Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Rosalie T. Torres

Second Advisor

Dr. Patrick M. Jenlink

Third Advisor

Dr. Sheila L. Burns


Using a naturalistic inquiry approach, this study sought to generate (a) new insights into the troubling problem of student alcohol abuse as well as (b) a new theoretical basis for alcohol programs. The purpose of the study was to provide a comprehensive understanding of the experiences and characteristics of college students who have discontinued abusive drinking. Using an interview methodology, three main issues were examined: (1) the environmental and personal factors that influenced the participants' drinking behavior and related problems, (2) the factors which hindered or assisted participants in setting and achieving a goal of sobriety or establishing a nonabusive drinking pattern, and (3) the implications of the participants' histories in assisting other students experiencing alcohol abuse problems.

In-depth interviews were conducted with 11 university students who volunteered for the study and reported having had serious alcohol abuse problems as college students. All participants had not experienced any alcohol-related problems for a minimum of six months (either as a result of abstaining from alcohol or becoming light drinkers).

The participants identified the environmental and personal factors influencing their drinking behavior as a combination of opportunity, enjoyment, escape, and improved socialization. In setting a goal of sobriety or problem-free drinking, the participants credited concern over their own mortality, health, or loss of personal identity as the influencing factors. The participants reported achieving sobriety or problem-free drinking as a result of discovering or reaffirming their values and priorities, as well as establishing a supportive peer group with whom feelings could be discussed.

Findings from this study suggest the effectiveness of alcohol programs in higher education settings can be improved by adopting a more student-based and personalized approach than is used in existing programs. A five step process which involves students, staff, and faculty in the design and implementation of site-specific alcohol intervention strategies is described. The study concludes with (a) discussion of university organizational cultures and the implementation of these strategies in those cultures, and (b) recommendations for evaluating the effectiveness of programs based on the strategies.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access