Showing posts from May, 2009

Conference Announcement: Latina/o Communities in the Midwest

by Ann Abbott

Valerie Werpetinski always keeps me updated on great service learning information. She forwarded an annoucement about the "Latina/o Communities in the Midwest Conference."

Although my research is more on student learning than on Latinas/os in the community, I think that a paper on Spanish community service learning could fit in some of the following ways:
Student perceptions of the local Latino community as expressed in their reflective essays.Community-expressed needs for partnerships with the program.Students' reported changes in attitude about immigration reform and educational policies after a semester of Spanish community service learning.Getting IRB approval to do research on minors (the students at the schools where my students work) or vulnerable populations (local Latina/o immigrants themselves) is not an easy process. And I have reservations about using these populations that we serve as research subjects. Still, I will seriously consider submitt…

Student Spotlight: Jeanne Huguelet

by Ann Abbott
photo of Jeanne Huguelet in Prague

Once again, I'm following up on a former Spanish & Illinois student's success. Unlike engineering, accounting or business, when you study Spanish, there is no one clear career path. That's why I like to show my students some of the very different roads our students have taken after graduation.

Here are some highlights about Jeanne Huguelet as a student:
She took "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" and did her community service learning at the Refugee Center.She studied an entire academic year in Barcelona, Spain.Upon returning to UI after Barcelona, Jeanne volunteered at Champaign County Health Care Consumers during both semesters of her senior year.She received the Flores Award, an annual faculty-nominated award for the best Spanish major.About Spanish community service learning and the two community organizations where she worked, Jeanne says: "Working in the Spanish-speaking community in Champaign/Urbana was s…

Twitter: Great Service Learning Conversations Taking Place

by Ann Abbott Two weeks ago I was at the Faculty Summer Institute, attending sessions on e-portfolios, user-generated video, RSS feeds, social bookmarking, free web 2.0 gadgets and gizmos, SecondLife and WOW, haptic devices and Twitter. Wow! In all the sessions I learned really useful things from great presenters. Since the Institute, what have I followed up on the most? Twitter. You can follow me at @AnnAbbott. I'm following service learning experts and truly enjoying the conversations. I love getting quality information, but in just this short time I can also see something else that I really love: camaraderie. (More on the necessity of finding a supportive community for Spanish community service learning in a future post.) Here are just a few of the people I am following on Twitter and the information they have recently shared. @NSLC National Service Learning Clearinghouse Bio: America's most comprehensive service-learning resource One recent tweet:

8 Things Never to Say to a Latina/o during Your Spanish Community Service-Learning

by Ann Abbott

Darcy Lear, my friend and fellow Spanish community-service learning colleague at the University of North Carolina, introduced me to this great website: DiversityInc.

As I think about ways to help my Spanish CSL students navigate the professional settings where they work in the community and prepare for their professional careers after graduation, I believe that their work in multi-cultural and multi-lingual environments can be a real asset to their future employers. My goal is to make teaching materials that ask students to do the following:
Reflect on the impact of diversity (or lack of diversity) in their learning environments.Compare that to the role of diversity in the work environments where they do their community service learning.Translate what they have learned about working in diverse environments into documents or deliverables that show future employers that they can transfer that knowledge and skills to the work environment in ways that add value to their organiz…

Student Spotlight: Nicholas Ludmer

by Ann Abbott

Spanish community service-learning students working in a health-care facility always makes me nervous. Is their Spanish really good enough? Do they understand cultural nuances well enough? Should they take an introductory course on translation theory before they can work in a clinic?

On the other hand, our community partners and the Latinas/os they serve are often in desperate need of language assistance. Too few certified translators are available in this area, and the costs can simply be out of reach for some organizations and individuals. If our students don't lend a hand, children might end up translating for adults, leading to a number of ethical and familial problems. (See this piece on general issues; this piece on language brokering; and this piece on children interpreters.)

Nicholas Ludmer has convinced me that Spanish community-service learning students can work in a health care facility effectively, because he has.

Here are a list of a few of Nicholas' acc…

How to Reduce Your Community Service Learning Footprint

by Ann Abbott

We all know we should reduce our carbon footprint. For the good of the planet--and for our own good--we should consume less, eat less meat, use renewable/recyclable goods when we do consume, carpool, bike, and in general, become informed about the issues and consequences of our behaviors.

You can calculate your carbon footprint on-line by answering questions about how much animal-based what kinds of food you eat, how much trash you produce, how much you pay for electricity and gas, how much you travel by car, bus, train or plane, etc. In essence, these calculators allow you visualize how much you are taking from the planet, what kind of burden you are placing on it. The result for most of us in the developed world is that we are consuming more of the earth's resources than it can actually provide.

But what about our community-service learning footprint? How can you calculate your community-service learning footprint?

Here are some basics of what I would consider to be a …

Spanish Community Service Learning Textbook: Writers' Perspectives

by Ann Abbott As many of you know, I have been writing a textbook for Spanish community service learning. I'll post more about it when it's closer to release time. For now though, I have been reflecting on what an emtional roller coaster I've been on. I've worked very hard on the textbook, but there were times (late-pregnancy and early-months-with-infant) that I didn't work on it at all. The editing process tends to have that familiar "hurry up and wait" pace. Reviewers love the concept; reviewers hate the concept. Some days I felt I was on a roll. Other days I felt like an imposter. So it's good to keep a sense of humor, like the author of this piece.

Community Informatics Seed Grant Will Help Incorporate Social Media into Spanish Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott
image from

I'm very happy that I received a seed grant from the Community Informatics Initiative (CII) at the University of Illinois!

CII's most recent newsletter lists all the grant winners and their projects. The newsletter also includes items of interest to those of us doing Spanish community service learning:
The "Community as Intellectual Space" conference in Chicago's Paseo Boricua, The third annual eChicago symposium, entitled "Cybernavigating our Cultures," andThe project on Participatory GIS for Empowering Low-Resource Communities The funding will release me from teaching one course in the upcoming year (2009-10) in order to focus my efforts on finding external funding sources and tweaking my proposal to incorporate social media into Spanish community service learning. Of course, I'll be blogging about my ideas and progress with the grant-writing process.

In addition to the funding and time off from teaching,…

Student Spotlight: Nancy Parman

by Ann Abbott

Nancy Parman was the kind of student I wish I would have been: smart, fun, socially-aware, involved and artistic. Here are some of the things Nancy did as a U of I undergrad:Took "Spanish in the Community" and "Spanish & Entrepreneurship."
Did a SESI Summer Internship with 10,000 Villages in Champaign.Was S&I Summer Intern at Gads Hill Center in Chicago.Helped me with the videos and other on-line materials in the SPAN 232 materials.Took "Writing with Video" and produced this website. (I hope I am remembering that right...Correct me if I'm wrong, Nancy.)Was in a band!Blogs. Her blog is really cool.Is now living and working in Madrid.Nancy wrote to me yesterday:

"Hi, Profesor Abbott! Que tal? The last time I wrote you you sent me some links to Ashoka and Kiva stuff, which I looked at and it's super interesting. Currently I am editing some video footage for Ashoka's website as a volunteer thing. It's so interesting to …

How to Say "Gracias" in a Spanish Community Service Learning Course

by Ann Abbott

In the teaching materials for the "Spanish in the Community" course, I ask students at the end of the semester to write thank-you notes to their community partner or community members.

When I originally wrote the materials, I did it because I thought it was important professionaly and personally to show your gratitude to the people who have taught you all semester long. Our community partners put a lot of time and effort into supervising our students' work and teaching them about the community; it's only right to acknowledge that.

What I found out was that this is another case in which professional skills, cultural knowledge and language proficiency are more intertwined than we realize.

Professional skills. We all know that following up from a job interview with a hand-written note is professional must. But when is it appropriate in other occassions? Required? Frowned upon? I think that the vast majority of our students say please and thank you every single…

Faculty Spotlight: Bruce Elliott-Litchfield

by Ann Abbott
It is truly a pleasure to work with wonderful colleagues. They can give you support, ideas and collaboration.
Prof. Bruce Elliott-Litchfield is a Faculty Fellow with the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership, and despite the fact that he is in Engineering and I am in Spanish, I see ways in which our work and our thinking coincide. His work with the University of Illinois' chapter of Engineers without Borders is very impressive.
But one thing that Bruce has obviously done a lot more thinking about than I have is creativity. In fact, he teaches a course called "Creativity, Innovation and Vision." I heard him speak about his course at the recent Retreat the Academy hosted, and I also enjoyed reading about it in the Academy's latest newsletter.
There are a few quotes that I wanted to pull out here.
Bruce Elliott-Litchfield on the lessons he passes on about creativity: "Each of us has creative abilities, and each of us can enhance our creativity. Some of t…

Student Reflection: 10 Things I Learned From Span 332

by Megan Knight

*The best classes are the ones where you get to know all of your classmates’ names.*Setting deadlines is a lot easier than meeting them.*Tutoring elementary school kids requires a lot of patience and energy…and hand sanitizer.*It pays to step out of your comfort zone.*Volunteering is a really rewarding experience.*You always have opportunities; it just depends on how you look at the situation.*Working in a group not only means getting work done easier but also getting to know people better.*Entrepreneurial skills are invaluable in today’s society.*If you start something, you need to finish it.*If you’re REALLY lucky, your teacher will buy you Jimmy Johns (thanks Ann!!)I really learned a lot from my experiences this semester in Span 332. I feel like I now have a better grasp on my strengths and weaknesses and what I like and do not like. This class was really interesting and fun, and I always enjoyed going to it. Volunteering is such a necessity, and I am so happy that t…

Using Real Job Offerings as an Assessment Tool in Spanish CSL

by Ann Abbott

In my previous post I talked about some ways to connect Spanish CSL to a job search.

In this post, I want to share a way that I am asking students to do that as part of the curriculum.

I wanted to make a final exam for my "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" students that was meaningful, not just in exercise in proving that they could do a final exam. So this is what I have done.

1. I found this job listing on (Update: the job ad expired at that link. You can read it here.) These are the things I liked about it and thought would add to the meaningfulness of the exercise: It's real. I didn't want anything fake.It's for a job in Mexico. Several of my students have expressed interest in at least considering the idea of working abroad.It's got a good job title. The job title might intimidate some students, thinking they could never apply for that. However, resource-gathering and strategic alliances are all things that we covered i…

Can Spanish Community Service Learning Lead to a Real Job?

by Ann Abbott

A lot of students get excited about their work in the community and using Spanish on the job and then want to find a job doing the same. So I get a lot of questions from students about how they can go about finding a job using Spanish in Champaign-Urbana or Chicago.

Chicago, I don't have any answers. I don't know the community and the agencies well enough.

Champaign-Urbana, I decided to ask a couple of people whom I thought would have some good suggestions. Both of their answers require students to do the leg-work themselves; they are truly just ideas to get students started.

Are you willing to really work to try to find a job using your Spanish? Then read what they have to say:

1. Deb Hlavna, Co-Director of ECIRMAC. Deb knows all the social service agencies in town as well as the places that could use Spanish speakers. ECIRMAC is always looking for an employee who is very fluent in Spanish and is a self-starter.

"If it were me, I would talk with the hospitals, th…

Student Spotlight: Lisa Medearis

by Ann Abbott

The student in this picture, Lisa Medearis, has contributed just as much to the Spanish & Illinois program as she has gotten out of it--if not more! It is an absolute delight to see students bring all their talents and experiences together for the good of the community as well as their own learning.

Here are some highlights of Lisa's experiences and contributions:
One semester abroad in Madrid.Community-based learning work in Booker T. Washington Elementary School and East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center.Spanish & Illinois Summer Internship at ACCION Chicago.Poster Presentation at the Public Engagement Symposium.But what I'd like to highlight here is the honors project that Lisa did this semester for the Spanish & Entrepreneurship course. With a project like this, we can really see the power of the James Scholar Learning Agreements--they can push students in new directions and have them create a deliverable that highlights their academi…

Student Reflection: Trust Me, I Can Help You

by Sarah Moauro
For a class project in SPAN 332, I had to write up an informational “module” on trust between volunteers and the clients or students they work with while volunteering. In doing so, I had to spend a lot of time reflecting on my own experiences while working at the Refugee Center. Although I incorporated this into my project, I was only able to do so in very general terms, not elaborating much on details. Now that the project is nearly complete, I feel that sharing my portion in a little more personal, a little less instructional form here gives it a finishing touch.
During my few months at the Refugee Center, I’ve have many interactions in which I felt trust to be an issue to some degree. For the most part, they were simple things that would frustrate me. Quite a few times, a Spanish-speaking client would call, ask for Guadalupe, the bilingual counselor, and when I would tell them she was out at lunch and ask if I could take a message or help them with anything, they woul…