Waking Up Courage - Bystander Education for Universities & Colleges


The Waking Up Courage Bystander Education Program (WUCBE) aims to decrease sexual assault, the abuse of alcohol and other drugs, hazing, harassment and cyber-bullying on college and university campuses. The goal is to over time, create positive change to the social norms that often guide and influence student attitudes and actions.

Social norms change is best accomplished by empowering student leaders with the confidence and competence to safely and effectively speak up and intervene when they become aware of hurtful and harmful incidents.

Students see, hear and know things that adults don’t; they’re typically on the scene of incidents when they’re happening or still “in the act”; and they have the social capital to influence their peers in positive ways. They are, in fact, the most powerful, and most under-utilized, change agents that administrators can align with.

The WUCBE package utilizes many of the principles and elements of the evidenced-based, NREPP-listed Safe School Ambassador Program (SSA), which has been implemented in nearly 2000 schools, and resulted in decreased incidents, suspensions and expulsions.

WUCBE embodies the necessary elements required for systemic and measureable improvements in school climate and how students treat each other. Data collection regarding the frequency and activity levels of the students, and the analysis of incident reductions associated with their speaking up, goes a long way in building “buy-in” and sustaining the program over time.

Program Description

An important feature of the WUCBE program is the process used for identifying, enrolling and selecting diverse and socially-influential student leaders, who represent a range of social groups throughout the campus.

In the training sessions, these leaders gain a deeper understanding of the impact and the consequences of bystander behavior, as well as, learning why it’s important to support friends and peers in making healthy and positive choices.

The students participate in role-plays to learn safe and effective intervention techniques that allow them to retain status and credibility while speaking up and promoting healthier decisions.

The specific communications skills they learn, include; distracting, reasoning – which helps an aggressor “think” about the consequences before acting, supporting those being targeted, getting appropriate help, and exiting techniques for safely leaving uncomfortable or risky situations.
Throughout the year, small group meetings are held to provide support and supervision of the students, to collect input on the number and types of interventions being done, and to allow time for coaching and trouble-shooting.
Over time, student interventions create a shift in attitudes, and change the school norms so that these mean-spirited behaviors will no longer be supported in the student culture.


The benefits of the WUCBE Program include the following:
•    Providing diverse student leaders with skills, tools and support that increase their effectiveness in preventing, de-escalating and reporting behavior that is hurtful and harmful;
•    Decreasing incidents and raising awareness and empathy, while increasing understanding of the importance of bystander intervention;
•    Creating change from the inside-out by using the power of the students in setting new and healthier behavioral norms;
•    Decreasing need and reducing costs of disciplinary actions, intervention services and other high cost remedies.

What Schools Receive

•    An intake and assessment process designed to identify: presenting issues and concerns; what programs and activities are already in place and how effective they are; and what the desired outcomes would be;
•    An initial proposal that includes a list of key findings from the assessment and a series of recommended next steps;
•    Upon agreement to move forward, coaching and technical assistance are provided for selecting the appropriate socially-influential student leaders and adult/staff facilitators, and on preparing the site for the upcoming trainings and follow-up activities;  
•    On-site trainings for selected student leaders and staff, and presentations to key stakeholder groups;  
•    Training materials for student participants and guides for coordinators and adult facilitators to assist them in their ongoing support and the tracking of the student leaders actions and interventions;
•    Resources and tools for data collection, measuring progress and compiling annual reports.


Prices for services are determined by the scope of the work. Contact Community Matters for more information.