Miami wins NASPA Award for "Students Fight Back: Stepping Up Against Violence" Program

Large group of students posing on stage during the Students Fight Back program in September.

Miami University was recently honored with the "Outstanding Peer Education Program Award" from NASPA Peer Education Initiatives for the program, "Students Fight Back: Stepping Up Against Violence." The award recognizes the program's excellence in creativity, effectiveness, and campus awareness and education.

The award-winning program, held in September 2023, was a collaborative effort involving the HAWKS Peer Health Educators, Miami University’s Intercollegiate Athletics, and It’s on Us – Miami chapter. This collaboration underscores the university's commitment to addressing important societal issues through teamwork and shared leadership.

The program, attended by over 600 students, aimed to enhance students' self-efficacy in preventing problems from escalating, effectively intervening on another's behalf, and ultimately protecting themselves and others.

Leslie Haxby McNeill, assistant director of student wellness at Miami, highlighted the history of bystander education at Miami, explaining that the university has been collaborating with various student groups for several years, with a specific focus on bystander awareness.

"We try to do something early in the year for students to develop the tools and confidence to intervene early, before a situation becomes more serious," McNeill explained.

The program featured Nicole Snell, founder of the "Students Fight Back" organization. During the event, Snell explained the history and evolution of the organization from “Girls Fight Back” to “Students Fight Back,” underscoring the fact that anyone can experience violence and anyone can step in to help.

Snell brought a unique approach to bystander education, encouraging students to actively engage in activities and even demonstrate self-defense techniques on stage. “We are trained to be nice to people,” said McNeill. “And Nicole talked about how we need to pay attention to our intuition and when something doesn’t feel right.”

The program provided a dynamic and empowering experience for participants, as demonstrated by student feedback after the event.

4 HAWKS peer health educators holding up the award in San Francisco.HAWKS peer health educators traveled to San Francisco to accept the award.“I was thinking I would come to this presentation to sleep but I’m even more wide awake,” one student wrote. “She’s very engaging and very interactive. She’s a bold woman for doing the things she does!”

The NASPA award for "Outstanding Peer Education Program" was formally accepted at the NASPA Strategies conference in San Francisco on January 18, 2024.

"This award is not only a testament to the great work of our HAWKS, but it speaks to the meaningful impact of collaborative and strong leadership," said Steve Large, assistant vice president for health and wellness at Miami. “It’s not just a recognition of achievement but a celebration of Miami’s commitment to empowering students and creating positive change.”