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, D.C., Fort Myers, and Detroit.


For students

Where: Organizations in Washington, D.C., Fort Myers, and Detroit

When: The ASB program takes place over the week of spring break each year. ASB 2020 is March 2  - March 6, 2020. 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. Information sessions will be held in late fall. 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 a variety of forms. Each student participant is responsible for paying a ~$200 participatory donation fee and/or fundraise to support the UMSI ASB program and reduce the overall student participation donation fee.

How to apply: Application and pre-work required. Applications for ASB 2020 will be available on M-Compass in December

Additional information: See M-Compass 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, D.C. 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. ASB 2020 will take place March 2 - March 6, 2020.

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, D.C. or Detroit. If in Washington, D.C., 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: Applications for organizations will open in December. Contact Alissa Talley-Pixley at or call at (734) 764-1865 for more information.

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.



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.

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.

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 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 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.

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.

Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, "Detroit Climate Change Website"
Micaela Hunter, Pengfei Wang
Project description: Students helped improve the organization's digital presence by updating formatting and design content on its website.

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.

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.

International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit, “Website/eNewsletter improvements”
Junhui Li, Wu Wang, Jessica Kim
Project description: The students improved the organization’s website, establishing an e-newsletter and otherwise maintaining IIMD’s online presence.

Matrix Human Services, "Networked Information Informational Kiosk System"
Vishnu Mahendran
Project description: The student worked on developing an information kiosk network among the dispersed service locations to make it easier to provide up-to-date information to clients, staff and Head Start parents. The student also worked to efficiently capture simple client intake information with minimal staff effort through interactive applications on the kiosks.

Urban Neighborhood Community Development Corporation, "Building tomorrow’s people today"
Qiongyu Meng, Diane Pham
Project description: The students worked on data mining projects that looked at developing mapping layers to identify causalities behind violence and help to build safer communities.
Urban Neighborhood Initiatives, “Putting It All Together: Measuring the Impact of UNI in Southwest Detroit"
Meng Zhang, Dolorence Okullo
Project description: Students developed a dashboard that could be used throughout the organization to track impact in Springwells and make program data more measurable, with a goal of developing a system that integrates the group’s attendance and programming database with the accountability objectives of the funders.


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.

American Library Association, "Have you seen these Children's Book Award winners?"
Alyssa Hanson
Project description: The student created a listing of books, by award, that are missing from the collection, with indication of availability and price.
American Library Association, "Help improve SEO on"
Yining Zhou
Project description: The student worked on the back end of our WordPress site, determined focus keywords and wrote meta descriptions using an SEO plugin.
Ryan Jimenez
Project description: The student assessed and improved data relationships in an MS Access database according to user needs., "Creative Business Data Management Strategies"
Dalton Simancek, Xingchi Jin
Project description: Students delivered a detailed report and strategy plan defining the growth markers and logic that make sense for our unique ecosystem before developing a tool to interpret the information.
Community TV Network, "Chicago Youth Voices of the 80s and 90s"
Kayla Carucci, Emily Reitzel
Project description: The students helped with the catalog of our 1980s and 1990s media.

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.

Harmony House for Cats, "Cat Shelter Adoption Database Creation and Recommendations for Social Media and Web Site Design"
Joanne Sin
Project description: The student helped create a searchable database of all of our previous adopted cats' microchip numbers and adopter information.

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.

Meadville Lombard Theological School, "Rare Books Investigator"
Eric Fedeson
Project description: The student worked with both library and archives staff to create a discovery system for rare books at the institution.
Media Burn Archive, "Make our metadata work for us!"
Shen Wang
Project description: The student found ways to use existing metadata and categorization in order to convey more information about the contents of collections.
Media Burn Archive, "Turn casual clicks into loyal viewers"
Timothy Yoo, Vijeta Belandor
Project description: The student analyzed previously collected data to make improvements in the usability of, with particular attention to what is conveyed on the home page.

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.

Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library, "It’s a curation celebration!"
Noureen Dharani
Project description: The student synthesized key statistics and pieces of information about SCRC and presented these through infographics to communicate information about services and collections both internally and externally.
Swedish American Museum, "Artifact Database Quality Assurance" 
Kaitlyn Sisk
Project description: The student worked directly with the artifacts, paper records and database to enhance, clarify and/or correct a group of object and accession entries in Past Perfect, a collections management database system.
Swedish American Museum, "Evaluation of museum store website" 
Diyu Xiao, Bing-Hsun Wu
Project description: The students assisted the Swedish American Museum’s Kerstin Anderson Museum Store on improvements to the newly-created online webstore.

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.

University of Chicago John Crerar Library, "It’s a curation celebration!"
Elizabeth Gadelha, Ninglu Wang
Project description: The students helped curate a special website and prepared a possible future physical exhibit for the John Crerar Library in honor of the 100th anniversary of the US National Park Service.

Washington D.C.

American Councils for International Education, “The Real Story: Student exchange program outcomes" 
Arun Varghese, Jingzhu Yan
Project description: Students reviewed and analyzed variables within several datasets collected from students who participate in international exchange programs funded by the U.S. Department of State. This analysis was used by program managers to improve programming and influence outcomes.
American Library Association, “ALA's Policy Blog”
Natalie Yee
Project description: The student assessed the design, efficiency and reach of “", a blog for the ALA Washington Office. The analysis contributed to the ALA’s communication strategy and methods.
Amnesty International, “Alt-Click” 
Roxana Galusca
Project description: The student worked with AI to assess workflows, identified future technical and informational management challenges and developed blueprints associated with the utilization of satellite data, text-based social media stream content and video validation to further human rights defense initiatives.
American Red Cross National Headquarters, “American Red Cross Nursing Program Development” 
Shruthi Sanjeevi Reddy
Project description: The student developed a system to house a series of interactive maps, developed nursing and health information management infrastructure for the Chief Nurse, National Nursing Committee and Nursing Network leadership, and designed an informational database with key nursing and health leader details.
American Red Cross National Headquarters, “Streamline Resources and Analyze Usage for Volunteer Services” 
Henan Bo
Project description: The student assisted staff in analyzing data and trends across the American Red Cross organization as a whole. This work aided the organization in evaluating the various intra-organization communication practices.
American Red Cross National Headquarters, “Analyze Volunteer Metrics” 
Jessica Benne
Project description: The student analyzed trends related to volunteer intake processes, retention rates and volunteer hours. They also created a white paper in collaboration with staff to outline trends, tools, best practices, and guidance about recommended next steps.
Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), “Archiving AAMC Website” Hannah Brookhart
Project description: The student archived the association’s website ( and digitized, contextualized, and posted AAMC presidential communications documents to an MS Sharepoint site for use by staff and archives.  
Future of Music Coalition, “Future of Music AV Archiving & Digitization" 
Elena Colon-Marrero
Project description: The student helped the organization develop inventory for multi-platform media, proposed digital preservation and archival methods and best practices, and began the process of implementing the preservation strategy.
Georgetown Law Library, “Best Practices for Research Guides" 
Jennifer Brown
Project description: The student worked with staff to edit and establish content guidelines for library research guides in preparation for the organization’s adoption of new library research guides platform.
Institute of Museum and Library Services, “Evaluating Impacts of Federally-Funded STEM Projects in Libraries" 
Alyssa Hanson
Project description: Working alongside grant program officers, the student helped gather information about STEM projects funded in 2013 and 2014, interviewed select awardees about products created during award periods, and helped analyze and interpret data related to the projects for dissemination to IMLS staff, the general public, and others.
National Archives and Records Administration, “Creating and Analyzing User Content (Social Media)" 
Wu Wang
Project description: The student developed customer personas based on Content Contributor Activities questionnaire responses and generated contributor content tips.
National Archives and Records Administration, “Digital Signage Marketing" Angela Huang
Project description: The student worked on the digital signage project to develop a stock of ready-to-use slides for anniversaries and recurring calendar events for the Strategy and Communication Office, Communication and Marketing Division. 
National Archives and Records Administration, “Records of Unusual Size-Re-organizing Department of Justice Litigation Case Files" 
Stephanie Balagot
Project description: The student assisted with the rehousing of unusually shaped or oversized items among the Department of Justice (DOJ) enclosures to litigation case files. The rehoused documents related to a variety of matters over which the Department of Justice had jurisdiction: cases relating to Federal Tort Claims Act, antitrust violations, federal lands, civil rights, patents, and the desegregation of public education.
National Archives and Records Administration, “Social Media and Web Content Development (Talent Management Division-Performance Management Branch)" 
Christanna Hemmingway 
Project description: The student supported the Performance Management Branch by helping with social media and web development/design.
National Archives and Records Administration, “Social Media Makeover (National Archives' Social Media Team-Office of Innovation)" 
Connie Liu
Project description: The student worked on refreshing the social media directory (, the portal for all social media tools used by the National Archives.
National Archives and Records Administration, “Working with Researchers- Informational Rotations in Textual Reference Division" 
Sarah McLusky
Project description: The student met with RDT2 supervisors to learn about reference organization, procedures, personnel, and overall objectives. “Shadowing” four reference staff members, the student gained a sense of the broad range of records the organization services, and saw first-hand how interactive consultation is conducted with on-site researchers. 
Yuzhou Gong
Project description: The student created and designed a series of infographics for two programs at CLIR: Digitizing Special Hidden Collections and Archives, and the Digital Library Federation utilizing available reporting data, statistics, and information about affiliated groups and programs. 
Open Technology Institute, New America Foundation, “Data Storytelling: Using geodata and oral histories to understand the social history of a community network" 
Haad Khan
Project description: The student worked with historical data to understand the growth and development of one of the largest community networks in the world, in Catalonia, Spain. The student collaborated with staff and evaluated how physical development has responded to social and sociopolitical factors, such as cooperation by local government officials or local median income.
Open Technology Institute, New America Foundation, “Good Evening Monsters: Did John Oliver help or hurt the Net Neutrality cause? Help us analyze Net Neutrality comments" 
Sarah Anderson
Project description: The student helped develop a methodology for analyzing 3.7 million comments about net neutrality that were released by the Federal Communications Commission. The student also began analyzing this data for trends and test hypotheses on the impact of external events on the number and type of submissions.
Open Technology Institute, New America Foundation, “Interconnection? But isn’t that just the Internet? Developing Infographics to Illustrate Complex Internet Concepts" 
Aaron Kwolek, Xuan (Annie) Zhu
Project description: The student assisted staff in developing simple visualizations and infographics of how the Measurement Lab, a global research platform used for measuring the health and stability of the internet, works. 
Open Technology Institute, New America Foundation, “Visualizing Cyber Security Data" 
Lu Huang
Project description: The student worked with a database that housed detailed information and content of more than 400 definitions of terms related to cyber security to create interesting visualizations and improve the usability of the website database.
Open Technology Institute, New America Foundation, “Why is my Internet slow? Visualizing & Analyzing Internet Measurement Data" 
Mayank Khanna
Project description: The student worked with data collected in the various Measurement Lab tests, e.g. NDT (speed/quality data), OONI (censorship measurement data) to brainstorm, sketch, and prototype ways of visualizing the data and helped communicate the results to a public audience.  Measurement Lab is a global research platform used for measuring the health and stability of the Internet.
Peace Corps, “Achieving Peace with Information and Technology” 
Prashant Iyer, Rachel Jaffe
Project description: Students compiled a catalog of global Peace Corps Volunteer activities that demonstrated innovative use of information, communication, and technology for development (ICT4D). The catalog aided Peace Corps in the areas of program and training design, assessment, and partner identification.
Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, “Digital Collections and Web Publishing Internship" 
Martha Stuit
Project description: The student worked collaboratively with the Center’s Webmaster to help improve the organization’s taxonomies and contributed to the indexing of its digital collections.  
Smithsonian Institution, “Digitizing the National Collection of Fossil Marine Mammals" Cecilia Caride
Project description: The student helped plan and prototype the workflow for whole drawer digitization of fossil marine mammal specimens. 
Smithsonian Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology, “Putting Theory and Things Together on the Web - SIMA Website Revision" 
Gedi Tang, Li Chen
Project description: The students helped the organization enhance its web presence and content by updating and/or reformatting existing content, creating a page for the new faculty fellows program, adding dynamic visual content, and evaluating integration of mobile-first design.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian, “Get me online: Encoding oral history transcripts for the web" 
Fan Luo
Project description: The student encoded oral history transcripts for inclusion on the Archives of American Art's public website. 
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian, “Who am I? Where do I belong? Adding Metadata to Oral History Audio Files" 
Alexa Hagen
Project description: Working with born digital oral history audio files, the student added metadata to master and derivative files using BWF MetaEdit and MP3Tag (programs may change). The student followed both internal and FADGI guidelines for embedded metadata. 
TechFreedom, “TechFreedom's Analytics and Website Review" 
Mandi Gonzalez, Tsai-Yu Han 
Project description: Students analyzed trends in event participation (live attendance and streaming/remote) in order to optimize and improve campaigns, the website and the social media approach.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, “Coolest ARM/Library Project Ever!" 
Daina Andries
Project description: The student established preservation best practices, as well as an archival process and organizational structure for a future historical archive documenting HUD’s role in addressing homelessness for the past 25 years.

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.