Summer 2015

About the Magazine

Northwestern is the quarterly alumni magazine for Northwestern University.
Contact or contribute to the magazine.

Campus Life
Rachael Sarette, a sophomore from Minneapolis, is greeted by Abe, a friendly ambassador male wolf-dog, during the Alternative Student Breaks trip to Mission: Wolf in Westcliffe, Colo., in March.

Out of the Bubble

Story Tools

Share this story

Facebook  Facebook
Twitter  Twitter
Email  Email

Print this story

Read more about Rachael Sarette's ASB experience at Mission:Wolf.

Tell us what you think. E-mail comments or questions to the editors at

Find Us on Social Media

Facebook  Twitter  Twitter

Alternative breaks provide life-changing learning opportunities.

It had been two days since a group of 14 Northwestern students ventured to Mission: Wolf, a sanctuary for rescued wolves and wolf-dog crossbreeds in Westcliffe, a Rocky Mountain town of 568 in southern Colorado. The students had come to the shelter and education center as part of an Alternative Student Breaks trip in late March to help with administrative tasks and animal care — including chopping donated horse or deer meat. But the naturally shy wolves would hardly interact with the students when they entered their pens.

On the third day, though, something changed. The wolves began to jump on the students and smell them. They played in their laps and begged for belly rubs. (Read more about Rachael Sarette's ASB experience at Mission:Wolf.)

“It was really good confirmation that we were being accepted by the wolf pack,” says senior Carrie Langhauser, an outgoing ASB program director who went on the trip. “It’s those types of connections — whether with animals or people or the environment — that ASB really strives for.”

For the past 20 years ASB has given Northwestern students opportunities for self-discovery and the ability to impact the world through trips that offer hands-on, real-world learning. Langhauser has gone on seven trips, including volunteer work at a low-income day care center in Kansas City, Mo.; a sea turtle rehabilitation center on South Padre Island, Texas; a foster home in Nashville; and a high school for teen mothers in Denver.

About 5,000 Northwestern students have participated in service trips — to sites ranging from Native American reservations in the West to Appalachian sites in the East, as well as international projects in places like Honduras — since Rob Donahue ’97 organized the first trip, to Coalport, Pa., as a Northwestern sophomore in 1995.

“I was compelled to break out of the ‘bubble,’ and I learned I was not the only one who felt that,” says Donahue, now associate director of the Center for Civic Engagement. The following year, in 1996, the newly formed ASB group drove down to Greensboro, Ala., in the wake of a rash of racially motivated arsons. Donahue and his fellow ASB volunteers spent the first week of winter break rebuilding Rising Star Baptist Church, the target of the ninth suspected church arson targeting black congregations in Alabama that year.

“Here was a pressing issue in our country, and students wanted to do something about it,” says Donahue. “It was the first time that it occurred to our group that this alternative break program could be a mechanism to deal with things that were going on in the world more directly.”