Next week is spring break, a week uniformly anticipated by both students and faculty, as a much needed respite from the routine rigors of the semester. While this has been the winter that wasn’t, so far, I am still looking forward to spring. Spring break and increasingly longer days are both harbingers of the coming blossoms, bird song, and the greening of campus.
For the second consecutive year, our women’s basketball team has made the NCAA tournament! Division III championship action begins this Friday. So spring break starts early with March Madness for those student-athletes. Most of our spring sports teams will be traveling south next week to play and prepare for their seasons in a warmer climate.
When I was a college student, there were not many choices for spring break activities. The ideal spring break was to travel south to a warm beach – an option I could never manage. Other options included resting with family at home or working on campus. Today, students have a number of additional options; many of these are centered on spending time serving those most in need.
Among this year’s opportunities for Saint Vincent students are traveling to:
- Cusseta, Georgia with Dr. Devin Fava, Assistant Professor of Psychology, to build houses for Habitat for Humanity;
- Sao Paulo, Brazil with the Campus Ministry staff to help the Missionary Sisters of Christ, the parish of Saint Vincent DePaul, and the Association of Hope and Life AIDS Clinic; and
- Guatemala City with Dr. Christopher McMahon, Associate Professor of Theology, and Dr. Elaine Bennett, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, to work with the poorest of the poor in a dump community.
These service-oriented trips have students responding to a call to serve in order to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
Another international trip is our global experience trip to China. Alex G. McKenna School Dean, Dr. Gary Quinlivan, along with business faculty members Dr. Richard Kunkle and Dr. Jeffrey Godwin will lead a group of students to study the management practices in a number of Chinese industries. This trip also includes a day of service working at a Catholic orphanage.
The opportunities for Spring Break to be a time of service, learning, and growth on all levels, instead of recreation and relaxation, have grown over the last decade. So many students take advantage of these “alternate spring break” trips that it now seems that these are the “new normal” spring break trips, at least here at Saint Vincent.
My observations over the past decade are that students return from these trips not only refreshed and with renewed passion for the remainder of the semester but also with a new perspective. There is something about serving others that brings out the best in us and helps energize and motivate. I am delighted that this year so many students will answer a call to serve, learn, and grow by spending spring break as meaningful time on, instead of simply taking time off.
Dr. John Smetanka,
Dr. John J. Smetanka has been a member of the full-time faculty since 1997 and currently serves as the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean of Saint Vincent College, a position he has held since January, 2008.