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Michael Haines, Director
National Social Norms Resource Center


Social Norms Campaigns to be Credited as the Best in Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention Models at 20th Annual Conference

Dekalb, IL (June 21, 2006) - College students are changing their high-risk drinking behaviors for healthier choices, according to recently-announced award winning programs at four universities. The four colleges and universities that will be officially announced as grant recipients at the U.S. Department of Education's 20th Annual Conference this fall for the Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention Models on College Campuses Grant Competition are using the social norms marketing approach, according to the National Social Norms Resource Center. The schools are George Mason University; Montclair State University; University of Albany, State University of New York; and University of Missouri, Columbia.

The social norms approach works by reducing students' overestimations of the prevalence and acceptability of inappropriate alcohol use. A recent study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol found that students' perception of their campus drinking norm was the strongest predictor of personal consumption, and that reduced levels of high-risk drinking and negative consequences were achieved at schools where students more accurately perceive the moderate campus drinking norm.

"The long term backing by the U.S. Department of Education for the social norms approach is one of the strongest endorsements we can receive. Every year they spend significant federal tax dollars on this life changing, life saving approach," said Michael P. Haines, M.S., director of the National Social Norms Resource Center. "It is a credit to social norms that all four of this year's grant recipients are using this form of health promotion on their campus. Even more encouraging is that these schools are seeing the impact of these programs through an increase in healthy student behaviors and declines in high-risk drinking."

The grant winners were announced June 2, 2006, by the U.S. Department of Education and will be officially recognized at the 20th Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. in October. The grant competition recognizes schools that best identify innovative and effective alcohol and other drug prevention programs. The campuses will use their award funds primarily to maintain, improve, further evaluate and disseminate their award-winning programs.

Included below is a description of the four award-winning model programs:

George Mason University - Healthy Expectations: Preventing High-Risk Drinking by Transforming Campus Cultures - Healthy Expectations emphasizes healthy transitions to college for first-year students. Its approach, grounded in the theories of social norms marketing and life health planning and designed to complement traditional campus-based alcohol abuse prevention efforts, exposes students to legacy development, life health principles, and resource connectedness. It engages students in a reflective planning process, addressing seven life health themes through 31 topics relevant to students' college success.

Montclair State University - Montclair Social Norms Project - The Montclair Social Norms Project (MSNP) has educated students at Montclair State University (MSU) to make healthy choices by promoting knowledge of actual drinking norms at MSU; reducing misperceptions of alcohol use; and promoting responsible, alcohol-related decision making. The program reports a decrease in binge drinking in the highest-risk category (fraternity and sorority house functions) from 33.6 percent to 28 percent.

University of Albany, State University of New York - The Committee on University and Community Relations: A Model Campus-Community Partnership at a State University Center - The Committee on University and Community Relations, a campus-community coalition initiative at the University at Albany, SUNY, has been in existence for 15 years and has served as the central initiative within the university's comprehensive alcohol and other drug abuse prevention program. The program reports significant shifts in perceptions by long-term neighbors toward accurate norms regarding student drinking and UAlbany proactive measures to address underage drinking in the community. The program proposes to develop, implement, and evaluate a coordinated and multifaceted campus- and community-based social norms media campaign that incorporates the unique delivery of information on the health-related and protective behaviors of UAlbany students both to students on and off campus and to members of the local Albany residential and business community.

University of Missouri, Columbia - MUmythbuster - The Wellness Resource Center (WRC) at the University of Missouri, Columbia, has implemented an extensive social norming campaign for six years using clear and consistent messages informing students about the actual alcohol use of their peers as well as about the protective factors that their peers are using in regard to their drinking. The WRC proposes to implement two comprehensive interventions, called Most of Us Make Healthy, Safe, and Smart Choices; and MUmythbusters, in order to increase the number of students who make responsible decisions in regard to alcohol use. The MUmythbusters campaign will address myths about the environment in which students drink and about students' drinking expectancies by countering the myths with facts in an ongoing marketing campaign.

About The National Social Norms Resource Center The National Social Norms Resource Center is an independent center that supports, promotes and provides technical assistance in the application of the social norms approach to a broad range of health, safety and social justice issues, including alcohol-related risk-reduction and the prevention of tobacco abuse. It is the only national center devoted exclusively to the understanding and use of the social norms approach. Opened on July 1, 2000, the Center is directed by Michael Haines, a nationally recognized proponent and pioneering practitioner of the social norms approach. For more information, visit