Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Matt Martin

Committee Co-Chair

Lauryl Lefebvre

Committee Member

Scott A. Myers

Committee Member

Andrea Weber

Committee Member

Keith Weber


Alternative breaks represent a new tradition in collegiate service learning (Campus Connect, 2011), wherein students forego traditional break activities (e.g., vacations) to participate in community service with their peers through university sponsored programs. Despite their growing popularity these programs are understudied. Research that has examined alternative breaks has arrived at claims based on anecdotal data (e.g., DuPre, 2010; Noll, 2012). This dissertation investigated two claims found in alternative break literature: students forge connections (e.g., DuPre, 2010, McElhaney, 1998) and alternative break experiences have a long reaching impact on students (e.g., Barclay, 2010; McElhaney, 1998; Noll, 2012). This was accomplished through two studies. In order to extend instructional communication scholarship on student-to-student connectedness, Study One examined the relationship of connectedness to other similar outcomes such as organizational assimilation, small group socialization, and social integration. Study Two examined the long term impact of alternative break participation by questioning alumni regarding their experience with these programs. Quantitative methods were used to collect data from those completing an alternative break experience and alumni who completed an alternative break when enrolled in college. Alumni also provided qualitative data. Study One revealed that connectedness is positively related to the familiarity with peers, recognition, involvement, and role negotiation dimensions of organizational assimilation, small group socialization, and social integration among peers. Study Two discovered that connections are formed among participants and these connections do persist even upon graduation. Further, participation in alternative breaks has long-term effects beyond relationships. Relationships formed on alternative break could have far reaching impact affecting success and persistence (Tinto, 1993). Taken together these findings indicate that alternative break experiences are a unique opportunity for an institutional program to make substantive contributions to the experience and development of students.