"Begin at the end."
That's what Hillel professionals told participants in a session on alternative break programs at the annual meeting of the American College Personnel Association (ACPA), the leading comprehensive student affairs association.
"We advised university professionals to focus on what they want the students to get out of the immersive experience and to make sure that they reach that goal," says Hillel's Rachel Gildiner, senior associate for the Campus Entrepreneurs Initiative, who presented at the conference with Associate Director for Professional Development Jamie Schiffman and Debbie Yunker, director of engagement at Hillel at the University of Pennsylvania.
With more and more universities offering their own alternative break trips, Hillel can provide a model for other national and local groups. Hillel has brought tens of thousands of college students on alternative breaks around the world.
"As integral partners with student affairs personnel, we presented Hillel's best practices and methodology and how we've been able to make alternative breaks and immersive experiences successful," explains Gildiner. The Hillel professionals connected Hillel's work to the findings of Weatherhead School of Management Professor David A. Kolb, of Case Western Reserve University, who studied how students with different learning styles respond to experiential learning programs.
More than 4,000 student affairs professionals from universities and colleges nationwide participated in the ACPA conference near Washington, D.C. Student affairs professionals from many schools with established Hillels attended the alternative break session, including University of Miami, University of Michigan, Colgate University, SUNY Plattsburgh and UC San Diego.
"It was a wonderful opportunity for the student affairs professionals in attendance to have a constructive and dynamic interaction with Hillel professionals about the 'bread and butter' of all of our work: educating students and providing meaningful experiences," says Hillel Associate Director for Professional Development Schiffman.