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New CASE Director Hired,
Eager to Continue Efforts

RELEASED: Sept. 1, 2006

Peggy O'Halloran
Peggy O'Halloran

EAU CLAIRE — Peggy O'Halloran has been hired as the director for the Center for Alcohol Studies and Education at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

O'Halloran, who started in the campus position Aug. 1, has seven years of experience in program planning and implementation, grant writing and program evaluation in the public health field.

"Peggy is a wonderful addition to our staff," said Kimberly Barrett, associate vice chancellor of student development and diversity. "She brings a wealth of public health education experience as well as a grant writing expertise. These assets will help us to reach our goal of reducing high-risk drinking on our campus and to develop strategies to permanently fund the center."

With a bachelors' degree in biology from UW-Madison and a master's of public health degree from the University of Minnesota, O'Halloran was most recently the evaluation coordinator for HIV, STD, and hepatitis prevention programs funded by the Minnesota Department of Health (2002-06). Prior to that, she worked at the U of M for the state Youth Tobacco Prevention Initiative (1999-2002). Also from 1999-2002, she was the coordinator and assistant to the director of the Data Collection and Support Services Center at the U of M's Division of Epidemiology. In 1998-99 she was a research assistant at U of M for Project CRASH, a study of teen smoking prevention and cessation, and at the Center for Violence Prevention and Control, and in 1996-97, she was a research assistant for the Women's Health Initiative, a national study of the major causes of death and disability in women.

Last summer UW-Eau Claire received a two-year, $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help support the center, including an initiative aimed at reducing rates of drinking among first-year students. This semester begins the second year of grant-funded activities.

According to Barrett, the center has already been instrumental in reducing high-risk alcohol use among UW-Eau Claire students. A recent CORE Alcohol and Drug survey revealed that the number of students who reported consuming alcohol underage dropped from 76 percent in 2004 to 69 percent in 2006. Additionally, the number of students who reported that they chose to drink 3 drinks or less in a typical week increased from 48 percent in 2004 to 54 percent. The number of students who said the campus is concerned about the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse also increased to 84 percent.

"The results of the survey suggest that the work of the center, in collaboration with Eau Claire City-County Health Department, law enforcement, alcohol distributors, parents and students, is already producing favorable results," said Barrett.

O'Halloran said the goals of the grant program will continue to be increasing awareness of the consequences of high-risk drinking, enhancing enforcement of state laws and university policies regarding underage and high-risk drinking, reducing the number of students who drink and drive, and reducing the negative consequences of underage and high-risk drinking among first-year students.

As a new freshman class arrives on campus this week, they will be met with a multi-faceted educational outreach effort, O'Halloran said, including a student developed media campaign that publicizes results of the 2006 CORE survey; the interactive program Drink Like a Blugold: Challenge the Assumptions; nationally-recognized speaker Jackson Katz; and numerous alcohol free social opportunities. Additionally, parents have been enlisted in the education effort through updates in the University's inaugural issue of Blugold Nuggets, a parent newsletter. As part of Parent's weekend, both parents and students are invited to attend a speaking event by Chris Volkmann and her son Toren Volkmann, authors of "Our Drink: Detoxing the Perfect Family," and "From Binge to Blackout: A Mother and Son Struggle with Teen Drinking."

"I am eager to build on success of the past year and work toward funding our alcohol education efforts beyond the current grant funding period," said O'Halloran.

CASE is located in Old Library 2104, 2106 and 2108. The phone number is 715-836-5111.

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NW

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