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PLCB Grant for IUP’s Social Norms Campaign Project

IUP has received a $10,700 grant from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board for the Social Norms Campaign Project. The project is directed by Ann Sesti, assistant director of the Center for Health and Well-Being’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Program.

“IUP’s social norms marketing campaign aims to correct misconceptions of students who perceive that drinking alcohol is a central part of the college experience,” Sesti said. “Research shows that students have a misperception about the level and amount of alcohol use that takes place on a college campus. Studies have shown that, if students are given accurate, peer-based information, this could lead to decreasing problem behaviors.”

Similar grants to IUP from the PLCB have been used to create marketing campaigns, place ads in newspapers, and create posters that target the student population, Sesti said.

“This year’s grant will continue our existing efforts as well as engage students in the collection and analysis of data about drinking and creating the message for students. The target audience is primarily all first-year students, since they tend to have the greatest misperceptions and to exhibit the greatest high-risk drinking behaviors.”

Since the inception of the social norms marketing program in 2005, there has been a significant increase in students who report they do not drink and a significant reduction in high-risk drinking patterns.

A 2009 survey of IUP students living in the residence halls found that 85.6 percent of residence hall students drink once a week or less, and 80.9 percent of residence hall students either do not drink, or have four or fewer drinks if they do, Sesti said. “We know the overwhelming majority of our students make healthy and/or lower-risk choices about alcohol. Unfortunately, our students do not always realize this. This grant will provide an avenue for our students to become actively involved in challenging the common alcohol-use misperceptions and positively reshape the campus culture at IUP.”