Members of the Office of Sustainability Spent Spring Break Serving

April 3, 2023

Instead of a traditional spring break, UT Dallas students can opt to spend spring break serving others through an immersive experience featuring a variety of service opportunities.

Alternative Spring Break (ASB [Alternative Spring Break] ) through the Office of Student Volunteerism is an immersive week of service where UT Dallas students will take part in trips around the U.S. focused on serving, learning, and connecting with communities. This year, four members of the Office of Sustainability joined ASB [Alternative Spring Break] trips. Staff member Avery McKitrick, and Eco Reps Mohini Shanker and Gwen Schaulis attended a trip focused on Housing and Environmental Justice in New Orleans, Louisiana. Eco Rep Anna Reid joined a trip on Park Maintenance and Preservation in Orcas Island, Washington.

Housing and Environmental Justice trip in New Orleans, Louisiana

A group of women smiling into the camera, standing on a balcony. Behind then, across the street and beyond a park, are several colonial-era New Orelans buildings.

New Orleans Housing and Environmental Justice ASB [Alternative Spring Break] Group including Avery McKitrick (far left) Gwen Schaulis (second from lower left) and Mohini Shanker (second from right far back).

A group of people standing on a bridge in a forrest.

Orcas Island Park Maintenance and Preservation ASB [Alternative Spring Break] Group including Anna Reid (second from left).

Gwen Schaulis, Eco Rep for Education Outreach and Environmental Justice, has been studying Environmental Justice on a local and global scale. Her passion for the topic fueled her decision to lead an experience where environmental hazards are a matter of life and death and offer aid to individuals on the road to home. When asked about her favorite experience, Gwen stated “This experience has helped me evolve from a bystander to an ally. My favorite work project was planting trees near the Lower Ninth Ward, an area where identity-based discrimination has systematically oppressed many Black individuals.”

Gwen believes that it is the duty of sustainability leaders to pursue equity for all people and the planet and hopes that this ASB [Alternative Spring Break] trip will set environmental justice efforts into motion at UTD by creating more programs, courses, and community partnerships avaliable to University members.

Mohini Shanker an Eco Rep, Co-Director for the Eco Hub, and student studying Software Engineering also attended the Housing and Environmental Justice trip. Mohini was interested in the trip’s focus on environmental justice in New Orleans to see the intersections of environmental justice and societal factors. When asked about a lesson learned from the trip, Mohini said, “Being able to engage with environmental justice work as it intersects with other movements such as the arts, food equity, and hurricane recovery was eye-opening”.

A group of people spreading mulch in an open field surrounded by trees.

New Orleans Housing and Environmental Justice ASB [Alternative Spring Break] Group working at organic farm.

A group of people standing around a long, newspaper-coverd table piled high with crayfish.

New Orleans Housing and Environmental Justice ASB [Alternative Spring Break] Group enjoying a seafood boil after a long day of service.

Avery McKitrick, Sustainability Coordinator for Campus Engagement and Operations, attended ASB [Alternative Spring Break] as a Responsible University Official (RUO [esponsible University Official] ) and wanted to attend a trip focused on environmental justice and housing to learn more about projects outside of Texas. She believes it is important to understand the system to make effective changes.

Avery’s favorite experience during the trip was while the group organized the backroom of a thrift store that funds housing projects in New Orleans, “It was so much fun getting to see the results of our work and at the end, the thrift store employees shared fresh Louisiana shrimp and crawfish with us. It was a great way to end our service and an awesome cultural experience as well.”

Avery recommends ASB [Alternative Spring Break] for all college students looking for the opportunity to not just give back but learn about communities beyond what a tourist might see.

Park Maintenance and Preservation Trip in Orcas Island, Washington

A woman seated at a clif by the water, holding a plush miniature of the University mascot, TEMOC

Anna Reid at Moran State Park

Anna Reid, Eco Rep and Co-Director for the Eco Hub, attended the Park Maintenance and Preservation Trip in Orcas Island, Washington. Anna decided to attend the Orcas Island trip at Moran State Park as she is a huge advocate for conservation and protection provided through the park system. Working to help maintain trails while learning about trail maintenance was a significant factor in Anna’s decision to attend. Being able to experience and learn about a different region’s plants and wildlife was a rewarding takeaway from the trip.

Anna’s favorite experience during the trip was learning more about trail maintenance and different types of trails. She found it very rewarding to help cut back potentially dangerous plants on the paths and practice water mitigation on hiking trails.

The Office of Sustainability is proud to have members who opted to attend such a valuable week of immersive, hands-on service that builds relationships and leadership skills. If you are interested in learning more about Alternative Spring Break at UT Dallas, visit the Office of Student Volunteerism’s webpage to learn more.

The Office of Sustainability’s mission is to engage the UT Dallas community as a catalyst and champion for environmental stewardship and social responsibility while fostering a culture of sustainability evident in all aspects of the campus experience.

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