2010 Archives

Giving talents and time to those in need

Students, faculty and staff will volunteer and take educational trips during spring break

March 3, 2010

During spring break, SMU students, faculty and staff will be volunteering in Uganda’s rural villages, investigating water resources in Guatemala and studying civil rights in the American South. Trips planned for March 8-12, 2010, include:

Mustang Consulting, Uganda

Students and faculty are volunteering in Uganda with the Ugandan American Partnership Organization (UAPO), a nonprofit founded by SMU graduate Brittany Merrill ’07 that supports women and children in their communities. Corporate Communications and Public Affairs students in Mustang Consulting, which is advised by CCPA Assistant Professor Maria Dixon in Meadows School of the Arts, have worked since July on the nonprofit’s messaging campaign.

Senior CCPA major Carolyn Angiolillo says the four students involved in Mustang Consulting are thrilled to travel to Uganda with faculty members and other students to see the results of their efforts and also work on community projects. “We hope to not only learn more about our client, but also to strategize and market an annual Uganda trip through the UAPO so that other college students can experience the great things the UAPO is doing,” she says.

Read related story in The Dallas Morning News: SMU students to spend spring break volunteering in Uganda

Civil Rights Pilgrimage, American South

Students, faculty and staff are taking part in a Civil Rights Pilgrimage, an eight-day bus ride to the American South’s civil rights landmarks, with stops in Little Rock, Arkansas; Selma, Montgomery and Birmingham, Alabama; Jackson and Oxford, Mississippi; and Memphis, Tennessee.

They will be led by Ray Jordan of the Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life; Dennis Simon, associate professor of political science in Dedman College; and junior Linwood Fields, a political science and English major who participated in the 2009 pilgrimage.  Read their blog.

Engineers Without Borders, Guatemala

The SMU chapter of Engineers Without Borders is traveling to Central America with the North Texas professional chapter to assess water resources in a Guatemalan village. The group, which is advised by Jim Yu, assistant professor of environmental and civil engineering in Lyle School of Engineering, plans to build a storage and supply system that will provide families with clean drinking water.

Junior Michael Gruben, vice president of the SMU chapter and a civil engineering major, has been meeting monthly with his chapter to work on trip and equipment logistics and calculations. “Engineers Without Borders has shown me the ability engineers have to impact society,” he says.

Human Rights Education Program, the Baltic states

Students, faculty and staff are visiting World War II sites in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, including the Bikernieki Memorial, where 40,000 Jews were slain; the Jewish Museum in Riga; and the Jungfernhof concentration camp.

Rick Halperin, director of the Human Rights Education Program in Dedman College, is leading SMU’s first trip to the Baltic states. He has led winter trips to Polish concentration camps since 1996, as well as spring and summer trips to sites including Rwanda, Argentina and South Africa.

“I hope our students will bear witness at these memorial sites,” he says. “I hope that they will become educators to others - their friends and family members – and help people stop saying, ‘I didn't know.’ ”

Adele Costigan, a senior sociology major with minors in history and human rights, is among students participating in the trip. “Not many people associate the Baltic nations with the Holocaust, and yet thousands upon thousands of people were killed there,” she says. “I know it will be an experience I'll never forget.”

Alternative Spring Break, United States and Mexico

Continuing a 21-year tradition at SMU of participating in Alternative Spring Break, students are serving community organizations while learning about issues such as the environment, homelessness and public health. Led by the service organization SPARC (Students Promoting Awareness, Responsibility and Citizenship) and the Office of Leadership and Community Involvement, student, faculty and staff volunteers this year are traveling to:

  • Denver, Colorado, to help build affordable housing with Habitat for Humanity;
  • Cherokee National Forest in Coker Creek, Tennessee, to help the U.S. Forest Service clear trails;
  • Taos, New Mexico, to work with young students at Roots & Wings Community School;
  • Los Angeles, to serve at AIDS Project Los Angeles, which provides services to men, women and children living with HIV and AIDS;
  • Xalapa, Mexico, to work at an orphanage, serve food and help at a clinic with the nonprofit organization Caritas.

Kat Farmer, director of Alternative Spring Breaks and a graduate student in advertising at Meadows School of the Arts, is leading the trip to Denver, where she’s looking forward to serving families and spending time with other students who are passionate about service. “The best thing about serving with Alternative Breaks is knowing how much of a difference you are making - whether building a house, working with kids or cleaning up the forest,” she says. “Each experience is unique, and each is truly life-changing.”

University Honors course, England

As part of the Cultural Formations course “Sex in America: The World of Henry James,” 15 University Honors students are traveling to England with John Lewis, associate professor of English, and David Doyle, University Honors Program director and assistant dean of Dedman College. The group, which has been examining issues of sexuality and identity in Europe and America in the 19th century, will visit notable London sites featured in James’ writing as well as his country house in the city of Rye.

“The trip will bring students into direct contact with the areas they are studying in our seminars,” Doyle says. “Such experiences bring an engagement with the class and provide life-changing experiences.”

Outdoor Adventures, Big Bend National Park

As part of the Outdoor Adventures program at Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports, students and staff are spending four nights and days at Big Band National Park on a canoe trip on the Rio Grande. The group will paddle through the scenic Boquillas Canyon, take hikes and camp.

“This is a fun, relaxing way to spend a week with beautiful scenery, one of the best night skies anywhere and a unique environment with a long cultural history,” says David Chambers, associate director of programs and Outdoor Adventures in Recreational Sports.  “Although some say there are similar places, there really isn’t a mix of people and place like the Big Bend country.”


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