as inclusive and thoughtful as possible.

4.) Engage Student Leaders

We mentioned engaging students in training by tailoring the sessions to their interests. Another important way to engage students (or really any stakeholders) is to identify leaders and role models in the community and reach out to get them involved.

Nearly all the sessions we attended discussed this strategy in one way or another. A stand out example was Occidental College’s Project Safe, a prevention and intervention support program. They reached out to student leaders — like the captain of the basketball team — and encouraged them to work with the program. These leaders bring credibility and visibility to your initiatives and voice other students will listen to and respect.

5.) Think Big

We couldn’t end this post without writing about the inspirational featured speaker, Dr. Jennifer Arnold. Dr. Arnold encapsulated her life lessons into a simple yet powerful acronym: THINK BIG. We conclude with her message because it provides us with a game plan for creating the change we want on our campuses.
THINK BIG stands for

  • Try — You won’t succeed if you don’t at least try. Dr. Arnold offered the idea most succinctly in a quote from the great hockey player Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
  • Hope — You have to have hope to keep you sustained through long periods of struggle or even just the hard work of accomplishing your goals. Dr. Arnold spoke to the hopes that kept her going, suggesting that even if those hopes in retrospect were unrealistic, they played an important role in her life at the time.
  • Initiate — get started…enough said.
  • No — You have to ignore the people who tell you “no” or say you “can’t” do something. If it’s important enough, you’ll find away.
  • Know — You are the best judge of your abilities and limitations. Don’t listen to naysayers, but know when to say no to yourself.
  • Believe — Much like hope, it’s important you believe in yourself and your goals.
  • Improve — There is always room to get better.
  • Go for it!
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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, March 20, 2015

For this week’s roundup we have the results of a survey of college presidents and two upcoming events relevant to campus sexual assault.

The Majority of College Presidents Still Think Sexual Assault Isn’t an Issue for their Campus

Last year we reported on the results of an Inside Higher Ed survey of college and university presidents that revealed that while 71% of respondents agreed higher education as a whole needed to improve responses to sexual assault, a whopping 95% of them believed their own institutions had adequate responses to allegations of assault. This year’s results reveal similar attitudes. 78% of college presidents believed sexual assault was not prevalent on their own campus. Over 75% said their own institution did “a good job protecting women from sexual assault.” Just under a third thought “Sexual assault is prevalent at U.S. colleges and universities.”

Sexual Assault Awareness Month is Coming, Niagara Falls to Turn Teal

Sexual Assault Awareness Month is just a few weeks away, and while the month will be a chance for organizations of all sizes to do what they can to raise awareness about sexual assault, the Niagara Falls Illumination Board will be taking the opportunity to highlight the issue in spectacular fashion. On April 12 Niagara Falls will be illuminated teal, the color of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, on both the Canadian and American sides of the border. This year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month will focus on campus sexual assault.

CampusClarity at NASPA

Last but not least, and as many of you are probably aware, this coming weekend is the 2015 NASPA Annual Conference in New Orleans. Like last year, we’ll be at the conference to learn, engage in conversation, and of course offer information about our own Campus SaVE Act and Title IX training. If you want to learn more, or just meet our team, come to booth 405 or our free cocktail event. If you do, you’ll have the chance to win a free iPad! Finally, if you know you want a demo at the show, feel free to schedule one in advance using this link.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, February 20, 2015

The federal government offers funding for research on campus responses to sexual assaults and an open letter against proposed state laws that would legislate higher education responses to sexual violence.

$1.5 Million for Research on Sexual Assault Responses

We’ve featured numerous articles in this space on the need for more information about campus sexual assault and what does and doesn’t work when trying to prevent it. Apparently the United States Department of Justice agrees, because the National Institute of Justice has issued a call for proposals for studies that will investigate different methods of responding to sexual assault on college campuses. They are offering $1.5 million in funding for research into how schools handle campus sexual assault cases. With numerous schools trying a wide variety of methods to address the issue, such additional data is sorely needed.

Educators Call on Legislators to Vote “No” on Sexual Assault Bills

This week numerous student affairs associations and victim’s advocates groups sent an open letter to all “Elected Leaders of the 50 United States,” urging them to vote down proposed state legislation that would require school officials to refer all reports of sexual violence to law enforcement, as well as bills providing enhanced legal rights to the accused, but not to victim/survivors, such as legal representation at conduct hearings, judicial review of decisions made in institutional proceedings, and recovery of money damages if the court rules in favor of the accused student.  This approach, it is argued, “ignores the balance set by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the scope of accused students’ due process rights.” The letter also points out that mandatory reporting laws for sexual assault complaints conflict with federal laws that require schools to give victims the option not to report their sexual assault to local police. They also argue that such requirements could have a chilling effect on reports of sexual assault to school officials by victim/survivors who don’t want the police involved. The letter is signed by higher education professional organizations, state coalitions working to combat sexual violence, and national women’s and victims’ rights organizations, including NASPA, Know Your IX, and the Victim Rights Law Center.

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What Happened at NASPA
Posted by On Friday, March 21, 2014

This week part of our team attended NASPA’s 2014 conference in Baltimore. Beside some brief snow flurries, which frightened our California sensibilities, the conference was immensely helpful and interesting.

Peter Novak and his colleagues presented a panel discussion on Think About It to a packed audience on Monday. As the session started, ushers had to turn away people because there were no seats left. In addition to the 170+ in the room, another 100 or so participated online, asking questions as the session was streamed to them.

In addition to Peter, the panel’s speakers were Carol Day, the Director of Heath Education Services at Georgetown University, Cori Planagan, the Director of Orientation at University of Idaho, and Deeqa Mohamed, a Student Peer Educator at University of San Francisco. All of the presenters were excellent, sharing the ways they’ve used Think About It as the foundation for their drug, alcohol, and sexual assault awareness and prevention education program at their universities.

We were particularly impressed with Deeqa Mohammed, who was presenting at her first conference. She spoke about using the course during brief motivational interviews. She uses the course’s videos and interactions as launching points for more in-depth conversations with her peers. For example, she might play some of the “hook up” culture video to a student to encourage them to talk about their expectations around relationships and hooking up, helping them become more aware of the pressures they face.

We enjoyed meeting with and talking to other attendees who had valuable insights into new resources and pressing issues on college campuses.

For instance, we spoke with an administrator from Purdue’s Military Family Research Institute about the importance of meeting the unique needs of veterans on campus. Meanwhile, a representative of the National Center for Responsible Gaming explained the dangers of gambling addiction among undergraduates.

Changing campus culture and educating students about how to stay safe during their college years is an ongoing process that requires delivering information, having conversations, exchanging ideas, and creating a community of engaged and enthusiastic participants. We saw a lot of that at NASPA.

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Think About It at NASPA 2014
Posted by On Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Next week the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) will be holding their annual conference in Baltimore. We’re excited to announce that Peter Novak, Vice Provost for Student Life at USF, is coordinating a presentation on Think About It at 10 am on Monday, March 17th.

Think About It is a comprehensive online training program that we developed in collaboration with USF to help schools reduce sexual violence and substance abuse. The course won the 2014 Gold NASPA Excellence Award for Violence Education and Prevention.

The session is called “Beyond Compliance: a comprehensive, interactive, and engaging campus-wide alcohol/drugs and sexual violence prevention curriculum.” The presenters include Carol Day, the director of Health Education Services at Georgetown University, Cori Planagan, the director of orientation at the University of Idaho, and Deeqa Mohamed, a Student Peer Educator at USF.

They will discuss their experiences integrating Think About It into a diverse range of campus prevention programming, covering topics from digital peer mentoring and social norming to creating community partnerships.

Ultimately, Think About It and our follow-up courses should augment a larger set of ongoing campus initiatives. That’s why we’ve been developing materials alongside USF — such as workshop guides and posters — to help schools move beyond compliance with the SaVE Act and Title IX to encourage deeper student engagement with the issues of sexual violence and  substance abuse.

As we hope this presentation will show, the online courses themselves, with their rich media interactions and compelling stories, also provide administrators with invaluable tools for engaging their students in innovative ways.

For instance, we’ve talked to residence hall advisers who use the BAC Apparatus during orientation to lead conversations with incoming students about smart drinking. We’ve also talked to first-years who have used the videos and stories as touchstones for their own discussions about these important issues.

If you miss the presentation, we will also be hosting a poster session on Tuesday from 9 to 10:15 as well as running a booth in the exhibit hall.

We’re excited about the opportunity to share more at the presentation. We hope you will join us.

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Think About It Wins Gold NASPA Excellence Award
Posted by On Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Think About It, CampusClarity’s online substance abuse and sexual violence training program for colleges and universities, has won the 2014 Gold NASPA Excellence Award for Violence Education and Prevention.
NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, is the leading association of student affairs professionals in the United States. The NASPA Excellence Awards are presented annually in recognition of NASPA members who are “transforming higher education through outstanding programs, innovative services, and effective administration.”
The awards, which are presented in Gold, Silver, and Bronze categories, recognize excellence in a variety of fields related to student affairs and higher education. Winners are determined by a panel of veteran student affairs professionals, who judge each entry by criteria that include:

  • Impact on student learning
  • Success in addressing student needs
  • Use of innovative and creative methods, practices, or activities
  • Application of available or emerging theoretical models and practical research

Think About It is a collaboration between CampusClarity and the University of San Francisco’s Division of Student Life. In addition to training students to confront and prevent serious campus problems such as sexual violence and substance abuse, the program helps schools comply with the training requirements of the Campus SaVE Act and Title IX, while also providing administrators important insights into the culture of their campus and student body.
More than thirty-five colleges and universities use Think About It to train their students.

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