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University of Iowa News Release


Jan. 28, 2009

UI students can participate in Chicago service-learning spring break project

University of Iowa students can serve as role models to youth in Chicago, help organize a school library, and earn college credit all at the same time.

Thanks to a new community service-learning project offered by the UI Division of Continuing Education and the UI Chicago Center, UI students can truly make a difference in the lives of students.

"The University of Iowa has identified a wonderful project for the Alternative Spring Break in Chicago," said Doug Lee, associate dean of the UI Division of Continuing Education. "The Chicago Iowa Club alumni chapter has recently adopted Thomas Chalmers Elementary Specialty School on the southwest side of Chicago and so this was a great opportunity to partner with them."

The specific dates for the spring break getaways vary, but all fall within the official UI spring break, March 14 through March 23. Students can register now until the classes are full or no later than the first day the course begins.

This is the second year credit courses are being offered, though the Chicago service-learning course is a brand-new project titled "Spring Break Service Learning Course in Chicago." This course is a six-day trip, March 15-20, to the southwest side of Chicago, where students will get hands-on experience working to improve the library system located at Thomas Chalmers Elementary Specialty School.

The course will be taught by Library and Science Information Director James Elmborg and up to 12 undergraduate students can enroll.

"Chalmers does not have a full-time librarian on staff," said Erin Bloomquist, director of the University of Iowa Chicago Center. "The students who participate in this organization project will be able to make a tremendous and lasting impact on this vital school resource."

Bloomquist said this is a great opportunity for UI students to get involved and learn a lot in the process.

There will be daily opportunities for our students to interact with the kids at the school," Bloomquist said. "On the final day of the project, our students will host a 'Grand Re-Opening' of the newly organized library with Chalmers students."

UI participants will also get the opportunity to share what it's like to be a university student, hopefully inspiring them pursue their own educational dreams.

"We thought it would be rewarding for the UI students to have a panel discussion with the Chalmers students where they will answer questions about college preparation and life at the University of Iowa," Bloomquist said.

In the evening hours, the UI students will be exposed to an array of dining, arts and entertainment offerings that make Chicago one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, Bloomquist said, adding, "It will provide them with a glimpse of what it is like to live and work here."

The UI Chicago Center serves as a resource to prospective and current students, Iowa alumni and businesses in the Chicago area, Lee said, adding that roughly a third of the UI student body comes from Chicago and its suburbs and more than half the UI's minority student applicants.

"This spring break project helps raise awareness of both the Chicago Center and the University of Iowa while at the same time giving back to a community that is very important to us," Lee said.

Although this is the only brand-new project, other for-credit courses will be offered as alternatives to the stereotypical spring break retreat, Lee said.  Courses offered through UI Recreational Services include scuba instruction in Florida, mountain biking in Utah, backpacking through national and state parks, ballroom dancing, introduction to bouldering, and a new course this semester:  salsa dancing.

"These courses all carry one semester hour of credit so students can speed up their time to a degree while having a great time on spring break," Lee said.

Lee said these opportunities provide many benefits to students. "Besides earning University of Iowa credit, students learn new skills, get to enjoy fabulous locations and all of the planning and organizing is done for them."

For more information and a detailed listing of the spring break courses, enter keyword "spring break" on ISIS at

For more information on Thomas Chalmers Elementary Specialty School visit

The UI Division of Continuing Education provides high quality credit and noncredit courses, workshops and programs to both traditional and nontraditional learners using a variety of locations, schedules and technologies. For more information visit

The UI Division of Recreational Services serves the recreation needs of the university community and offers a variety of programs for all ages, serving UI students, UI faculty and staff and members of the surrounding community. For more information visit

For more information on the UI Chicago Center visit

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Doug Lee, Division of Continuing Education, 319-335-0444,; Erin Bloomquist, Chicago Center, 312-854-7107,; Lois Gray, University News Services, 319-384-0077,; Writer: Megan McIntyre