SHSU alumna Susan Wagener has been a counselor for 30 years and is no stranger to alcohol and its negative effects on young adults. She experienced first-hand the devastating effects alcohol can have on the unaware.
Her son Michael, a Texas A&M senior, died on Aug. 3, 1999 from alcohol poisoning after celebrating his 21 birthday.
Drawing from personal experiences, Wagener spoke to a group of approximately 40 students Tuesday at the Lowman Student Center about alcohol-related topics, such as alcohol poisoning, current alcohol use and abuse trends, and how alcohol affects the body. SHSU’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Initiative (ADAI) hosted the talk as a part of National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week.
“I hear all the time ‘It’s just alcohol – it’s no big deal,'” Wagener said. “Knowing what you’re putting in your body is important.”
Wagener said she believes just talking to her son about the possible lethal effects of alcohol could have saved his life. Since his death, she has devoted her time to educating young adults to keep families from going through the loss of a child due to alcohol.
“I can’t bring my son back,” she said. “So my hope is that I can make a difference with just one other person.”
Making a difference on campus is the goal of ADAI. Its mission statement is to ‘reduce alcohol consumption among Sam Houston State University students through coordinated efforts to inform, educate, and change perceptions about alcohol abuse.”
“We try to get students at all types of different angles,” ADAI Coordinator Rosanne Keathley said. “We take a pro-active approach in which we try to help people before a problem occurs.”
In 2004, SHSU president James Gaertner became very concerned after several students died in an alcohol-related accident, and he called a meeting of several faculty and staff members to discuss the issue. ADAI is the brainchild of the meeting.
“Alcohol is not a bigger issue here than at any other university our size,” SHSU first lady Nancy Gaertner said in an interview following Wagener’s talk. “A few years ago, it had been, but this initiative has helped. We are sure that there are students that would not be alive without this initiative.”
The ADAI program is research-based, using observations of programs at other universities and adapting them to fit the SHSU student body. Keathley believes that the success of the program is due to the amount of support it receives from all sources.
“We have administrative support, including the university president and provost,” Keathley said. “Programs at other universities do not have this type of support.”
“Also, we have a large committee of volunteers composed of students, staff, faculty, administration and the community,” Keathley added.
For more information or to get involved with the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Initiative, contact Rosanne Keathley at 936-294-1171.