Catalyst trips

Catalyst service trips are an alternative spring break program that uses service to investigate issues of justice and community. With the support of the Office of Sustainability, in 2015 a new trip to Chicago was focused on sustainability for immigrant and refugee populations.
Catalyst 2015

This trip is unique to the Catalyst program because of the wide range of difficulties faced by immigrants and refugees. This gives students the opportunity to find and explore their own passions and find out how those issues affect immigrants and refugees today. This trip also gives students the opportunity to examine important global political and cultural issues, leading to a broader understanding of the world than is offered by the other (domestically-focused) trips. It is also particularly relevant to our students because of the large immigrant and refugee population in Minnesota. This gives them the opportunity to bring back to our community what they have learned and work to make our population here more resilient and sustainable.  

 Working in Chicago with organizations who provide services to immigrant and refugee populations was a remarkably transformative experience for all the students involved. The organizations we worked with had different geographical and thematic mandates. This gave us the opportunity to really get acquainted with some of the populations in Chicago and the barriers they face.

 Before the trip, it was difficult for students to grasp all the necessities that make a community resilient and sustainable. It is much easier to see the legal hurdles than the cultural and personal hindrances that face these populations. Working with these organizations gave them a much more holistic view of life in the US as an immigrant or refugee.

 Comments from students:

“I am amazed by the amount of work we accomplished in one week with our community partners in Chicago. This trip certainly created a path for us to learn and break stereotypes that exist in immigrant and refugee communities. This trip has reaffirmed my future career goals, as I learn more about the necessary changes that need to happen in our immigration system. I hope to someday restructure systems that limit individuals economically, politically, and socially. I intend to take what I learned this spring break to educate others about the issues affecting a marginalized group of people.”


Catalyst 2015 Chicago

“A huge way to make immigrant/refugees lives sustainable is to offer culturally competent services. This allows new immigrants to feel comfortable in the US and start a new life while also holding onto their own individualities. Communities are made sustainable through the many services provided by these organizations – they cover everything from housing to employment to counseling. We also learned about the growing world population of environmental refugees. As the degradation of the environment continues, these populations will become increasingly vulnerable and seek these types of services.”