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Guatemala and New Orleans Among USD Winter Service-Learning Sites

Image AWOL students USD students on an AWOL trip

VERMILLION, S.D. — Rather than spend all of winter break with family or friends, about 80 University of South Dakota students and staff plan to give of themselves on seven service-learning trips in the United States and Central America.

USD's AWOL (Alternative Week of Off-Campus Learning) Program sponsors opportunities for students to travel locally, nationally and internationally during winter, spring and summer breaks and one weekend a month. The students engage in service projects and gain new perspectives on social issues while helping the communities they visit.

This year’s winter break trips planned for Jan. 2-9 and the social issues each addresses:

  • Guatemala: poverty/habitat
  • New Orleans, Louisiana: disaster/poverty
  • Orlando, Florida: health/children
  • Springfield, Missouri: advocacy
  • Dallas: health
  • St. Louis: education/child well-being
  • Indianapolis: education/advocacy

Students interested in taking part in AWOL go through an interview process and help raise money to cover expenses. With help from the USD Foundation, AWOL has set up a crowdfunding site to help in that effort.

"AWOL meets a number of USD's strategic goals,” said Sarah Wittmuss, director of the Center for Academic & Global Engagement. "It strives to meet the diversity and inclusiveness goals of the plan, encourages service-learning and increases positive relationships between the campus and community.”


Housed in the Center for Academic Engagement and Global Engagement, AWOL (Alternative Week of Off-Campus Learning) offers students the opportunity to combine community service with education during academic breaks. Prior to departure, students participate in six weeks of educational training. By utilizing experiences and education, AWOL enables students to become active citizens whose community becomes a priority in their everyday life and provides them with avenues for continued community involvement and learning.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News