Carl Andersen shares the center’s unique history and his role in starting a national model for collegiate recovery
With his struggles on the road to recovery, Carl Andersen, Ph.D., knew better than most how collegiate recovery communities were needed on a college campus like Texas Tech. Andersen's son fell down a similar path to recovery—at the time, he was enrolled at Texas Tech. Without a resource for students in recovery at the university, Andersen set out to create what would later become the Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities (CCRC).
“It starts with the fact that I was a chronic alcoholic and my son followed in my footsteps,” Andersen said. “In 1987, he was in treatment, and his counselor said our statistics show that when an adolescent goes back to where he came from, that 90% of them will relapse. So where can he go to school, in an alcohol-free place? And he said the truth is, there is no such place. So, my wife Linda said, Carl, you need to create such a place.”
As a faculty member at Texas Tech, Andersen had already laid the groundwork for the center in his addiction and recovery course curriculum. With many impending changes to the college, Dr. Andersen worked with Dean Elizabeth “Bess” Haley to transition the addiction recovery academic area and soon-to-be-center into the college's framework.
“We were the College of Home Economics at the time,” Andersen explained. “Dean Haley had a hard time seeing the fit between addiction recovery stuff and home economics. But the change to Human Sciences was already in the works. From that point on, I hit my whole approach with her in that it does fit in human sciences. And she agreed with that. Dean Haley was just instrumental in so many ways because she had power, authority, and respect.”
In 1986, the Center for the Study of Addiction was established in an academic unit that offered students the classroom portion of the requirements for becoming a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC), based on the criteria set forth by the State of Texas. By 1990 the center had grown to include its advisory board to raise funds for student scholarships.
“Students from literally all over the United States came, at one time, our director said that there were more out-of-state students who came to Tech for the center than for anything else, except in the athletic program,” Andersen said. “That it drew more students in than anything else on this campus.”
Looking back on his role from the academic side of things to the establishment of what was later renamed the Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities, Andersen says what he saw happen to students still resonates today.
“I felt like that it was almost magical; what happened to the students who came through this program,” Andersen said. “I think it profoundly changed lives. To this day, I hear from students that were in class in the mid-80s and are still saying things like that was the most powerful experience in their life. And I believe it is still to this day.”