Roll Tide Recovery
At The University of Alabama, the Collegiate Recovery Community likes to sport a little houndstooth.
The Texas Tech model with an Alabama twist—that’s how Director Greg Snodgrass, MSW, describes the Student Health Center Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC) at The University of Alabama. And what exactly is an Alabama twist?
“This might surprise you,” laughed the Milwaukee native, “but football is kind of important in Tuscaloosa.”
The journey from Wisconsin to Crimson Tide territory was a difficult but ultimately life-changing one for Snodgrass. He has been in recovery since 2004, the same year he first Googled “collegiate recovery programs” and landed at Texas Tech. A scholarship, along with the support and mentorship he found there, turned everything around. Now he wants to give Bama students the same level of support and encouragement that he received from mentors Kitty Harris, Tom Kimball, and George Comiskey, addiction and recovery leaders at Tech.
“It was really important to me to get my education, but I had failed so many times,” Snodgrass recalled. “Texas Tech gave me such hope. They got me over that fear of going back to school in my late twenties.”
With a recommendation from Harris, Snodgrass was recruited by John Maxwell, who spearheaded collegiate recovery at Alabama and recently retired as director of the Student Health Center. Snodgrass brought with him many years of experience with Big Brothers and Big Sisters, first as a volunteer mentor and then as an employee. His approach to collegiate recovery is shaped by what he learned there.
“Sometimes I would see volunteers come in, get involved with these kids for maybe six months, and then drop out—just leave,” he recalled. “Walking out on those young people hurt them a lot more than never showing up at all. Just like I did not want to give up on the kids as a Big Brother, I won’t give up on the students in our CRC. We aren’t a treatment center, and we can’t be with them 24/7, but as long as they’re working a program and giving 100 percent, I’ll be right there, working just as hard for them.”
The CRC students have started nine 12-Step meetings on campus since last fall, many of which are held in the CRC’s designated space at the Student Health Center, located on—you guessed it—a street named for “The Bear,” Paul W. Bryant Drive. A weekly UA recovery night gives students and community members an opportunity to come together and celebrate continued sobriety.
While people sometimes confuse CRCs with treatment, UA’s CRC is not a clinical program. However, the Student Health Center offers substance abuse assessment, counseling, and referral services when needed.
Scholarships, funded through private donations, are available to students who are fully engaged in the CRC. Those students also can pre-register for school through the CRC to ensure that they are in class with friends in recovery so they don’t feel alone on campus.
Snodgrass said he currently has 19 scholarship students enrolled in the program, but many more students are dropping by to see what collegiate recovery is all about, to pick up some information, and to maybe attend a meeting or an event.
“We opened October 1, 2012, and that first semester we had about 50-100 people coming through here every month,” Snodgrass remembered. “The growth has been steady and consistent, reflecting the importance of and the need for our CRC. It’s so important to have that designated space, somewhere on campus that’s consistently available so that students in the program have a place to meet, and students who are thinking about joining know where to go for information. The space doesn’t have to be huge. It can be one room with coffee and a free printer, but it needs to be there to engage students and build fellowship.”
Activities such as group dinners, movie nights, concerts, and special events give Bama students in recovery a full social life together. The CRC also reaches out to parents through Parent Weekend, a holiday dinner, and graduation. During football season, sober tailgates welcome students to Bryant-Denny Stadium every home game, and the group even manages to get together for many away games.
“I never thought I could go in recovery and be on campus, tailgating during game day, because that was associated with drinking,” said Bama student Kimberly B., who is finishing her master’s degree in social work and hopes to work in chemical addiction and recovery. “But now I can participate because we have these sober tailgates. That’s just one way the CRC provides a real college experience for students in recovery—something that we might not get otherwise.”
Because students generally don’t discuss their recovery in class, Kimberly explained, she has been in situations where she and a classmate didn’t realize they were both in recovery until they came to the CRC. “Without the CRC, you’re kind of invisible to each other,” she said. “It provides a community on campus and a safe place where students can come and talk to someone if they’re struggling or if they just want to hang out with friends. The CRC is like our own student center, and that’s important because the university student center can be awkward if you’re there by yourself. Away from the CRC, you may hear other students talking about what they did the night before, which usually involves a lot of drinking, and that can make a student in recovery feel out of place.”
Besides giving students a safe social circle, Snodgrass also wants to give them opportunities for service. The CRC’s student organization, Alabama Students About Service (ASAS), encourages service to the school and the community. One of their most recent projects involved volunteering for Habitat for Humanity to help Tuscaloosa continue recovering from the deadly tornado that struck the city in 2011.
Though Alabama’s program is new, word is spreading, Snodgrass said: “The old argument of ‘we can’t have recovery on campus because people will think we have a drug and alcohol problem’—that just doesn’t work anymore. Whether you’re a big school or a small one, public or private, a certain percentage of your students will have issues with addiction. That is a fact. We continually receive phone calls from students who want to come here because we have recovery on campus. Obviously, I’d love for them to come to The University of Alabama, but I honestly don’t care where they go as long as they choose a school with a strong CRC.”
His advice to new program directors? “I know it’s difficult at times, but it’s worth any amount of effort to see that light go on in students who didn’t think they could go to college in a sober environment,” Snodgrass said. “It’s just amazing. I honestly see miracles on a regular basis.”
The University of Alabama at a Glance
Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Campus Character: Thousand-acre campus near the center of town, along the banks of the Black Warrior River in West Central Alabama. Surrounded by a vibrant business community with more than 90,000 residents; one hour from Birmingham, the state’s largest city; five hours from beautiful Gulf Coast beaches. Historic campus features tree-lined pathways and state-of-the-art facilities.
Number of Students: 34,852
Academic Offerings: Consistently ranked among the nation’s top 50 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. Offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in more than 200 fields of study. Nationally ranked programs in law (#21), library and information sciences (#18), and the MBA (#58); first among public universities for enrolling National Merit Scholars (2012-13). Student/faculty ratio averages 19:1.
Points of Interest: Denny Chimes, the bell tower erected in 1929 to honor former university President George H. Denny; Bryant-Denny Stadium, the second-largest stadium in the Southeastern Conference and fifth-largest college stadium in the U.S.; Paul W. Bryant Museum.
General Campus Contact Info: The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35487; (205) 348-6010; ua.edu
Contact: Student Health Center Collegiate Recovery Community, 516 Paul W. Bryant Drive East, Tuscaloosa, AL 35401 (205) 348-0943, firstname.lastname@example.org CRC Director Greg Snodgrass, (205) 348-0945,
email@example.com; CRC Program Coordinator
Julie Holden, firstname.lastname@example.org