Back in the Day
Students told Susan Ford Wiltshire, professor of classics, that they wanted to know the world beyond campus. Wiltshire suggested that they launch a spring break program of community service to discover different cultures, places and social issues. She had no takers that first year. The next year, Ethel Johnson (now Harris) responded. “I am going to try to change some things,” Harris, BA’87, said. The English and molecular biology major did. About 75 students enthusiastically inaugurated Alternative Spring Break in 1986. Organizers had hoped for a mere 25. More than 20 years later, thousands of students have participated in Alternative Spring Break, thousands of people have been served, and the program has spread to campuses nationwide. Even in its infancy, the student-run organization attracted interest on campus and inspired awe at how fast it grew. In 2009, more than 420 volunteers worked on 35 sites in the U.S. and Guatemala instead of hitting the beach or slopes. Projects included repairing houses, caring for HIV-infected children, protecting endangered species and confronting other social issues. Alternative Spring Break is so popular that the organization has a wait list of students wanting to participate.
All images are reproduced courtesy of Vanderbilt University Special Collections and Archives.