Jefferson Award honoree champions student health

May 20, 2011 | Features, UToday
By Kim Goodin

President Lloyd Jacobs, left, recognized Dr. Tavis Glassman as the Jefferson Award Champion last month.

President Lloyd Jacobs, left, recognized Dr. Tavis Glassman as the Jefferson Award Champion last month.

Dr. Tavis Glassman literally lived his commitment to community service from 2008 to 2010.

During two academic years, the Jefferson Award “Champion” honoree immersed himself in UT’s student population as the University’s first Faculty in Residence, living among underclassmen in MacKinnon Hall.

Creating monthly educational programs that included “Sex, Lies and Chocolate” and “Sex, Drugs and Dead Celebrities,” Glassman sparked ongoing dialogues with students, many of whom were living away from home for the first time.

“If you do a dry, discussion-type presentation, students tend to run the other way,” Glassman, a native Coloradoan who moved to northwest Ohio in his teens, said. “I’d start a list of celebrities who’ve died as the result of alcohol or substance abuse with people like Marilyn Monroe, but when I got to Heath Ledger and Michael Jackson, students would sigh with strong emotion.”

Glassman, an assistant professor of health education, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UT, with an additional master’s degree from Ohio State University and a doctorate from the University of Florida. He specializes in college health issues, an interest that began during his undergraduate studies at UT.

“With alcohol, I thought it was part of the college deal, like everyone else,” Glassman said.

Once he realized that alcohol-related issues were the No. 1 cause of death in his peers, he’d found a calling.

“Some young people just don’t know what can happen with alcohol,” he said. “They think everyone drinks, which isn’t the case. They don’t realize the problems alcohol can cause to their health, their academic success, and to society in terms of crime and health-care costs.”

As a member of UT’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Prevention Committee, Glassman has taken an active role in crafting an amnesty policy to encourage students to report substance abuse, a tobacco policy that restricts use on Main Campus, and a variety of events promoting awareness and education.

Last year, more than 500 people, mostly students, took part in a program that challenged participants to reduce or abstain from consuming alcohol for 30 days.

“The goal wasn’t abstinence as much as it was awareness of students’ own behaviors,” Glassman explained. “Some students are completely unaware of how much they drink and how it becomes immersed in their social lives. Some who finished the challenge were really surprised. The affect was pretty profound.”

Glassman said the committee will offer the challenge again this fall and welcomes sharing it with other institutions.

His Jefferson Award nomination notes that Glassman’s efforts have contributed to a decrease in high-risk drinking behaviors among UT students: “Dr. Glassman spends a great deal of time outside regular work hours mentoring students and staff so we at UT may affect real change through collaboration and environmental efforts.”

Glassman, who’s been at UT for three years, sees unlimited opportunities to explore, educate and promote safer health practices among college youth.

“I’m really just a health zealot interested in how health systems and cultures affect people,” Glassman said. “Unfortunately, there’s always something new to be addressed as far as health issues are concerned.”

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