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Mission and History

The Alternative Breaks@Stanford service and learning immersion programs expose students to complex social and cultural issues through community visits, experiential learning, direct service, group discussion, readings, and reflection activities. The program's vision is to transform students into advocates of social change on issues affecting our local, national and global communities. Alternative Breaks@Stanford is a Voluntary Student Organization Voluntary Student Organization at Stanford University and a student-led affiliate of the Haas Center for Public Service. Alternative Breaks would not exist without the generous funding from ASSU Special Fees. Alternative Breaks@Stanford is a Break Away Chapter Program.


Transforming students into advocates of social change.

Alternative Break programs have inspired many students to continue their involvement with the particular social/cultural issues they explored through their course and trip. Student groups have been formed, majors changed, and new careers discovered.


The first alternative break trip occurred during spring break in 1987. This first trip was led by staff members of what was then called the Public Service Center (later renamed the Haas Center for Public Service). The spring break program grew and eventually became a student-run registered organization at Stanford – Alternative Spring Break (ASB). In 1996 a winter quarter course was added to the program to complement the trip and to enhance the student learning experience. The ASB program has thrived on campus growing to offer as many as 18 courses and trips each year.

Based on the success and growing interest in ASB, in 2008 the Impact Abroad program was launched to provide similar opportunities on a global level during the summer quarter. In 2012, as part of ASB’s 25th anniversary celebration, the ThanksGiving Back program was launched to offer opportunities during the Thanksgiving week break.


Stanford's ASB Program has been nationally recognized with awards from BreakAway, the national alternative break organization. The program has been honored as the "Alternative Spring Break Program of the Year" as well as the "Curriculum Based Alternative Break of the Year."

At Stanford, ASB was acknowledged for its efforts to introduce students to community service with a Lyons Service Award in 1998. In 2002, ASB was again recognized for its contributions by an Outstanding Achievement Award by the Dean of Students. In 2012, ASB celebrated its 25th anniversary.