Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Student Spotlight: Maggie Flynn

Graduation can be exciting yet scary for Spanish majors because many are not sure what to do with their Spanish degree after college. Maggie Flynn models one possibility.
by Ann Abbott

Spanish majors, take note. Maggie Flynn's trajectory shows how you can combine your love of languages, your studies and an answer to the question: "What will I do after I graduate?"

Maggie went on our department's year-abroad program in Barcelona. This program builds students' language proficiency and transcultural skills like no semester-abroad program can. It's quite simple: the more time you spend abroad, the more you learn and grow as a global citizen.

Maggie took SPAN 332 "Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities" with me in the spring of 2012. That course teaches the basics of social entrepreneurship and students do their community service learning in local non-profits that serve our local Spanish-speakers. Students have to do a community-based team project, and you can click here to see how Maggie worked with two of her classmates to present in public venues about our Spanish community service learning program.

I was delighted to receive an e-mail from Maggie last week, letting me know that she is living and working in Ecuador right now. She also shared job opportunities for our current Spanish students. Read her message below, and apply for the jobs. But if you're not at that stage yet, learn from Maggie's example: give your all to your Spanish major! Study abroad a year, not just a semester. Take a Spanish community service learning course (SPAN 232 and 332), even though it would be "easier" to just show up to classes instead of going off campus. Apply to jobs outside the US, not just within a 100-mile radius.

Gracias, Maggie!

Hola Professor Abbott,
                 I hope the school year is going well for you so far! I´m an alumni who took your SPAN 332 class last spring (Spanish and Entrepreneurship?) and I want to pass on some information to you that might be helpful to your current students. I really enjoyed your class, and especially liked learning about interesting non profits and hearing from former students. That being said, I currently live in Quichinche, Ecuador (right outside Otavalo) and am working as a Volunteer Coordinator Intern for The Tandana Foundation. We live and work in the surrounding indigenous communities providing cross cultural learning opportunities to volunteers from the US, traveling health clinics, and scholarships for local students. We´re currently acceptingapplications for a summer ESL internship, which you can learn more about here. I love the community that I live in and I truly believe in the foundation´s work. Knowing what your class teaches and the volunteer work it provides, I think this position could be a great opportunity for one (or more) of your students. If anyone would like more personal information, they can definitley send me an email. Your class introduced me to Idealist, which is how I found my current job, and it helped redefine what I want to do as a career! So thank you and good luck with the semester!  Please let me know if you have any questions.
                 Maggie Flynn
                P.S. We´re also looking to hire a Volunteer Coordinator Intern (this person would be my replacement) if anyone is looking for a long term opportunity! They can learn more about it my going to the foundation´s website, clicking on ¨about´´, and then clicking on ´´employment´´. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Student Reflection

by Susannah Koch

I feel as if I am having déjà vu. It seems like just yesterday I was volunteering at Provena Covenant Hospital and writing blog posts about the experiences I was having translating documents and working with the inspiring Alejandra. I am sad to say that it was not just yesterday, but instead an entire year has passed and now I am experiencing something completely different. My experience with Provena and Spanish 232 was a wonderful one. The things that I learned and the unique community learning aspect of the course inspired me to take Spanish 332 this semester, “Spanish and Entrepreneurship”. I will admit that I found the title of the course to be slightly intimidating as I have, or at least believed prior to the course, no previous entrepreneurial experience. I have quickly realized that the class does not require explicit entrepreneurial under-takings, but an application of the skills one has already acquired through the new lens of social entrepreneurship.

Along-side the new class topic and focus are many of the same components that 232 had: 28 hours of community service, constant communication and discussion in class, the wonderful Anne Abbott as our leader, and discussion of global and local news that relate to the course. In search of a completely new community experience, I decided to choose a different community partner to volunteer with this semester. After reading all of the information and talking about several community partners in class, I decided on Vida Alegre, a program in association with the UIUC School of Social Work. The program is a study being conducted by several graduate students and provides Cognitive Behavioral Group Therapy to treat depression among Latina mothers in the community. I was drawn to this program because it is addressing the mental health care disparities that exist between non-English speaking immigrants and people in the U.S. who can speak English. I feel that mental health should be an area of increased research, funding and focus, and therefore really appreciate the work that Dr. Lissette Piedra, the professor leading the study, and her students are doing.

My role at Vida Alegre this semester is mainly as a caretaker or babysitter of the study participants’ children while they are with the graduate students for a couple hours every week. This is not what I initially anticipated as I am really interested in improving my Spanish-speaking skills and some of the children speak English, but it has turned out to be a really wonderful experience. I go for two hours every Wednesday evening and watch two little girls with a few other volunteers. They both speak only Spanish and are full of more energy that I thought was possible. It has been fun speaking to them in Spanish as we are learning a lot of new vocabulary as well as the importance of pronunciation. The photograph above is the disaster-zone that is the playroom after our time with the kids. They really enjoy the puzzles and blow-up ball pen which has been both “una piscina” (a pool) and “una casa” (a house) according to one of the children in the last few weeks.

I am really looking forward to the remainder of the semester in Spanish 332 and with Vida Alegre. I will also begin transcribing and translating a focus group recording from the last research session in the next few weeks. I am both excited and nervous by this because I know it will be a challenge and time-consuming, but also a great way to improve my Spanish comprehension skills.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Simple Example of the Entrepreneurial Process: It Is a Mindset

Use what you already have to create something of value and strengthen your entrepreneurial mindset.
by Ann Abbott

I tell my "Spanish & Social Entrepreneurship" students that any kind of entrepreneurship (commercial, social, cultural, educational, intrapreneurship, etc.) is a process, not just a product. That process has three basic steps:

  1. Identify opportunities. Opportunities can often be found within problems; solve the problem, and that is your entrepreneurial opportunity.
  2. Gather resources.  Think beyond money. So many of the resources that you need are intangible and consist of human relationships, knowledge and skills.
  3. Create something of value. I didn't say "create something." It has to be something that others value enough to buy or use.
Here's a simple example.
  1. Identify opportunities. It was 5:00 pm on February 13, and I had completely forgotten that the next day was Valentine's Day. My four-year-old son needed Valentine's Day cards for all his classmates for his big classroom party the next day. That's a problem! (I think most working mothers can relate.) With no time to buy anything, I saw the opportunity to make unique, homemade cards with my son.
  2. Gather resources. In a cabinet, a pad of sales receipts that I once bought at WalMart thinking that my kids would like to play "store." Markers and crayons. A quick brainstorm for possible messages to write on the cards. The confidence to just go ahead and try it--who cares what the other mothers think!
  3. Create something of value. My "customer"--my son--was delighted with the cards and even said, "My friends are really going to like these." He enjoyed coloring in the hearts and counting the cards as we made more and more.
It may seem like a silly example, but I think it helps illustrate that entrepreneurship really is a mindset that anyone can develop, and the steps are very simple.

¡Feliz Día de los Enamorados!

The Peace Corps Is a Natural Extension of Community Service Learning for Languages

by Ann Abbott

As Director of Undergraduate Studies for Spanish, I am helping to organize monthly meetings and workshops for our majors, and I am excited that Ashlee McLauglin from the Peace Corps will be presenting to our students this month. Although not all Spanish majors take "Spanish in the Community"--and not all "Spanish in the Community" students are Spanish majors--those students who do become very excited about deep, sustained community engagement can often find what they are looking for within the Peace Corps.

Below is a post from Ashlee about the Peace Corps.

Gain Global Skills and Make a Difference for Others.

As the campus Peace Corps recruiter it is my job to inform the campus community about opportunities for Peace Corps service after graduation. As a former Peace Corps Volunteer in El Salvador from 2001-2003, it is my pleasure to share about my amazing experience as a volunteer and encourage interested students to apply. Peace Corps is a unique opportunity, funded by the federal government, to use your skills to serve a community in need after you graduate. I served as an agro-forestry volunteer working on reforestation and soil conservation in El Salvador after I finished my Bachelors degree. They were easily two of the most rewarding and most challenging years of my life and my job as a recruiter on campus is to use my experience as a volunteer to help students figure out if Peace Corps service is a good fit for them and help them through the application process.

The mission of the Peace Corps is to help meet the need for trained individuals in other countries and promote cultural interchange between the US and the rest of the world. Peace Corps offices in the US match up qualified applicants with skills being requested in locations all over the world. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you commit to 3 months of training and 2 full years of service in a specific community that has requested your skills. In addition to making a difference for others, Peace Corps service comes with tangible benefits such as the opportunity to combine your service with graduate school (; full health and dental coverage; $7,425 upon completion of service; increased job skills and employment potential; and special eligibility for federal jobs.

I host information meetings about Peace Corps every month - including one coming up for Spanish majors, and Italian and Portuguese majors and minors: Thursday February 21st at 4:00pm in DHK 108 Come to find out more about what volunteers do in the field and how to be a competitive candidate for service.
Visit our Facebook page for a comprehensive list of upcoming events and office hours:

Consider joining the next generation of Peace Corps Volunteers to promote global peace and friendship!

Ashlee McLaughlin
UIUC Campus Peace Corps Representative
Agroforestry Volunteer, El Salvador 2001-2003

Friday, February 1, 2013

Peace Corps Informational Meeting for UIUC Spanish Majors

UIUC Spanish majors: Están invitados.
by Ann Abbott

This semester, we have begun offering monthly talks and workshops to our Spanish majors. I'll provide more information and context soon, but for now I just wanted to share the flyer.