How one university is fighting party culture

New program takes a scientific approach

When 1.2 million students drink alcohol each day, it's understandably tough for colleges to crack down on campus party culture.

A new program at the University of Vermont (UVM) is taking a scientific approach.

Binge drinking and other risky activities can take a toll on the brain, according to Jim Hudziak, pediatric neuropsychiatrist at UVM. About two years ago, Hudziak launched a program to get students engaged in making decisions that support brain and body wellness, Kirk Carapezza reports for NPR.

At 18 years old, "The most critical part of the brain, for paying attention, for regulating your emotions, for making good decisions, has not even been organized yet," Hudziak says.

Participants live together in a residence hall and abide by clean-living guidelines, such as a zero-tolerance policy toward drug or alcohol use. The students also get access to fitness coaches, violin lessons, and yoga, among other benefits. All participants are required to take a course called "Healthy Brains, Healthy Bodies" that teaches students about adolescent brain anatomy and how lifestyle choices can affect healthy development.

Hudziak's program is growing quickly: more than 1,200 participants are expected next year, compared with 400 this year.

First-year neuroscience student Azilee Curl says the program is one of the things that made her most excited to study at UVM. "It just didn't make sense to read about [neuroscience] and not live it" (Carapezza, NPR, 3/14, UVM site, accessed 3/16).

This college president wants students to be safe at parties. So he parties with them.

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