Mizzou Alternative Breaks (MAB) has existed on Mizzou’s campus since 1991. The Center for Leadership and Service, alongside many dedicated students, has cultivated this program to be the 4th largest in the nation. In 2014, MU Extension announced a partnership with MAB that brings service close to home by sending students to various counties in Missouri. By the year 2020, the program hopes to have sent a trip to all 114 of Missouri’s counties.
2014 was also the year SHP’s Department of Health Sciences (DHS) partnered with MAB. “With the growing popularity among MU students, our department saw an opportunity to not only partner with MAB, but offer DHS students a unique experience to gain a wider perspective of health and health care issues and serve the local, national, and international community among their DHS colleagues,” says Brittany Schlup, Student Services Coordinator.
During the 2014-2015 academic year, DHS sent out four alternative break trips: one winter international, one spring weekend, and two spring break. The program has since expanded to include Thanksgiving break and summer international trips. This year, DHS sent out six trips with a total of ninety participants. Altogether, there have been sixteen MAB/DHS trips; five international and eleven domestic. For domestic trips, site leaders are allowed to choose the destination, while international trips are partnered with Outreach 360. Spring weekend trips work closely with MU Extension to serve counties in Missouri.
DHS/MAB is housed in DHS’s Office of Experiential Learning which “promotes student development, knowledge, skills, and service through first-hand experience and reflection,” describes Emily Mahler, Student Services Coordinator. The office already houses study abroad initiatives and internships, thus, it seemed advantageous to include a service component. Completing an internship is an academic requirement for health science students, so with approval, juniors and seniors can use an international DHS/MAB trip for a 1 credit internship.
An essential aspect of the experience is synthesizing service activities with academic and career interests. Students are provided opportunities for personal growth and professional development in the form of pre-departure meetings, community events, and post-service reflections. “These activities allow students to practice skills (professional competencies) that are representative of attributes needed to perform successfully in a health sciences career or graduate program,” explains Emily, “Thus, a student’s experiential learning involvement affords them the opportunity to develop a deeper connection between their academic coursework and community engagement.”
Elisabeth Rudder, spring weekend participant, reflected on her MAB/DHS experience, “The most rewarding part of my experience was sitting and playing Bingo with the elderly folks at Frene Valley. I lost my grandpa over Spring Break, so to be able to sit and listen to peoples’ stories, who were relatively the same age as my grandpa, made it that much more special. There was one gentlemen at my Bingo table and we began talking. He served in the war and was stationed in California, just like my grandpa was. It was ironic, but made it that much more meaningful to me. I felt like I gained a lot of valuable knowledge and learned a lot more about myself just by being away from campus for three days and doing something for my community.”
The department is excited to continue offering unique opportunities for undergraduate students to gain transferable skills. There will be the same number of trips sent out next academic year, but Brittany and Emily hope to increase the applicant pool. Site leaders have already been accepted for the 2017-2018 trips, but students looking to get involved are encouraged to reach out to Emily Mahler or Brittany Schlup. They are also welcome to visit the department’s webpage or Facebook page, make an appointment via MU Connect, or attend the SHP Involvement Fair in the fall.