MC Spring Break traditions offer unique options for students

MC Spring Break traditions offer unique options for students

March 7, 2019

Spring Break often conjures up images of relaxing on the beach, but Maryville College has several Spring Break traditions that offer students unique options for the week-long break.  

Bike Trip

Since the late 1980s, the annual Spring Break bike trip has been organized by Mountain Challenge, LLC, an award-winning outdoor team building company (located on the MC campus since 1987) focused on providing high-quality, safe outdoor experiences that are “designed to change the world for the better, one person at a time.” Mountain Challenge developed a program called Fit. Green. Happy.®, which focuses on improving the fitness of the Maryville College community, getting people outdoors, contributing to environmental sustainability, and fostering happiness.

The first Spring Break bike trip was conceived and organized in 1988 by Mountain Challenge founder and MC alumnus Bruce Guillaume ’76, who led a group of cyclists across the state of Tennessee – from Memphis to Maryville. Since then, the annual trip has taken MC students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends on various routes, including Henderson, N.C., to Surf City, N.C.; Rome, Ga., to Pensacola, Fla.; Clayton, Ga., to Wilmington Island, Ga.; and Reidsville, N.C., to Kill Devil Hills, N.C. Trips always include overnight stops in small towns along the way, with churches, community centers and fire stations providing lodging and food.

“It’s a chance to show people – not just our students – that small towns in America are great, and they have great people,” he said. “People in these towns have fed us, put us up overnight and welcomed us with open arms. It’s a great experience.”

In honor of Maryville College’s Bicentennial, a group of 10 MC cyclists will spend this year’s Spring Break riding more than 300 miles from Rockbridge County, Va., to Knox County, Tenn. – the same route taken 218 years ago by the family of MC founder Rev. Isaac Anderson. From March 8-15, a group of Maryville College faculty, staff, alumni and friends will follow Route 11 – the route likely followed by the Anderson family when they left their home near Brownsburg, Va. The cyclists will depart from Fairfield, Va., on March 8 and ride between 25 and 65 miles per day for eight days, stopping overnight in Buchanon, Va.; Shawsville, Va.; Wytheville, Va.; Abingdon, Va.; Surgoinsville, Tenn.; and Rutledge, Tenn. 

Choir Tour

Continuing a tradition that dates back to the 1940s, the Maryville College Concert Choir is spending this year’s Spring Break on tour.

“Make Our Garden Grow” is the theme of the choir’s 2019 Spring Choir Tour, which includes performances in churches in Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia. The choir will depart from campus on March 6, after the traditional Choir Tour Send-Off concert at the Clayton Center for the Arts. The annual homecoming concerts are scheduled for March 28 and 29 at 7 p.m. in the Clayton Center for the Arts’ Harold and Jean Lambert Recital Hall. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the Clayton Center Box Office at 865.981.8590.

Since Maryville College is celebrating its Bicentennial this year, the program will feature favorite selections suggested by alumni. “Two Wings” is an arrangement of a spiritual by Dr. Harry H. Harter, former choral director and division chair at the College. The concerts also will feature other favorite choral gems such as “Locus iste” by Anton Bruckner, “Ubi Caritas” by Marice Durufle, “Confutatis” and “Lacrimosa” from Mozart’s Requiem. Contemporary selections include “A Boy and a Girl” by Eric Whitacre, “The Rose” by Ola Gjeilo and “Make Our Garden Grow” from Candide by Leonard Bernstein.

Past choir tours have taken the choir throughout the Southeastern United States, as well as New York and Washington, D.C. In recent years, the choir has toured and performed in Scotland. 

Volunteer and Study Abroad

A Maryville College group will take a Volunteer Abroad trip to Cabo Verde, Africa, during this year’s Spring Break. The trip will be led by Dr. Frances Henderson, associate professor of political science, and Amy Gilliland, director of community engagement. Student leaders are MC seniors Ian Schomer ’19 and Claudia Pires ’19, who is from Cabo Verde.

The program is designed to fit with the service rationale of the Circle K organization. The group hopes to “do good on the largest possible scale” (a quote by MC founder Rev. Isaac Anderson) by creating this initiative to do hands-on service in Cabo Verde. The experience will provide a variety of service opportunities and also offer intercultural experiences in the form of immersion with host families and locals.

The program leaders aspire to break some of the common American misconceptions of African cultures as lesser or entirely disadvantaged. The lessons learned from these unique experiences will promote further development of participants personal growth and intercultural understanding.

In addition to Volunteer Abroad programs during Spring Break, the College also has offered Spring Break Travel Study trips. For example, in 2018, a group of students in Dr. Karen Beale’s PSY249/San Francisco: A City of Diversity course spent Spring Break in and around San Francisco, Calif., visiting a variety of locations that show the diversity that exists within the city.

Alternative Spring Break

Begun in 1996, Alternative Spring Break has become a tradition among Maryville College students. ASB and Alternative Fall Break are unique service opportunities for students, faculty and staff and are intended to provide learning experiences for students while strengthening the communities in which they volunteer.

Past ASB trips have taken students to cities in need of assistance, including the Gulf to assist with relief projects following Hurricane Katrina; Tuscaloosa, Ala., to help with long-term recovery projects after the area was hit by a catastrophic F4 tornado; Charlotte, N.C., to work on “urban rebuild” projects with Habitat for Humanity; and Gatlinburg, Tenn., to assist with disaster relief efforts related to the wildfires that devastated the area in November 2016.

Students and staff have also spent Spring Break helping the local community. In 2013, a group spent a week in Knoxville, Tenn., assisting local nonprofits with a variety of projects.

In preparation for the College's Bicentennial celebration in 2019, this story is part of "Maryville Moments," a monthly feature that highlights special traditions at Maryville College. Stay tuned for next month's feature!


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the Fall 2019 semester is 1,148.