Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Student Spotlight: Cassie Grimm

by Ann Abbott

I just received the e-mail that every entrepreneurship educator wants to receive: a former student telling me that she's working on a start-up!

Here's Cassie's message. Watch the video above and click on the website. This looks like it could take off!

*Also note this: her e-mail is perfectly crafted (although either "Profesora Abbott" or "Ann" would have been better). I read this e-mail, checked my calendar, and replied, "Sure. See you on Friday in 4006 FLB." She didn't make me work. She didn't make me try to remember her. (Maybe adding a picture would have been even more helpful.) She didn't put the burden of scheduling onto me. And most importantly, she told me exactly, specifically, unequivocally what she wanted from me: permission to upload my syllabus. I already know the answer is yes, so now I will be able to spend some time with Cassie on Friday just learning more about how things are going for her and for this start-up.

Hola Señora Abbott,

My name is Cassie Grimm and I took Spanish 232 with you last spring. I am writing you today because I would like to meet with you about a new start-up company that I am a part of, called StudyCloud. StudyCloud is a locally-created software tool designed to create a virtual classroom for students and instructors. Students can connect and register for their classes through Facebook, which then allows them to collaborate with each other, as well as pose questions to the instructor. I immediately thought of you when I was asked to join this company, since I know you already use social media in your Community Learning classes.

With the support of the University of Illinois' department of Online and Continuing Education, we are currently piloting this software here on campus, so this is a completely free, no-risk offer. At this time, we are seeking professors' approval to input their syllabi for next semester into our system so that we may better demonstrate the value our software has for students and professors.

I would love to get a chance to meet with you briefly to show you some of the other great features StudyCloud has to offer, including integrated calendars and homework reminders. Would Friday, November 15 at 11am work for you? If not, I am also available next week. In the meantime, you are welcome to check out our website, here <> .

I look forward to hearing back from you, and I really appreciate your time!

Muchas gracias,

Cassie Grimm


Cassie Grimm
University of Illinois '14 | College of Business
Business Honors Program
AIESEC | Vice President Talent Management

StudyCloud, Inc.

Student Spotlight: Amanda White Is Going to Brazil on a Fulbright

Wishing you lots of luck in Brazil, Amanda!
by Ann Abbott

I love hearing from former students. Their stories inspire me, and I also think they are role models for current students.

Amanda White sent an e-mail this morning about her upcoming stint as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Brazil. It's important to see how she got to this point.

  • She studied abroad on our year-long program to Barcelona.
  • She took "Spanish in the Community" and "Spanish and Entrepreneurship" with me--doing her community service learning work with full dedication.
  • She went to Spain as a Fulbright ETA. I wrote a letter for her, and in her letter I was able to give very specific examples of how she would make an ideal ETA in Spain because I had seen her in action in the community service learning courses. In other words, my examples went beyond the normal comments about her classroom academic abilities.
  • She worked with a career coach (I'm not sure about the details) upon her return to the US. She was looking for ways in which she could pull together her talents, interests and experiences in the best way. (Of course, I have to give a plug here to, where you can find career coaching blog posts that are targeted specifically to language students and use Darcy's services one-on-one.)
  • She studied Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese--a wonderful and useful combination.
The message behind these bullet points is this:

While you are still in college, take advantage of all the unique opportunities that will set you apart after you graduate.

Here's Amanda's message:

Oi a todos!

(I love the Portuguese word oi for hi)

I hope this e-mail finds you well!  I've been slowly sharing the news about my placement in Brazil and thought I'd finally make it official. My next home away from home will be the city of Uberlândia.

Yes, it's a real place. The name means "fertile land." It's actually funny how I was placed there. Well, I think it's funny.

Unexpectedly the Fulbright program let us list preferences for our city/university placement. I had no clue where to even start on the list provided, so I spoke with my Portuguese teacher and other Brazilians I've been in contact with. 

The program advisors warned that the states of Minas Gerais, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, and the Amazon states were among the most popular and were hard to get into. So I decided I wouldn't even try to request these areas. Those who I spoke with guided me towards the northeastern region to the cities of Natal and Fortaleza. 

But my plan didn't matter. I wound up in Minas Gerais anyways! I've heard lots of cool things about the state and surrounding area. There is also a small city located about an hour away called Catalão, or Catalan in Portuguese. Funny, again, because no matter what country, continent, or hemisphere I seem to be in, Catalonia always some how pops up. I miss Spain, yet I'm excited for new adventures. 

Uberlândia is a smaller city of about 600,000 people and located inland. I've been in contact with current Fulbrighters in the city and a few who will be there with me next year. There is still a lot I need to learn and I'm looking forward to it. 

Of course, I want and need to write about it in order to preserve memories and share with you all. I would appreciate any encouragement for writing about these experiences, especially given I lose motivation at some point. I am currently lacking motivation to even start.

In the meantime, I'm still learning Portuguese. It's been a lot of fun and interesting. My brain tends to switch to Spanish automatically. Then when I tutor Spanish, the Portuguese comes out! I'm also working as an unofficial personal assistant and a part-time babysitter. Some friends and I are also training for the Tinkerbell half marathon in Disney Land, CA. Another trip to Washington, D.C. is also coming up. I'm grateful to have a lot to look forward to and everything that goes with it. 

Have a happy and wonderful Thanksgiving! I hope to hear from you soon :-)

Um abraço,

Amanda R. White
Fulbright Brazil ETA Program Awardee

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Student Project Is an Example of What Virtual Volunteering Could Look Like

by Ann Abbott

A student who will be in my "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" course next semester shared with me a series of YouTube videos he made about the University of Illinois. After studying abroad in Costa Rica and spending time with his host family, he wanted to come back and show them a big part of his life in the United States: his college campus.

Watch his introductory video below and click here to see the entire video playlist.

This is a wonderful project for so many reasons, but I'd like to highlight the way it models how language programs can use "virtual volunteering" for community service learning.

  • If students produced a similar series of videos about bicycle laws in Champaign-Urbana, they could contribute greatly to a real community need. (Many local Latinos ride bicycles, and when the cities recently changed bicycle lanes and began monitoring bicycle traffic more closely, this created a number of problems for our local Latino community.)
  • What if students produced a series of videos about our local bus system? Seeing what it is like to take a bus--from showing the bus stop signs, to showing how you pay the bus driver, to showing where you press to signal you want to get off--can give a person confidence to take the bus and gain new freedoms. 
  • What if students did a broader community video guide, reaching beyond the campus into other areas of our community? They could film some of the places where our local Latino immigrant community live, work and play. I can imagine that this would be a nice way for their family and friends in their home countries to see what their lives here are like. It doesn't show the whole picture of their lives, of course, but it's a visual picture of the United States that goes beyond the Hollywood portrayal of American life.
  • What if students taught community members how to create their own videos?
I recently spoke in the Community Informatics program's Digital Divide lecture series. I see this student's video guide to the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign as a very good example of how we can help bridge the digital divide I described.