First Alcohol Czar Tapped

Ryan M. Travia arrives from Dartmouth to combat drug and alcohol abuse

Ryan M. Travia, the former coordinator of alcohol and drug education at Dartmouth College, will become Harvard’s first alcohol “czar,” the University announced last month.

As director of alcohol and substance abuse services, Travia will oversee the University’s efforts to address alcohol and health issues among its students. The creation of Travia’s post was recommended last fall by The Committee to Address Alcohol and Health at Harvard, a 13-person, student-faculty committee created by Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 in the fall of 2003 after a steep increase in the number of students admitted to University Health Services (UHS) for alcohol poisoning.

Travia will assume the post August 1.

“Ryan will be responsible for developing, planning, coordinating, and implementing a pretty comprehensive and collaborative program to address alcohol and drug use in the whole University,” according to Director of University Counseling, Academic Support and Mental Health Services Paul J. Barreira.

Travia said his vision for the program is “to promote low-risk choices and healthy decision-making among students.”

He said his agenda includes the creation of a drug and alcohol peer advisor program.

“Under this model, student leaders will receive extensive training on a wide range of issues pertaining to alcohol and other drugs and will be empowered to serve as a resource to their peers,” he wrote in an e-mail.

He wrote that one of his principal aims is to encourage students to take measures to protect themselves from the negative consequences of alcohol consumption.

“My goal will be to support and affirm the positive, healthy choices that most Harvard students are making when it comes alcohol, while designing appropriate interventions for those students who may be presenting at higher-risk for substance abuse and dependency,” he said.

Travia was selected by an 11-member search committee that included two students—a freshman and a senior—as well as Currier House Master Joseph L. Badaracco, who chaired the 2004 committee that initially recommended the creation of the new post.

Barreira described Travia as capable of both “building a consensus about what kinds of programs would be helpful and would work” and achieving “balance between education and policy and law and the use of other kinds of social activities to help students learn to drink in less destructive ways.”

Barreira also praised Travia for his level of expertise, even though he has little experience in the area of alcohol and substance-abuse services.

“All the members of the search committee found him to be thoughtful, knowledgeable, open-minded, and someone who came across with a lot more experience and maturity than one would expect of someone who’s so new in the field,” Barreira said.

Prior to holding his post at Dartmouth, Travia worked as an undergraduate with alcohol and drug education at Boston College.

Travia, who only graduated from Boston College in 2001, declined to tell The Crimson his precise age, saying that he did not believe that his age has any impact on his ability to serve in his position.

Barreira added that the two students on the committee were particularly keen on Travia because they thought he seemed to possess a good understanding of the “mindset and experience of students.”

“They really felt that Ryan had a good sense of what the scene is on college campuses,” he said.

—Staff writer Matthew S. Lebowitz can be reached at mslebow@fas.harvard.edu.