Arcadia University’s Office of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Prevention & Education (OSVPE), led by Sexual Violence Prevention Coordinator Alison Berk and students, has received the Outstanding Peer Educator Program Award from NASPA, a worldwide association for student affairs administrators in higher education. NASPA representatives were particularly impressed with the office’s Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month programming in April.
“This award is really a reflection of the persistence and dedication of our peer educators,” said Alison Berk, coordinator of the OSVPE at Arcadia University. “Given the fact that so many of our students were not on campus last year, all of our programming needed to be accessible enough for those off-campus, but still engaging enough to draw physical attendance for those on campus. These programs were all designed and led by our undergraduate peer educators who really saw the need for sexual and gender-based violence prevention programming to continue and stepped up. It makes sense to me that NASPA recognized their hard work.”
Among the initiatives OSVPE introduced or expanded upon at Arcadia include in areas of student conduct, victim services, public safety, and comprehensive prevention. The office was created through a three-year, $300,000 grant the university received in 2018 from the Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women (OVW). Arcadia is one of only 57 higher education institutions across the country, and three in Pennsylvania, to receive a grant from OVW to address sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.
The goal of the grant and the office is to provide resources, information, and referrals to campus community members who have been impacted by sexual or gender-based violence, and to examine campus policies, procedures, and programming related to addressing and preventing sexual and gender-based violence. This is accomplished by focusing on four areas: student conduct, comprehensive prevention programming, public/safety/law enforcement, and victim services.
So far, OSVPE has reimagined how faculty and staff are trained to work with community members who have experienced sexual and gender-based violence; established the GoodKnights, a peer educator program for students; crafted an online safety plan program for community members who might be living and working in unsafe locations during the pandemic; and started the “You Do You” campaign for survivors to address their experiences however they are comfortable.
Berk, whose position at Arcadia was created through the grant, joined the University in March 2019. Previously, she spent seven years as coordinator of Prevention Education Initiatives & Student Conduct at The College of Charleston in South Carolina. At Arcadia, Berk oversees the assessment, implementation, and sustainability of the grant programming, including campus surveying, prevention programming, and capacity building with law enforcement training.