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About Alternative Breaks

The Alternative Breaks program engages University of Utah students, faculty, and staff in Justice work and experiential learning over school breaks. Teams of students, along with faculty/staff partners, work alongside communities throughout the western United States on a variety of community-identified projects to address a variety of social and environmental justice topics. “Alt Breaks" collaborates with non-profit organizations to promote lifelong activism through community engagement, education, dialogue, and reflection.


Purpose - Our "Why" 

In Alternative Breaks, we believe that a more diverse body of knowledge allows communities to grow, learn, and prosper together. We recognize that there is power in personal and communal narratives, and that this power can be shared among individuals and communities and leveraged toward JusticeFundamentally, we recognize that injustice exists and believe that Justice is possible. With the understanding that living things matter and have potential, humans have the capacity to effect the changes they feel are necessary in their communities.  


We envision a just world.


As a Bennion Center program, Alternative Breaks works to promote active engagement through experiential, justice-based learning on school break experiences dedicated to full engagement and working in power with local and distant communities.


Our program is driven by a set of core values:


building and connecting spaces where folx can have a sense of ownership and belonging

Love as Justice

when we show compassion and care for others, we manifest justice


showing up authentically, making intentional decisions, and owning responsibility for our actions


understanding the emotional, mental, and physical impacts of working in communities and that practicing self-compassion allows us to continue that community work


understanding our potential for environmental harm and working to minimize that harm in order to create a respectful relationship with our planet

Experience as Education

being open to and honoring learning that comes from our experiences in communities

Reflection to Action

understanding our experiences and our roles in communities to inspire action


"School breaks last a week... Alternative Breaks last a lifetime."

Learn More about Alternative Breaks at the U

Since 1997, Alternative Breaks at the University of Utah has partnered teams of college students with local and distant communities to engage in justice-based and experiential learning during academic breaks. Started and run entirely by student leadership and passion, Alternative Breaks maintains this legacy of strong student leadership, with each of our experiences imagined, created, and executed by the students on our leadership team.

In 2008, these students introduced Alternative Fall Breaks to the exciting work of the program. Years later, in 2015, Alternative Weekend Breaks were introduced to provide a more accessible AB experience in terms of time and cost. In 2020, our program responded to the COVID-19 pandemic—along with the continued need for critical justice-based, engagement for communities and students—by developing safe, free, local experiences known as AB Lite. As they provide such value to our mission and our students' opportunities, we plan to continue some form of AB Lite programming following the pandemic as well.

Today, our program sends out around 20 community engagement experiences annually, each focused on a topic of justice identified by students and driven by participants passionate about the topic themselves. Working with over 220 students and more than 85 community partner organizations each year, the Alternative Breaks program provides over 5,500 hours of direct engagement working in power with communities across the western United States (and Vancouver, Canada).


Coming soon: how we approach critical community engagement and Alternative Breaks experiences! 

Information about our new program logo and its meaning coming soon!


The University of Utah is fully committed to affirmative action and to its policies of nondiscrimination and equal opportunity in all programs, activities, services, and employment without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, gender identity/expression, religion, sexual orientation, and status as a protected veteran. The University seeks to provide equal access to its programs, services, and activities for people with disabilities. Reasonable prior notice is needed to arrange accommodations.  To request accommodations please contact Grace Hymel.

Evidence of practices not consistent with these policies should be reported to the University’s Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator: Director, Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, 201 S Presidents Cr., Rm 135, Salt Lake City, UT 84112. 801-581-8365 (V/TDD).

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Last Updated: 7/31/21