The Alternative Break (AB) program creates transformative, learning opportunities for students. Alternative break trips aim to develop the capacity for students to lead for social change. Alternative breaks enable students to immerse themselves in a community to learn its historical, cultural and political background. The Alternative Break experience encourages students to analyze their assumptions through learning about the complexity of social problems. The immersive community environments enables participants to experience and discuss social issues in a significant way.

For questions regarding Alternative Break, please contact Peter Wilkinson at [email protected] or 541-737-7419.

UPDATE: the Alternative Break program is returning this March 2022! Check back at the start of winter term for more info.

Alternative Break Programs

Break away from apathy. Break away from the expected. Break away from the status quo. Apply to be an alternative break leader!

Alternative Break (AB) co-leaders are at the core of OSU’s Alternative Break program. Co-leads are expected to work collaboratively as a team to design, plan and facilitate AB trips. Additionally, co-leads serve as the primary leadership on experience and as such are expected to implement the guiding principles of the Alternative Break program. Serving as an alternative break leader allows you to gain significant leadership and facilitation skills in addition to creating deep, meaningful learning experiences for OSU students. Co-leads for spring break experiences are expected to serve in a planning capacity from November until the trip departs and then manage wrap-up items in April, following the experience. If this sounds like an opportunity you are interested in, and are able to meet the expectations and responsibilities of the role, we look forward to receiving your application!

Previous alternative break leaders have used the experience to receive practicum or internship credit hours. If this is something that interests you, please consult with your academic adviser.

Alternative Break Leader Position Description

Benefits and gains of participating in an Alternative Break: 

There are numerous benefits to serving as an Alternative Break Co-lead. From building meaningful community, to strengthen program planning and coordination skills, to deepening your identity as a leader for social change, serving in this role will foster learning, challenge, growth and of course fun! Read below to learn about more specific outcome AB Co-leads experience.

Alternative Break Leader Learning Outcomes:

Learning outcomes for Alternative Break interns and project credit students (specifically CSSA graduate students):

  • Comprehend and learn about strategies and best practices for creating and leading co-curricular service trips that balance student learning and community benefits.
  • Design and coordinate meaningful community service programs by applying the critical components of service, action continuum, and active citizen continuum.
  • Develop skills in curriculum development and meeting facilitation through pre-trip meeting curriculum and agenda creation.
  • Develop facilitation skills for group development, meetings, and reflections before, during, and after the trip.
  • Gain leadership skills in forming a cohesive and effective alternative break team.
  • Explore and utilize theory and best practices for leading student groups in cultural and social justice learning experiences.
  • Expand understanding of student development theory in practice as it relates to student participation in civic engagement/community service programming and social responsibility development.
  • Advance program management and risk management skills through managing site logistics and developing trip itinerary.
  • Develop budget management skills through administering trip budget and required paperwork to ensure purchases adhere to OSU policy.
  • Advance assessment skills through developing and evaluating learning outcomes for trip.

Participation Fee for Corvallis student fee paying students: $100 (includes transportation, lodging, 4 dinners, and staple food for preparing breakfast and lunch, participants should be prepared to bring some spending money for meals on travel days, two meals during the week, and any incidental spending money) 

Explore the complex, multi-faceted factors at play impacting food and housing security in San Francisco and learn about homelessness issues in major urban areas including the short-term relief and long-term solutions that are being worked for and envisioned. Participants will complete service projects centered on addressing food and housing security while meeting and working alongside local visionaries who actively address these issues in their communities. If you have an interest in learning about homelessness issues in major urban areas, this is the perfect trip for you. The trip will include hands-on direct service work such as preparing and serving meals, assembling toiletry kits, assembling harm reduction kits, et cetera. Additionally, we will gain behind the scenes awareness and understanding of community organizations working on these issues through educational sessions and dialogue with local community leaders and team reflective activities. On our community immersion day, we will explore San Francisco and all that it has to offer! Please note: Participants will do a fair amount of walking (1-2 miles on some days) and take public transportation around the city to travel between projects and sessions. Additionally, some food packing projects may ask participants to work with common allergens (e.g. peanuts). We will work to find suitable accommodations to the best of our ability.

Participation Fee for Corvallis student fee paying students: $100 (includes transportation, lodging, 4 dinners, and staple food for preparing breakfast and lunch, participants should be prepared to bring some spending money for meals on travel days, two meals during the week, and any incidental spending money) 

Uncover the human face, cost, and impact of land acquisition, colonization, and immigration by exploring the influx and interplay of different cultural groups in the Yakima Valley.  This program offers a wide variety of experiences and narratives. We mainly focused on the experiences of: Native Americans from the Yakama Nation, Filipino-Americans, Latino/a/x community, undocumented migrant workers and their families, those experiencing housing insecurity, children, economic disparities, food insecurity, influences of agriculture, environmental justice, and more. Each day is filled with vitally important information that assists in the understanding of the systemic roots of oppression and marginalization in the Yakima Valley. Through direct service work, dialogue with community leaders, and team reflective activities, we will examine the buried roots of the area’s historical relationship to the land and explore implications for the present and future of different cultural groups in the region. The trip begins with an introduction to the history and culture of Yakama Nation via a visit to the Toppenish Longhouse. During our community immersion day, the group will elect outings that may include some of the following: group hike or park visit, a community festival or fair, Yakama Nation Cultural Heritage Center, or Yakima Valley Museum.

Participation Fee for Corvallis student fee paying students: $100 (includes transportation, lodging, 4 dinners, and staple food for preparing breakfast and lunch, participants should be prepared to bring some spending money for meals on travel days, two meals during the week, and any incidental spending money) 

Discover the pressing environmental conservation and restoration issues in Ashland, Oregon area. We will complete projects such as creek restoration, planting native species, mulching, invasive species removal, garden-based projects, trail building/maintenance, and other environmental restoration/conservation projects with a variety of community organizations. We will meet with local environmental leaders to learn about threats to the natural environment, local factors impacting natural habitats and ecosystems, renewable energy, waste reduction, and various sustainability topics. Lodging will be at a local ranch, Willow-Witt, focused on sustainable farming which will add to our exploration of holistic sustainability and small scale farming and ranching. Power and privilege in the environmental movement and connections between environmental and social and economic justice will be examined. This trip will include many hands-on, physical projects, team reflective activities, and possible hikes in the beautiful Pacific Northwest outdoors. On our community immersion day, we will explore Ashland, go hiking, and/or possibly attend a play at the local Shakespeare Festival. Please note participants will need to provide and have rain jackets, rain pants, and work boots for this trip to ensure comfort. Also, note that this trip is more physically laborious than the other programs due to the nature of the community projects. Participants will be encouraged to take breaks and rests as needed throughout the experience.

Note: Warm Springs is currently experiencing a water crisis. Depending on how this situation unfolds, the 2020 trip may occur or may be canceled to ensure OSU does not put additional strain on a community needing to ensure water resources are focused on local community and tribal members. 

Participation Fee for Corvallis student fee paying students: $100 (includes transportation, lodging, 4 dinners, and staple food for preparing breakfast and lunch, participants should be prepared to bring some spending money for meals on travel days, two meals during the week, and any incidental spending money) 

Discover various factors impacting cultural engagement, tribal policy and community wellbeing in Warm Springs by exploring elements of tribal governance, food sourcing, and community and cultural activities.  Through educational sessions and direct community projects, we will explore community gardens and sustainability, tribal government and jurisprudence, energy policy, economic development and social and cultural events that all impact the Warm Springs community.  During our trip activities will include educational sessions covering a wide range of topics related to tribal life, challenges, and solutions.  We will focus on engaging counter narratives and exploring the impact of settler colonialism upon indigenous communities. Some community engagement opportunities include working on landscaping at a senior living facility, working at a community garden, food preservation, hiking on the reservation, learning about the services and programs put on by OSU Extension for the community, and visiting the Museum at Warm Springs. The trip will also include a BBQ with OSU Extension staff and tribal members. We will staying on the Reservation of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, home to the Warm Springs, Wasco, and Paiute tribes after they were forcibly removed from land across the northwest. The Warm Springs Reservation is inhabited by nearly 4,000 tribal members, most of whom live in or around the town of Warm Springs.

General Program Information

There are expectations we have for participants to ensure the Alternative Break experience is centered on teambuilding, learning, and community. In order for all team members to get the most of the program, everyone needs to be committed to the experience. 

  • Participate in ALL pre- and post-trip meetings, all group educational and team building activities to the best of one's ability (see “Time Commitment” section for required dates).
  • Support the mission of Alternative Break as a program that is focused on immersive community-engaged learning experiences centered on personal growth and leadership development through community projects, education sessions, reflection, and team building; this experience is not a vacation or site seeing experience.
  • Be open to processing (at your own comfort level) the Alternative Break experience individually and as a group through organized reflection, journaling, and other activities.
  • Serve as a positive role model and representative of Oregon State University while on and off campus.
  • Be respectful of diverse community and cultural norms and values (cultural humility) that you may experience in community and/or with members of the Alternative Break team; expect to learn and be challenged.
  • Be willing to explore diverse perspectives and opinions and to advance cultural competency and sensitivity.
  • Commit to being an active contributor to your team and show respect for fellow team members, community partners, and populations with whom you are completing projects.
  • Embrace experiences working independently as well as with a team or group.
  • Be organized, self-motivated, adaptable, and flexible.
  • Take responsibility for personal needs and wellbeing including communicating those needs to trip leaders.
  • Adhere to OSU Student Conduct Code on trip.
  • Refrain from the use or possession of alcohol or any controlled substance/drugs for the duration of the experience.
  • Sign an Alternative Break Learning Agreement.

Please note: Alternative Breaks are often physically, emotionally, and mentally challenging as a result of the immersive nature of the trips and completing service projects, often requiring physical labor and reflection activities on social issues over the course of a 5 to 6 day period. Participants are asked and encouraged to take responsibility for their wellbeing and experience during the trip by planning ahead to prepare themselves as best as possible for the experience and making needs known to the team and program leaders.

  • Must be a currently enrolled OSU student
  • Must be paying student fees at the Corvallis campus for the $100 participation fee
    • Note Ecampus students are eligible to apply and will have a $225 participation fee
  • Must be in good university standing (academic and student conduct)

Every participant is responsible for paying the experience/trip fee. The fee covers all transportation, lodging, and four dinners and food staples for preparing travel meals, breakfast, and lunch. Corvallis student fee paying students and Ecampus students have different participation fees for this program. You are responsible for supplementing these travel meals, breakfast, and lunch and groceries for two dinners. 

Please note that there is the ability for applicants (Corvallis student fee paying students) to apply for Alternative Break Travel Grants. The Alternative Break Travel Grant Program is a financial need-based grant awarded to students applying to an alternative break trip sponsored by the Community Engagement & Leadership. The travel grants are administered and awarded through the Human Services Resource Center. The purpose of the Alternative Break Travel Grants is to reduce accessibility barriers related to financial need for students wanting to participate in an immersive service-learning experience. This is a separate application available online that should be submitted at the time of your Alternative Break program application.

Program offers will be made before winter break and if selected, you must accept your spot via email within a week to hold your spot.  Thus, please be sure the email address you supply is one that you will be checking regularly. A non-refundable trip deposit of 50% of the total trip fee will be due by Friday, January 17, 2020.

Participants can pay for their trip via cash, check, or money order at Community Engagement & Leadership (SEC 250). Checks or money orders need to be made payable to “Oregon State University” and dropped off the Student Experience Center Information Desk. In the memo line, please write your name, AB, and MSICCE. Final payment due dates will be communicated after trip selections have been made. 

The trip deposit is non-refundable. If you have extenuating, unexpected medical, academic, or family/personal circumstances that are out of your control and need to cancel from the trip, you may be reimbursed for any expenses that the Community Engagement & Leadership can recover. The emergency must arise before the trip starts to receive any refund. Students will be asked to provide a signed request for any partial refund that summarizes the extenuating circumstances. Please communicate any need to cancel as soon as possible so we can work with you. If you or the Community Engagement & Leadership is able to identify a replacement participant that meets trip criteria, a full refund may be possible.

If accommodations for disability are needed in order to participate in the trip, please contact Peter Wilkinson at [email protected] or 541-737-7419, preferably one month in advance due to the immersive nature of the experience.

The Alternative Break program at Oregon State University dates back to 2010. Site locations largely developed out of personal connections and student leader interests in the early years to establish programs in Yakima, Washington (established 2010) and San Francisco, California (established 2012). Later program locations (Ashland/southern Oregon and Warm Springs, Oregon established 2013) were developed with a desire to cultivate deeper connections within the state of Oregon, meeting known community need, and maintain sites within driving distance of the OSU Corvallis campus. The Warm Springs program was created with the specific intent to maximize the community knowledge and connections within OSU Extension Services across the state and facilitate student exposure to the impact and work of Extension Services. Program expansion is planned moving forward. Additional program sites will be selected and developed in ways that balance diversifying the social issues/causes addressed and examined within the program and existing relationships between the community and OSU.