Campus DUI prevention program collaborates with SDSU graphic design students

by Christine Whitman, Senior Staff Writer

The Center for Alcohol and Drug Studies and Services is a project established by San Diego State in an effort to address alcohol and other drug-related issues within the campus and outside community.

Within the umbrella of the center is the Driving Under the Influence Program, a primary prevention program that provides counseling and education for people convicted of driving under the influence. Now serving San Diego’s Central District, the program began in 1991 to help people avoid future DUI behaviors and explore their relationships with drugs or alcohol.

Program coordinators, counselors, clinicians and staff wanted to send a clear, appealing and non-threatening message of community and safety through art, which is where the collaboration with the SDSU School of Art and Design began.

“The biggest barrier of someone getting help is shame and stigma,” Barker said. “We as a community need to overcome stigma and shame, that way participants can drop their defenses and engage in self-examination strategies. It’s not an individual problem, it’s a societal problem.”

In terms of strategy, the program strives to provide a safe, stable, non-judgmental and trauma-informed environment for all participants.

“Our approach is recognizing that people who have severe alcohol or drug addiction may have co-occurring mental health disorders or trauma histories,” executive and clinical director Melanie Barker said. “We want to create an environment that recognizes the individual’s capacity to make the right decisions for themselves and to know what they need for themselves.”

Each program participant is required to complete 12 hours of education. The length of the program depends on conviction. Although three months is standard, it can last any time from six weeks to 12 months for a first conviction and 12 to 18 months for multiple convictions.

After the education period, the program facilitates motivational interviewing, self-help recovery meetings for support and guidance and one-on-one or group counseling sessions.

Under the direction of graphic design lecturer Chris McCampbell, 16 graphic design students were contracted in February to create eight large murals to hang on the facility’s walls. Students worked directly with the client’s vision and a set budget to complete the project in less than four months.

“My class deals specifically with issues of larger-scale graphics and things that exist in the built environment,” McCampbell said. “I come from that professional design world, so I think the experience of really dealing with the client is something students need to have.”

The art collaboration allowed students to work in groups of two, market their work and develop as graphic artists. The students got to also work out the program’s philosophy through their own lens.

“Students have their own personal voices in the project,” McCampbell said. “As graphic designers, they have their own visual language and style and working with another student to create something they’re both proud of is not an experience they all get very often.”

The murals will be permanently installed within the facility Friday, May 6.