Saturday, December 10, 2011

Student Spotlight: Laura Woodward

by Ann Abbott

It is always such a pleasure for me to hear from former students. I especially like hearing about their professional aspirations and growth--whether they include Spanish or not.

Laura Woodward's message (below) should be of interest to current Spanish students for at least two reasons:

1. She has identified an educational program (Masters in International Disaster Psychology at the University of Denver) and career path that is unusual but that could actually fit many of my students interests, experiences and goals.

2. Her message models many good things about how to contact a former professor and ask for a letter of recommendation. First, her "luck" in finding work in a restaurant immediately reminded me of her sense of humor. (Each student has a unique personality, and believe it or not, we almost always notice that.) She reminded me specifically of the course, the semester and the community work that she did in my class. I need those reminders! Finally, the attached photograph clinched everything. I have had many students named Laura, but I immediately remembered many details about this Laura when I saw her face again. And what a great picture! It probably is taken from the travels she mentions.

Read Laura's message below. Have you identified a graduate program that could work for you? Do you need a letter of recommendation? Do you need to remind your professor about the work you did for them?

"Hola Ann!

"Soy Laura, fui tu estudiante hace un ano. My Spanish is a bit rusty. Luckily, with a Psych Degree, I got the pleasure of working in a restaurant upon graduation, and the kitchen staff was great about letting me practice with them. In fact, I was their "gringa preferida."

"I took your Community Service Learning class in the Spring of 2010. I have always valued volunteerism and I wanted to continue improving my Spanish after my semester in Costa Rica. I volunteered as a tutor at Booker T. Washington and worked with the graduate students in the Social Work Department finding participants for their group therapy and watching the children during the therapy sessions.

"After taking a year off and doing some traveling, I have found what I think to be the ideal Master's Program for me. It integrates my Bachelors in Psychology and love of experiencing new cultures and people. I am applying for a Masters in International Disaster Psychology at the University of Denver. It actually demands that I travel! I am hoping that you would be willing to write me a letter of recommendation based on your experience with me as a volunteer in the Spanish speaking community of Urbana-Champaign.

"I am a visual person, so I attached a picture of myself to help you better remember. I hope you feel you have an adequate memory and impression of me to write me this letter, but I certainly understand if you do not. That was part of the risk I took in taking a year off before grad school, but I am so glad I did because I feel like this program is perfect for me. Please let me know if you are willing to write this letter and I will respond with more information."

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