For students who struggle with substance abuse, Kathryn Byrne, director, writing center, is here to help.
Her bookshelf is stuffed with books written decades ago. Her wall is decorated with abstract pictures and posters that only she knows the meaning of. Her desk is scattered with papers, spirals and topped with a half-filled glass of water.
To some, this type of work space is deemed as cluttered, but to Kathryn Byrne, this is a space where she brainstorms ideas and methods to help students succeed.
“It all has meaning,” Byrne said. “That’s why I have it in here. It makes me who I am. While I don’t reflect on certain items, I reflect on the students [who gave me] some of the materials.”
Byrne holds two positions at the college. The first is as a Counseling Addressing Substance Abuse Issues (CASAI) worker, the second is as the college’s writing center director.
CASAI is an organization that started in 2009 at the college. It teaches students about alcohol, drug and gambling addictions. Byrne is one of eight faculty members in the organization. She joined three years ago after the college put out a request for more workers.
Byrne and a handful of other CASAI members conducted a major project several semesters ago in the CoLab. The project involved a four-day presentation on the different types of addiction, such as sex and gambling addictions.
In addition to presentations, CASAI also airs films related to addiction once a month. The latest was a PBS film called “Addiction,” which focused on the opioid crisis and its spread in the United States.
“[The presentations and films] were well-received by students,” Byrne said. “[The presenters] asked a variety of questions that really sparked their interest. Our mission is to give information out about substance abuse and addiction, so people are aware of what we do. I thought we did a good job of that.”
Byrne says that several students in the past have come up to her and spoke about their experience with alcohol and substance abuse, admitting that Byrne and CASAI have helped them in the recovery process.
“Even if they’re drug or alcohol free, I have had students stop by to talk about what they’re dealing with,” Bryne said. “Sometimes they are in crisis looking for help, sometimes they want a shoulder to cry on.”
Through it all, Byrne takes great pride in what she does throughout the college community, whether it’s serving on CASAI or at the writing center.
Byrne said, “I’m very proud of what we [CASAI] do, there’s a million kids that need addiction help. Hopefully our program can start by impacting one. I love what I do, I absolutely love it. I get a chance everyday close-up to impact students’ lives, to make them better people. To me, that’s what it’s all about.”