Program Grows Big in Texas
As they set about identifying locations on campus, however, they discovered the challenges of carving out a dedicated space at a fast-growing university. “Our population has expanded tremendously over the past few years,” Ettinger says. “I’ve been going to school or working here for 12 years. It was around 11,000 undergraduates when I started, and now our total enrollment is nearly 17,000. Space is at a premium; many student groups do not have their own areas.”
The program found its sweet spot, so to speak, in a 2,000-square-foot former convenience store/frozen yogurt shop nestled on the first level of the engineering dorm. The space was perfect for housing two recovery staff offices, a break room, bathroom and an open L-shaped space to house a bookcase filled with recovery resources, a television, comfortable chairs and couches.
With the demand for services growing, Ettinger also requested funding for additional staff. “At that time, it was just me, and I was only part time until September 2016,” she says. A second full-time employee was hired to manage the alcohol prevention programming and work with students who are seeking recovery. In addition, 13 peer leaders help with recovery and wellness programs around campus.
The previous summer, 96 students had requested more information on the program; of those, 24 became regular participants. This initial cohort consisted of members from the women’s group as well as freshmen, transfer and graduate students. “We had several law students who attended consistently,” Ettinger says. “They went through college sober and are great with sponsoring undergrads. It’s wonderful to have people in the program who are still in the academic environment but are a little bit older.”
Turbocharging Outreach and Busting Stigma
In May 2017, the program received an additional boost with a gift from the Baptist General Convention of Texas designed to enable the BARC’s staff to educate the Student Life staff on addiction and collegiate recovery and support the staff’s efforts to improve recovery ministry education for Baylor’s ministry guidance students. The funds will also be used to help create a recovery prayer project and liturgical services in conjunction with local churches and Spiritual Life and to improve the recovery library available to students at the BARC.
Ettinger also hopes to use some of the funding this fall to book chapel speakers who can speak on how collegiate recovery integrates with faith and to host an information table outside the chapel. “Every new student is required to take a year of chapel, so it’s a very visible way to make our presence known,” she says.
As senior pastor of a local rural United Church of Christ, Ettinger is circulating within her network to raise awareness for the recovery program’s initiatives and is working with area churches that are pro-recovery. “In more conservative, ‘personal responsibility-oriented’ churches, you sometimes find shaming dialogue,” Ettinger says. “There are students who come into recovery here who have experienced some kind of ‘God trauma’ or religious shaming in their past. This makes it harder to be in recovery — especially in a highly religious environment — and we want to help change this. So we are using part of this funding to address stigma reduction and work with churches to create such resources.”
Ettinger came out of the gate strong during National Recovery Month in September. The recovery group held its second moonlight yoga event in Fountain Mall in the center of campus — “It’s the only time of day that it is cool enough to be outside,” she quips — and a free screening of the movie Generation Found, which tells the story behind the creation of a youth addiction recovery support system in Houston, at the Hippodrome Theatre downtown later in the month.
Two seminars also are planned: “New to Be You” for those new to recovery or in recovery but new to Baylor and a second for upper-level students who wish to be active in more of a leadership capacity in the center and participate in conferences — a role that Ettinger encourages. “In February, we had five students who showed leadership potential attend the [ARHE] Collegiate Recovery Student Summit in Colorado,” she says.
Future initiatives from the Beauchamps’ gift include merit- and service-based scholarships awarded to students in recovery and the creation of housing space on or near campus that will allow Baylor to match students in recovery with others who are committed to supporting their success.
Some of the benefits come in a warm and fuzzy variety. “The Beauchamps love therapy dogs, and they encouraged us to be involved with Angel Paws, an animal-assisted therapy group,” Ettinger says. “We are working to have the organization come to our center every other week — not just for the students in recovery but for anyone who would like to visit with the dogs.”
To Ettinger, individuals in recovery are model students — and colleges should give them more credit. “They are a huge asset,” she says. “These are not the students who are partying all night. These are not the students who are no-shows. It might take them some time to learn to have fun and make friends. There’s a learning curve. But we get to train students to be happy, integrated and thriving. Our students who find recovery here go on to do amazing things. It makes me very excited to see them progress and grow.”