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Ryan M. Travia: Living a Life of Substance

By Tyler G. Hale, Contributing Writer

In an office on the second floor of 7 Linden St., Boston Red Sox figurines hang along the white walls, which are plastered with alcohol awareness posters. The office’s occupant, Ryan M. Travia, is Harvard’s go-to man for alcohol and drugs education on campus.

For the past five years, Travia has served as the director of the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Services. His role involves organizing Harvard’s alcohol education programs, working with treatment providers at University Health Services, and developing policy-based initiatives for the University related to alcohol and drug use.

Travia promptly begins his day at 6 a.m. After eating breakfast, he takes the train to his office—located above the Bureau of Study Counsel—where he first tackles the slew of e-mails in his inbox. Then, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Travia is busy with administrative meetings and student conferences.

AODS advertises its hours as 9 to 5, but most of its student programming occurs at night. Travia said that he participates in most of the after-hours events, and he noted the fast-paced and varied nature of his schedule.

“Every day is different,” Travia said. “That’s what I love about my job.”

Since taking the AODS directorship in 2005, Travia has been involved in creating many of the alcohol and drug education programs at Harvard. Travia has “essentially single-handedly created” AODS and many of the

programs that fall under its umbrella, such as DAPA and Alcohol Communication & Education Skills training for athletes, according to J.P. Chilazi ’10, former president of Drug and Alcohol Peer Advisors.

“None of these programs existed before Ryan was brought to Harvard,” Chilazi wrote in an e-mailed statement.

Leading DAPA, which Travia describes as “the heart and soul of the [AODS],” comprises a significant part of his job. The DAPA program, which began in Jan. 2006, is an organization made up of Harvard undergraduates trained to respond to alcohol and drug-related questions on campus.

The students involved in DAPA, Travia said, are close to his heart.

“I get my inspiration from the DAPAs,” he said. “They try to be good role models.”

The admiration is reciprocated. Cullen D. McAlpine ’11, the current president of DAPA, described Travia as a “gifted mentor and leader” with the unique ability of focusing the energy of a group and inspiring students with his own passion for peer education.

“Ryan cares intensely not only about the DAPAs but also about every member of this community,” Chilazi said. “[T]hat is why he has decided to dedicate his life to improving the health and well-being of students on Harvard’s campus.”

Travia, who received a Master’s degree in education from Boston College, had originally planned to be a teacher. But after working in peer mediation throughout middle and high school, and his undergraduate years at Boston College, Travia fell into his current career.

After finishing graduate school, Travia moved to Dartmouth College to serve as the coordinator of Alcohol and Other Drug Education (Programs). In 2005, Travia took his current job at Harvard.

“It’s been a fun ride,” Travia said.

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