INDIANAPOLIS -- Niki Messmore, coordinator for civic engagement at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, has been named the 2017 Break Away Staff Person of the Year. The national honor recognizes Messmore's achievement in expanding the IUPUI Alternative Breaks Program and making it more accessible to students.
Since joining the Alternative Breaks Program within the IUPUI Division of Student Affairs three years ago, Messmore has helped to increase overall participation, including doubling the number of Fall Alternative Break participants as well as student co-coordinators for both spring and fall trips. The total number of programs has also doubled, from five trips to the 10 scheduled for the 2017-18 academic year.
"This award is an affirmation of my work to develop an alternative break program founded on critical theory, and it has been a wonderful journey to see the program grow and develop powerful student leaders," Messmore said. "This achievement speaks not just of my work, but of the dozens of Sam H. Jones scholars and staff members who have contributed time and energy to active citizenship at IUPUI."
Messmore's efforts have also included building additional partnerships across the campus community. The 2017 Alternative Spring Break schedule included a trip in partnership with the LGBTQ+ Center that focused on HIV/AIDS and explored the social factors, inequalities, misinformation and stigma associated with the illnesses.
This collaboration improved recruitment of diverse student participants, offered workshops and other events related to the social issue, and provided financial assistance for program fees.
Additional campus partnerships with the IU McKinney School of Law, the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and the IUPUI Office of Sustainability have allowed the Alternative Breaks Program to strengthen its social issue-focused trips. Alternative Spring Break trips are offered in animal welfare, environmentalism, indigenous rights, interfaith issues, mental health, rural poverty and systemic racism.
To ensure that students continue to be able to take advantage of the increased opportunities, Messmore worked to secure more than $8,000 in funding and sought additional scholarships for students previously unable to afford participation.
"Niki cares about the growth and betterment of the Alternative Breaks Program, but also about the students, ensuring that they have the best experience to continue being active citizens in their community," said Jessica Davis, a former graduate assistant who nominated Messmore for the award.
Break Away is a national nonprofit organization that promotes the development of quality alternative break programs through training, assisting and connecting campuses and communities. The recipient of the Break Away Staff Person of the Year Award is chosen based on cultivation of active citizenship and mentorship of student leadership through alternative break programs on campus.
Alternative break trips at IUPUI are national, social issue-focused, service-based trips that take place during fall and spring breaks. They are alcohol- and drug-free opportunities that allow students to connect with different communities and cultures while working to create positive, sustainable change. Trips also promote active citizenship in students, developing skills that allow them to be engaged members of their own community at IUPUI and beyond.