Sober dorm community in sight

The new Living Learning Community will likely start next fall.

Sober dorm community in sight

Tyler Gieseke

Two University of Minnesota students are working to create a new Living Learning Community that will provide support and housing for students recovering from alcohol or drug addiction as soon as next fall.

The LLC, which will be open to students of all ages, will overlap with the University group Students Off Booze Enjoying Recovery, a network of students in recovery.

Boynton Health Service and Housing and Residential Life will meet in the next few weeks to determine details like location and number of participants.

Tentatively, the LLC will be housed in Middlebrook Hall.

Business and marketing education senior Sarah Day and psychology senior Bridget McGuinness, who spearheaded the initiative, are both active in SOBER.

The group offers a variety of events for students in recovery, Day said, like going out to dinners and events around the Twin Cities.

It’s the kind of support network that McGuinness and Day hope to offer in recovery housing as well.

This academic year, the University offers 29 LLCs — groups of students living in nearby dormitory rooms who share a common interest. Students are often expected to explore that interest together, by speaking a certain language, for example, or taking a common class.

The recovery LLC will likely include weekly meetings, social events led by member students, and meetings with advisors, said Dave Golden, Boynton’s director of public health and communications.

Students could also be involved in service work and training to mentor other students in recovery, said ThanhVan Vu, a Boynton chemical health counselor.

Although there will be some overlap with SOBER, Golden said, students in the LLC won’t be required to join the group.

Most new LLCs start off with about 20 students, said Kristie Feist, assistant director for HRL. That way, space won’t be overcommitted and HRL can determine whether it needs to shrink or grow the number of students going forward.

Deciding which LLCs will be offered year after year is a “fluid” process, she said. An average of two are created every year. If interest in an LLC is dwindling, it’ll be discontinued, at least temporarily.

A growing community

In the past, the University has been criticized for not providing adequate resources to students recovering from addiction. Day and McGuinness hope to change that.

Day, a business and marketing education senior, said she doesn’t want incoming students to go through what she did.

As a transfer student, she said, making friends was hard enough. But as a student in recovery, it was even harder because she had to build relationships without going out on weekends.

McGuinness, a psychology senior, said Minnesota is known as the “land of 10,000 treatment centers.”

“There’s a lot of young people in recovery looking for options,” she said.

The difference between addiction and abuse, Day said, is that addiction is a long-term disease. About one half of lifetime substance use disorders begin by age 14, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In recent years, the number of students in SOBER has grown. When McGuinness joined the group, she said, there were about four members. A year later, membership neared 20.

Other schools in Minnesota, like Augsburg College, already have recovery housing, McGuinness said. These programs were part of the inspiration for the recovery LLC at the University.

McGuinness and Day said they hope a University housing community will help students find the support they need.

“I want other students that are in recovery to have the chance to have a college experience,” Day said. “I just don’t want other people to have to go through what I went through.”