Montana State University

MSU director of Health Promotion takes on national role

October 29, 2012 -- Sepp Jannotta, MSU News Service

Jenny Haubenreiser, director of Health Promotion at Montana State University, is currently serving as board president of the American College Health Association, an organization that provides knowledge, skills, professional development, networking, and national-level advocacy in support of the college health professionals who work to improve the health and wellbeing of the nation's 19 million college students.   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
BOZEMAN - Jenny Haubenreiser has never been busier.

Haubenreiser's duties as director of Health Promotion at Montana State University and those she has as board president of the American College Health Association are combining to do a number on her inbox, her to-do list and her travel schedule.

Haubenreiser, a Colorado native who has worked at MSU for 17 years, said some sacrifices are worth making for the opportunity to be a leader in the discussion about college health, a conversation she continued in Japan this month at an international symposium on college health issues.

"It's been a wild ride, but highly rewarding," said Haubenreiser, who took over as president of ACHA in June. "And surely it's been a high-water mark for my career."

Founded in 1920, the American College Health Association is the principal leadership organization for college health professionals, providing knowledge, skills, professional development, networking, and national-level advocacy to improve the health and wellbeing of the nation's 19 million college students.

Over the past three months, Haubenreiser has been on ACHA-sponsored trips to Washington, D.C., Michigan, Missouri and Texas, while simultaneously implementing MSU's student-led tobacco-free campus policy. The campus became tobacco-free on Aug. 1 after the student government and student body voted to approve a tobacco-free campus policy.

"Tobacco is an important part of a bigger picture," Haubenreiser said. "Most of my work here (at MSU) has been around high-risk drinking and other substance abuse, and to that I've added tobacco. From what I'm learning from the national health (officials), changing behaviors around tobacco may be one of the most important public health efforts to date."

Haubenreiser's ACHA work has revolved around helping campuses that wish to become tobacco free.

For Haubenreiser, working in college health requires taking into account the unique perspectives of students in their late teens and early twenties.

"For starters, you're dealing with a population that essentially sees itself as invulnerable to harm," Haubenreiser said. "So it becomes about trying to affect change within this culture, because that is the context in which harm occurs."

The issues she has addressed during her years at MSU include substance abuse, sexual health, violence and tobacco use. In the end, Haubenreiser said MSU Health Promotion uses all the tools it can - current research and data, as well as proven strategies - to help the university achieve its goal of educating students to lead healthier lives.

Haubenreiser said efforts to curtail excessive alcohol consumption have dominated her work with Health Promotion at MSU. Over the past ten years, she has also headed up a community alcohol coalition and worked with Mothers Against Drunk Driving in the push to toughen state penalties for offenders. She will now serve on the President's Commission on Substance Abuse, recently inaugurated by MSU President Waded Cruzado.

There have been extra efforts to reach out to MSU's freshmen, which Haubenreiser calls the university's high-risk population, especially when it comes to binge drinking and other substance-abuse behaviors.

"There's a curve," she said. "Freshmen come in without the sense that they can drink in moderation. Then the average shifts as you get into the older student populations, where attitudes become more focused on having a good time, and to be sure, drinking is often a part of that, but it occurs within another context and in more moderation."

Jim Mitchell, director of the MSU Health Service, said Haubenreiser's work at MSU and as a member of ACHA has raised the bar for health promotion on college campuses across the country.

"She's been a force on this campus and within ACHA," said Mitchell, who also served as ACHA president. "And I think it is great for MSU that Jenny is taking part in a national effort to support student health. It raises the profile of our university and our efforts to help our students succeed."

Haubenreiser, who has been involved with ACHA almost as long as she's been a college health professional, said being a spokesperson for the group, while a time consuming job, was an honor.

"I get to take an active role in helping the health professionals who are looking after the millions of college students around the country," Haubenreiser said. "We really are a specialized part of the health field."

Haubenreiser said it's been gratifying to engage in the national conversation about student health. It is the same feeling she has in knowing that her work at MSU might help students make healthier choices, hopefully "throughout their lives, not just while on campus."

"Again it comes back to culture," she said. "Culture change is facilitated by policy - education alone is never sufficient. The problem is that change is hard, which is why public health policy work is difficult. But in the end it's worth it."

Contact: Sepp Jannotta,, (406) 994-7371.