Since 1987, Vanderbilt students have ventured across the country to roll up their sleeves for Alternative Spring Break community-service projects. Many alumni consider these experiences to be highlights of their student careers.
Five years ago Washington, D.C., alumni began hosting ASB students for a potluck dinner while the students were in town for their projects. The gatherings—simply intended to connect similarly service-minded students and alumni—have spread nationally in popularity, as 13 chapters welcomed students for potlucks or game-watching parties in 2014.
These gatherings offer a rare opportunity for alumni and students with a common bond to mingle in a relaxed setting. “We value this annual event as a way to thank the students for serving our city,” says Washington, D.C., Chapter President Jodie Leeka, BE’10, ME’11. This year’s students, engaged in a weeklong homeless service and education effort, reminded alumni about ways in which they can give back to their local community.
The informal setting in Leeka’s home helped set a welcoming tone for everyone. “A potluck meal fosters a spirit of community, which is part of ASB’s goal,” she explains. “We enjoyed hearing how ASB has grown over time and sharing our Vanderbilt experiences with the students. Interacting with current students brought back our own Vanderbilt memories and fostered awareness of service opportunities in our community.”