About Us

Our Mission

A program run through Counseling and Psychological Services at the University at Albany, the Middle Earth Peer Assistance Program provides telephone hotline (518-442-5777), online peer assistance, and peer education to assist students in meeting their educational goals and in coping with emotional, social, and other life issues that they face. Since its beginning in 1970, its primary focus has been on alcohol and other drug prevention as it relates to these issues. An additional mission of the program is to strive toward increased diversity within the organization so that services offered may be most sensitive to the individual needs and experiencesof the widest cross-section of students on our diverse campus.

History

In 1970, a University at Albany student, Louis Ringe '71 and two other students had a dream and took action to make it come to fruition. They envisioned the establishment of a crisis hotline on campus to respond to the needs of students who were affected by personal concerns and societal events of the time, such as the drug crisis, the Vietnam War, and civil rights issues. In the spring of 1970, with the assistance of the University Counseling Center, the dream of these students was realized, and a student-operated hotline, CRISIS 5300, was born.

The efforts of these students did not end upon their graduation from the University at Albany. As years passed, CRISIS 5300 gained momentum. Upon its renaming as "Middle Earth" in 1973, grant funds were secured by the Dean of Students, Lois Gregg, to expand Middle Earth into a comprehensive peer counseling and peer education agency. Middle Earth quickly gained a reputation as a leader in peer assistance, consulting on the development of similar programs at other colleges and universities across the state, speaking to young people about alcohol and drug abuse prevention, and training professionals, such as hospital personnel, teachers, and overseas operators for New York Telephone, on ways to recognize and address crisis situations. In 1983, Middle Earth expanded its horizons by sponsoring its first Sexuality Week, an event that continues today.

Today, Middle Earth carries the same name and logo, but the look of the agency has evolved with our times. The agency continues to operate a student-staffed hotline service and peer education program under the supervision of a Director who is a licensed psychologist. Middle Earth operates one of the few surviving student-staffed hotlines in the country, and it is the only hotline of its type that services the Albany County area. Students can perform services for Middle Earth for course credit through the Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology. The agency is funded both by the University and by the Student Association, making it a student organization that enjoys the rights and benefits of University affiliation.

The nature and scope of Middle Earth services have also evolved with our changing times. While its mission continues to focus on providing services to assist students in achieving their educational and personal goals, this mission is carried out in a more proactive, preventive manner. For example, the impact of HIV/AIDS on our lives today could have never been imagined by a Middle Earth volunteer of the 1970's or early 1980's, nor was there as much of a focus in society or in Middle Earth training on the importance of issues such as personal safety, eating disorders, and human diversity. While CRISIS 5300's first hotline service was operated by less than ten students and was housed for a time in a converted closet in the Campus Center, today's Middle Earth volunteers number over 160, and its offices are located in the basement of Seneca Hall, on Indian Quad, as a service arm of Counseling and Psychological Services, Division of Student Affairs.

The look of Middle Earth consumers has also changed. During the 2009-2010 year, the hotline service received over 1,600 contacts. Males requested slightly more services than did females, perhaps suggesting that males prefer to seek services anonymously. The three primary issues of concern for students who contacted the hotline were peer relationship issues, sexuality concerns, and psychological concerns. In addition, the Middle Earth outreach education program devoted its 2010 Sexuality Week to a discussion of race, gender, and sexuality hosted by author and political expert Keith Boykin. Through Sexuality Week, over 10,000 students and community members were reached. Middle Earth has been recognized as a national model for its work by the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and other national, state, and local organizations.

In 1970, a student had a dream and, with the help of administrators who cared, did something with it. Forty years later, the dream is still alive because over 1,400 alumni and alumnae, over 160 students, and a number of administrators and student leaders are continuing to support this very important community service.

Program Awards

The impact of the Middle Earth Program has been recognized by the following local, state, and national awards:

  • 2016 SUNY Chief Student Affairs Officers’ Excellence Award
  • 2016 Student Association Group of the Year Award
  • BACCHUS-NASPA National Outstanding Group Award (2015)
  • Student Association Purple and Gold Award for Student group of the Year (2014)
  • Student Association Purple and Gold Award for Community Service (2014)
  • BACCHUS Network Outstanding School Exhibit Award (2013)
  • President Barack Obama’s Community Service Honor Roll (2012)
  • BACCHUS Network Outstanding Network Affiliate(2012)
  • University at Albany President’s Award for Leadership (2011)
  • BACCHUS Network Outstanding Network Affiliate(2010)
  • BACCHUS Network Outstanding School Exhibit Award (2010)
  • BACCHUS Network Outstanding Chapter (2010)
  • Student Leadership Award-Outstanding Student Organization Great Dane Award (2009)
  • BACCHUS Network Outstanding School Exhibit Award (2009)
  • BACCHUS Network Outstanding School Exhibit Award (2007)
  • BACCHUS Network Outstanding Program Award for Alcohol Awareness Week presentation “The Real World UAlbany” (2007)
  • BACCHUS Network Outstanding Student Award- Jennifer A. Roman (2007)
  • Student Leadership Award-Outstanding Student Organization Award (2007)
  • New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Statewide Award to Develop A New York State Public Service Announcement Addressing Underage Drinking in College Students (2007)
  • BACCHUS Network Outstanding Student Award- Carolyn Ortiz (2006)
  • New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Grant ($25,000) to Develop A Public Service Announcement Addressing Underage Drinking in College Students (2006)
  • Dominion Foundation Corporate Gift ($35,000) to support student conference participation in the BACCHUS Network General Assembly and Area 11 Spring Conferences as well as other conferences (2007)
  • BACCHUS Outstanding Network Affiliate Award (2004)
  • President’s Undergraduate Leadership Award for Outstanding Organization Advisor (2005)
  • BACCHUS and GAMMA Outstanding Area 11 Affiliate Award (2005)
  • BACCHUS and GAMMA Outstanding Network Affiliate Award (2004)
  • BACCHUS and GAMMA Outstanding School Exhibit Award (2004)
  • NIAAA Rapid Response to College Drinking Grant ($849,057) (2004)
  • Dominion Foundation Corporate Gifts ($25,000) to support student conference participation in the BACCHUS and GAMMA General Assembly and Area 11 Spring Conferences as well as other conferences (2004 and 2005)
  • BACCHUS and GAMMA Outstanding Network Affiliate Award (2003)
  • BACCHUS and GAMMA Outstanding School Exhibit Award (2003)
  • Exemplary Substance Abuse Prevention Program Award, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, United States Department of Health and Human Services (2002)
  • Inclusion in Promising Practices (1999)
  • Model Program for Alcohol and Drug Prevention, United States Department of Education (2000)
  • BACCHUS and GAMMA Outstanding Program Advisor Award (1999)
  • Inclusion in the Templeton Guide to College and Character for Outstanding Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention Programs (1999)
  • President’s Undergraduate Leadership Award for Outstanding Organization Advisor (1998)
  • J.C. Penney Golden Rule Award (1996)
  • New York State Senate and Assembly Recognition Award (1995)
  • Silver Anniversary Plaque for University Service (1995)
  • Student Association Community Service Award (1994)
  • University at Albany President’s Outstanding Student Organization Award (1994)
  • J.C. Penney Golden Rule Award (1993)
  • President’s Undergraduate Leadership Award for Outstanding Organization Advisor (1993)
  • Distinguished Student Award, Psychological Association of Northeastern New York (1993)

10 Reasons Why Middle Earth Works for Students

  1. Since 1970, Middle Earth has provided hotline services to over 115,000 students and outreach education programs to over 165,000 persons.
  2. Middle Earth was begun by students in 1970 and has continued to support one of the only surviving student-operated hotlines in the United States today.
  3. Middle Earth was a pioneer in the outreach education area, sponsoring programs for students as early as 1972.
  4. Middle Earth offers critical peer assistance services to the campus and capital district area during evenings and weekends, times in which other campus and community agencies are closed.
  5. Middle Earth members are trained to work with other students in addressing a number of campus issues, such as alcohol and drug abuse, relationship concerns, eating disorders, diversity issues, and other areas.
  6. Some students feel more comfortable speaking with their trained peers from Middle Earth on topics such as alcohol and other drugs, peer relationships, sexuality concerns, and psychological issues.
  7. Middle Earth distributes information to the campus community regarding both academic and personal topics in many ways, particularly through workshops, theme weeks, informational exhibits, a column in our student newspaper, and handouts and flyers.
  8. Middle Earth provides an excellent undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral training opportunity for students who are interested in entering the helping and human services professions, such as psychology, social work, medicine, teaching, and related fields.
  9. Middle Earth members who pursue graduate study in the helping professions are often noted to be ahead of their classmates in skill levels in both master’s and doctoral degree programs.
  10. Middle Earth provides the highest quality of service, efforts which have been recognized by awards from the White House and President Barack Obama, the United States Department of Education, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the Psychological Association of Northeastern New York, the BACCHUS Network, and the President's Undergraduate Leadership Awards Program.

Sample Public Service Announcements:

You’re Not Alone

This video PSA focuses on encouraging help-seeking and referral for mental health services on campus. Middle Earth students developed the script for the PSA and comprise the actors in the video, and the PSA is broadcasted on the university cable TV system.

You Are Not Alone, Part 2

This video PSA focuses on providing facts about depression among college students and reducing stigma around seeking counseling services. Middle Earth students developed the script for the PSA and comprise the actors in the video, and the PSA is broadcasted on the university cable TV system.

The “iKnow Campaign: Reducing Alcohol Use on Campus

This video PSA focuses on providing students on the University at Albany campus with accurate statistics about alcohol use and ways that students reduce their risks associated with alcohol. Middle Earth students developed the script for the PSA and comprise the actors in the video. The PSA earned the top prize in a statewide competition sponsored by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and was subsequently adapted for release across the state.

Award-Winning New York State Alcohol Abuse Prevention Video

This video PSA was based on the award-winning “iKnow” video PSA developed by Middle Earth for the University at Albany campus. The video, which includes Middle Earth students and students from other college campuses as actors, provides students in New York State with accurate statistics about alcohol use across the state and ways that students reduce their risks associated with alcohol. Included as part of the “I Decide” campaign by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, this PSA was shown in movie theatres and local and cable TV outlets across New York.