Alternative Spring Break

UMSI Alternative Spring Break (ASB) creates the opportunity for students to engage in a service-oriented integrative learning experience; connects public sector organizations to the knowledge and abilities of students through a social impact project; and facilitates and enhances the relationship between the School and the greater community.

ASB challenges students to....

  • Bring impact to the community through service to an organization and its constituents
  • Develop professional skills through the connection of information concepts and practices in an immersive, experiential project
  • Build a foundation to become a socially-engaged information professional

The ASB program at UMSI was initiated in 1999 and was a foundational project for the Initiative for Information Impact. ASB student participants are placed in non-profit, cultural, governmental, and educational institutions in Washington DC, and Detroit.

For students

Where: Organizations in Washington DC and Detroit

When: The ASB program takes place over the week of spring break each year. As part of the program, students start work on Monday morning and work approximately 35 to 40 hours until Friday afternoon.

Eligibility: Current MSI, MHI, and BSI students are eligible to apply.

Students interested in participating in ASB should attend an ASB information session. Several will be offered during the fall term, prior to the application period. To register to attend an ASB information session, visit the Events calendar on iTrack. ASB student applications will be accepted via MCompass near the end of the Fall term. See M-Compass for more information

Cost: Expenses for transportation to and from and lodging in the host cities are funded through fund raising and UMSI support. Each student participant is responsible for paying a $250 participatory donation fee and/or fundraise to support the UMSI ASB program and reduce the overall student participation donation fee.

How to apply: View instructions and complete the M-Compass application. Application coming fall 2017.  Each ASB participant agrees to the following the criteria outlined on Mcompass.  

Additional information:  see MCompass application for more information on travel and lodging, student-project matching criteria, and more.

Contact: For more information, contact Alissa Talley-Pixley at or call at (734) 764-1865.

For organizations

Where: Your organization in Washington DC or Detroit

When: The ASB program takes place over the week of spring break each year.  As part of the program, students start work on Monday morning and work approximately 35 to 40 hours until Friday afternoon.

Eligibility: Organizations must meet the following criteria to participate:

  • Be a public sector organization (non-profit, government, education, or cultural)
  • Be in the metropolitan area of Washington DC or Detroit. If in Washington DC, be reasonably accessible by public transportation from the downtown area
  • Organizations must be willing to provide a professional-level project or projects related to the School of Information’s areas of study for the MSI, BSI and MHI programs.
  • Organizations must be willing to spend time with the students, providing them with a well-rounded experience, educating them on the purpose of the organization, and introducing them to relevant colleagues

Cost to organizations: Participation for organizations is free. The students come to you fully funded. Through fundraising and additional support, the School provides lodging and transportation; students cover other personal expenses, including local transportation and food.

How to apply: To participate in ASB, host organizations will participate in a project proposal process.  The proposal will open in fall 2017.

Students will apply to participate in the program throughout the early winter. Organization contacts will then be notified of the matched student(s) in January. Organizations will be provided with the student's resume and a personal statement on their interest in the project/organization. At that time, project mentors can reach out to their student directly to begin correspondence. It is highly recommended that project mentors coordinate at least one virtual meeting with their student.

Additional information: ASB Frequently Asked Questions

Contact: For more information, contact Alissa Talley-Pixley at or call at (734) 764-1865.



Equality Michigan, "News You Can Use"
Sonakshi Watel, Jingshu Zhao
Project description: Students will design and launch an electronic newsletter that can seamlessly move from website, to email, to twitter in order to increase engagement among LGBT people and raise awareness of LGBT issues in Michigan.

City of Detroit, "Assisting in Development of the Online Geographic Information System (GIS) Interface"
Yuqing Xia, Zhe Li
Project description: Students will develop a plan to successfully incorporate metadata into MyGEOShare, creating documentation in the form of user-guides and SOPs and assist with employee MyGEOShare trainings and enhance the utilities’ ability to serve the general public.

Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, "Detroit Business Attraction Collateral Lab"
Claire Koo, Sharon Lee
Project description: Students will have an opportunity to tell the Detroit story by designing collateral materials for web and print. The materials produced will be used by economic development professionals working to bring new and innovative businesses to Detroit.

Detroit Ledger, ”Choose your own adventure”
Tong Yin
Project description: Students will work with the IRS’s huge new nonprofit data XML dump to help us understand and normalize the detailed schema across years -- a project that will help researchers across the US.

Data Driven Detroit, “Development Tracking Data Assistance”
Jeremy Griswold, Chengyi Xu
Project description: The student will work toward transforming a pilot development tracking dataset into a high-quality, regularly-updated source of information for tracking residential and commercial development in Downtown Detroit

Detroit Historical Society, "Digitizing Detroit History"
Sarah Swanz
Project description: The student will help process and digitize a collection of Detroit historical documents to make documents available as digital histories.

The Heidelberg Project, “Our mission knows no screen size”
Rachel Kim, Nathaniel Magyar
Project description: Students will be working on the framework to create a new, mobily optimized website for the Heidelberg Project.

The Henry Ford, “Watts Campbell Records Inventory”
Scott Kirycki
Project description: The student will review and record box and volume contents and apply box and volume labeling with the goal of creating a box-level inventory for the collection in the mode of MPLP and extensible processing.

Arts & Scraps, “Connect us to the World!”
Purva Sane
Project description:  The student will help streamline Arts & Scraps’ connected systems by implementing the connection of the website, in-store commerce, e-commerce, newsletter and upcoming database.


Afro-American Genealogical Society of Chicago (AAGHSC), “Celebrating Our Ancestors Lives”
Asha Shenoy Kudupi
Project description: The student will help improve the society's digital presence through a mobile-friendly and scalable website redesign. The new website will be a one-stop destination for current and prospective members.

American Library Association, “Committee and Membership Data Analysis”
Jin Xiu Lu
Project description:  The student will assist the ACRL in analyzing current committee member participation rates and flagging appointment data of various parameters. Following analysis, the student will execute a communication plan to said members, and provide updates to the official ALA membership database.

American Library Association, “Intellectual Freedom Roadmap”
Pallavi Gupta
Project description:  The student will create an immersive online “roadmap” showing a continuum of involvement in the Intellectual Freedom Community to increase membership and highlight intellectual freedom opportunities in an interactive way.

American Library Association, “OIF/UX”
Tim Yoo, Nate Bonham
Project description:  The student will create an educational recruitment tool that will allow users to get an overview of the various ways to connect with ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF).

American Library Association, “Research and archive for American Libraries”
Marcy Held, Ben Rearick
Project description:  The students will assist American Libraries with sending archived digital files to the ALA Archives, as well as assist in researching grant award winners, newsletters, databases, and other sources for librarians to be featured in Spotlight and Bookend columns.

forma, “Female Genital Violence and Clinical Implications: Internet Accessibility”
Amy Shih, Hanna Jeon
Project description:  The students will work to develop a new WordPress website and research articles regarding newest trauma research with respect to sexual abuse and FGM/C, evidence-based treatment models, and therapeutic theoretical orientations to create a resource guide for the site.

Hanul Family Alliance, “Creating Client Information Management System”
Hyungmook Oh
Project description: The student will work toward implementing a cloud-based solution for keeping track of client data, allowing it to be updated and managed by different staff in various locations.

Illinois Legal Aid Online, “Style Police: We are a mess - help establish our style guide!”
Paul Martino, Sidharath Chhatani
Project description:  The students will organize and style a documentation guide for the website's branding, web, content, and technical development, putting it into one format where it is easy searchable.

Media Burn Archive, “Bring our website into 2017!”
Ruta Gokhale, Chelsea Miller
Project description: The students will analyze the current usability of the website and implement changes that will allow the user to easily find and experience content that interests them.

Media Burn Archive, “Social Media Maven”
Julie Cruz, Kelly Shashlo
Project description: The students will develop a social media policy and implement strategies for unified branding and promotion with a particular focus on ensuring Media Burn’s YouTube channel enhances brand awareness.

Newberry Library, “Crowdsourcing at the Newberry: Help Us to Help Users to Help Make Collections Accessible”
Shuyao Zhu, Michael Abboreno
Project description: The students will build an umbrella site in Omeka or a similar CMS that provides unified access to the Modern Manuscripts and Pullman projects, as well as other crowdsourcing initiatives related to French Revolution pamphlets.

Newberry Library, “Help Make the Newberry Library Site Mobile Friendly for Event Registrations and Donations”
Cathy Chow, Hongyu Chen
Project description: The students will create a usable CSS code sheet that is stylish and easy to read to make the Newberry Library’s event registration and donation pages become mobily optimized. The students will also re-code the sites CSS and HTML to be more adaptable and responsive.

Prevent Child Abuse America, “Spare the Aspirin and Make the Database Headache-Free Instead”
Madison Huffman, Jatin Gupta
Project description: The students will collect feedback from existing users on our PIMS (Program Information Management System) database and review best practices in database design to create a concrete recommendation report for user interface improvements on how to make the PIMS database more intuitive and user-friendly.

The Field Museum of Natural History, “Curate our Collections: Gather Field Museum Knowledge and Share”
Claire Marshall
Project description: The student will work on a variety of reference activities, including the creation of web content and one LibGuide related to Field Museum collections and/or prominent figures. 

The University of Chicago Library, “Putting Chicago Back on the Map: Revamping the Online Identity of the UChicago Library's Map Collection for a 21st Century Audience”
Zoe Halbeisen, Tanya Madhani
Project description: The students will be revamping the current Map Collection website by aligning it with the visual identity of the University of Chicago Library via LibGuides. The students will organize and curate website information for Map Collection patrons.

The University of Chicago Library, Preservation Department, “Conservation Data Analysis Tool”
Abhraneel Sarma
Project description: The student will research methods on regularizing data and make recommendations on visualization software to make our complex data more easily understood by a variety of audiences.

The University of Chicago Library, Special Collections Research Center, “"There used to be a link to that!": Assessing User Experience of a Redesigned Website”
Sneha Joshi
Project description: The student will design and conduct a usability study to analyze how special collections staff members navigate the new website and identify areas for improvement in the homepage design.

Los Angeles

Homeboy Industries, “Shopify documentation”
Kenji Kaneko, Ella (Qiongyu) Meng, Josue Reyes
Project description: During the week, students will migrate the online shop store from the existing platform to Shopify platform, including: export inventory data from the existing platform, clean and reformat the data, and import the data to the Shopify platform; choose the theme, redefine the information architecture; and create documentation and YouTube tutorial videos to guide staff to move forward and keep the consistency. 

Student stories

 MSI student Jatin Gupta and BSI student Madison Huffman with ASB mentor at Prevent Child Abuse America in Chicago

Each year, UMSI students travel to various U.S. cities and perform service work at non-profit and social sector organizations.

Learn more about Master of Science in Information student Cathy Chow (left) and her 2017 Alternative Spring Break (ASB) experience at the Newberry Library in Chicago, IL.

Kenji Kaneko Josue Reyes Ella Meng


For the first time, UMSI formally ran a student-initiated project option for ASB. Three students - MSI and dual degree student Kenji Kaneko, MHI student Ella Qiongyu Meng, and MSI student Josue Reyes traveled to Los Angeles to work with Homeboy Industries (right). Read more about their experience.

You can view a gallery of all ASB projects to learn more about student projects and opportunities.