This paper presents a case study of a one-week disaster recovery alternative break experience (ABE) in New Orleans, Louisiana, in January 2018. ABEs are non-credit elective programs for undergraduate students that blend active citizen pedagogies with field-based learning in compelling, cost-effective ways. The case study describes the ABE program, including its underlying pedagogies, schedule, learning objectives, and activities, distinguishing it from traditional community service projects and study abroad programs. The authors describe the unique situation of the ABE program at the University of North Texas and identify aspects that may be transferable to field-based student engagements in emergency management at other universities. ABE programs enrich emergency management curricula and cost-effective ways for students to explore disaster-focused social justice issues and become lifelong active citizens. 


Roni Fraser

Roni Fraser is a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Delaware and an affiliate of the Disaster Research Center. Her research interests include disaster response and recovery, disaster volunteerism, sociology of mental health, and maternal and infant health in crises and disasters. Roni earned a B.A. in Emergency Administration and Planning from the University of North Texas and an M.S. in Sociology from the University of Delaware.

Ronald Schumann

Ronald Schumann is an Associate Professor at the University of North Texas. A human geographer by training, his research interests include long-term community recovery, social vulnerability, cultural memory of disasters, risk perception, and photovoice methodology. Ronald earned a Ph.D. in geography from the University of South Carolina.

Mary Nelan

Mary Nelan is an Assistant Professor at the University of North Texas. Her research interests include the following areas in disasters: volunteerism, donations, response, recovery, commemoration, and therapeutic communities. Mary's research has been published in various journals, including Natural Hazards Review, International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, and Risks, Hazards, and Crisis in Public Policy. She earned a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Delaware.

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No. 5 Building Houses, Active Citizens, and Disaster Resilience: The Transformative Potential of Alternative Break Experiences