One of the goals of higher education is to challenge former ways of thinking and introduce new perspectives, all in the hopes of creating a more intelligent, objective and critical graduate. As important as intellectualizing in an "ivory tower" atmosphere is, it can never replace first hand experience and witnessing of the nation (and the world for that matter) around us.
Wisconsin Union Directorate (WUD) promotes a multicultural philosophy with the hopes that this will increase an individual's self awareness and help him/her understand the roots of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. WUD defines multiculturalism as the "commitment to the basic humanity and unity of all individuals while simultaneously validating or legitimizing, accepting, understanding, appreciating, or prizing the fundamental or distinct differences which exist between people of different cultural backgrounds." This means that diversity should be appreciated by understanding and respecting the perspective of those persons holding different beliefs or values.
Alternative Breaks has taken WUD's philosophy and placed it in a "hands-on" context, where students can witness and experience the lives of and issues concerning ethnically and culturally unique populations in the United States, including (but not limited to) inner-city communities, migrant farm workers, American Indians living on reservations, and rural Appalachians.
This "hands-on" approach is accomplished by placing participants into volunteer work situations among the various populations. While accomplishing meaningful work, the labor aspect of the Alternative Breaks Experience is secondary to the primary objective of providing students with an intense educational experience, one that will hopefully change the participants' lives for the better, incite involvement with local issues in one's own community, and allow issues within these disenfranchised sectors of the United States' population to be heard and known.
Finally, the Alternative Breaks Experience gives participants a rare opportunity to bond with other students in a way not possible with most other campus organizations. The leader-less nature of the trips also gives participants an experience working in a cooperative and consensus environment.