By Andrea Daly

At UMSI, graduate school is about more than sitting in a classroom taking notes. It is about personal and professional growth, gaining experience and practicing dedication to a field of study. The UMSI goal is not only to turn out the next generation of leaders and innovators in the information fields, but to create active citizens, engaged in service to communities, who will use their knowledge to help solve the pressing issues of the day.

Since 1999, the Alternative Spring Break program has provided students with the opportunity to test their skills and put theory into practice in a week-long service-learning project in a major metropolitan setting. During ASB, students volunteer at non-profit, cultural, governmental and educational institutions, giving up the traditional week of rest and recreation to provide a community service.

ASB helps students develop professional skills by connecting information concepts and practices in an immersive, experiential project, contributing to their growth as socially engaged information professionals.

This year 75 students will participate in ASB March 2-6 in Chicago, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and — for the first time — at two projects in Jackson, Michigan.

This issue of UMSI Monthly features two students, Nicholas Chin and Megan Morrissey, who are excited to tackle their ASB projects in Detroit and Chicago, and a past participant’s reflection on her own volunteer experience.

In 2015, organizations and projects include:

The Peace Corps, Washington, D.C.: Cataloging volunteer activities around the world that demonstrate innovative use of information, communication, and technology for development (ICT4D) to help the Peace Corps design better programs and trainings, find partners and identify strengths and gaps in impact.

American Council for International Education, Washington, DC: Analysis of datasets collected from students who participate in international exchange programs funded by the U.S. Department of State. This completed analysis will then be used by program managers to improve programming and influence outcomes.

American Library Association, Chicago: User testing on a freely available, searchable repository of best practices in teen library programming and seeding of the site with initial teen programming content.

Detroit Green Skills Alliance, Detroit: Help with website and user interface development for the Detroit Green Map, which connects the public to local businesses and nonprofits that demonstrate a commitment to environmental sustainability and social equality. Students will assess and quantify the impact that a resource such as the map can have on local Detroit businesses and talent retention.

Jackson District Library, Jackson, MI: “Our Virtual Library Branch.” Administering website usability tests with volunteers and conducting brief interviews with participants to provide a more user-centered experience of the site.

Other sites welcoming UMSI students include the Field Museum of Natural History, the Adler Planetarium, the University of Chicago Library, Amnesty International, the American Red Cross, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Detroit Historical Society.

Learn more about how you can contribute to the student experience of Alternative Spring Break.

— Andrea Daly is assistant director of development and alumni relations at the School of Information.