University of Wisconsin–Madison

Alternative Break

CAE Alternative Breaks are high-impact, service-learning opportunities for students to engage in during the academic year (September – May). Since 2009 and based on fund availability, CAE has provided Alternative Break opportunities for students to build community and facilitate valuable and life-changing experiential learning opportunities.

Here at CAE, we affectionately refer to the students who attend our Alternative Breaks as Alt Breakers.  Alt Breakers co-create powerful and purposeful social justice-rooted educational experiences with CAE coordinators.

2015-16 Alt Break Program

The 2015-16 Alt Break program engaged students in expanding their learning about the U.S. Civil Rights Movement -including visits to museums and historically significant sites in the South- and exploring contemporary struggles of power, privilege, and oppression. To extend their learning about racial inequality and criminal justice reform, Alt Breakers read the 2015 UW-Madison Go Big Read selection, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, and reflected on connections to their Alternative Break experiences. They were encouraged to reflect on who they are, how they interact with others, how they view the world, and how to use their agency to make positive change. The Alt Breakers traveled through Tennessee and Alabama, volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, and visited sites of historic importance to the Civil Rights Movement. Featured on this trip was a visit to the Equal Justice Initiative, Stevenson’s organization. CAE coordinators and Alt Breakers carefully connected the students’ experiences to the UW-Madison Essential Learning Outcome of Personal and Social Responsibility, as a way to empower students to develop and practice their leadership voices and skills.

The goals of the 2015-16 Alt Break Program were:

  1. Increase cultural competency
  2. Increase knowledge of Civil Rights Movement
  3. Develop/enhance a working knowledge of structural inequities in the U.S.
  4. Carry out the intent of the WI Idea (service learning, volunteerism, community impact)
  5. Strengthen the CAE community
  6. Cultivate leadership skills

CAE and our Alt Breakers wish to extend their sincere thanks to the Bill Cronon Fund, which fully funded the 2015-16 CAE Alternative Break.

CAE is currently seeking financial contributions of any amount to support the continuation of this programming.

Alt Break Outcomes