Campus Closeup: Lenny Shible
Lenny Shible’s job is to broach topics many people don’t want to talk about, from sexual health and dating violence to problems associated with gambling or the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. All are highly relevant to the college-age population and can adversely impact students’ academic performance. As NMU’s health promotion specialist, he strives to raise awareness of these issues through class and residence hall presentations, public displays, media campaigns, Skill Builder workshops and risk management seminars for student organizations. But because an informative-yet-fun approach seems most effective in creating a captive audience, there’s also the occasional condom carnival or root beer bong bash.
“It’s tough dealing with a population who thinks they know it all or have heard it all, so you need to present the subject matter with a different twist and make sure it’s interactive,” Shible said. “I draw my energy from the students. It’s rewarding to see people who might have been blowing off the material suddenly look up and pay attention when they hear something that challenges their assumptions or when they learn something new they weren’t expecting.
“The number of students introduced to alcohol, dating and sexual activity for the first time in college isn’t significant—many come here with those experiences—but our position is that if we can affect one student, that is significant. We don’t expect to change behavior overnight. We’re planting the seed through education and prevention efforts. We also make it clear we’re available if and when they struggle with social health issues or know others who are struggling. Alcohol is a big one. My insight, though it’s not scientifically validated, is that 60-80 percent of incidents on campus such as academic problems, arrests or disciplinary issues are driven by alcohol.”
The resource room next to Shible’s office in the University Center brims with related pamphlets, posters and visual aids (he is pictured there with student Nichole Cyr). There are pocket cards that chart blood alcohol level based on weight and the number of drinks consumed over various time periods (phone numbers for local cab companies are listed on the back). There are also Frisbees featured at the recent health fair that tout the value of proper eating, sleeping and exercise habits.
“With the president’s move toward a healthier student body and workforce, we’ll do more with fitness and nutrition. I have community health students working with me and we’ve had good relationships with nursing and HPER. Better collaboration among units that provide services related to health will be increasingly important as we move forward. We need to know what the others are doing so we can tie it all together.”
Shible had done similar work at Ferris State University. The added role of counseling students confined him to an office more than he liked, so in 1999, he applied at NMU, where he is able to travel all over campus focusing on prevention, education, awareness and outreach.
The Maine native took an indirect path to Michigan that was dotted with education- or career-related stops in various locations. During a stint in Washington, D.C., Shible held a unique post created in the wake of the 1983 Congressional page sex scandal. As resident director, Shible was responsible for monitoring the pages—all high school students—outside of their official duties with the goal of thwarting inappropriate encounters with members of the House of Representatives. He stayed in their housing complex, enforced a curfew, ate meals with them in the Capitol dining hall and collaborated with the Senate Page School. “This was the first time in history that the pages had some type of after-hours supervision.”
Another surprising tidbit is that Shible played Santa several years ago alongside wife Cheri’s elf for a six-week stretch at the Westwood Mall in Marquette. He was recruited for the same role at a holiday party for the NMU student affairs division. “Being Jewish, that was a different experience,” he laughed.
Favorite hobbies include serving as a slow-pitch softball umpire, fishing, repurposing items obtained from auctions or thrift stores, spending time with two children and three grandchildren and taking care of Cody, the couple’s 14-year-old Bouvier, or Belgian cattle dog.