Morrisville State College Uses MyStudentBody to Harness 'Teachable Moments' For Prevention
Morrisville State College (MSC) is a small public
undergraduate institution with a strong reputation for innovation and
ingenuity. The college's mission is to provide "a high quality educational
experience for students leading to associate and baccalaureate degrees by
utilizing cutting-edge technology, innovative methods of instruction, and an
A member of the State Colleges of New York (SUNY) system,
MCS currently serves a student body of approximately 3,269 students at two
campuses in central New York: one in Morrisville and another in Norwich.
Despite its small size, the college offers more than 70 specialized associate
and bachelor degree programs, including a new program that enables students to
earn a bachelor's degree in renewable energy technology.
One of the biggest challenges that Morrisville State College faces in promoting
healthy behavior is finding creative ways to reach students regardless of time
or budget constraints.
"We are a small college with a lean staffing model.
We have very dedicated, hard-working employees, who must accomplish a lot in a
limited time," explains Geoffrey Isabelle, Dean of Students at MSC.
"As a result, we strive to use our resources wisely. That includes
leveraging 'teachable moments' to communicate with students about important
As part of this effort, college administrators take
advantage of freshmen orientation to talk to students and their families about
alcohol and other drugs. "Starting college is a unique time in a student's
life, and a critical opportunity to address the health challenges of college
life," says Isabelle. "We work to reach parents as well as students,
so we can deepen our impact."
Administrators also work to gather information that can
be used to create targeted prevention initiatives. "We review the
statistics from alcohol and drug violations, to find ways to reach students who
may be vulnerable to health risks," explains Isabelle.
Another challenge the college faces is providing plenty
of alternatives to leaving campus for social activities that involve drinking.
"We have a relatively remote location, so we offer a great deal of student
programming on campus," says Isabelle. "We're always looking for new
ways to entice students to alcohol-free events and encourage healthy behavior
In 2007, MSC administrators began searching for an online prevention program
that would provide the most value for students and staff. After evaluating
several programs, they selected MyStudentBody, and began using it in the
2008-2009 school year.
"Of all the programs we looked at, our counseling
staff, the 'chief investigators' in the selection process, were most impressed
with MyStudentBody," explains Isabelle.
Developed with $9.7 million in grant support from the
National Institutes of Health, MyStudentBody is a comprehensive student health
and wellness program. It offers student courses on alcohol, drugs, and sexual
violence; and gives students 24/7 access to resources on stress, tobacco,
nutrition, and sexual health.
Each topic area integrates "Rate Myself"
questionnaires, brief self-assessments that are based on the Brief Alcohol
Screening and Intervention of College Students (BASICS) model. These
assessments give students personalized normative feedback on their
health-related behaviors, an approach that has been shown to impact behavior.
"Ultimately, we chose MyStudentBody because of its
research-based presentation and educational methodology, and because we value
the 24/7 access, ease of use, overall format, and test-retest assessment
capability,” says Isabelle. "Personally, I like that students are able to
'free roam' the site any time, and get valuable information about their
To increase the impact of the program, MSC mandates completion
of the Student Conduct Course, as
well as review information on tobacco, for first-time violations of the
applicable substance-abuse policies. The college has also integrated
MyStudentBody in orientation sessions with new students and their families.
"We feel that MyStudentBody helps us address
important health challenges as a part of a comprehensive education, prevention,
and intervention program,” reports Isabelle. “And when I’ve talked about the
educational approach and personalized feedback that students get from the
program, I've seen parents nodding approvingly."
MSC will soon begin to offer MyStudentBody-Parent, a new learning module that has been
integrated in the program, to families as a resource of practical strategies
for keeping students safe, healthy, and happy.
Administrators also plan to increase their use of MyStudentBody-Admin, a module that
offers extensive resources and tools to support college health administrators.
This includes robust data reporting tools, which enable administrators to
identify the specific health trends and challenges on their campus.
Using these data reporting tools, administrators can get
up-to-date information about students’ self-reported knowledge, beliefs,
attitudes, and behaviors related to alcohol and other drugs, which they can use
to develop targeted interventions for specific student groups.
According to Isabelle, both students and staff have
responded enthusiastically to the program.
"Given our staffing and time constraints, we have to
implement what does the greatest good for the greatest number of
students," says Isabelle. "MyStudentBody helps our students learn
about important issues. They like the user-friendly presentation of statistics
and facts in the module, before they take the quiz. It’s more engaging for
students when information is broken down into smaller chunks, rather than presented
in a lengthy article.
”On the administrative side, we feel that the program has
so much to offer that we haven't had the time yet to explore all of our
options. In the future, we hope to be able to dedicate more time to analyzing
and using the information the program is generating."Back To Case Studies