Dr. Alicia Battle, Assistant Professor in Governors State University’s Department of Addictions Studies and Behavioral Health, is right at home at Prairie Place, the university’s three-story dorm. As the Faculty-in-Residence, Battle maintains a high profile among the hundreds of students living on campus.
She does laundry in the laundry room, shares meals, and hosts a weekly series called The Professor is In, a Wednesday night homework session held in the dorm’s Great Room. Inevitably, Battle said, the conversation turns.
“They start with a homework question then it lapses to a life question,’’ she said.
Battle views every student interaction—from the classroom to the dining room—as an opportunity to share her vision and model her mantra: We are because I am, and I am because we are. It’s an African proverb that reinforces the health educator’s commitment to community.
“We are all connected. If I’m not well, I can’t give. If we’re both not well, we cease to exist,’’ she said.
Battle joined GSU in 2014, the year the dorm opened for the university’s historic inaugural freshman class. She brings nearly two decades of experience as an author, educator, presenter, and community organizer whose conversations always circle back to health and wellness.
GSU Newsroom: What dimensions comprise wellness and how do they work together?
Battle: The dimensions of wellness are physical, social, intellectual, spiritual, emotional, vocational, and financial. Most people boil it down to physicality. That’s just one piece, and each piece is like the colors on a Rubix cube. Most people can get all the colors on one side together, but everything else is out of whack. You can’t have a conversation about access to healthcare without discussing the fact that you are 18 years old and didn’t vote in the last election which will determine where hospitals will be built. Civic engagement is key to social wellness.
GSU Newsroom: Your research focuses on alcohol addiction among African American students. What’s the connection between alcohol addiction and African American students? And how does this connect to the larger work of health and wellness?
Battle: A Harvard study found African American students do not drink or consume alcohol at the same rate as their white counterparts. That means federal dollars and programming dollars that assist students who have substance abuse issues may not make it to African American students. I did a similar survey at Alabama A&M, though, and found that African American students are drinking at the same rate. I’d like to do my survey at other historically black colleges and universities so we’ll have more compelling numbers. I hope to shed light on alcohol and other drug use among all students of color. Black students are drinking, and if they get caught up, they won’t graduate. If they don’t graduate, they can’t help their family or their community achieve wellness. It’s cyclic.
GSU Newsroom: Why did you choose GSU?
Battle: A professor once said to me, “We need you to go out and get all the information you can, then come back to the community. You can’t help us if you graduate and come right back because you don’t know anything.” Well, I’ve had the chance to hone my craft, and now I can do my research and be part of this transformation at GSU.
GSU Newsroom: How is the Faculty-in-Residence role important to your vision?
Battle: Our Faculty-in-Residence program integrates learning inside and outside of the classroom by providing an instructor who lives on site. I’ve served in this role for two years working with students, the majority of whom look like me. GSU has the means to affect change in the south suburban area. Many of our students live about 20 miles from their original neighborhoods. We have them 24 hours a day to do all the personal and social skills building outside the classroom. We get to provide co-curricular activities that they will take to their jobs once they graduate. We teach students to be civically engaged and why it’s important. It goes back to my ultimate goal: each one; teach one. We are because I am, and I am because we are.