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University of Michigan School of Information


Volunteer opportunities and alternative breaks

UMSI students can hone valuable information skills and have an impact on communities by participating in volunteer service activities and alternative breaks. In programs such as Alternative Spring Break, Alternative Fall Break and UMSI Service Week, students apply the skills and knowledge they learn in the classroom to information challenges identified by communities and organizations.

Alternative Spring Break 

Spend your spring break working on an information-related project at a non-profit organization in cities such as Detroit or Washington, D.C., or propose a self-initiated project in a city of your choice. Students who participate in UMSI Alternative Spring Break (ASB) gain valuable experience while making an impact. 

Since 1998, hundreds of UMSI students have spent their spring break working for educational, non-profit, cultural or governmental organizations on a wide variety of information projects.

When: The week of the University of Michigan’s spring break 

Eligibility: BSI, MSI and MHI students

Learn more and apply in M-Compass: Information: Alternative Spring Break (ASB)

Examples of previous ASB projects include the following:

Share Food Network, Washington, D.C.

“Our mission for the four-day-long project at SHARE Food Network in Washington, D.C. was to evaluate the usability of the current financial and warehouse management software that SHARE Food Network heavily relies on and to provide recommendations on alternatives. In addition, we studied the operating model of SHARE's counterparts in Philadelphia, Iowa, and several similar programs, then produced a detailed social media presence plan to expand its social influence. At the end of the project, we provided an objective and comprehensive presentation, which will hopefully raise the attention of Catholic Charities to update SHARE's outdated systems. By doing all these, we hope SHARE can be more sustainable as a social enterprise.”

 Ivy Lin, MSI ’19

The Heidelberg Project, Detroit, MI

“I worked with The Heidelberg Project over spring break making a digital version of an exhibit that they had hosted in one of their art houses in 2016. The first stage of this project was getting digitized photos on the Google Cultural Institute platform. The second stage was exhibit design. My supervisor and I decided to not make an exact replica of the 2016 exhibit, so I had freedom to curate the exhibit and locate new photos to tell the story of the organization's history.”

— Carol Schuitema, MSI ’19 

Field Museum, Chicago, IL

“I created a library guide that collected in one place the Field Museum's publications on Louis Agassiz Fuertes, an early twentieth century ornithologist and bird painter. I went through bibliographies, photographs and archival materials to create a guide. I also indexed a vertical file of his correspondence and wrote a short biography for inclusion in the guide.”

— Claire Marshall, MSI ’18

Homeboy Industries, Los Angeles, CA

“Homeboy Industries is a not-for-profit organization providing hope, training and support to formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated people and helping them redirect their lives and become contributing members of our community.

During the week, we migrated their online shop from its existing platform to the Shopify platform. We:

  • Exported inventory data from the existing platform, cleaned and reformatted the data, and imported the data to the Shopify platform 
  • Chose the theme and redefined the information architecture
  • Created documentation and Youtube tutorial videos  to guide their staff to move forward and keep the consistency.”

— Kenji Kaneko, MSI ’18

Alternative Fall Break

During Alternative Fall Break (AFB), students work on a real-world information challenge proposed by a local partner over the course of two days. Spend your fall break gaining experience and learning about information-related community issues while providing a local non-profit with valuable information-related skills and experience.

When: Three days during the University of Michigan’s fall break

Eligibility: BSI, MSI and MHI students

Learn more and apply in M-Compass: Information: Alternative Fall Break (AFB)

Alt Fall Break
UMSI students pose outside of the offices of Data Driven Detroit during an Alternative Fall Break.

UMSI Service Week

UMSI Service Week is a week-long event dedicated to participation in service projects in Ann Arbor and surrounding communities. The entire UMSI community is invited to engage with local community partners by working on identified service projects throughout the week in non-profit organizations around the Ann Arbor area. These projects leverage a wide range of skills from the UMSI community, from painting and archiving to cleaning and conducting quick usability analysis.

When: Fall (usually November)

Eligibility: All UMSI students, faculty, staff and alumni

Alex Carey with a sledge hammer
“On Friday, I braved the cold (22 degrees Fahrenheit) at 8 a.m. and traveled to a house in Ypsilanti for the Habitat for Humanity project. I expected to be raking leaves or cleaning up the yard, but what I actually did was demolition - tearing down a mudroom with a sledgehammer and ripping old metal siding off the house. Embodying my favorite HGTV personas, this day was truly a blast. I got to physically work to make a difference while connecting with some pretty awesome UMSI students and staff.”   Alexandra Carey, MSI ’19

Interested in any of these programs? Email