Published: March 16, 2023
Spring Break Spans Leadership, Collaboration and Culture
Spring break at The University of Tampa offered everything from leadership opportunities at Walt Disney World to cultural experiences in Atlanta and Tulum, Mexico, and service trips in Memphis, TN.
THE MAGIC OF LEADERSHIP
Students interested in leadership had the opportunity to learn from the Walt Disney Company, all while having fun and exploring the various parks.
For five days, emerging leaders and members of Fraternity and Sorority Life had the chance to meet and engage with new people and learn about expanding or enhancing their roles on campus and in the community, said Madi Bridges, coordinator of Fraternity and Sorority Life.
For Morgan Bick ’24, a member of Alpha Chi Omega, the trip was a dream come true to learn what happens behind the scenes at a company she has admired since childhood.
Through workshops, she learned she is a visionary leader.
When they weren’t in workshops, students had the chance to hop around all four parks, have free time with friends and enjoy nighttime shows like Harmonious, Enchantment and Fantasmic!
“It was really fun to not only go to my favorite place in the world but to learn knowledge from the company I want to work for,” she said.
In her spare time, Bick, who is also a social media intern in the Office of Public Information and Publications, creates Disney-themed content on Instagram and TikTok.
“It’s so much fun to do and film what you love,” Bick said. “This trip truly helped me find people in other chapters who share a devotion to the company as I do.”
The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion hosted a free five-day cultural experience to Atlanta for 11 undergraduates.
The theme of the trip was “Exploring Excellence in Atlanta,” and it explored the issues of racial and gender equity.
The trip required three pre-trip meetings, which allowed students to learn who else was going, context and history of the city and logistics of the trip, said trip organizer Anayah Walker, assistant director for diverse student support services.
“It wasn’t a service trip, but it did include service,” said Walker.
The students went to the King Center to help with organizational tasks and beautifying the property, as well as participated in delivering toiletries to a nursing home.
They also toured the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Georgia State University, among other stops.
For meals, they tried to support minority businesses as often as possible, Walker said.
“It was a diverse group in terms of race, majors and years,” she added.
The overall purpose of the trip was to offer an equitable experience for students who might not have otherwise had the chance to go anywhere on spring break.
“There’s not many times you can tell a college student you’re going on a trip for free,” Walker said.
“For some, it was their first spring break in college; they could’ve gone anywhere, but they chose to be with us.”
COLLABORATION AND CONNECTION
As part of a UT travel course, 11 students traveled to Felipe Carillo Puerto, a small town just south of Tulum, Mexico, to co-create short documentary films about community-based organizations, in order to help them further their missions.
The students were placed into three production crews where they were divided into directing, producing, shooting, audio recording and editing roles.
They worked with three organizations: Cooperativa Lol-Chuy, a women’s embroidery collective; U B áalao’ob Meliponario, focused on preserving ancient Maya beekeeping methods; and Tuumben K’ooben, which promotes sustainable rural life alternatives in the Yucatan Peninsula.
They also worked with the Na’atik Language and Culture Institute, which hosts foreigners who come to Mexico, teaches them Spanish and uses a portion of the income to teach local people English.
“It’s investing in the local community,” said Christopher Boulton, who led the course.
There was no language requirement to take the course, however, there were five weeks of remote Spanish lessons offered through Na’atik, and the group had a couple of lessons, as well as a lesson in Maya while they were in Mexico. Andrew DeMil, chair of UT’s Spanish, languages and linguistics department, also helped the students adjust to the cross-cultural encounter.
Students stayed with local families for six of the eight nights they were there.
“They got really close to the families. It was beautiful,” said Boulton.
“I’m looking for cultural immersion, that’s what the homestay does. We were wanting a deeper understanding of how the people live — you can’t get that at a hotel,” he explained.
During a break from filming, students visited a cenote, an underground cave/swimming hole, where the group took turns jumping off the cliff into the blue water.
“It was spectacular,” Boulton said.
The travel course is a regular, semester-long class that fits into your schedule, Boulton said, adding that the course will be offered again in Spring 2025.
The PEACE Volunteer Center offers alternative breaks for students to serve others outside of the Tampa Bay area. One trip during spring break was to Memphis, TN, to focus on the issues of poverty and homelessness in the community.
Selina Cruz ’24 decided to join the six-day trip because she had previously volunteered with PEACE and she didn’t yet have spring break plans.
The UT students volunteered with Serve 901, an organization that curates service experiences for college students to serve the city of Memphis.
The students worked with Memphis Athletic Ministries, where they played board games with kids and taught them about college life.
“We were trying to be a good adult influence in their lives,” Cruz said.
They also volunteered at Junior Achievement, where they worked with students in grades 3-5 to teach them about adulthood and doing things like writing a check and managing a checkbook.
At World Relief Memphis, a refugee center, students painted offices to provide the employees with a nicer space to work.
The group still had time to take in some history of the city, making a stop at Graceland to learn about Elvis, and the National Civil Rights Museum and the Lorraine Motel.
“It was interesting to be where history was made,” Cruz said.
Following each day’s activities, the group would reflect on their service, what it meant and how they felt about it. Cruz said this was a really impactful part of the experience.
It wasn’t all work, though. The students stayed in a hostel and connected with students from other schools who were also in town on a service trip, even competing in a lip sync battle at one point.
“Going into it, I didn’t really know anyone — by the end, I was super close with everyone,” Cruz said.
To anyone who might want to do an alternative break in the future, Cruz said, “It’s okay to be shy at first, but you’ll bond as you go along.”
Students weren’t the only ones who took advantage of the time off. Faculty did, too.
For example, Anthony LaRose, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice, traveled to the National Autonomous University of San Luis Potosí, Mexico, for an international criminal justice conference.
LaRose spoke about the “C.S.I Effect” and its potential influence on the Mexican criminal justice system.
He was accompanied by UT graduate Shannon Putman ’01, who spoke about using virtual reality to train police in the detection and investigation of crime.
Alper Yayla, director of cybersecurity programs at UT, spoke via Zoom about cybercrime and artificial intelligence.