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Transformational Change Initiative

Regional News

Parenting tips can reduce substance use in first‑year college students

PULLMAN, Wash. — May 19, 2023 — A handbook designed to help parents become advisors and coaches to their young adult children leaving for their first year of college has been shown to increase family connections and decrease risky behaviors like drug and alcohol use, according to a recent paper led by Washington State University researchers.

Evidence of the handbook’s positive impact was published in the journal Prevention Science. Self-reports of 30‑day alcohol use increased by 39% for control students once they got to college, but only 28% for students whose families used the book. Cannabis use went up 23% for control students, but only 16% for intervention students.

“The handbook gives parents evidence-based guidance for threading the needle of supporting students’ autonomy and maintaining a parental role,” said Laura Hill, a WSU professor and corresponding author on the paper. “It’s not about telling students what to do or to not drink. It’s about communicating clear expectations maintaining the strong connections that have developed over the previous 18 years of parenting.”

Read full story in the WSU Insider →

Changing Your Teaching Takes More Than a Recipe

Professors have been urged to adopt more effective practices. Why are their results so mixed?

March 9, 2023 — Beckie Supiano, Senior Writer for The Chronicle of Higher Education

Read this article in The Chronicle of Higher Education that discusses how the WSU Transformational Change Initiative and LIFT Faculty Fellowship program enable professors to develop a particular active-learning approach that works in their own teaching context.

LIFT inspires WSU Everett colleagues to go above and beyond in support of student success

EVERETT, Wash. — Jan. 24, 2019 — Engineering, communication and business students are working together at WSU Everett under a merged coursework project launched this spring by three faculty members exploring greater opportunities for interdisciplinary studies. Read full story →

A new study will help researchers discover the best ways for parents to support their children in college

January 18, 2017 — Katherine Long, Seattle Times higher education reporter

Washington State University has received a five-year, $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to examine how parents can best support their children while in college. The money will go to study the effects of a handbook WSU gives to parents called “Letting Go and Staying Connected with your WSU Student,” which at this time is available only in print.

“It’s a very cool handbook, because it gives parents two things: a set of activities they can do with their students to identify their most important values, and to show how those values could help them make decisions on issues they’d likely to encounter when they’re in college,” said Laura Hill, head of WSU’s Department of Human Development and one of the authors of the handbook. College-age kids do actually value their parents’ opinions, even if they seem to act otherwise, Hill said. The handbook includes research to prove that point.

WSU has distributed the handbook free to parents for the past two years, but the university doesn’t really know if the advice is effective, or if it’s being used. That’s where the NIH grant comes in.

College-age kids do actually value their parents’ opinions, even if they seem to act otherwise, Hill said.

Starting in summer 2017, the grant will fund a study that follows incoming students and their parents through four years of college. Three groups will be studied: families who don’t receive the handbook, families who do receive the handbook and families who receive the handbook and also receive reminders — in the form of text messages and emails — about what they learned from it. If researchers can prove the handbook is successful at guiding college students, Hill hopes it can become a template for other schools.

Hill and WSU colleague Brittany Cooper developed the handbook with help from two experts in the University of Washington’s School of Social Work, Richard Catalano and Kevin Haggerty.

She said the handbook is unique because it gives parents activities to do with their children to help them prepare for the decisions they’ll have to make in college. And it helps parents find ways to guide decision-making, rather than providing ready-made solutions. For example, Hill said, if your daughter calls up to complain about a messy roommate, the handbook “helps parents guide students to think about what to do, instead of just telling their student what to do.”

Katherine Long: (206) 464-2219 or

Read story in the Seattle Times