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W&M receives grant to study high-risk drinking

  • SOE grant
    SOE grant  Charles F. Gressard, left, and Jill Russett at the School of Education oversee a project to study high-risk drinking and behavior among college students.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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William & Mary's School of Education has received a federal grant to study high-risk drinking and behavior among college students.

The two-year grant, totaling $276,804, is provided by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools. The College's School of Education is one of 20 recipients across the country to receive the grant.

High-risk drinking on college campuses has been identified as a national priority by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, said Jill Russett, who has been appointed project coordinator to oversee the grant at William & Mary. The project will focus on solutions to prevent and reduce high-risk drinking among college students, she said.

"The specific goal of this grant is to develop or enhance, implement, and evaluate campus- and community-based prevention and early intervention strategies to prevent high-risk drinking among college students," said Russett.

The funds awarded from this grant will support a variety of substance abuse programs and research activities on the campus of William & Mary. Funded projects include prevention and education programming in collaboration with the fraternities and sororities, continued research in this topic area, and collaboration of key stakeholders with an interest in substance abuse outreach efforts on campus. The project staff partnered with the Office of Student Affairs to develop the grant proposal and they will continue to work with Health Educators Courtney Dowell and Sarah Menefee, and Associate Director of Student Activities Anne Arseneau, in integrating the new program into existing campus prevention efforts.

Russett comes with more than 15 years of teaching and practice experience in community mental health and addictions counseling.  She served as the former director of the Historic Triangle Substance Abuse Coalition, with emphasis on treatment, training, and prevention of substance abuse, serving Williamsburg, James City County and York County. She has taught at Christopher Newport University in the social work program, worked in the Department of Juvenile Justice substance abuse program, and the Farley Center at Williamsburg Place specializing in addiction treatment and recovery.

Charles F. Gressard, an associate professor in the counseling program at William & Mary's School of Education, will serve as project director. He has 35 years of experience in the field of addictions counseling and addictions counselor education. Gressard oversees the concentration in addictions counseling for the community counseling master's program at William & Mary and is the director of the William & Mary New Leafe addiction clinic.

High-risk drinking, or binge drinking, is defined by the National Institute of Alcohol and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as a pattern of drinking that brings a person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 gram-percent or above. This typically happens when men consume five or more drinks, and women consume four or more drinks, in about two hours.