Inside Mizzou Podcast:
Outreach, Ep. 10
As the largest alternative break program at any university in the United States, Mizzou Alternative Breaks is driven by a simple but powerful motto: “Get Out. Give Back.” More than 1,000 students participated this year in trips across the globe — some even right here in Missouri.
Join Chancellor Cartwright for this week’s Inside Mizzou podcast where he talks with Alexis Hamby, a senior studying investigative journalism who serves as the director of leadership and service for MAB’s Weekend Program; and Henry Evetts, a graduate student in accounting and the graduate assistant for the Weekend Program. They discuss how Mizzou students are reinventing the way we look at outreach across the state and around the world.
Moderator: [00:00:07] From the classroom to the cornfield, journalism to SEC athletics, the University of Missouri works 52 weeks a year, every year. This is Inside Mizzou — real stories, real discoveries and real impact of the Mizzou community. Today’s episode is called “Outreach.” “Get out. Give back.” These four words appear on every t-shirt of Mizzou Alternative Breaks, the largest alternative breaks program at any university in the nation. This year alone more than 1000 students participated in trips across the globe — some even right here in Missouri. On this episode of Inside Mizzou, we will be talking about how Mizzou students are reinventing the way we look at community engagement across the state… and around the world. Joining Chancellor Cartwright today are Alexis Hamby, a senior studying investigative journalism and the director for leadership and service for the Weekend Program on the executive board for Mizzou Alternative Breaks; and Henry Evetts, a graduate student in accounting and the graduate assistant for the Weekend Program. Thank you all for being here today. Now, Mizzou Alternative Breaks, or MAB, is divided into five seasons, correct? So, it’s Thanksgiving, Winter, Spring, Summer and Weekend, with international being in — is it Summer?
Alexis Hamby: [00:01:31] Winter and Summer.
Moderator: [00:01:32] Winter and Summer, okay. So, Alexis, you are part of the Weekend season. Can you explain to us and to me how Weekend is different than all of the other seasons I just named?
Alexis Hamby: [00:01:42] Yeah, definitely. So, the Weekend season definitely does look a little logistically different than the other seasons just because it’s more intentionally tailored for the shorter time period over the weekend. We send out six participants on each trip — two being site leaders and four being participants, where most trips in MAB typically range from like 10 to 12. And that kind of gives the students an opportunity to get to know each other a little bit better just because it is a shorter timeframe. Weekend trips do stay in the state. So, we get the opportunity to go out all across the state in the different counties. Where other seasons go nationwide and even international, we get the opportunity to stay in Missouri and meet people throughout the state. Then also something pretty unique to the Weekend season is partnership trips, which make up the majority of our trips that go out. So, academic programs like the School of Health Professions, campus organizations like a trip from women in STEM just came back this weekend or Greek affiliations can sign up through MAB and partner with us, and it gives MAB kind of the chance to become a little bit more diverse. And then those groups as well get to kind of grow the importance of service within their organization as well.
Moderator: [00:02:59] And then as a member of the executive board, how many trips do you typically oversee?
Alexis Hamby: [00:03:05] I oversaw 14 trips that went out last weekend, and then we’re hoping for spring shooting more for like 20 to 25.
Moderator: [00:03:14] And what are some of the challenges that you faced in doing that and overseeing that large amount of people? Because people can be quite unpredictable and events can be unpredictable as well, so how has that been for you?
Alexis Hamby: [00:03:28] It’s been an awesome challenge — definitely a leadership role like no other for sure. You really have to be intentional about meeting all the site leaders where they’re at when it comes to service education and that type of thing. And just giving that one-on-one attention is so crucial, and carving out that time to meet with them and make them feel empowered and special. It’s service within itself for sure.
Moderator: [00:03:52] And on the other end of the spectrum, Henry, you’re not overseeing all of the trips as Alexis is doing, and you’ve been with MAB for five years now, correct? So, since your freshman year. How has MAB kind of shaped your college experience? We’ve heard a little bit about her and her experience, and how has it been for you?
Henry Evetts: [00:04:11] Yeah, in many ways it’d be really hard to talk about my Mizzou experience without talking about MAB. In many ways, it kind of is my Mizzou college experience. I’ve been involved in a variety of organizations, but it’s certainly the only one that I’ve been involved in for each of my years here on campus, and, you know, there’s so many things I can talk about with MAB and what it’s done for me and my experience here. The one I like to talk about the most is the people — just all the different people I’ve been able to meet and the different parts of campus that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise — so, I mean other different organizations and majors. And so, it’s being able to meet a variety different people and what they’ve taught me. There’s still a lot of really knowledgeable and passionate people in the program, and so that’s been really special for me. And also I think, you know, starting out as a participant my freshman year and going into a site-leader role my sophomore year, I think I really got in at the right time for me, kind of growing as a person. I mean, MAB really altered the way that I view the world and really kind of shifted the lens that I view the world through. And so, to me that was the most impactful for me, right from the start.
Moderator: [00:05:21] So, you’ve been a participant, you’ve been a site leader, you’ve been an executive board member and now that you’re a grad assistant, how has your role within the program changed? How have you seen the different stuff that you’re working on now as opposed to when you were a participant just kind of fresh-eyed about this program?
Henry Evetts: [00:05:39] Yeah, it’s really interesting to kind of reflect back on each year. In many ways, it’s kind of another evolution, you know. As a site leader, your main objective is to really support your participants and create a positive and impactful experience for your participants. And then, you know, as an executive member — and Alexis can attest to this — I mean you really just want to support your site leaders as much as possible and kind of put them in a position to succeed and to facilitate some really incredible service experiences. And, you know, as an advisor, as a graduate assistant, you know, you’re there to support your executive board and do as much as possible to support them as they facilitate these experiences for their site leaders. And so, it really is kind of another evolution. But some of the biggest differences kind of from a university perspective, you know, working as sort of a department of the university or working alongside some of the other service programs within the Office of Student Engagement — getting to work with other graduate assistants you get to know other advisors on campus and kind of see how everything works together and where MAB kind of falls in the big picture of the campus has been really interesting and a new challenge for me. And also just getting to work with other parts of campus. You know, whether it’s our finance who support us a lot in our fundraising campaigns and also sort of a long-term perspective. I think as staff we really try to think about our next steps three-, four- or five-years down the road, and that’s also kind of been a fun, exciting challenge.
Moderator: [00:07:09] Chancellor Cartwright, let’s bring you into the fold a little bit. So, you’ve heard from Henry’s experience about how MAB has impacted him. You’ve heard Alexis’ experience about just being an executive board member. Why do you think community engagement is so vital and so important to the student experience here at Mizzou?
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:07:27] So, I think Alexis and Henry have really covered it very well. And that is we’re a public research university within Missouri, and we benefit from all that has been given to us by the citizens of Missouri. They fund this institution. They enable us to get the educations and then to go on and do tremendous things with that education. And this is an opportunity for our students to learn to give back to the people of the state who have entrusted us to be able to do the right things for our students. And so, being able to go back and help communities, help individuals, it helps us to continue to build that tradition of wanting to always give to those around us and help improve society in general. I think the other big part to this for all of the students who participate is the opportunity to have that leadership experience. You’ve heard them talk about taking on leadership and thinking about the site and figuring out what’s the best experience that people will have. Those types of decisions and how you bring people together and make sure that they have a positive experience, that’s the leadership that you’ll take with you the rest of your life. And so, I think there’s a big part to MAB in that you come out of it with great leadership experience. You come out with an understanding for what it means to give back. And then of course you get to experience giving to society and how powerful that can be for your own personal growth.
Moderator: [00:09:09] And this is just pure curiosity, but have you done something like where you are part of an organization or community outreach when you were a student?
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:09:19] When I was a student — actually, I’m thinking back — I worked a lot. So, I didn’t have the opportunity, but I certainly wish that I had. I just didn’t have an opportunity to do it. As I got into being an assistant professor and a professor, then we also were part of the Math Science Partnership, which worked with the public schools within inner-city Buffalo, NY. And so, having an opportunity to go in and think about how do we impact students who may not have had the opportunity to have the science education and the math education that others have had, you know, because of the circumstances, because of which school they’re in. And being able to participate and have our students participate and work with those younger students, that makes a big difference in their lives and makes a big difference in the students’ lives who participate in that.
Moderator: [00:10:15] Yeah. And one of the best aspects I think personally about Weekend is the “2020 Goal.” And I just want to talk a little bit about that “2020 Goal.” So, the “2020 Goal” — I’ve said 2020 so many times right now — but it’s serving 114 counties in Missouri. So, it’s all the counties in Missouri, if anybody’s unfamiliar with that. So, can you both elaborate on the importance of this promise that MAB has made to this state?
Alexis Hamby: [00:10:50] Yeah, for sure. So, 114 counties was set a couple years ago. Over the weekend, we served in 13 new counties, so we have four left that we’re hoping to serve in the spring, which is exciting.
Moderator: [00:11:03] Yeah, that’s exciting.
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:11:05] Very exciting.
Alexis Hamby: [00:11:05] For sure. It’s such an important pledge to our state, and it aligns so well with MAB’s values as well, just like Chancellor Cartwright was saying. Like “Get out. Give back.” Of course, we want to show investment and show that MU cares to every county in Missouri, and the best way to do that is genuinely through service.
Henry Evetts: [00:11:25] Yeah, I think one of my favorite aspects of this goal is, you know, as the University of Missouri, we have this obligation and responsibility to impact every corner of the state. And I’m sure, Chancellor, you can elaborate on that, but for us I think it’s special that MAB can be a part of that, and to be part of that outreach, you know, that to me is my favorite aspect of it.
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:11:50] We’ve had a lot of students who’ve had the opportunity come to this great institution from all 114 counties, and it is a great opportunity for us to give back and thank them for allowing those students, you know, allowing their children to come here and to receive an education at this great institution. But also it’s our opportunity to show how much we care about all of the citizens of Missouri.
Moderator: [00:12:14] Going into that, let’s talk about the importance of MU Extension, whenever it comes into this outreach of reaching out to those 114 counties within Missouri, and how important that is when it comes to the planning process of these trips.
Alexis Hamby: [00:12:27] It’s so, so crucial, and it’s been so cool to see this fall how helpful of a resource they’ve been for our trips. Especially when you’re going into new counties, our intention is to of course provide positive service where we can best be fit, and they’ve been such a great bridge into that county, just because they have affiliation to MU, but also live in that county and know the community much better than we do. So yeah, growing those relationships and continuing to form them are really important. They’ve been an awesome resource and a great bridge for sure, and we’re excited to reach out to all of them in the spring again.
Moderator: [00:13:01] Yeah, it makes your service way more effective.
Alexis Hamby: [00:13:04] Oh, absolutely.
Moderator: [00:13:05] Because there’s always that mentality of going in, you don’t really know the community…
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:13:09] Right.
Moderator: [00:13:10] …your service could actually be detrimental…
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:13:13] Correct.
Moderator: [00:13:13] …and not really giving that benefit.
Alexis Hamby: [00:13:15] Yeah, so they’re the first contact that any of the site leaders call, just to introduce ourselves.
Henry Evetts: [00:13:21] Yeah, I think it’s really great how connected they are within the community, and how willing they are to facilitate service with us. And so, you know, maybe on that particular weekend the office can’t facilitate service that weekend, but they’re going to put us in touch with someone that can or other organizations or other community leaders. And I think that’s what’s really special.
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:13:43] Yeah, I mean I think that that’s true of all of our extension offices. I say this: You know, when you look at how much they already do for each county and their commitment to that county, they live there, they’re part of it, they want to make sure that any activity that’s happening there is to help and improve the entire county. So, they’re deeply invested, and they’ll make sure that you get connected to the right people. And so, they’re a great group of people to work with.
Moderator: [00:14:11] This is just more of, once again, curiosity. I’m just so curious today.
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:14:16] You are curious.
Moderator: [00:14:16] (Laughing) Thank you. Thank you for that.
Everyone: [00:14:20] (Laughing)
Moderator: [00:14:20] But I just wanted to ask: I’ve heard a lot about MAB, and I just want to hear your MAB story. So, I know that it’s very central to kind of why you joined and why you’ve been in it for so long. So, you’ve been in it for five years, Henry. You’ve been in it for, how many years again, Alexis?
Alexis Hamby: [00:14:36] I started my freshman year, so three years.
Moderator: [00:14:39] Yeah, it’s made an impact. So, I just want to hear a little bit about your MAB story.
Henry Evetts: [00:14:47] I can get started on mine. I think obviously mine begins with my first trip that I participated in my freshman year. And it was an indigenous people’s trip to Bluff, Utah. And I could talk for hours, honestly. Me and Alexis had a pretty long conversation about my first trip the other day and just the incredible people on that trip that brought so many different perspectives and experiences. And being with the Navajo community in Bluff, Utah was very enlightening, very humbling and just very educational. And, you know, I think that really set the tone for me, and that really kind of was what my motivating factor for my next, you know, each of my next years in the program. And I think I’m trying to continue that and bring a similar experience of education and connection through all of my trips. And then my year on the board, that was kind of my motivation, and it’s kind of really what drives me to be a part of this program.
Alexis Hamby: [00:15:51] Yeah, my story is pretty similar. The first trip I ever went on actually was a fall Weekend trip, so it’s kind of cool that I’m on Weekend exec now.
Moderator: [00:15:58] Wow, full circle!
Alexis Hamby: [00:16:00] Yes! Full circle for sure. Yeah, I had heard about MAB I think at Summmer Welcome or something, and I was like,”Well, I don’t know what I’m going to do here every single weekend, so I might as well try a service trip.” And I loved it. And I especially loved the part of not knowing anybody you’re going with and not knowing the site leaders — how it’s all random — and kind of getting to branch out in the MU community that way. And then my Spring Break freshman year, I went to Detroit and had a super similar experience to Henry, just meeting people that I’d never met before and breaking down stereotypes and diving deeper into oppression basically. So, it’s really cool.
Moderator: [00:16:40] Was that an environment trip that you were on?
Alexis Hamby: [00:16:42] It was. We were on an urban farm, which was amazing. In the middle of Detroit.
Moderator: [00:16:49] Yeah, a friend of mine was on that trip.
Alexis Hamby: [00:16:49] It was so cool. So, I mean, we got to learn how to like harvest and plant and everything, and how that can help communities. It was cool.
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:16:59] That was a weekend trip?
Alexis Hamby: [00:17:00] That was a week-long trip over spring break. My weekend trip… actually it’s funny. The first weekend trip I ever went on was to Boone County, which I was just a freshman so I didn’t understand that that was like, you know, like right here, basically. So, I’m like, “Oh, we’re going to Boone County!” And we get in the car for like 15 minutes, and we stayed here, which was awesome, and we worked with MU Extension.
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:17:20] That’s terrific.
Moderator: [00:17:22] And then it sounds as if both of you were saying about how this opened up new experiences, new ideas. And is there an aspect that it challenged you in your way of thinking?
Alexis Hamby: [00:17:33] Oh, for sure. I think it’s so easy to come into college and just kind of be selfish, which isn’t always the worst thing, but it’s a time like all about you, and you’re only thinking about you. And I’m so thankful that MAB grounded me in the sense of like what I do with my life should impact others. You know, so giving back is so important.
Henry Evetts: [00:17:52] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, just a whole new perspective on inequity and disadvantaged communities I think is really kind of what kind of hit me hard throughout my freshman year, and just kind of really being exposed to that definitely challenged me. And I think it continues to challenge us and everyone in the program every day.
Alexis Hamby: [00:18:13] Definitely.
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:18:14] You know, I think it fits with the whole concept of “Seek, solve and show” that is part of what Mizzou is doing. And that is, we understand where the challenges are. You learn where they are, you participate and you grow as an individual as a result of that, and you’re able to give back by showing some demonstration of what you can do to help the community. And I think this is what MAB and MU Extension are about, is how do we continue to help society, how do we give back for all of the good things we’ve gotten as an institution, and so I’m really proud to see so many of our students participate and have the opportunity and the benefit of taking on such a leadership role that will help them the rest of their lives and help to shape everything they do in the future.
[00:19:07] And that was “Seek…”
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:19:08] “Solve and show.”
Moderator: [00:19:12] That should be on the t-shirt, right? Let’s put it right next to “Get out. Give back.”
Everyone: [00:19:16] (Laughing)
Moderator: [00:19:18] Well, thank you so much for being here today. It was a wonderful conversation centered around outreach, and I’ve just loved talking about outreach, community engagement and all those things. But before we go, I have a little treat.
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:19:31] You have a treat?
Moderator: [00:19:31] I have a treat for you. It’s not a cookie. I wish, but I’m horrible at baking. If you only knew. How do you stop a bull from charging?
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:19:42] Take away its credit card?
Alexis Hamby: [00:19:44] (Laughing)
Moderator: [00:19:44] You cancel its credit card. No!
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:19:48] Did I get it right? Wow!
Moderator: [00:19:48] You looked at the script!
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:19:48] No, I did not!
Everyone: [00:19:48] (Laughing)
Moderator: [00:20:02] Our audio engineer is Aaron Hay. Our featured music is “Forest Park Rhapsody,” composed by MU undergraduate and music composition major, Ben Colagiovanni. You can find more information about Ben and his piece on the Inside Mizzou webpage. Make sure to join us next time, and keep an eye out for the chancellor’s newsletter to stay on top of what’s happening at Mizzou. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Inside Mizzou. See you around the columns!