Mission: Western Oregon University’s Alternative Break Program connects students with transformative hands-on experiences.
WOU students partner with volunteer and community organizations to make a tangible difference in areas of social and cultural concern throughout our local and global communities. Students gain important insights such as:

    • The value of heightened social awareness
    • The importance of lifelong active citizenship
    • The promotion of advocacy of social change within communities

Learn more about our program history, methodology, and goals (pdf)

Read about our past 2017/2018 teams in the Western Edge’s article WOU in the World


Team Member Expectations


Pre-Break Transformation

Prepare for on-site experience and learn about site-specific social issues:

• Education, Orientation and Training
• Pre-Break Service
• Pre-reflection: Goals and Expectations
• Icebreakers and Group Building


On-Break Transformation

Look critically at the root causes of social issues and evaluate the role that you can play in the community:

• Strong Direct Service
• Ongoing Education
• Community Involvement
• Daily Reflection Tied To Service


Post-Break Transformation

Find avenues for continued community involvement and take the next action steps:

• Reorientation
• Continued Education
• Reflection About Reentry Process
• Post – Break Service
• Challenges To Make Life Choices That Benefit The Community



Eligibility to Participate


  • Enrollment: Students must be currently enrolled at Western Oregon University (for summer teams, students who graduated during the prior academic year are eligible to apply)
  • Academic Standing: Students must be in good academic standing
  • Judicial Standing: Students must be in good judicial standing

*this applies for all terms from application to team departure


Site Locations Explained


  • Local: locations within Marion, Polk, and Yamhill Counties
  • Regional: locations within a 10 hour driving radius (past examples: Salem, Portland, Reno, Boise, Seattle)
  • National: locations within the United States that require air travel (past examples: Colorado, Tennessee)
  • International: locations outside of the United States (past examples: Honduras, Costa Rica, Vietnam, Kenya)






Eli Cox, WOU ’14

Looking back at his time at WOU, [Eli] Cox credits two factors for his success in his field and in life. The first is the faculty in the health department….The second key ingredient in Cox’s recipe for success was service learning. In his time at WOU, he took several trips abroad to help indigenous people with basic services. “The people on those trips became my community, which was what I needed,” he said. “I loved being actively engaged, getting to see the direct impact of our work. It really helped me get a better understanding of myself and of life.” Read more of Eli’s experiences and impact in WOU Stories
(Cox (center) poses in 2013 with team members during a service learning trip to India.)




WOU Alternative Break Program

(503) 838-8716 | or e-mail: alternativebreak@wou.edu  | Location: WUC 119

My favorite aspect of this program was that it gave me the opportunity to do what I love best, and that is working hands on with underserved populations and with this, I have created so many connections with those who I have served internationally and the connections and memories I have made will carry me through the rest of my life.

Kaylyn Taylor

Ecuador '15 and Costa Rica '16

My trip was very eye-opening and overall a great experience!

Team Member


I want to keep experiencing other cultures and learn why cultures are different and how we can benefit each other.

Team Member