Indiana Kelley Students Plan Purpose-Driven ‘Alternative Spring Break’

Apurva Gadde, president of Kelley’s Alternative Break Program, worked with indigenous women in Oaxaca, Mexico. Courtesy photo

How do you plan to spend your spring break after a long semester of midterms, projects, and carefully worded essays?

If you’re at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, your break could be less about soaking up the sun or catching up on much-needed sleep and more about learning how business can impact a variety of social issues around the country.

Kelley’s Alternative Break Program is returning to in-person experiences this week after canceling the trips last year due to the pandemic. Fifty-one students participating in the program are working with a variety of nonprofit organizations across the U.S., reviving a 30-year tradition at the school. Some are in Detroit to help foster urban revitalization through entrepreneurship. Others are in South Dakota working with Native Americans on cultural heritage issues. Still others are learning about prison reform in the nation’s capital with Thrive DC.

Dever Kemme Nash


“The experiences these trips provide would be valuable to anyone regardless of their major,” says Dever Kemme Nash in an article on the Kelley website. Nash is a sophomore from Fort Wayne, Indiana, who went on a Thanksgiving break trip focused on hunger and homelessness in New York.

“However, they are especially valuable to business students since many of the issues we deal with – such as prison reform and poverty — are tied to the business world and so it’s important to understand the connections between them.”

The Alternative Break Program is a student-run initiative under the umbrella of the Kelley Institute for Social Impact which engages students with non-profit organizations throughout the year. The trips began in the early 1990s and now include trips over Thanksgiving and Winter breaks as well. All in all, participating Kelley students will have worked with 11 different organizations this year.

Before the pandemic, Kelley students had the opportunity to travel to international destinations along with opportunities to work on social issues in the United States. For example, as a freshman, Apurva Gadde went to Oaxaca, Mexico, to work with an group focused on social entrepreneurship, responsible tourism, and microfinance–including making loans to indigenous women.

“During my stay, I made tamales with the women, painted a storefront, and conducted a merchandising workshop,” says Gadde, now a senior at Kelly and president of Alternative Break. “One day while we were cooking, one of the women talked about how her husband was quitting his job to support the business she was currently running. She told us about how her children were studying to be doctors in the city. I saw firsthand how a simple loan changed her self-esteem, her status in society and the power dynamics of the house.”

Gracelyn Pavy


Another senior, Gracelyn Pavy, spent her spring break working on sustainable farming in Puerto Rico. She planted gardens for future groups traveling with the non-profit organization and ate food planted by groups who came before her.

“I learned a lot about setting personal goals to minimize my individual carbon footprint as well as how to apply circular economic thinking into my future career,” says Pavy, a Kelley Scholar and co-vice president of Alternative Break. “Learning about a variety of social issues by witnessing efforts to fix them in action makes us better people. We gain diverse perspectives, recognize the gravity of the social problems we address, and hope to take what we learned into our future careers to foster a more socially conscious and caring business environment.”

As Indiana University ramps up to pre-pandemic operations, the Alternative Break Program plans to resume international experiences and increase participation in the 2022-23 academic year.

“I am incredibly proud of the Alternative Break Program students this year. The exec team has done a phenomenal job of leading the organization back into in-person trips and handling all of the complications that arose from that,” says Courtney Bidwell, director of the Kelley Institute for Social Impact. “The site leaders have stepped up and been adaptable and are as passionate as always. And we have some wonderful participants who are giving their time and energy over their breaks to learn more about a social issue and give back. I couldn’t be more impressed with this group of students.”

Students also gain understanding through cultural exchanges, as seen during a trip to Puerto Rico in 2019. (Courtesy photo)

Due to the pandemic, last year’s Alternative Break programs were held virtually. The student organizers, many of whom were able to experience the in-person trips before the pandemic, poured their blood, sweat, and tears into creating a positive, life-affirming experience for this year’s Alternative Breakers, Gadde says.

“Students are motivated to go on our trips if they’re willing to branch out and learn more about a social issue, and if they want to experience something college career-defining,” Gadde says. “While these trips focus on social issues, volunteering, and learning, they are also a great way to find a community of people who care about similar issues, which is enticing to many.”

Learn more about the Alternative Break Program at Kelley School of Business here.

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