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Wartburg College Service Trips are dedicated to providing opportunities that actively engage participants with communities through service, reflection and learning. Our vision is to inspire participants to create social change by leading lives of continual learning and service.

The Wartburg Service Trips program recognizes that service trips are only deemed successful if the impact of the experience reaches beyond the week of direct service. Given that, our goal is that participants will share what they have learned with others and be inspired to work towards social action in their own communities upon their return. Our intent is that students’ personal investment in their service projects (through research, hands on experience and reflection) will transform their thinking and create a life long commitment to service and the public good. By keeping service trips student-centered and directed, participants become actively involved in the entire process.

Applications for service trip leadership and participation will be sent to all students through campus e-communication.

Kristin Teig Torres

Director of Student Leadership, Service, and Engagement

96.8% reported they learned something new about themselves
85.1% were made aware of their own prejudices and biases
94.6% reported an increased empathy for others
90.4% increased understanding of different cultural perspectives
97.8% learned something they could not in the classroom
88.2% were more likely to serve in their local community
82.8% connected their service and their vocation

Making an Impact on Students

Break Away
We are a proud member of Break Away. Break Away’s mission is to train, assist, and connect campuses and communities in promoting quality alternative break programs that inspire lifelong active citizenship. Break Away’s vision is a society of active citizens: people who value the community as a priority when making life decisions. As part of a quality Break Away experience, participants will become more educated and experienced in all sides of a social issue. Upon return, they will be empowered to make more informed decisions and take meaningful action that supports a greater good. They will become contributing members of society and will weigh in on issues that impact their communities. Wartburg has ranked as high as #1 nationally (2009-10 academic year) for having the highest percentage of students (15.3) on service trips.

Our Philosophy
Wartburg Service Trips subscribe to Break Away’s eight components philosophy and Active Citizen’s Continuum. In addition, we utilize Minnesota Campus Compact’s social change wheel framework to guide our work with the communities we serve.

Our History
Service trips at Wartburg College began in 1994 when the Catholic Knights led a small group of students to Philadelphia to work with the Sisters of the Holy Redeemer during Winter Break. In the mid-1990s most trips were to urban areas with projects related to social justice, such as working with underprivileged children, homeless and poverty programs and after school programs. Habitat for Humanity trips were eventually added.

In 1998 the college formalized the support for Service Trips and for other service initiatives by establishing the Community Service Office within the division of Student Affairs. With the establishment of the Community Service Office, some policies and procedures were formalized to address safety and financial considerations and to help provide for a positive service-learning experience. A Service Trip Advisory Board was established to help select trip locations and leaders, to identify various forms of resources, to provide general policy advice and guidance, and to assist with training. The Leadership Education Committee, a faculty committee with staff and student membership, was given the general oversight and monitoring responsibility for the Service Trip program.

With support from the Lilly Endowment, the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) was launched in 2005 as a part of the Discovering and Claiming our Callings Initiative to provide a central contact point for the community at-large. Under the division of Academic Affairs the CCE consisted of five full-time staff members who worked to connect students with leadership, service, and experiential learning opportunities in Iowa’s Cedar Valley and nation wide. The Service Trip program is coordinated by the director of student engagement in Student Life. 

Since 2000 the service trip program has grown considerably, moving from an average of six to eight trips over Winter Break and Tour Week to an average of 20 trips per year that span the full academic calendar from Fall Break to Tour week. The largest Wartburg Service Trip to date took place Tour Week 2006 with more than 90 students chartering down to New Orleans to assist with Habitat for Humanity’s Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. The group stayed at the government-sponsored FEMA camp and worked with Habitat to gut homes that had been ravished by the tropical storm. Several groups return to the area each year for Winter Break and Tour Week to contribute to the ongoing relief efforts.

Community service and service-learning provide meaningful experiences for students regardless of the motivation for involvement. Student interest may stem from a class project, an opportunity to interact with other student organizations, or simply a personal interest in service. Service benefits both the volunteers and those they serve, while strengthening community involvement.

Advisors play the important role in our program and we couldn’t do what we do with out the dedication of these individuals.

Why we need advisors? 
Service trip advisors serve as supportive and engaged learning partners. The trip leaders will take care of planning the trip, corresponding with the community partner, coordinating fundraising, organizing and planning group meetings as well as developing and facilitating reflection opportunities. The advisor’s role is to assist in this process and be a resource to the leaders.  

The benefits of serving as a Faculty/Staff Advisor are:

  • Traveling with students and participating in an extended off campus community service experience.
  • Engaging in small group interaction with students from a variety of backgrounds, disciplines, and interest areas across campus.
  • Having the opportunity to share personal expertise or research interest with a group of students.
  • The opportunity to engage students in hands on learning about a social justice issue.
  • It’s free! Trip expenses (including transportation and lodging) are covered through student fundraising. 

The three primary responsibilities of an advisor are:

  • To model engagement and learning through participation in reflection, research and preparation for the experience.
  • To oversee logistical preparations for the trip and manage risks
  • To assist in the management of the budget and handling of monies while on the trip

.What’s required?

  • Advisors are typically Wartburg faculty or staff, but alumni and parents have serviced as advisors on occasion.
  • Must be able to commit to one advisor meeting and at least three pre-trip planning meetings
  • Approval from current supervisor (No PTO is used on service trips)
  • A fun attitude an willingness to support students along the way!

What to expect?

  • Review Wartburg Service Trips Policies

Interested in Advising?


Wartburg College has sent 1572 volunteers 181,154 miles to volunteer more than 60,000 hours of service! We have volunteered in 98 cities in 31 states and 5 countries! That's a value of  $961,200 contributed back to communities!