Alternative Spring Break trips engage students in social issues

About 100 Rice students recently participated in one of nine alternative spring break trips, and they shared their experiences with members of the Rice community during the ASB showcase April 5 in Rice Memorial Center’s Grand Hall.

The ASB showcase featured presentations from nine spring break trips.

The event featured presentations from the spring break trips, in which students visited a city to address a specific social issue, and video testimonials detailing what they accomplished and learned.

The ASB program empowers Rice students to engage with new communities through direct service work and advocacy, gain awareness and in-depth education around one social justice issue and learn about the value of the reflection process and connecting with others on a deeper level.

This year, students traveled to seven cities outside of Texas. Groups visited San Francisco to focus on the development and impact of disease stigma; New Orleans to study the intersection of homelessness and housing inequality after natural disasters; Sacramento to explore water-access issues; Washington, D.C., to study the issue of gender inequality and reproductive justice; and Winter Park and Denver to explore the disability policies and resources available from state to state. Two trip groups traveled to New York City: One explored the link between homelessness and the incarcerated population and the other targeted refugee and immigration issues.

Rice students on an ASB trip to San Francisco study the development and impact of disease stigma.

Two groups traveled to cities within Texas. One group went to Austin to meet with policymakers, health care institutions and local nonprofits to better understand the causes of health inequality and learn to become better advocates for change. Another group visited the Rio Grande Valley to explore discussions about immigration and social-justice issues with a focus on youth education.

“The showcase is a great opportunity for ASB participants to get out of their small trip groups, which have grown so tight-knit over the course of the year and see the bigger picture of ASB,” said Morgan Kinney, assistant director of programs and partnerships at Rice’s Center for Civic Leadership.

ASB trip locations and topics are decided by site leaders, who spend seven months studying their social-issue focus, preparing an educational curriculum for their peers and planning the actual spring break trip. Site leaders then propose their ASB trip with a selected social issue, curriculum and community partners before creating a group.

“Each group meets weekly to learn about their social issue through a variety of means,” Kinney said. “Site leaders draw on their own research, faculty experts and local community partners to create a dynamic and engaging curriculum for their group members. The students do an immense amount of preparatory work so that they can make the most of their weeklong immersion, including visiting relevant local nonprofits and organizations.

“For many ASB participants, this is their first introduction to social justice, service learning and advocacy at the college level,” said Kinney, who also oversees the ASB program. “The experiences students have through an ASB can shift their perspectives, inspire them to become advocates or site leaders of their own trips and even spark a change in career path.”

Kinney said ASB has already selected next year’s site leaders and 11 trips have been approved, which will increase participation capacity for interested students. Learn more about ASB at

About Kendall Schoemann

Kendall Schoemann is a staff writer in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.