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Have you ever considered becoming a staff partner for alternative breaks? Learn more about the experience and hear from past participants.

By Jennifer Jones, communications director, Bennion Community Service Center

Krista Kendall, program manager of University Faculty Information and Support, is preparing for her first “alt break” experience. Kendall is about to become a staff partner for a Spring Alternative Break. Sponsored through the Lowell Bennion Center for Community Service, Kendall will serve as mentor to a student site leader planning and executing a trip to a city like Portland, Las Vegas, Hollywood, Denver or Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She’s not in it for the scenery. It’s all about civic engagement and mentoring. “I decided to become a staff partner because I was looking for something to help me turn outward. I saw it as a catalyst for a life filled with meaningful service.”

vancouver-groupLaura Schwartz, the Bennion Center’s alternative breaks coordinator, says the university encourages faculty and staff campus-wide to volunteer as trip partners and allows them paid time off to participate.  As an added perk, faculty and staff partners are not required to pay for cost of their trips. “Staff partners are equal participants in service and reflections,” she says. “They co-lead as necessary, are the primary managers of the trip budget and represent the University of Utah at all times.” There are opportunities to serve as a staff partner for both Alternative Fall Break and Alternative Spring Break trips.

Ella Butler served as a staff partner last year. “I wanted to meet like-minded colleagues and connect with students on a service-oriented trip,” she wrote in a trip reflection. “I have established relationships with staff that work in other departments on campus which allowed me to network and make new friends.”

Another staff partner shared, “I know that stepping outside of your comfort zone can be transformative, and I wanted to experience that myself while also providing support for others. I love seeing people take their passion and bring it to life through service.”

Each alt break site has a student site leader and a faculty or staff partner. This team arranges for transportation, lodging, meals and a week’s worth of service with a community partner who understands the issue and the area. The group, usually about 12 students, lives and works together for the week while they also learn about their chosen area of interest. The Spring Break 2017 trips and topics are:

  • Coastal Ecosystem Restoration, Arcata, CA
  • Community Health, Vancouver, BC Canada
  • Empowering at-risk Youth, Las Vegas, NV
  • HIV/AIDS, Hollywood, CA
  • Homelessness, Seattle, WA
  • Hunger and Food Justice, Seattle, WA
  • Women and Poverty, Denver, CO
  • Urban Environmentalism, Portland, OR
  • Marine Conservation, Santa Cruz, CA
  • LGBTQIA* and Human Rights, San Francisco, CA
  • Immigration, Health, and Poverty, San Diego, CA

Faculty/staff partners do not choose their destinations. Instead, they participate in pre-trip training sessions, including a weekend off-site training, and are then matched to a student site leaders as a mentor. Once matched, they work alongside of a student site leader to build an AB trip during the semester before and semester of the trip.

“It’s a professional development opportunity,” Bryce Williams explains. He’s preparing for his fifth alt break as a staff partner. Williams, who works as the community outreach coordinator at the Bennion Center, says, “I think the biggest reason I do it is the one-on-one relationship building with that student leader who is building the trip. Another plus is you get to work on a social or environmental issue in a city you may never have visited.”

Another staff partner wrote, “I’m a staff partner because I have seen that it works. Alternative breaks really does make an impact in the communities we serve. It truly is more than a week. The impact lasts a lifetime.”

For information on how to apply, please contact Laura Schwartz at