Bethany Mauch, from the North Dakota State College of Science, and Dr. Whitney O'Regan, from the University of Miami, are our guests for this month's podcast. Last year, both schools shared the first place prize in the annual Red Ribbon Week Campus Video PSA Contest.During the interview, Bethany and Whitney discuss their experience entering the contest, how they got students involved, the responses from their campuses after they won, and much more!
Rich: Hi, this is Rich Lucey, a senior prevention program manager in the Drug Enforcement Administration's Community Outreach and Prevention Support Section, and welcome to this episode of our podcast series Prevention Profiles: Take Five.
I'm very excited about today's podcast because we are setting a bit of a precedent and our two guests actually set a precedent last year.
This whole interview is based around our Red Ribbon Week Campus Video PSA Contest, which we co- sponsor with our friends and colleagues over at the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. And last year's contest we had a tie for first place. And it was so exciting that we had that tie. It was the first time in the five years of doing the contest.
And now it's the first time we're interviewing any winners of the previous contests. And since we set the precedent last year with two winners, we're actually setting a precedent on the podcast episode today by having two guests. We have not had more than a guest per episode. So our two guests are really breaking ground on just many different fronts. So really excited about that.
Let me announce who is on the podcast, tell you a little bit about them and then I'll welcome them into the podcast. So we have Bethany Mauch and Whitney O'Regan. And let me tell you a little bit about both of them. Bethany Mauch is the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Prevention Specialist at North Dakota State College of Science and serves as the chair of the college's ATOD Prevention Team.
And we love to speak in acronyms. So those of you who don't know, ATOD is Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug. She is responsible for delivering interventions and prevention strategies with students and conducting research on college student alcohol and other drug use, alcohol-free activities and perception data.
During Bethany's tenure, she has implemented innovative and evidence-based practices to lower high risk drinking and other drug use in the college community. She has presented at numerous higher education prevention conferences and led her team to winning the Red Ribbon Week Campus Video PSA Contest in 2018 and co winning in 2020. So Bethany is our one and only so far two-time winner of the contest.
Dr. Whitney Platzer O'Regan is a higher education professional currently consulting with organizations around well-being, sense of belonging, college transition, and culture change initiatives. Prior to this, she served as director of the award-winning Alcohol, Drug and Sexual Violence Educational Programming at the University of Miami in Florida.
Having served in a variety of academic and student affairs roles at Duke University, North Carolina State University, and Northeastern University, Dr. O'Regan's eclectic professional background contributes to leading efforts to creatively attract and engage an ever-evolving student body around campus culture change. So with that, Bethany and Whitney, welcome to the podcast.
Thank you. I'm so excited to be here.
So I built you up enough. How does it feel to be groundbreakers when it comes to not only the contest but the podcast?
Whitney: Humbled, blessed, happy to be sharing this space with you, Rich, and with Bethany. It's very cool.
Bethany: Yeah, it makes me want to work with Whitney for sure.
Rich: Absolutely. And Bethany, as I mentioned earlier, North Dakota State College of Science, of course, are one and only at the moment two-time winner of the contest. That's also very exciting. So both of you have a lot to really contribute to our listeners out there who are maybe on the fence about entering the contest or maybe they are involved in production right now and need some tips or things like that.
So really excited to get your perspectives both of you on the contest and everything related to it. So let's jump right in. I'm going to, Bethany, start with you. You're both going to get the same questions. Let's start off with each of you telling us a little bit about your campus. So Bethany, tell us a bit about North Dakota College of science.
Bethany: Sure. So North Dakota State College of Science, we are the second oldest two-year college in the nation and we offer two-year technical degrees and send students directly into the workforce. We also offer two- year associate's class of arts degree transfers for students that want to start at a smaller environment before continuing their education. So NDSCS, we're unique in that we offer that full college experience.
So we have the residential life, student life, NJCAA teams and performing arts all at that two-year college.
We have about 2,800 students enrolled and about 875 of those students live on campus.
Right. I started my college career at a two-year college in my home state back in New York state in Albany. I loved the two-year experience before I then transferred on to a four-year school. So I love that concept. So thank you for a little bit of the landscape there in North Dakota. So Whitney, tell us a little bit about the University of Miami in Florida?
Whitney: Yeah, so a little different. The University of Miami is a private research institution located in a suburb of the city of Miami, beautiful Coral Gables, Florida. And one of the unique things that I don't think a lot of people out there recognize is our mid-size student body. So we have around 17,000 students. Everyone thinks we're so much larger because of our football team. And so that kind of plays into the culture of campus. Students elect to come to University of Miami because of not only the high academics and the small classroom sizes and broad opportunities for academic engagement but also because it feels kind of that social need for a large football school.
They also choose to come to UM because of the reputation of South Florida and Miami, right? So if you're a student in South Dakota, for example, these beaches during January seem really great. And the cultural, intellectual, and social diversity coming to South Florida really helps to elevate their college experience. As a student affairs professional, I recognize that that's an amazing opportunity, but it also provides a breadth of challenges around substance use and abuse acceptance with our students. And so in the work that kind of we do, it constantly keeps us on our toes.
Rich: Yeah, and I think, Whitney, you mentioned we have the spectrum in essence here with the two schools. So just in terms of the school makeup itself, you've got two-year school, less than 3,000 students. You've got the four-year school with 17,000 students. That's more than in my hometown of right outside Albany, New York. And then you've also got North Dakota cold, you got Miami sunny, so you got that going as well. So I think that also, for our listeners, it doesn't matter what type or what size of school you may be coming from. You absolutely have an equal chance to winning this contest.
It really does come down, I think, to the content and quality ultimately of your entry. And we'll get a little bit into that in a little bit. So the follow-up question before we get into the really nuances about the contest is, let's talk a little bit about the top drug threats on your campus. So Whitney, let me start with you on this time. What have you seen or are you seeing there?
Whitney: Sure. So we're not unique in the sense that from all the data that we collect from incoming students and from current students, alcohol and cannabis are one and two, right? I think what sets us apart at the University of Miami is that looking ecologically, our numbers of cocaine users and MDMA users are higher nationally than anywhere else.
So while some schools might focus wholly on alcohol because that is a huge component with their culture, we really separate or spread out a lot of our work to focus on not only alcohol but alcohol's interaction with cannabis, alcohol's interaction with MDMA, and kind of feeding into preconceived notions about club culture in Miami because that's such a huge part of why students choose to come to UM, because of that social piece off campus.
Rich: Great. Bethany, what are your experiences in North Dakota on campus?
Bethany: Yeah, so as for a top drug threat, so NDSCS just like Whitney said, it isn't really that different. Actually our vaping and our tobacco use rates are a little higher, to be honest, than our cannabis use rates right now.
So alcohol is our number one drug of choice, but we're closely watching cannabis use. That continues to be a concern.
And you know cannabis use, it's tricky. That use in education in that intervention, it's difficult because that risk of harm, that perception is really decreasing. So it's difficult to educate on that low-risk use like we do alcohol education because we know that all substance use, that use is risky. So looking directly at alcohol use, about 61 and 1/2 of our students have reported use in the last 30 days. So it is a concern for sure.
Rich: Yeah, absolutely. And you mentioned the perception of harm. We know by the time this podcast airs in a couple of weeks later in October, the most recent Monitoring the Future data are out. We know from Dr. John Schulenberg that the findings are showing that the perception of harm related to cannabis and marijuana use is at its lowest in the history of the survey.
We know that if perception of harm goes down, use tends to go up. So I guess that's something you're absolutely seeing there definitely on the campuses. So all right. Well, thank you for sharing a little bit about what the data are showing and what you're seeing on campus as it relates to the drug threat. So let's get a little bit now into the contest. And I'll put this out there although we've been living it for the last 18 months.
Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic has really been front and center a lot of what we've been looking at over the last 18 months. And it was heartening to us running the contest to see that we had the number of entries that we had come in even during the pandemic, that people were very creative. Students that were involved were extremely creative. And so that just says to me nothing can stand in people's way when they really set their mind to it and find a creative way to do this. So Bethany, let me start this one off with you. Why did you decide to enter the contest last year?
Bethany: So throughout my tenure at NDSCS, one thing that I always focus on when educating students is those normative perceptions and misperceptions of use. So just like other schools in the Upper Midwest, our college students continuously overestimate how often and how much their peers are using. So really whenever I meet with students and I get that privilege of meeting with them one-on-one, when I asked them about a movie or a TV show about college students, what's it typically about? When I ask them to open up Snapchat or TikTok or Instagram, I asked them what are they seeing.
And time and time again, they're talking about how they see, typically in our case, it's alcohol use seen with our two-year college. So it's still my goal and it always was my goal when I entered this contest, that I really wanted to get more information out there on social media and more social norms really into social media to help challenge those normative misperceptions that we're seeing. So that was one of the main reasons. And it's a lot of fun. So I really liked doing it.
Well, and I have to imagine, too, that having won it a couple of years prior kind of gave you the bit of the impetus to want to do it again. You had great experience, if I remember correctly, with Julissa, which was a fantastic, very creative PSA that you had all entered in 2018. So I have to imagine that once you've had that under your belt once, it really does give you the confidence to do it again, but maybe with a different approach.
Yeah, and actually it was a quite different experience, 2018 versus 2020. So it was really different and it's sometimes really hard to find those champions of prevention on campus with our students that really understands prevention. So it was definitely a different experience but definitely worth it for sure for us.
Absolutely. And having now two awards under your belt, it's definitely worth it. You can attest to that. So Whitney, let me turn to you. This was, I think, first time entering the contest, if I'm not mistaken. So what was the thought process. Why did the University of Miami enter the contest last year?
Whitney: Sure. So I think it was a storm of COVID to be honest, right? I think not uniquely. We had lost a lot of funding for our department because the institution was tightening belts. And so as the director of that department, I was looking for kind of two things. So the first was I was looking for creative funding opportunities and ways that we could continue to receive funds in ways that help us sustain our prevention programming, right?
And the second thing was that our programming model had gone from being really high touch, having a comprehensive peer education program that was out on our campus educating their peers for 5 to 10 hours a week every single day of the week to being completely virtual. And I really saw that my student leaders were struggling with kind of the structures that we had put in place to facilitate synchronous and asynchronous programming. They were just bored with Zoom, as I think we can all relate to, right?
They were struggling with how to do an Instagram Live. They were struggling with whether or not to even share this information on Snapchat. And so I was looking for an opportunity where I could really give them a challenge and say, here is something creative to do that's different than what we've done in the past.
And the carrot for me was that if we do this and you guys create a quality video, that's great. We can push on our social media. It's awesome. If you win, I will give you, with some restrictions, ownership over what we do with this funding.
So you get to pick out the swag. You get to attend the conference. If you create a video that wins this prize money, then I will let you kind of dictate what you think is best for the Sandler Center. And so one of our peer educators and one of her friends from the School of Communication kind of rose to the task and I helped them project manage and they really led the charge. I put it in the hands of our students and they ran with it. So I test all that creativity to them.
Rich: Yeah. I want to ask you a follow-up and then I'll also ask Bethany. So tell me a little bit about the students. You both have students featured in the video. So Whitney, I don't want to say it's encouraging because that's terrible to think how much we struggled over the last year and a half all of us adjusting to virtual life.
But you said here are your student leaders and even they were struggling just as we were. It's almost like we were making it up as we were going along as so many of us were. So tell me about your students. Are they naturally involved or typically involved in prevention efforts, the ones who are featured in the video?
Whitney: Yeah, so there are a couple of our peer educators in the video and then a lot of the other students that were featured are their friends, right? And so naturally, the students that tend to sign up to be peer educators are kind of twofold. One is that they are really passionate about this, right? They're public health majors. They see the value in kind of being a peer educator. And then I created this draw for more creative students to come in and have a leadership position on campus that's going to give them a portfolio of marketing and social media work.
So we recruit a lot from the School of Communication and the School of Business to say, hey, if you invest in this message, right? If you make a commitment to invest in this message around alcohol and drug prevention, I'm going to give you a really great opportunity to build a portfolio so that when you graduate with your communications degree, your marketing degree, your graphic design degree, you're going to have a portfolio of actual swag articles, videos, social media projects. I can help you become a project manager.
And so our team is kind of a little balanced that way, but we're very intentional with hiring. So we are lucky to be able to hire peer educators as a part-time job and we choose to hire a cross section so that our little bubble of student leaders-- so there's eight student leaders-- are representative of the overall picture of the university. So we take a little time on the back end to really recruit and spend a lot of time recruiting peer educators, but that helps us in the forefront when we're challenged with making creative, outstanding social media things that actually grabs an undergraduate's attention.
Rich: Absolutely. Bethany, what was your experience at a smaller school and maybe a the pool of students to draw from? How did that go about?
Bethany: Yeah, so as Whitney was talking, I was very jealous of your peer educator program. Unfortunately, we don't have that at NDSCS. Like, Rich, you just said, it's really hard with two-year students. They come in and they're out so quickly. So sometimes I feel like I'm on an island a little bit by myself with not having those student leaders. So right now the method we take at NDSCS is we really shoulder tap those student leaders, so students involved in student senate or Wildcat ambassadors.
We shoulder tap those students that are heavily involved. We go through some quality standards and some education with them. And then those are the students that we asked to participate in our videos.
And so far in the past, everybody's been really excited because that is kind of like a resume boost a little bit as well. So that's how we've typically followed in the past. But pie in the sky, we would have this great group of prevention leaders on campus. One day maybe I could make it happen for sure.
Rich: Yeah. What I heard from both of your responses are the different disciplines of students, if you will, that really are a natural fit doing this kind of work. So Bethany, you were saying we've got student government, student leaders, maybe natural born leaders in one regard who other students on the campus know, recognize and look up to. Then Whitney has maybe the more traditional peer education model, but I also love that you mentioned also bringing in the business students to communications students.
Whitney: We've tried to couch the contest as really being something that students in those disciplines can be involved in because it does give them experience and ultimately lead to something that they can put in their portfolio before they're leaving campus. And I think that that's true regardless. I heard Bethany say at the beginning talking about the campus. So you've got a performing arts student. And I'm a theater major, so you know that perked up my ears.
The theater majors and the performing arts, they never met at stage they didn't like, right? Or a camera that they didn't like. So they're natural born for being in these types of venues, these types of videos and things. So if you're able to draw from your theater students as well, I think that that's natural for this. So
I'm glad to hear from both of you here on that. Go ahead.
Rich, you bring up some really great points in the sense that when I initially took over the peer education program, there was a campus-wide perception that only like pre-med or public health students should and would want to be involved in this type of work. But as ATOD professionals, right? If we're doing outreach work, we need to outreach all types of students, right? Off-campus students, on-campus students, business students, undeclared students, and public health students or pre-med, pre-law, all of those things.
And so in order to kind of create messaging that calls to them, you have to understand what their motivations are. And so that, I think, really emphasizes this need to have peer educators or students, to Bethany's point, student government, students who are invested in this message of alcohol and drug prevention, of safety on campus, care for their peers, from all walks of life on campus. And it doesn't just need to be recruiting. It's so easy to just recruit pre-med kids because they're willing to do anything, anywhere.
I love the idea of the undeclared students because you never know what might be the spark for them, right?
Rich: We know that typically people don't set out to work in the prevention field, but this could be that spark for them. You just don't know and this might be something that just really gets their attention and something that they want to pursue longer term. Whitney, I'm going to stay with you and move on to our third question. So how did you come up with the idea or the concept behind your PSA, Little Monsters?
Whitney: Yeah, sure. So the call for videos, I gave it to our peer educators at a staff meeting. We had conversations about what some ideas were and then I kind of just let them go and I said, come to me with ideas and let's have a one-on-one and chat about it. And the peer educator who led Little Monsters, Julie Erhardt, she came to me with her concept and we worked through some ideas. One of the big pushes that the institution really wanted to see both pre and during and post COVID was this sense of social responsibility, campus resources and pushing our medical amnesty policy.
And so what I said to her was I was like, I need you to use data. This needs to be grounded in data.
That's number one. Number two, I need you to promote this message of resource access and medical amnesty however you do that in your language. And number three, I need it to not look like everything else. So everything else on campus is orange and green and it features Sebastian the Ibis. And it just gets lost.
And so I said, really push yourself to think outside of engaged University of Miami student. I want you to communicate to unengaged University of Miami students who don't care about our mascot. I want you to think about that student who has never stepped foot on campus because they've been remote this whole time and how they reach out and find resources. I need you to think about all of these different things.
And she came to me with that idea. She storyboarded the whole thing. She had used some friends that weren't involved with the Center for Alcohol and Drug Education and were just students. And then we just ran from there and she started illustrating the Little Monsters and filmed some pieces. It's almost like once it clicked, it all just was easy-peasy from there.
Rich: And I'll tell you that when we were screening the video, the unintended or not was the whole subtext of COVID and the idea of the Little Monsters which could have depicted the virus, if you will. But it just was so eye-catching. And so it was great to hear how the students you gave them free rein essentially, you gave them some parameters and you gave them then you let them loose. And I think that everybody appreciates that.
Whitney: I don't pretend to understand what an 18 or 24-year-old is thinking. I'm not even going to try to pretend.
My algorithm on social media does not represent their algorithm, so as long as it's appropriate, I'm going to I'm going to hand this over to you.
Absolutely. So Bethany, what was your process like at North Dakota?
Bethany: Yeah. Well, we started making videos in 2017, to be honest, and each time we've held focus groups with our students really. So we spend 20 to 30 minutes doing a little bit of education because again, we're shoulder tapping these students. So we want to make sure they understand our data on campus and why we talk about and share this data.
So this year and 2020, it looked a lot different. We had to have that focus group virtually. That was really tricky. It was really hard to get students engaged. But a colleague and I, we worked on that together and did that education with students and we found that they were really intrigued by just those common normative misperceptions that we're all seeing. They were asking a lot of questions about that.
They wanted to know more. So that right there just kind of gave us that push of what our video should be about. So we had a few more just meetings and focus groups just about some of those, the common things that students are seeing that are misperceived. And that's really where our idea came from.
So you mentioned earlier the title of your PSA being challenged. The perceptions we see that this whole idea of challenging the misperceptions is exactly-- we have decades of research now on the whole issue of social norms theory and if you can decrease the misperceptions, you're likely also going to decrease the actual use. So did the students seem to naturally gravitate toward that type of messaging or did you sort of feel like you were having to pull them along?
I felt the majority of them just naturally gravitated that way. There were a few of them that-- we always have these few students that are focused on just something else other than what we kind of want them to focus on. But it was pretty unanimous. They pretty much really gravitated towards that one issue. They found it super interesting why their perceptions were so skewed.
So really to go in depth into detail about all that, like the movies, the social media, your culture, your family, your friends, that peer influence how those all play into your perceptions. They found that really interesting. So it was really exciting. It was exciting for me to see those light bulbs go off.
Rich: So I have a follow-up question, but I'm going to throw in one that I didn't prepare you for. But hopefully it doesn't throw you because you might have to go to your memory banks for both of you. I'm curious how long it took to actually come up with a finished product in terms of concept to completion. Do you remember approximately? I mean, there's eight weeks. The entry period is only eight weeks. So do you remember just roughly how long it took you from concept to completion, either one of you?
Yeah. Well, at NDSCS, we held that virtual focus group in the spring, so it must have been about April or May of 2020. And then that follows when we started recording. So that's pretty tricky to answer. I would say roughly about eight weeks. Eight to nine weeks is really what it takes once you have the idea, but then we would meet roughly probably twice a month just to make sure we were on track. So we collaborated with our Student Life Department and their Media Squad Organization to really get the video going. And so I would say roughly eight to nine weeks is realistically what it took.
Rich: And to be clear for our listeners, so while the entry period itself was only open for eight weeks, we announce a save the date typically in August. But earlier in January, we announced at the National Strategies Conference that our intent is to have another contest that fall. And so that already plants the seed for campuses. And so you're already starting to get the wheels going.
So I don't want people to feel overwhelmed that, oh, I didn't think about it six months ago. But a lot of the campuses probably already have their areas of focus for their prevention programming already thought about. It's just a matter of now putting the concept together and actually shooting the video. So Whitney, what was your experience at University of Miami?
Whitney: There were conversations with the peer educators and the students about concept and storyboarding. But to their credit, once they got an idea, it sparked creatively and they ran with it. I want to say it took maybe four weeks. But the reason it really took that long is because at the end of our video, they're kind of like all gathered in a line and outdoor space. And I felt like there were too many of them gathering with our university policy at the time.
So we kind of had to like wait for policy to change where they could be safe and together in an outdoor space because I didn't want them violating policy while we film this. But they did it on their iPhones. They uploaded it to Photoshop. They made it all happen on their laptop computers from remote locations on campus. And I really do give them credit. Once they had the idea, they ran with it and they got it done really quickly. I don't know whether they held off on doing homework to prioritize this. I told them not to, but college kids.
Yeah, we won't go there. The expectation is homework first. That's the expectation.
You're a student first.
Rich: So let me go back to my initial follow-up question to follow up to the idea and concept behind the PSA.
And, Bethany, I'll come back to you. So what's been the response from the campus community since winning the contest?
Bethany: Well, and I have that interesting perspective because we won in 2018 and then winning again in 2020. So it's really interesting to compare the two. In 2018 we really saw that buzz on campus. We created a whole campaign associated with our wins, so creating the flyers and the banners, other social media posts to go with it. So in 2018, we really saw that video buzz, if you will. And in 2020 we didn't have that group of students on campus. A lot of students were attending virtually. So it was really tricky and it was really different.
But I keep going back to 2018 and how we were able to focus on, well, really both times focus on the number of students reach, the likes and the shares on social media. And what really stood out is that students really did our marketing for us by sharing the video that they took pride in on social media. So that is just the one thing I really want to point out, is that your students in essence do that for you, that marketing component, which is so crucial at a time like times were experiencing today.
Rich: Absolutely. And that's such an interesting perspective you have. In 2018 so different, obviously, than the campus experience in 2020. Whitney, you don't have that kind of point of reference. So kind of what was the reaction in your campus?
Whitney: Yeah, I think because there were so many different-- because the peer educator that directed all of it kind of grabbed all of her friends from different areas of campus. And so that helped spread our kind of message around to different areas than just our Instagram followers or our Facebook followers. And to be honest, my supervisor and our vice president for Student Affairs, they were excited because we were doing something creative that was getting national attention in the midst of COVID, which I think a lot of professionals really struggled on how to make meaning not only for us as professionals but for students and leaders and for the students that we do this work for during the pandemic.
And so I think for them to see that our students were thriving in even just the smallest way and being applauded for that work was really meaningful. And I will just say that for those of you listening who think like, well, how can we get students to invest in this? My peer educators will say that they talked about that PSA and that project management process and kind of winning that award in internship interviews, right?
They talked about what it is to do this type of work and how challenging it is to have these tough conversations with peers but also how rewarding it is in interviews for consulting firms and for business type jobs or law type jobs. So I think to my point earlier, it really reverberates beyond just being public health messaging or medicine-based messaging. This really is an opportunity for students to do hard work and get value out of that.
Rich: So I'm going to stay right with you, Whitney, on this to go to the fourth question because I think it's an ideal segue. You've teed this up very nicely. For listeners who, like I said, they might be on the fence about whether or not they even want to be involved in this and you have to make a decision soon because you only got less than a month or so by the date of when we're recording this, what do you see as the benefits to entering the contest?
Whitney: I think you just started to talk about it. I think that's fantastic that this goes beyond the contest, if you will, because it can give you some life lessons for other avenues. But can you speak a little bit more about what the benefits are for entering the contest?
Yeah, I think just like the most transparent level is that this really forces or encourages, I shouldn't say forces, encourages you to get a piece of marketing that is going to help prevention efforts, right? And whether you win the contest or not, you've been provided an opportunity to create this. And that's kind of how I presented it to my students, like, regardless of whether we win the prize money or win the prize, this is a challenge for you to create a piece of marketing that aligns with our mission and our vision here at the center and something that we can use.
There's really no loss here, right? So you're getting students, you're getting your staff, you're getting people around the division to invest in creating a piece of marketing that you can still use whether or not you win, which is great. And just from the way that I've seen my students invest in this opportunity, right?
They were co-winners with Bethany's team.
They were able to present at NASCAR and talk about their process and seeing a junior in college really talk about this amazing video that she put together and win the award for that and then the confidence that I've seen that process instill in her abilities to lead her peers around ATOD conversations has been really priceless. And then plus, you got to meet awesome people like Bethany.
Rich: Yeah, absolutely. No, this is fantastic. Bethany, what are your thoughts on the benefits of entering? And you, again, get that perspective of having entered it three times. Let's not forget that the first year wasn't so successful. But what do you see as the benefits?
Bethany: Well, Whitney, spoke to this earlier, but really that monetary prize was a huge benefit. My prevention budget took a hit because of COVID and because of budget cuts. So that was really hard. Also the free registration to the NASCAR strategies conference, that conference is great. Everybody should be attending that conference. That is by far the most beneficial conference.
But more specifically, being able to be encouraged by the contest to create that social media content regarding that alcohol and other drug education, that is the most beneficial. At NDSCS we've really created that culture of videos. We create videos now for so many other messages on campus for our students.
And having ways to reach our students with those short, engaging prevention messages, it's never been more important than it is during 2020-2021, right? The contest helps to make it clear that videos are doable, that they're attainable, and they are that great prevention tool during a time when social media is really our connection to our students.
Rich: Absolutely. So well said. And between the both of you, you clearly articulated what we and our colleagues at CSAP hope the campuses see as the benefits of the contest. It's kind of twofold. One is the whole professional development piece, where you get two representatives to attend. And Bethany, you said it. I wholeheartedly agree about NASCAR's strategies conference as an opportunity, which is going to be in person this year in January in Boston.
Anybody coming in from Miami, make sure you pack up. Go buy some winter coats or sweaters. Bethany and I being an upstate New Yorker and from North Dakota, we already know what to pack. But you've got that benefit obviously for those who are helping shape the students in this area. But then there's the monetary aspect.
People, I don't think realize how much of a windfall even that amount of money can mean to a campus when budgets are tightening, even more so as a result of the pandemic and such. And whether it's the $1,000 third-place prize or the $5,000 of first-place prize, this year we've increased it, that can go to any part of the spectrum of the stuff, right? I mean doing needs assessment, bringing speakers in on campus, building your capacity, doing an evaluation. It's just so helpful. And I know that you each had great opportunities and plans for the funds and we're just happy that we were able to help contribute to the benefit that you're seeing on campus.
So as we wrap up, and this has been exactly what I'd hoped it would be, the both of you. It's just so engaging and really have a lot to share and I hope the people that are listening are really taking in your thoughts and your advice on the contest. And so as I end all of the podcasts, this time though it's a bit of a variation. It's not so much what you encourage your professionals who are working to prevent drug misuse, but it's what advice can you provide to our listeners who are working on their entry for this year's contest or are thinking about the contest. So Bethany, I'm going to start with you first.
Bethany: Sure. I thought a lot about this and I really wanted to kind of encourage three different points. First of all, like that student involvement, that is absolutely key. And just as Whitney said earlier, they know what they like, right? So in our video that didn't win in 2017, that was about a goat and students loved that video.
So really getting those students involved, their ideas may be really just unconventional, but tapping into their mindset of interest will help create that video that really resonates with all your students. And like I said, students, they'll take pride in the video and help do your marketing for you, which is awesome. I mean that's an awesome benefit to this. Incorporating the students' ideas with educational components, that can help us as prevention professionals reach our students and to provide them education and then also provides them entertainment, which just is that double bonus.
And creating a video, it really can be overwhelming. Once you have that idea of really what you'd like to create, my best advice is just to really start. You have to shoulder tap those students or those student employees or that marketing department really regarding the platforms to use. We like to use PowerTunes at NDSCS, but we've used iMovie before as well. And you can literally just pull out your phone and start creating that magic. We always say on campus keep your video short. Keep them to the point and always try to have some type of entertainment factor.
Rich: Excellent takeaways there. Whitney, let me ask you same question. What do you want to say to our listeners who are--
Yeah, I echo Bethany and all of those things. If you're in the midst, even if you're starting or you're in the midst of editing, get that in front of students as quickly as possible and get that in front of really different groups of students. So get it in front of student leaders, get it in front of students who are in your office maybe for alcohol and drug conduct issues, right? Spread the wealth and get that out there and get feedback.
And I think something that has kind of resonated throughout this conversation that I will encourage people to think about is belts are tight, budgets are dwindling. Use your resources on campus. Not so much with this video project, but we've done other video projects where I partnered with faculty members in the School of Communication and said, hey, can this be a class assignment where they create a PSA as part of class? And it benefits the student both in the class and then you get a couple options, right?
So not everything has to cost tons of money and take a lot of time out of your team. If you're strategic about what resources you have on campus and what students or other staff members or other departments or faculty members you can tap, I think it can really be something that goes beyond just the prevention office and beyond student affairs.
Rich: That is just, both of you, such great advice, practical, to the point. As I said earlier, I think that you have both shared exactly what I had hoped we would talk about during the podcast. It may seem daunting. But I think sort of like when you're writing a paper, sometimes I know you're staring at a blank screen. You just have to dive in.
Don't worry about it. Yeah, just start it and you'll figure it out. But jump in the deep end of the pool and just go from there. So again, to Bethany and Whitney, thank you both so much again for your time. I've loved having you on the podcast and talking about the contest. And for our listeners, hopefully you are thinking about entering this year's contest. We, as I mentioned earlier, have increased not only the number of prizes but the amount of the prizes.
But take the advice that Bethany and Whitney have given you throughout this podcast to heart and we know basically where they are. So if you want to follow up with either of them, get in touch with me or look them up online and drop them an email. I'm sure that's what we do in this prevention field, is we like to see each other succeed. So I'm sure they'd both be willing to offer some tips offline, if that's what you're looking for. So Bethany, again, thank you. Whitney, thank you so much.
Thank you, Rich.
Yes, thank you. This is awesome.
Rich: And for our listeners, we so appreciate you tuning in and listening to this episode of Prevention Profiles: Take Five. With that, I'm going to say thank you and wish you a great day. Take care.