George Dowdall, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus

Areas Taught: Criminal Justice, Sociology

Expertise: College Binge Drinking, Substance Abuse, Mental Health and Research Methods

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Combating Collegiate Binge Drinking Through Service

One of the first things that college freshmen are told, often as early as their orientation, is to get involved. Students are encouraged to put as much into their collegiate experience as they expect to get out of it. According to George Dowdall, Ph.D., professor of sociology, involvement in extracurricular activities -- particularly service opportunities -- may help students avoid one of the greatest dangers of this new life on their own: binge drinking.

"Campuses with high community service involvement have low binge drinking rates," Dr. Dowdall observes. He is starting to organize breakthrough research to explore this correlation. "There's a protective aspect involved when students interact with faculty, staff, and administration."

In addition to his research on binge drinking and other substance abuse, Dr. Dowdall is interested in mental health and research methods. His book publications include The Eclipse of the State Mental Hospital (1996) and Finding out What Works and Why: A Guide to Evaluating College Prevention Programs and Policies (2002), and he has published articles in journals such as the American Journal of Public Health and the Journal of Studies on Alcohol. He served as a visiting lecturer for the Harvard School of Public Health and has worked with the school's landmark College Alcohol Study. Dr. Dowdall has also participated in the evaluation of "Philadelphia Safe and Sound," an initiative of the city to improve the well being of its youth, and serves on the Pennsylvania Advisory Council on Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

Dr. Dowdall's goal in his future research is to join with fellow Jesuit institutions to promote service as a detractor from binge drinking. "Service changes the interaction patterns that students share, and as they become less focused on their own lives, they aren't in as much danger of getting into trouble," he says.