September 26, 2023

Christina Eggenberger: At Your Service

Christina Eggenberger puts these items on her list of Spring Break travel must-haves: A tool belt and work gloves.

The university’s director of service is spending her week with a group of students in Tucker, Georgia, an old railroad town just outside Atlanta with a population of less than 2,000. While others dip their toes in tropical waters, explore a European city or just sleep in, these students are working eight hours a day on a house for Habitat for Humanity.

For more than two decades, UMW students have taken part in Alternative Service Breaks, a civic engagement opportunity offered by the Center for Honor, Leadership and Service.

Eggenberger arrived here 11 years ago, drawn by the university’s small size, its absence of Greek life and the uniqueness of the service position.

Q: How did you become interested in service work?
A: My dad reminded me the other day that in second grade I organized a playground clean-up for Earth Day. So that shows I’ve always been service-minded.

Q: What’s your favorite part about Alternative Service Breaks?
A: I get to be out of the office for a week and go out and get my hands dirty. I also get to learn new things. Last year, I learned how to tile a bathroom floor.

Q: What are the trips like?
A: Students immerse themselves in the experience. They don’t have to go to class or do homework. It’s getting up and building, 9 to 5. It’s a lot of group togetherness. You make friends quick. We clean up, make dinner and play games at night.

Q: Do you have a favorite project?
A: Whenever you have the chance to frame the entire house. When you walk up, it’s a concrete slab. When you leave, you see the shape of the house. You get a sense that someone is going to live in the house and make a life there. That’s always impactful.

Q: Any touching stories?
A: A lady who was going to live in a house we were working on brought us lunch. She was very grateful for our help. Usually, we don’t get a chance to meet the homeowners. When we do, it’s a bonus.

Q: How willing are UMW students to give up their own time for Alternative Service Breaks?
A: We always fill the trips. The cost of the trip – $250 – is sometimes a barrier. We do offer first-time participants a $100 scholarship.

Q: Are there any mantras you tell yourself every day?
A: Small things can make a big impact on people’s lives.

UMW Students Spend Spring Break with Habitat for Humanity

Turning a concrete slab into a full-fledged structure with trusses might not illustrate the typical college spring break – unless you were one of 45 University of Mary Washington students and staff advisers who donated their time to rebuilding and rehabilitating houses last week.   UMW’s student-run Community Outreach and Resources (COAR) team organized three alternative spring break trips in Mobile, Ala., Maryville, Tenn. and Palm Bay, Fla., Feb. 28 through March 8. At each location, the students collaborated with Habitat for Humanity to help eliminate substandard housing. Click to view slideshow. Kelly Bryant, a senior psychology major, co-led the trip to Alabama this year for her third alternative spring break trip. “It is such a cool experience to learn how to hammer, square a house and put up roof trusses, all in the pursuit of giving someone a better life,” said Bryant. “It makes me so happy and proud to know that with my one short week I have made a lasting difference in someone’s life.” For some students, one trip is all it takes to change their perception of spring break. “After working with Habitat for Humanity last year, I couldn’t imagine spending my break any other way,” said sophomore and international affairs major Caitriona Cobb. “The feeling you get after volunteering is irreplaceable. The trip is such genuine fun and I was fortunate to get the opportunity to co-lead the trip with two of my best friends.” Alternative Spring Break is part of Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge, which calls students to aid impoverished communities.  In the past 26 years, approximately 230,100 students have participated in the program nationwide.  UMW has been involved in the program for at least 18 years, according to Christina Eggenberger, director of service in the Center for Honor, Leadership and Service. “We have a couple seniors on the trips that have gone on Alternative Spring Break every year,” said Eggenberger. “For them, college spring break means building homes with Habitat for Humanity.”

UMW Students Spend Fall Break with Habitat for Humanity

A group of University of Mary Washington students spent their Fall Break giving back to the community through an Alternative Fall Break trip on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The four-day trip, organized through the office of Community Outreach and Resources (COAR) and Habitat for Humanity, brought the students to the small town of Exmore, just three hours from Fredericksburg. A  student sands wood as part of a Habitat for Humanity project in Exmore, Va. For the first three days, the students worked on a house in the last stages of construction, sanding, painting, and putting the final touches on the home with the help of other volunteers and the future homeowners themselves. “[The 10-year-old son of one of the residents] was very proud of seeing his own home being built,” said sophomore Maura Slocum. “It was very rewarding to have him and the homeowner right there with us.” On the last day in Exmore, the students, along with Director of Service Christina Eggenberger, helped with the demolition of a house that was in unlivable condition. The land will become the site for a new Habitat home in the future. “You get to see that the work you are doing is building towards someone else’s life,” said Madeline Moravitz, a junior COAR staff member. On the last day of the trip, students demolished a house to create a site for a new Habitat for Humanity home. COAR, part of the Center for Honor, Leadership and Service, takes service trips each year during both Fall Break and Spring Break. In 2014, students will travel to Lucedale, Miss., Smyrna, Fla., and Bluffton, S.C. for Spring Break. For more information or to register for one of the trips, contact “It is incredibly heartwarming that students are really interested in dedicating their time on their break to providing affordable housing to others,” Moravitz said.

UMW Receives National Recognition for Service

Two dozen University of Mary Washington students spent their Spring Break serving others. The students, who spent a week in Albany, Ga., and Melbourne, Fla., built houses with Habitat for Humanity through a program known as Alternative Spring Break. The annual program is one of many service opportunities that have given UMW a place on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the fourth consecutive year. UMW is one of 690 U.S. colleges and universities recognized for engaging students, faculty and staff in substantial, relevant and meaningful service to communities. The honor roll, announced March 4 at the American Council on Education’s 95th Annual Meeting, is an initiative of the Corporation for National and Community Service, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Campus Compact and the American Council on Education. During this year’s Alternative Spring Break trips, the 24 students, along with Director of Service Christina Eggenberger and Accounts Receivable Manager Paul Griggs, built houses in the local communities. “It’s so rewarding each year to experience something new and gain a new perspective on life,” said one of the students on the group’s Tumbler page. “I’m proud of everyone who has dedicated their breaks to a great cause. I feel blessed to be a part of it every year.” To follow along with UMW’s Alternative Spring Break trips, visit

UMW Students Give Back During Spring Break

Students in Tennessee help clean up debris after a tornado

This week, 51 UMW students are spending Spring Break helping others. The Community Outreach and Resources (COAR) team organized three alternative spring break trips, in Wilmington, N.C., Avery County, N.C., and Cookeville, Tenn., from March 3 through 11. At each location, students are working on Habitat for Humanity projects.

When the rash of tornadoes tore through the Tennessee Valley almost a week ago, the Cookeville group made their way to Overton County, Tenn., a small community just south of the Kentucky border.

In Overton, the students are working with residents to clear debris and sort donations, and are sharing their experiences along the way:

One student took this stark photo of the destruction and captioned it “we were so thankful to have the opportunity to help.”

All three groups will make the trip back to Virginia on Sunday.

“Spring Break is one of my favorite weeks of the year since I get to spend the entire week doing hands-on service with such civic minded students,” Christina Eggenberger, director of service, said.  “The students learn practical skills but more importantly they help and learn about people in need. It is a transformative experience for all involved.”