University of Delaware
The UDaB executivbe board spends months preparing for trips to help serve and improve communities over spring break. Front center is Maggie Stohler, UDaB student program coordinator. 

Service opportunities

New UDaB, IGS collaboration to help broaden alternative break programs


4:14 p.m., Oct. 24, 2013--The service-based and student-led University of Delaware Alternative Breaks (UDaB) program will now be housed in the Institute for Global Studies (IGS), which will provide supporting services and help manage aspects of the growing program.

UDaB was founded in 2010 by a student who was passionate about service. That passion was able to translate into the creation of the program with the support of Susan Serra, assistant director in the Office of Service Learning. Together they proposed the start of an alternative spring break program. 

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Now in its fourth year, UDaB has seen double the number of applicants and increased the number of service trips from five to eight. This year more than 400 students applied to the trips that partner with various community organizations to work with specific issue areas such as hunger and homelessness, affordable housing, disaster recovery and more. 

Not only does UDaB provide programs but now campus organizations such as the School of Nursing, Honors Program and Blue Hen Leadership Program have joined forces to plan trips to different areas within the eastern half of the United States. 

“Sue Serra has done an outstanding job developing a new campus program and bringing it along to the point where it has outgrown the Office of Service Learning,” said Amy Johnson, deputy director of IGS. “She has been recognized nationally for her contribution to service learning and her support to the students at the University of Delaware.”

The goal of the collaboration with IGS is to help broaden the scope of UDaB direct service and experiential learning. IGS will grow the spring break and off-term programs by providing administrative assistance with the help of the new alternative break and off-term academic program coordinator Karen Lundin.

Lundin will help students plan program budgets, identify vendors and provide registration to assure safety in all travel.

“IGS is excited to support what UDaB is already achieving and provide more resources for exponential growth,” said Lundin. “Our focus is to offer more service trips to provide an opportunity for each student who wants to participate in service learning.” 

IGS and UDaB hope to enhance student participation by providing the opportunity to earn discovery learning credit and access to a greater number of scholarships.

“We want to grow leaders. These trips are character building and engage students to see service as a role in the greater society,” said Johnson. Students are now able to register for UNIV 363, a discovery learning course tied to their service trips. “We want to offer students the credit they deserve for their service because we believe they more than capture the discovery learning component.” 

UDaB partners with Break Away, a national nonprofit organization for universities across the nation that helps to train, assist and connect campuses and communities for alternative break programs. Through Break Away, student leaders will participate in site leader retreats that help provide them with the tools they need to facilitate the service trips and manage groups. 

“Students have the ability to create change in the world. What we wanted from our program right from the beginning is to not have it be just a volunteer week, but that students would really spend a lot of time in reflection, think about how it connected to their academic life, career goals, and their future,” said Serra.

Students become engaged citizens interacting with the community members to find out the challenges they are going to address and the strengths of the community, and to get a deeper understanding of the culture in which they are working. 

“Students are engaged in direct service and are working with a social justice issue that the service is connected with,” said student program coordinator Maggie Stohler. “For the entire week they are immersed in this group of students and work directly with communities that they travel to so they can accomplish some kind of service project while really understanding and starting to explore the different facets of the social justice issue that they’re working with.” 

Trips range from 12 to 40 students and are led by trained student site leaders for the week. The executive board of UDaB prepare all year for these trips, organizing the students and planning meals, transportation and housing, and then closely with Serra on the budgeting aspects. Now with the help of Lundin and IGS, the program has the potential to not only offer credit for students but have the long-term goals of increasing the number of trips, tackling different topic issue areas and serving overseas. 

UDaB is passionate about connecting students with a community and engaging in social issues and those involved hope the experience transcends the trip and inspires students to make broader life changes and to continue to participate in service within their own community.

“It is so much more about having that experience be a catalyst and prioritizing the community when you come back, and continuing to serve and work with the social issues that you worked with on your trip. Oftentimes you can find them in your own communities,” said Stohler.

To find out more about UDaB, visit its sites on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Storify.

For a video highlighting UDaB activities, click here.

Article by Elizabeth Adams and Kathryn Plante

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