During Spring Break, Students Do Research and Learn by Helping Others

During Spring Break, students and faculty volunteered in Uganda with a nonprofit that supports women and children.

SMU students help in Uganda

During spring break, SMU students, faculty and staff volunteered in Uganda’s rural villages, investigated water resources in Guatemala and studied civil rights in the American South. The trips for March 8-12, 2010, included:

Studying Slang, Paris

Rachel, a senior President's Scholar majoring in political science and foreign languages, studied French slang by conducting interviews with speakers of "Verlan," a language game involving word inversion.

Mustang Consulting, Uganda

Students and faculty volunteered 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 were thrilled to travel to Uganda with faculty members and other students to see the results of their efforts and also work on community projects. 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 took 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 were 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 traveled 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, planned 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 visited 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, led 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.

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 served 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 traveled 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.

University Honors course, England

As part of the Cultural Formations course “Sex in America: The World of Henry James,” 15 University Honors students traveled 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, visited notable London sites featured in James’ writing as well as his country house in the city of Rye.

Outdoor Adventures, Big Bend National Park

As part of the Outdoor Adventures program at Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports, students and staff spent four nights and days at Big Band National Park on a canoe trip on the Rio Grande. The group paddled through the scenic Boquillas Canyon, took hikes and camped.

“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.”