Syracuse University Magazine

Uncommon Getaways

Uncommon Getaways

Spring Break takes on new meaning for Syracuse students who embark on unique educational adventures

By Amy Speach

When law professor Deborah Kenn first journeyed to South Africa three years ago to speak at a conference at the University of Fort Hare, her mind repeatedly returned to one thought: “I have to bring students here.” That led her to develop a semester-long course that allows students to visit the country during Spring Break and study the transition of its legal system from apartheid to the present. “Going to South Africa has been life changing for me,” says Kenn, associate dean of clinical and experiential education in the College of Law. “And so, this trip has meant being able to facilitate a life-changing experience for students.”

George Athanas, assistant director in the Office of Residence Life (ORL), also spends Spring Break traveling with students and sharing an inspirational experience with them. For the past six years, he has led ORL’s Alternative Spring Break program, escorting groups of 44 (“of course”) students to Washington, D.C., to learn about, meet, and serve people who are hungry and homeless. “It’s not like the usual Spring Break of going to Acapulco and being on the beach,” Athanas says. “You’re working 30 hours a week, and it’s not easy work. But it’s an opportunity for our students to do good things, and bring back what they’ve learned and apply it to the Syracuse community. And it’s an experience that, wild as it may sound, is one of my favorite things to do each year.”

All across the University, during that dreary stretch of March days when students typically head for tropical climes or home to their families, many are using the time to advance their learning by immersing themselves in a new place. SU Spring Break experiences are plentiful and diverse, whether geared toward specific majors or open to students from all disciplines. From SU Abroad programs in Italy or Brazil to networking and career exploration opportunities in New York City or on the West Coast, these trips open up new vistas and leave participants grateful to the alumni, faculty, and staff who make them possible, and eager to share their experiences with others.

Here’s a sampling of Spring Break opportunities, from students’ perspectives:


Sport Management Los Angeles Immersion

Twenty-one Falk College sport management students traveled to Los Angeles for a behind-the-scenes view of daily operations at such organizations and venues as the PGA, Santa Anita Racetrack, NASCAR, the LA Clippers, Major League Soccer, ESPN, and the Rose Bowl. They met with more than 35 industry executives and practitioners, among them two recent alumni who acquired jobs in LA as a result of a previous visit. The trip is made possible thanks to the financial support of Jeff and Andrea Lomasky, whose son Marc graduated from the sport management program in 2012. It will be offered for the fifth time in 2015.

Bill Walton with StudentsGroup Memories:
●    Two hours with NBA legend Bill Walton (pictured), who said, “I’m the luckiest guy on Earth, never more so than in moments like this with special friends.”
●    A behind-the-scenes look at Fox Studios, including stepping onto the set for How I Met Your Mother.
●    At NFL Network, seeing sportscaster Andrew Siciliano ’96 walk in with his morning coffee and hearing him joke, “Don’t tell me—another Syracuse group?”   

Take-Away: Master your transferable skills, make connections, and keep an open mind.

Quote: "You always think the people who are most successful in life are much older than you. But at AEG [Anschutz Entertainment Group], I saw a very up-and-coming, fast-paced organization where a lot of the executives are young. That was inspiring. Also, it was nice just getting to be with other sport management kids on the trip I had never met before. You realize they are not actually your competition, but peers you can reach out to and hopefully connect with down the road." —David Berger ’15


Spring Break in Silicon Valley

This year marked the fourth time the School of Information Studies (iSchool) sponsored Spring Break in Silicon Valley, offering students across disciplines a firsthand look at the companies, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and way of life in California’s Silicon Valley. Sixteen students participated in 2014 and visited 25 companies, including stops at LinkedIn, Microsoft Research, and Twitter. Nearly every visit was hosted by alumni or friends of the University, many of them in leadership or founding roles with their companies. The trip, which often results in internships and jobs for participants, is supported by the iSchool Board of Advisors and other iSchool benefactors.

Group Memories:
●    Visiting a company that began just two years ago in the living room of a rented house and now has a giant office in a “really neat” part of San Francisco and recently raised $37 million in funding.
●    The Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, and lots of coffee shops and tacos.
●    Being challenged by executives at one company to brainstorm ideas for addressing a real challenge they were facing.

Take-Away: Success begins with the genuine desire to solve a problem, meet a need, and make a difference.

Quote: "Silicon Valley seems like a distant dream—this big futuristic city that everyone dreams of going to. So it felt really good to actually be invited to these businesses and have them talk to us about technology and hear what we have to say and tell us we’re the future of these companies. That’s really exciting." —Hailey Temple ’15


D.C. Immersion Week

Twenty sophomoresTwenty sophomores from various disciplines spent the week in the Washington, D.C., region, learning what it is like to live and work there. Highlights included networking opportunities and site visits, including stops at the Supreme Court, Washington Post, Wounded Warrior Project, Under Armour, U.S. Office of Management and Budget, and the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, among many others. The expense-paid trip, which is jointly sponsored by SU’s Greenberg House, Career Services, and Alumni Relations, frequently leads to internship and employment opportunities for participants. It will be offered for the fourth time in 2015.

Group Memories:
● The sky turning a soft pink-orange behind the Washington Monument during a moonlight trolley tour of the city.
● An intimate dinner at the trendy Circa at Dupont restaurant with DC Regional Council chair Anthony Noble ’99, who offered insight and guidance on professional matters and on a personal level.
● Making 19 new best friends.

Take-Away: Reaching out and connecting with people is crucial to building a future.

Quote: "The visit to Google was one of my favorites because I walked away with a different perspective on how technology and policy interact with each other in our globalized society. I also learned that Google employees cannot be more than 40 feet way from food at all times. Plus, parts of their office looked like a playground!" —Karen Castro ’16


Alternative Spring Break in Washington, D.C.

Each year, the Office of Residence Life escorts a group of 44 students from a mix of class years and majors to Washington, D.C., where they stay in a hostel and learn about hunger and homelessness by participating in service projects with the Youth Service Opportunities Project, a national nonprofit organization that oversees service learning and volunteer opportunities. The trip is funded by the Division of Student Affairs through the student co-curricular fee fund.  

Group Memories:
● Shopping for and preparing a meal for each other while keeping to a budget of $1.25 per person—the amount typically allocated to a family on food stamps.
● Serving as wait staff at a community dinner that is open to anyone who is hungry or homeless, and then joining folks at the table to eat and chat with them—often on the topic of SU sports.
● A daily “homework” assignment—learning to say good morning in a different language before breakfast.

Take-Away: Helping someone who is hungry or homeless is not always about giving a dollar or a sandwich. A smile and a friendly word can do a lot to brighten someone’s day—and yours.

Quote: "It changed my life. It gave me a bigger perspective on the world and opened my eyes to what is out there beyond what I was exposed to in my small hometown. It was great to see our nation’s capital, where I’d never been before. And I met some phenomenal people and made wonderful friends. The whole week was amazing." —Olivia McVoy ’16


Social and Economic Justice in South Africa

College of Law StudentsTwelve College of Law students journeyed to South Africa with Professor Deborah Kenn to study apartheid and the country’s transition to democracy. Highlights included meeting with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, visits to the sites of President Nelson Mandela’s capture and imprisonment, and seeing the contrast in resources between a historically black and a historically white university. The trip will be offered next in 2016.

Group Memories:
●     After an 18-hour flight, riding past miles of “shantytowns,” where millions of black South Africans were forcibly relocated during the decades under apartheid.
●     Dinner and conversation with the country’s first black woman justice of the Constitutional Court (equivalent to the U.S. Supreme Court).
●     Visiting an elephant reserve: “You can’t go to Africa without going on some kind of safari,” says Rachael McIlroy L’15.

Take-Away: A deeper appreciation for what it means to be a global citizen.

Quote: "This was a chance to see the kinds of impacts post-apartheid policies have on the law and society, while critically reflecting on how that compares to the United States. Perhaps most significantly, this was a chance to take another step toward building inclusive communities free from discrimination anywhere in the world." —Mark O’Brien L’14


Outdoor Education in Costa Rica

School of Education professor Luis Columna led this SU Abroad opportunity in which 11 students spent eight days in Costa Rica. Highlights included visiting ancient ruins, hiking a volcano, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, and waterfall rappelling. The trip was supported by the Himan Brown Charitable Trust, a nonprofit organization that donated $1 million to the School of Education to support travel abroad and develop global education programs.

Group Memories:
● Creating juice out of sugar cane at an organic farm and being treated to a fresh lunch there of fish, yucca, rice, and beans.
● Relaxing together in the hot spring at the hotel.
● Zip-lining—and the sense of camaraderie it established.

Take-Away: Education is about bringing people together.

Quote: "We got to see every nook and cranny this place had to offer. We may have been going to sleep at midnight and getting up by 5, but it wasn’t a hassle, because you got to wake up and see something new. And the nature was so beautiful that you didn’t want to fall asleep on the bus ride anywhere. It was gorgeous." —Antonis Llanio ’17


Setnor School of Music New York City Immersion

Ten music majors took part in the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ new learning opportunity: The Gilbert Week NYC Seminar for Music Professionals. Established with a gift from Dennis ’73 and Nancy Shapiro Gilbert ’74, the weeklong field trip allowed students to meet with arts professionals, visit performing arts institutions, and learn about career opportunities in music. Highlights included private tours of Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera House, and the Steinway & Sons piano company.

Group Memories:
●     Meeting with the operators of Le Poisson Rouge—a hip new club that features classical music, opera, jazz, and spoken-word performances.
●     Spending time with the Gilberts and other alumni at a Lubin House reception.
●     Being blown away by how generous the people at Carnegie Hall were to meet with students in the midst of preparing for a Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra concert.

Take-Away: The music profession is rich with interesting people and surprising opportunities.

Quote: "The trip was a defining moment for me and helped solidify what I want to do with my life. Before, I had some inkling. Like, maybe this could be for me, maybe this could be interesting. But going and actually seeing professionals live and in person and meeting people who were so insightful about their careers and how they got there—it was surreal, but invaluable." —David Peer ’16


Architecture in Taipei

Thirty-five architecture students spent the week in Taipei, Taiwan, collaborating with architecture students from universities in Taiwan and Hong Kong to develop proposals for the Taipei Train Depot site. The program allowed students to create new partnerships and focus on urban issues in one of the most architecturally rich cities in Asia. At semester’s end, their work was showcased at SU’s Fisher Center in New York City. The trip was part of the Rubin Global Design Studio, an annual program funded by School of Architecture advisory board member Todd Rubin ’04, chair of the San Francisco Regional Council, and the Rubin Family Foundation.

Group Memories:
●     Trying new foods, including a salty soup made with braised pig intestine and vermicelli noodles.
●     Going to an exhibition focused on celebrated Japanese architect Tadao Ando in a museum he designed.
●     Meeting people who live in Taiwan and China and learning their perspectives on the same project Syracuse students were working on.

Take-Away: Inexpressible gratitude for this unforgettable experience.

Quote: "I think particularly for architects—and all people who are interested in design—it is an invaluable experience to travel the world and learn how people design and put things together in other places. You can see something on a slide or in history class or theory class and totally not appreciate it until you are standing right in front of it. Then you really get it." —Danielle Lax G’15


New Media Management NY Seminar

New York City was the destination for 30 students in the new media management graduate program, which is jointly offered by Newhouse and the Whitman School of Management. They traveled there with Newhouse professor Stephen Masiclat for an intense glimpse of the media and communications business and an introduction to the vast and close-knit alumni community they will soon enter. Companies represented included The New York Times, USA Today/Gannett, IBM, Foursquare, and Facebook.

Group Memories:
●     Having fun exploring the city together—Brooklyn Bridge and other “touristy” sites.
●     Being impressed with the Fisher Center, SU’s academic facility in New York City, where presentations were held.
●     Meeting amazing alumni who were receptive, friendly, and excited to talk with students.   

Take-Away: A job! For Sebastian Benkert G’13, G’14, the connections made during the trip led to a position with Ark Investment Management.

Quote: "Every day we had representatives from at least two or three different companies come and talk to us. They gave a presentation and told us a little about what they do specifically and where the industry is heading, and then there was a question-and-answer session. We could ask anything we wanted to about the business and the world of media, and talk to the speakers individually afterward. Everyone was very open and willing to connect with us, which was awesome." —Ashley Villone G’14


College of Arts and Sciences Winston Fisher Seminar

Thirteen College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) students spent their Spring Break in New York City as participants in the ninth annual Winston Fisher Seminar. The week was filled with intimate discussions with alumni and culminated with a business plan competition, all designed to help students envision and move toward new career possibilities. The seminar is funded by University Trustee Winston Fisher ’96, an A&S alum who majored in philosophy and is a partner at Fisher Brothers, one of New York’s preeminent real estate firms.

Group Memories:
●     Hearing success stories from A&S alumni who shared advice and wisdom.
●     Realizing the wide variety of career options in business available to liberal arts graduates.
●     Meeting and mingling with Generation Orange alumni
at the networking reception.  

Take-Away: Follow your passions, work hard, stay teachable, stay kind.

Quote: "There was a point in the business plan competition when we were all thinking, ‘Anybody could win, anybody could take this.’ You use a lot of the things you learn through the week—thinking about your target audience, exercising critical thinking, strategizing. It is also a public presentation that involves communicating your ideas effectively. That whole experience will be a lasting one for me." —Matt Fernandes ’15

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