BACCHUS Initiatives Staff
March 6, 2017
Recently, advisors reflected on their experience establishing a peer education group on campus. Some advisors may encounter a slightly different situation - inheriting a peer education group that isn’t functioning as intended. If a peer education group doesn’t continually evolve to meet the needs of students, their programming efforts may be outdated or ineffective. Two advisors share their experiences re-branding a peer education group.
Lexi Benson, Student Wellness Coordinator at the University of Montana Western (peer education group: PATH Peers Advocating Towards Health)
When I started working at the University of Montana Western, one of their desired goals was to increase the awareness and participation of their Peer Education Organization. The transition from the old peer education organization, came from the input of students, staff and faculty. There was only one student left in the organization. I began asking students the reason they weren’t involved and what they would like to see on campus. The students did not like the current name and felt it had a negative stigma. Within a year, I started from scratch and developed a new peer education group, but it did not have a name. It was a risk. I knew that the name was going to have to come from the students and not from me. I also asked professors who they thought would be great peer educators. I felt those students would bring other students interested in the needs of our campus to the meetings. The new peer education organization, which is now named PATH (Peers Advocating Towards Health), developed a mission statement. We then focused on student PATH contracts, requirements of being peer educators, trainings, and meeting schedules. We currently have had the PATH organization for three years with nine student peer educators. The student membership numbers within the new peer education group continue to increase.
Jessica Vogan, Assistant Director LEAD/Prevention Education, Western State Colorado University (peer education group: The SWEET Life).
The decision to rebrand Western State Colorado University’s student wellness initiative was motivated by a rebranding of our institution. Western needed to address prevention more holistically and to create a single student wellness initiative that more students wanted to be a part of. At the time we had 3 clubs that addressed prevention education issues, Western’s Responsible Alcohol Partnership (WRAP), Sexual Assault Prevention Advocates (SAPA) and Wellness Coordinators. I forced the students to start working together, literally, in one room, all together, brainstorming their different goals and how we could all support each other. This did not go well. The students were angry, at me and at each other. I stopped using the words “prevention education” with students. I instead used “health and wellness” and I continually discussed that our goal should be to promote healthy, happy, responsible lifestyles that understand health holistically, not as the absence of a single ailment or behavior.
I then attended my first BACCHUS General Assembly. One session by Columbia University changed everything for me. While I don’t remember the details of the session, I do remember one thing, their brand: RC@C. Even if you can’t tell someone about your initiative, your logo should communicate your purpose. Eventually we came up with this…
At this point I had a plan, I had students, I had a small budget thanks to our Student Government Association and grants I spent the summer writing, and most importantly I had a brand. I used every opportunity I could to expose our brand. I bought logo’d swag, we bought a logo’d tablecloth for events, we put our logo on every poster or deliverable we created.
With support from our administration, were able to establish two internship positions that students now compete for based on their involvement and dedication to “The SWEET Life,” and student groups, clubs, and departments actually approach us for collaboration. Ultimately when you rebrand a student group, you are in fact doing so much more than that. You are setting a precedent for how students will relate to and contextualize wellness while on campus and throughout their lives.
The BACCHUS Initiatives of NASPA would like to thank Jes Vogan and Lexi Benson for reflecting on their peer education group rebranding experiences. A common thread of successful group rebranding is the inclusion of student input and feedback. Peer educators provide insight into the student experience, and offer an awareness that we as profesionals may not have. Continue the conversation below- what things have you found helpful when rebranding your own peer education group? Is there an issue on campus you would like to hear more about? Email the BACCHUS Team with your suggestions!
The B-log highlights important peer education advising concepts. These “essentials” articles are featured here periodically, though you can always find them archived on the BACCHUS Homepage.
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