Chemical Dependency is the ultimate expression of existential vacuum; a state of habitual unconsciousness to the exclusion of all meaningful activity and relationships. In existential terms, it is necessary to discover some greater sense of purpose in order for the dissolution of such a painful state of emptiness to occur. The great existential theorist, Victor Frankl stated “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with any ‘how’.” In this case, the ‘why’ is the meaningfulness that the recovering person ascribes to their sobriety. However, many young clients arrive in treatment confused, fragmented, resistant or unwilling.
With the 2nd Annual Northeast Collegiate Recovery Conference around the corner, we decided to sit down with conference organizer Kaite Bean to get some inside information regarding this year’s event. Katie is a prominent collegiate recovery advocate in the city of Philadelphia and widely acclaimed for her work on training recovery allies.
In your own words, what is the “Marginalized to Empowered: The Second Annual Northeast Collegiate Recovery Summit”?
Katie Bean: The conference to me is all about finding ways to identify and support marginalized students with behavioral health concerns and helping them to feel empowered and not just succeed but thrive on their campus. The conference helps us do this by providing anyone who interacts with students on a college campus – from admissions to residence life to public safety officers to advisers and faculty – with specific strategies they can employ to support students from their perspective on campus.
Last year was the first annual north east collegiate recovery summit. What is different about this one?
Katie Bean: This year, we are trying to create more breakout sessions with more targeted information for various functional areas on campus. This year we are tackling the tough issue of communications around this often stigmatizing issue of substance use disorders. We have breakout sessions for this geared specifically for Marketing and Communications, Development and Fundraising, or Admissions and Enrollment Management staff. We also have a session for public safety officers and EMT/emergency response related staff discussing the issue of overdoses on campus. These, among a few others, are the areas we are targeting this year. Next year, we will pick additional targets and keep going every year until ALL faculty and staff on a college campus are covered!
Who is this conference geared towards? In other words, what type of student or professional would benefit from being in attendance?
Katie Bean: This conference is geared to anyone who doesn’t think they should be in the room, which makes it hard to recruit for as you can imagine! But once we give people an idea of the topics covered, the experts who will share their knowledge and experience, and the way it relates to their specific work – everyone wants to learn more. Any person who interacts with students in their role on campus should attend – administrative assistants to deans and everyone in between!
Can you describe your professional role(s) and how you got involved in this conference?
Katie Bean: I work in the Office of Student Outreach and Support at Saint Joseph’s University and have been involved in recovery support efforts for the past few years. As our supports grow, more students come forward in recovery, and we need more support. I got involved in this conference when two local advocates approached me with the idea of providing a professional development opportunity to staff and faculty in an effort to create more allies – more people invested in this work. I knew I wanted to be involved because I know our students need that, they need more understanding allies on our campus and all campuses.
What is the Flock?
Katie Bean: The Flock is the student organization for students supportive of recovery efforts and it is open to both students in recovery and their allies. The mission of the Flock is to support anyone affected by substance use disorder. The Flock spreads awareness of substance use disorder and recovery at SJU through open dialogue and provides a supportive environment and safe zone for anyone impacted.
What long term plans do you have for the Flock and how might this conference play a role in achieving them?
Katie Bean: Long-term, we hope to open recovery housing at SJU for students needing a safe and supportive place to live. We also hope to create a scholarship program for students in recovery to help them financially as the cost of treatment for this disease over a lifetime will be a burden in addition to their college education. We hope by hosting this conference we will create more institutional support for our efforts in the future.
College is a time of change. Many students transition to a new place or live on their own for the first time in their lives. This coupled with the stress of rigorous coursework and being at an age in which many substance use issues and mental health concerns manifest, creates a unique environment for additional supports to increase the likelihood of success. Despite how common struggles with behavioral health are, few students feeling comfortable talking about them — and that is a problem. Join us in a discussion about how we can better support students on campus and how collegiate recovery programs are changing the trajectory of students with behavioral health concerns and empowering them to find success on college campuses in our community and around the country.
Information about the Conference
Date: Tue, August 8, 2017 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM EDT
Location: Saint Joseph’s University, 5600 City Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19131
Featured Speakers: Dr. Thomas Kimball, Director, Texas Tech Collegiate Recovery Program and Ryan Aitken, EMT-P, Temple University Police Officer
Tickets: $30, Free for students. Available through Eventbrite