Leading Change through Peer Conversations, a Title IX education and prevention program engineered by Title IX Education and Compliance Coordinator Cori Smith ’17 has been awarded the Gold NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education) Excellence Award for violence education and prevention, crisis management, and campus security. The program, which has been conducted since January 2018, has been engaging student groups through peer discussion and scenario-based role-playing.
NASPA is the leading association for the advancement, health, and sustainability of the student affairs profession. Smith will present a poster about the program at the NASPA annual meeting in Los Angeles March 10 to 13.
Leading Change centers on student participation and focuses on bystander intervention and the social norms surrounding sexual violence. Goals include increasing students’ awareness of harmful social norms that contribute to sexual violence, empowering students to speak up in the face of unhealthy behavior and norms and facilitating connections within student groups to work toward a safe, respectful, and empowering community. At Hamilton, the program is required for all athletes, resident advisors, and Greek organization leaders and has been opted into by various other student organizations.
According to Smith, it’s the program’s focus on direct communication that most effectively prepares students for uncomfortable situations of sexual misconduct. Based on anonymized post-program survey responses, Smith crafts scenarios for participants to navigate within peer groups. Students discuss their strategies first, then they are taught classifications of responses including confronting, checking in, counteracting, and collaborating. “I let the students process these examples without any of those [classifications] because I find that sometimes when students are given words for things, they’re not going to explain what it means to them,” Smith says.
From the descriptive data collected from the post-program surveys, students who have completed Leading Change have attested to feeling “more prepared and empowered to intervene in instances of harmful behavior” and have cited the discussion-based nature of the program as its most effective feature. Smith also uses survey feedback to tailor the training specifically to Hamilton students’ experiences on College Hill, another characteristic that has led to the program’s success. “You get to hear from the students, which is the most important thing,” she says.
Smith majored in psychology at Hamilton.