College of Business

A (spring) break from the usual

by Stephen Briggs

CoB students, faculty and staff on Alternative Spring Break trip to work at the Habitat Restore in Nashville - 2020

Front row: Hong Doan, Van Nguyen, Emilie Becker, Tiffany Toscano, Jessica James, Karris Atkins; Back row: Bob Williams, Ezra Painter

Fun comes in many different flavors. Sometimes, it even comes with a dash of social responsibility. While the beaches in Florida fill up in the spring, each year dozens of JMU students opt to participate in the Alternative Spring Break program, where they spend their week off volunteering their time to help communities across the country and around the world.

For the past four years, a group from the College of Business has made the trek to Nashville to help Habitat for Humanity with their efforts in Music City, U.S.A. The students and their faculty or staff learning partner work with the Habitat thrift store, unloading trucks, researching and pricing items for sale, merchandising on the sales floor and assisting customers. The group arrived just days after a deadly and destructive tornado struck Nashville, so there was plenty of work to be done.

This year’s learning partner/finance and data manager for the Graduate School Karris Atkins said, “We did a lot of organizing. The staff at the Restore really looks forward to seeing JMU students every year. We are able to accomplish in one week what would normally take them months to complete due the few staff they have on a normal basis.” For Atkins, the highlight was “getting to know the students and watch them process how their choices in life have a ripple effect on the world around them. It was great to see them open their minds and hearts to that world more and more as the week progressed.”

The trip was co-led by students Jessica James and Emilie Becker. James joined the trip because she “wanted to gain some more leadership experience before graduating and this seemed like a really great opportunity to do so,” she says. “I was excited to see first-hand what Habitat for Humanity does and learn more about their organization. We learned a lot about our community partner and the affordable housing crisis in Nashville.”

But there was time for fun as well. “I was surprised by how much we were able to do and see in Nashville,” James said. “During our time there we were able to walk down Broadway and visit some local shops, walk around Centennial Park and visit the Country Music Hall of Fame. We even got to go see a Habitat for Humanity community and build site.”

For James, learning that “it isn’t difficult to become more involved or to work towards active citizenship” was both a highlight and a valuable lesson.

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Published: Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Last Updated: Monday, May 23, 2022

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