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Information for Parents and Students

Oren Gateway Center exterior

StepUP at a Glance

  • A 20-year-old program built on evidence-based and proven techniques, with highly-successful outcomes.
  • Staffed by experienced, caring, knowledgeable, and licensed counselors.
  • Students who are excited about making a difference through service, and are offered the chance for leadership opportunities within the program, on campus, and in the greater Twin Cities community.
  • StepUP serves more than 100 students annually (more than 650 since its inception) and is the largest residential collegiate recovery program in the country.
  • StepUP students’ average GPA is 3.20 (of 4.0).
  • StepUP abstinence rate has averaged 93%.
  • There is no additional cost for students to participate in the StepUP Program.
  • The Minneapolis/St. Paul Metro area is a high-density location for 12-step support meetings.

Click here to view our most Frequently Asked Questions.

If you have questions about our program, feel free to contact us directly at (612) 330-1405 or at

Welcome to your home away from home.

Oren Gateway Center Residence hall

All StepUP students live in Oren Gateway Center – a contemporary residence hall designated for students in recovery.

The residence hall is filled with other students in recovery, giving students the unique chance to not just meet people who understand their sobriety – but to live within that supportive community.

This is not your typical residence hall – students can enjoy skyline views and the welcoming common spaces simultaneously. Styled after urban lofts, Oren Gateway Center includes individual rooms, flats, and apartments to create a unique living space. There is no additional housing fee for Oren Gateway Center – it’s exactly what you would pay to live anywhere else on campus.

Click here for more information about the building and amenities.

Oren Gateway Center also contains:

  • A Barnes & Noble bookstore
  • Meeting rooms
  • Nabo café (freshly prepared food)
  • Spacious common areas
  • Study spaces
  • A rapidly rotating art gallery
  • A mediation room
  • The StepUP Program Office and Counselors

Worried about Minnesota winters?

Don’t be. Oren Gateway Center connects to classrooms, the library, and the cafeteria via skyways and tunnels – you never have to put on a jacket to get to class. Students with cars may also take advantage of our underground parking system.

Why Collegiate Recovery Programs Work

Students in dorm common area

What Is a Collegiate Recovery Program

Collegiate recovery programs are not entirely new.  The idea of providing specialized support for college students in recovery actually became a reality in the 1970s at Brown University.  Rutger’s University and Texas Tech University followed suit in the 1980s and the Augsburg University StepUP Program began in the late 1990s (White & Finch, 2007).

What makes a program a Collegiate Recovery Program (CRP)?  These programs are more than a “dry” or “sober” residence hall.  Colleges and universities designate first and second-year student residence halls as “alcohol-free” but unfortunately, this designation and the reality can be quite different things.  A CRP is much more than simply an “alcohol-free” space.  A CRP is a program which offers specialized and strategic support to help students achieve growth and success in their recovery and academic journey.

On another level CRPs are counter cultures to the “party scene” in the college environment.  Research for several decades has illuminated the entrenched culture of binge drinking and drug use on college campuses (Wechsler & Weithrich, 2002).  CRPs offer an alternative, safe and supportive environment and culture for students attending college while maintaining their recovery.

Why Collegiate Recovery Programs Work

Research is bringing to light the effectiveness of CRPs for students in recovery.  A strong community of recovering peers provides an important buffer to the risky environment of college drinking.  This community also provides an important social network that helps to meet the belonging needs of these students (Harris, Baker, Kimball, & Shumway, 2007).  The community also helps to provide multiple opportunities for sober and safe recreation to help students get the entire “college experience” but without the negatives and regrets.

Furthermore, having program staff trained and experienced in addiction disorders provides another element of critical support for these students. Given that a significant percentage of students who enroll in CRPs such as StepUP also have co-occurring mental health challenges, the availability of licensed counseling staff becomes an even more critical support component for their success (Botzet, Winters, & Fahnhorst, 2007).

Oren Gateway Center exterion at night

What Makes StepUP Distinctive

Several factors make StepUP distinctive as a Collegiate Recovery Program.

  • Recovery in Residence

    StepUP is more than a student organization on campus.  StepUP students live together in their own residence hall as a recovering community.  The peer support is available 24/7.  They support each other and hold each other accountable to help foster recovery and academic success.

  • Professional Counseling Services

    The StepUP Program has a counseling office staffed by licensed counselors trained in addiction counseling dedicated solely to the StepUP community. The counselors use evidence-based approaches such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, as well as Motivational Interviewing techniques, to assist students in their recovery growth and development.  Furthermore, staff help students network with local resources for mental health issues when needed.

  • Leadership Development

    The StepUP community has its own student governance through a Leadership Team of student leaders who are senior respected peers in the program. Staff manages the program through a partnership with the student Leadership Team to continue developing and improving the program as the community grows and changes year by year.

  • Academic Support

    Augsburg University is a leader in providing specialized support services for students with learning challenges and disabilities. The CLASS (Center for Learning and Adaptive Services) program provides unparalleled support to students with learning challenges to help them achieve academic success.

  • Unique Community Context

    StepUP is distinctively well-positioned because of its location in the Twin Cities with its rich history of chemical dependency treatment and recovery resources.  Research has established the importance of mutual support groups for successful ongoing recovery for adolescents and emerging young adults (Winters, Stinchfield, Opland, Weller, & Latimer, 2000). Students in StepUP have ready access to a plethora of recovery support groups, meetings and networks.


Botzet, A., Winters, K., & Fahnhorst, T. (2007). An exploratory assessment of a college substance abuse recovery program: Augsburg college’s StepUP program. Journal of Groups in Addiction & Recovery, 2: 2-4, 257-270.

Harris, K., Baker, A., Kimball, T., Shumway, S. (2007). Achieving systems-based sustained recovery: A comprehensive model for collegiate recovery communities. Journal of Groups in Addiction & Recovery, 2: 2-4, 220-237.

Wechsler, H., & Wuethrich, B. (2002). Dying to drink: Confronting binge drinking on college campuses. Rodale Press.


Program Outcomes

As a Collegiate Recovery Program we focus on helping students sustain their recovery, achieve academic success, and reach a level of thriving as a community.  Each year we track these outcomes and are consistently amazed at the transformation the students experience and the successes they achieve in recovery.  The following data illustrate these successes by the numbers.

Sustained Recovery Success (Abstinence Rates)

A Collegiate Recovery Program is intentionally designed to support recovery in a typically recovery-unfriendly environment.  The program and its students foster a culture of recovery which supports abstinence from alcohol and illicit drugs.  The cultural norm is to stay in recovery and protect against relapse.  The average rate of successful abstinence is well above 90% year to year (average of 93% successful abstinence from ’07 to ’16).

Student Academic Success (1997 Through 2016)

Our students arrive at Augsburg StepUP with varying degrees of readiness for college and its demands.  However, with the academic support resources available on our campus as well as the community of supportive peers, our students achieve what many of them once thought impossible – a successful college experience towards completion of a degree.  The overall grade point averages (GPA – on a 4 point scale) of our community reinforces a culture of success.

Mean GPA 1997-2016: 3.2 out of 4.0

This statistic was calculated by taking the cumulative GPA of all students served by the StepUP program while they attended classes at Augsburg College. Any other academic work done at other colleges and/or universities was not considered. The cumulative GPA’s were then used to calculate the mean. The statistics were not weighted based on number of credits. 

Service and Outreach

As a collegiate recovery program, we believe recovery is more than simply remaining abstinent from alcohol and illicit drugs.  Recovery is about growing and thriving.  As a college (Augsburg) we believe we have a responsibility to make a difference for others beyond our own community.  Each semester StepUP students volunteer for off-campus service commitments in the surrounding metro community.  They may present as panels to large school groups or speak in small groups at treatment centers or in classrooms speaking to the issues of addiction and recovery.  They impact hundreds of individuals in a wide array of settings helping to reduce the stigma of addiction and educate others about the hope and life transformative possibilities of recovery.

The StepUP Program students are frequently asked to share their personal experiences and individual stories with various audiences across the Twin Cities. The students are encouraged to participate in service and outreach opportunities as part of their recovery journey.  For many, their transformative stories inspire others and slowly lift the stigma connected with addiction and recovery and bring understanding, acceptance, and compassion.

Each year, StepUP students engage in over 175 hours of community service outreach, including presentations at:

  • Public school settings
  • Recovery high schools
  • College and university classes
  • Community parent groups
  • Chemical Dependency treatment settings



What to Bring

Link to ROL