about the best life campaign

The Tompkins Cortland Best Life Campaign is a campus-wide health communication initiative that promotes positive academic and social behavior in our campus community.

Using a blend of statistics and messages around mental, physical, and emotional health, Best Life speaks to students in a non-judgmental way with respect and empathy. At its core, Best Life is a social norming campaign focused on reducing the consequences of alcohol and drug use (AOD).

Because the challenges of college are complex, interwoven, and unique, Best Life also addresses the broader student experience with the same positive, student-focused language. We intend to embed Best Life into the culture of our campus. We expect Best Life to soon be in students’ vernacular, shining a light on their highs and lows, the efforts they take towards success, and the multitude of opportunities and support that are here for them along the way.


To promote a campus culture of positive, success-oriented thinking and behavior by:

  • Correcting students’ misperceptions of their peers’ beliefs, attitudes and behaviors
  • Emboldening students who abstain from unhealthy and high-risk behavior
  • Affirming students’ experiences and challenges while connecting them with campus and community resources
  • Fostering opportunities for campus-wide dialogue around norms, expectations, and what it means to be living a best life at Tompkins Cortland


How can you use Best Life to better connect with and support our students?

  1. Buy into it. Take the time to read the messages. Think about the statistics. Look for and display the images. Check out the website. Reflect on your own best life and bring it all into your interactions with students in and out of the classroom.
  2. Try to be comfortable in the uncomfortable. We’re in this together. Students may disagree with a statistic, “that’s not true!” they exclaim. Dig deeper. “Why? How do you know?” Our data is good but misperceptions will persist and individual’s experiences are vastly different. Most importantly, engage with them around these topics. Want ideas, talking points, suggestions, research, resources, or tools? Ask us. We’re happy to help.
  3. Be creative. If you are faculty, use your experience and skills to incorporate Best Life into your classes. We can help you develop projects, research topics and more. If you are staff, find a way to incorporate Best Life into your interactions with students and/or programs and services.
  4. Join us. Get involved by helping us with tabling, student programs, events and other ways to make the campaign come to life.
  5. Share your ideas and insights. We want to hear from you. It is important for students to be talking about their best life and the Best Life Campaign. We hope you’ll be listening. It might not all be good but that’s ok. Feedback will enable us to continue to improve our efforts.


Alcohol, drugs, and college have a long, complicated history together. Movies and music, experiences of family or friends, or current events often lead students to assume alcohol and drug abuse is all but expected in college. However, though some students abuse alcohol or drugs, the reality is far different from the perception of many. Alcohol and drug abuse is not the norm for most students, yet it is undeniable that college can place young people at an elevated risk of experiencing alcohol and drug-related consequences.

  • College students make up one of the largest groups of drug abusers nationwide.
  • Heavy drinking and drug use is associated with negative outcomes for students.
  • Young people ages 18 to 24 are at a heightened risk of addiction.
  • About 1/4 of the nation’s college students meet the definition of having a problem with substance abuse or dependence.
  • 5% of Tompkins Cortland students report being in recovery from alcohol or drug dependence.
  • 25% of Tompkins Cortland students report high-risk alcohol use.
  • 10% of Tompkins Cortland students report daily marijuana use.

(Data from the OASAS College Environmental Prevention Survey, administered by the Research Institute on Addictions, University of Buffalo, Fall 2017)

Our collective efforts toward student success have always included recognition of the whole student and their individual strengths, resources, and challenges including mental and physical health, relationships, financial security, alcohol and drug abuse, and more. Best Life opens a door for us to connect with and assist students in a unique new way.

Additional Resources

National Social Norms Center at Michigan State University 


How the Campaign was developed 

Campaign Team: 

  • Sara Watrous, AOD Prevention Coordinator
  • Matt Kiechle, Assistant Director For Health Education
  • Timothy Thompson, Coordinator of Multicultural Services
  • Alaina Ryan, Student Success Advisor
  • Amber Boulay, Residence Director
  • Michael Oyelola, Residence Director
  • Gio Isaacs, Residence Director

With support/involvement from:

Ashley Dickson (alumni), Dominique Hinds (alumni), Logan Patrick (current student), and Keif Gonzalez (current student). 


Phase 1 (Fall 2017-Spring 2018): Assessment or collection of data to inform the message

  • Over 372 students were surveyed (20% of students who use our main campus)
  • We conducted Focus Groups with almost 100 students
  • We collected data from Campus Police, Student Conduct, Residential Life and community agencies.
  • We interviewed and worked with various staff and faculty across campus

Phase 2 (Summer 2018): Worked with consultants to develop campaign and a roll-out plan 

Phase 3 (Ongoing): Evaluation of the effectiveness of the message


campaign Samples