Thinking Differently


It’s time for collegiate recovery to better support students with underrepresented identities and recovery support needs.

Our recent conference in Boston was a success in many ways. I particularly enjoyed the lively discussions around our standards and recommendations and the hope of moving toward accrediting collegiate recovery programs. I know together we can continue to modify and create a process that will be helpful and supportive to collegiate recovery programs at all stages of development. Important conversations also took place regarding harm reduction and how harm reduction may mean different things to different people and how harm reduction is highly connected to class and race bias. These conversations need to continue as we consider and change the accessibility of collegiate recovery.

I also enjoyed the many wonderful ad hoc conversations I had with colleagues, friends and associates. The professionals and students of collegiate recovery are an amazing group of people. I truly have so much respect, admiration and love for you.

At the request of a group of students, many of the Association of Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE) board members met with this student group to discuss their concerns regarding the collegiate recovery movement, the services we provide or do not provide to students with marginalized identities, and the direction and inclusion, or lack thereof, of ARHE. I want to publicly thank this group of students for their courage in calling the meeting and giving voice to their concerns. You inspire me to be better and to do more; I owe you a debt of gratitude for expressing your thoughts so powerfully and so clearly.

What I learned and became more aware of is that we have much to do as a field and as an ARHE board in regard to diversity and reaching out to those who are marginalized. Our profession and our community continue to reflect a white male-dominant culture with minimal effort to include a diverse range of voices and individuals who deserve a seat at the table. I learned personally that I have much work to do to grow in my own thoughts and behaviors. I speak for myself and the ARHE board when I say we have a desire to do better. We are committed to thinking and behaving differently.

We are working on concrete next steps to address some of the structural issues (adding specific students to the board without the burden of cost), revamp the conference planning process to incorporate student voices (particularly voices of marginalized students), and implement strategies to address organizational systems that currently support a more dominant narrative. In the coming months, I hope many will see the fruits of this commitment and these actions.

Dr. Thomas G. Kimball serves as the president of the Association of Recovery in Higher Education, holds the George C. Miller Family Regents Professor at Texas Tech University and is the director of the Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities. In addition to his responsibilities at Texas Tech, Kimball is the clinical director for MAP Health Management. He has received numerous teaching awards for his courses on families, addiction and recovery. He is the author of several peer-reviewed articles on addiction and recovery and has presented on recovery related issues across the nation. He is the co-author of the book Six Essentials to Achieve Lasting Recovery.

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