Alternative Breaks


Alternative Breaks at SMU (AB) is an immersive week of hands-on service, leadership building, and relationship building supplemented with education and reflection. It qualifies for Community Engagement Proficiency upon completion. Each trip focuses on a particular social issue, and immersion in that issue begins long before the trip itself. Students educate themselves and each other, then do hands-on work with relevant organizations.

The objective of Alternative Breaks is to provide an opportunity for students to learn about the problems faced by marginalized groups with whom they may have had little or no direct contact through a complete cultural immersion. Through community-based service projects, they are enabled to reflect, discuss, and think critically about the social issues they face in a significant way. The intensity of the Alternative Breaks experience increases the likelihood that participants will transfer the lessons learned during their break back into their local communities.

History of AB @ SMU

  • AB at SMU was founded in 1987 on the SMU campus. It was started in the Chaplain's Office by then Chaplain Bob Cooper. The original three trips were called "work projects" and were offered in 1987-1988 in Brownsville, Texas, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Dallas, Texas. The sending of service trips on spring break was even earlier in the 1980s but outside a formal program.
  • The program began having student leaders in 1989 and had a few ups and downs throughout the 1990s. It was strong in the mid to late 1990s and dipped somewhat around the early 2000s. The program grew again in strength in 2010, skyrocketing from three trips in 2009 to nine trips in 2010. In 2015, Alternative Breaks at SMU peaked with over 20 trips and participated in its fourth year of international trips.
  • Due to capacity, quality, and funding, the Alternative Breaks program at SMU proudly sustains 8-12 trips per year in hopes of restructuring its program for more cohort-based partnerships and weekend trips beginning in 2019. The program went dormant after the 2020 pandemic and resumed operations in 2023. AB continues to grow and return to multiple trips throughout the year.


Tricia Tsang, Executive Director
Dani Palomo, Staff Advisor

Contact Us


Get Connected:
SMU 360

On Campus:
Social Change and Intercultural Engagement
Hughes-Trigg Student Center Suite 218


To provide quality service experiences and awareness to all members of the SMU community while creating active citizens through education, direct service, and reflection.


To inspire the entire SMU community toward active citizenship by offering world changing service and life changing experiences.


Love | Hope | Equality | Diligence

To register, complete the online application on Connect. Due to the limited number of spots per trip, members are considered on a first-come, first-serve basis.

After you register, check your emails for the automatic application confirmation email from us. The AB team will follow up with you after the application deadline to confirm your trip placement status. If you wish to accept your trip placement, follow the instructions on the email to submit your trip payment.

Complete all the required online forms in the Member Packet to complete your application. Completed forms and payment will confirm your position on the trip.

Your trip leaders will follow up with you about pre-trip meetings, during which you’ll learn more about the social issues and travel details of your trip, as well as meet the other trip participants and your trip advisor.

Service, self-reflection, team building activities, social justice education, sight-seeing
AB trips are offered during Fall and Spring Break. Check our Connect Events page for more information on upcoming trips.
New York City, New York
Seattle, Washington
Selma, Alabama
Taos, New Mexico
New Orleans, Louisiana
Atlanta, Georgia
Washington, D.C.
Miami, Florida

AB trip costs vary by location and are subject to rare changes once established. AB trip costs cover transportation, housing, food, and group entertainment.

Please see current costs per trip on our Connect page

Yes! If you need assistance paying for your trip, sponsorship may be available. Please contact AB Advisor, Fernanda Reyes (, for more information.

The AB team will reach out to you after the application deadline to confirm your trip placement status. If you wish to accept your trip placement, follow the instructions on the email to submit your trip payment.

This deposit will reserve your spot on the trip and will go towards your total trip payment. This deposit is refundable ONLY IF we are able find a replacement. Otherwise, it is strictly nonrefundable.

There are three levels of involvement in AB. Here is how you can get involved:


Join one of our trips and travel to somewhere across the country. Serve alongside nonprofit organizations, reflect on your experiences, and explore a new city.

Lead a trip

Enjoyed your experience as a participant? Take your experience to the next level and take a group of students on a life-changing trip.

Plan a trip

Want to create unique experiences for students? Join the Executive Board and plan several trips throughout the year.

 Become a Trip Advisor. Please email Alternative Breaks ( if interested.
Visit our Connect page for applications and application deadlines.