It’s been over a week since the ACE/AB trip working in NOLA. As I reflect on our five days of service, I have a message for those reading this blog.

For students: The opportunities to do meaningful service with the Alternative Breaks program at SMU are wonderful. During AB trips, students meet others they would perhaps not otherwise meet on campus. For example, on our trip we had a student from Meadows who did not know many students outside of the Meadows school; we had a first-year student; and we had a transfer student who had just started at SMU in August.

The AB program travels to some great locations – including NOLA, Los Angeles, Boston, Austin, Taos and NYC – and works with community service agencies dealing with important concerns such as poverty, hunger, homelessness, disaster relief, AIDS and affordable housing. Learn how to apply to the program here.

Students don’t have to leave town or commit a week, however. Through the Dedman College Center for Academic-Community Engagement (ACE) you can become involved in sustained engagement or in a one-time volunteer event. At ACE we have relationships with service agencies helping various populations in the Dallas area. And generally all of the agencies with whom we work are located within 10 miles of campus. ACE has opportunities including service learning courses, work-study, ACE fellowships, ACE/AB trips, and living at the ACE House. Learn about these opportunities on our website and Facebook page, where you can see photos of our service events.

So while the AB program deals with issues in areas beyond the city limits, ACE deals with all of those same concerns here in North Texas. And ACE has relationships with service agencies that greatly need the help and support of the SMU student community. Please get in touch if you would like to become involved: call 214-768-4852 or email me at

For faculty and staff: The Alternative Breaks program is a wonderful way to be engaged with students. The trips are student-organized and -run, so the faculty/staff adviser goes along for the ride and the service, and is present in case of emergency. The site leaders are SMU students who thoughtfully and carefully plan every activity.

ACE also is a resource for faculty/staff who are interested in connecting with a local agency to do service work. And for faculty who would like to add a service learning component to a course, there are sample syllabi on the ACE website as well as suggestions for how to manage this type of classroom requirement.

For community members reading this blog: Please know that we have a wonderful group of students, faculty and staff committed to creating positive change both locally and elsewhere. If there are needs within your agency or population, please contact ACE or SMU’s Community Engagement and Leadership Office. We would be happy to meet and discuss how we might be of service.

In closing, we are ACE, we are CEL, and we are SMU Dedman College – and we are here to help.

The ACE/AB team in New Orleans