Envisioning a Healthy Campus Community – exploring the role and meaning of substance use in the college culture


Selkirk students, staff and community members got together to form a Community of Practice that is exploring campus culture and substance use.  This is part of larger Health Promotion project  initiated by the Center for Addictions Research at U Vic.

Our first visioning retreat  was well attended and participants say that they were inspired to work together to Change the Culture of Substance Use on our campuses!   We spent the morning talking in pairs and small groups about our values and experiences around healthy use of substances.  Led by Karen Miller, from Trail Mental Health, we used Appreciative Inquiry to explore our own experiences and wisdom and visions of what a culture might look like that has a HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH SUBSTANCES.  There was recognition that substance use is part of many students college experience, so the emphasis was on looking at how we enhance the positive aspects of socializing with or without substances and minimize some of the problems that arise from binge drinking cultures or substance use that has negative impacts on students lives.

Out of the visioning exercise came a wealth of creative, thoughtful themes that ranged from personal supports for students struggling with anxieties that might lead them towards unhealthy choices, to ways to enhance the skills of student advisors to a broader vision of how best to promote a healthy, inclusive  SELKIRK campus culture.

The following  pics from the dream murals capture some of the themes that  came out of the individual and group images of students and staff flourishing in a healthy, supportive campus culture.  One Resident Advisor spoke about wanting lots of safe, respectful, FUN and there was lots of exploration about how to engage in discussions with class mates, room mates and friends around what that might look like in their lives.

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Themes that came out of presenting the DREAM MURALS:

  • For everyone – staff and students – there are NO BYSTANDERS- – if there is a situation that is not contributing to a healthy community EVERYONE feels that they can step in to help, or speak out, or stand up for their values
  • Meaningful events, ways of connecting with each other, reaching out to those who might be isolated
  • Envisioning a place to get together and socialize – A place that serves local foods, coffee, wine, beer with a Coffee House atmosphere – music, poetry, discussions. 
    • A social hub for information exchange, supports to students,
    • Hub provides some student employment.Might have green houses attached – community gardens, farmers markets
  • Selkirk is a welcoming, inclusive place where there is some alcohol but it is embedded in a  healthy, vibrant context
  • All staff and student leaders have training to respond to people who they notice being sad, withdrawn, psychotic, intoxicated
  • Multi-generational – – are there any events that we can include children or grandparents?  Or animals?  Pets for the Pit?  Sometimes the post secondary culture is disconnected from a greater sense of normal families and cultures and society.  Could we do more with the campus Day Care?
  • More emphasis on helping students identify their LONG TERM GOALS.  When people are clear on their values and purpose, they are more likely to make choices that help them get there  (ie. how does your present life style and choices around substance use fit with your overall vision for where you want to go in your life)
  • Often root causes of substance use have to do with anxiety  –  It could help students to have some peer-to-peer  support, groups for helping with anxiety, community gardens, public art projects are calming and help people identify their own paths to healthy choices, support groups for anxiety and good ways to deal with stress
  • Students really appreciate having professionals, particularly past alumni, come in and tell them what it’s really like in their field – its inspiring and motivating to hear from people who are successful.
  • It would be great to have Mentors from students fields helping them stay on track with their goals.
  • Encouraging instructors and programs to build in people’s life goals and personal visions into the curriculum – recognize that focusing on the long term goals helps with short term success
  • Transportation is always a HUGE issue – just makes healthy socializing so difficult when the stores, bars, rec centre etc. are so far away.
  • Needing ways of students getting to know each other across programs (and campuses?)
  • Lots of healthy alternatives and outlets for creativity and energy
  • Ways for people to get OUTSIDE  – around campus and getting to know Kootenay wilderness
  • To continue conversations about healthy relationships with substances – what does it look like?  How do we know and help others know when they have had “enough?”  How do we help keep people who are over using safe?
  • To keep a consistency of effort in promoting healthy lifestyles – ie. the conversations and initiatives don’t stop here – with this talk today
  • Resident Advisors said that they need lots of suggestions and practice in how to talk with struggling students (and sometimes each other).
  • RAs would like to get together from the two campuses more often.
  • Many people in the Community Of Practice,  students and staff,  are interested in learning more about Appreciative Inquiry and getting skills in Motivational Interviewing and other ways to build connections and support students.
  • Nurturing a great SELKIRK VIBE that everyone can feel and wants to be a part of –  An Overall Sense of Belonging to something bigger than self that is being co-created by everyone’s energy and intentions

  What ideas do you have for creating healthy relationships with substances and an overall Healthy Campus Culture? 

Leave a comment below if you would like more information about the Changing Cultures of Substance Use project at Selkirk College or the bigger provincial initiative that is promoting healthy substance use on campuses across B.C.

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2 responses to “Envisioning a Healthy Campus Community – exploring the role and meaning of substance use in the college culture

  1. Thanks Shaylyn. I keep looking again at all the rich ideas that came out of the murals and discussions. They give us such a vision of possibilities. We did show the video at the retreat. It’s such a great overview of this kind of healthy campus vision!

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