New Class on Drugs and Alcohol

When Stephanie Whalen made the jump from high school to college, the former honors student fell victim to the party scene, making drinking a pastime until being scared straight by a dismal first-semester GPA.

Now a Harper College assistant professor, she'll draw on that experience - and troubling statistics - in a first-time course aimed at teaching new students the college-age realities of alcohol and drugs and helping them make healthy choices as they transition to campus life.

The six-credit course, "Make It or Break It: Drug Use and Abuse in College," blends a new student success seminar and an existing "Drugs in Our Culture" course with an eye on getting students to examine the impact that drugs and alcohol can have on their ability to succeed.

The course is unique, Whalen says, in that it allows students to explore themselves and drugs rather than just the drugs themselves.

"No matter where they go to college, today's students are seldom given the opportunity to take an honest look at the high-risk drinking and drugging that too often can be part of the culture," Whalen says.

She'll teach the course alongside Pardess Mitchell, a Harper instructor who also enjoyed partying in college until she was sobered by academic probation. She later had to work twice as hard to get her GPA back where she wanted it to be.

"College students binge on alcohol at a higher rate than their non-college peers," Mitchell says. "This course will help them realize the risk that can put on their academic goals."

The duo hopes students will leave able to make more informed decisions that help them find success at Harper and beyond. Nearly half of all academic difficulties and nearly one-third of the decisions to drop out of college are a result of alcohol abuse.

"I was able to slow down and go from academic warning to dean's list in a short time. Some never can slow down. Some don't even make it past their first year of school," Whalen says. "This is an opportunity to boost the numbers of students who complete their degree."

Students will be required to develop personal plans that include their purpose for being in college and their strategies for surviving and thriving academically. They'll also navigate hypothetical situations in problem-solving teams. The class, which begins September 17 and meets for 12 weeks on Monday and Wednesday, is open to all students.

For more information or to enroll, call 847.925.6000 or visit

Press Contact: Erin Brooks, Media Relations Manager, 847.925.6159,