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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Using Existing Capacities within Nonprofits to Generate Income

by Ann Abbott

In today's "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" class, I focused on using a nonprofit organization's existing capacities to generate income.

We started with some examples:


  • Homegirl Cafe has built a job-training program around working in and running a food service business. So, they run a food service business and make money off the sales of their food and drinks. It's what they do, and do very well, every day. 
  • The Refugee Center is built around the variety of services that their multilingual staff offers. For their clients, they translate and act as interpreters for free or a nominal fee. For lawyers, hospitals, schools and businesses, they can provide the same services but at a higher cost.
Students then analyzed the gifts that Radio Ambulante offered during their Kickstarter Campaign. Their assignment was to decide which gifts were built upon their existing capacities, and which were not. What does Radio Ambulante do every day and do very well? Create and disseminate audio stories in Spanish. So, the results were:
  • No. The lovely books, signed by the authors, that were given away to donors are not products that are built on their existing capacities. 
  • Yes. The CDs of their episodes are drawn from their existing capacities.
  • Yes: on-air recognition of sponsorship for an episode. ie. “This episode of Radio Ambulante brought to you in part by the generous support of YOUR NAME HERE.”
  • Yes: an on-air dedication of an episode to a person of your choice, with the dedication recorded in your own voice. Alternately, a customized audio postcard produced by staff of Radio Ambulante for you and your loved ones to share and enjoy privately. This can be an interview with a loved one or family member, perfect gift for a reunion or birthday.
Then I told them that to successfully sell a product or service you need two ingredients:
  1. Find a pressure-point and relieve it. In other words, find a problem that causes someone or some company a lot of pain and solve it.
  1. Make sure that the person or company whose problem you are solving actually has the money to pay for your solution.
Sounds logical. Easy. Right? Well, it's not actually so easy. Here are some examples I gave students, based on the Refugee Center's existing capacities.

  • If local businesses need to find a source of good workers to fill their vacancies, create a list of the refugees and asylees with immigration status that allows them to work and who want to work; then sell that list to the companies who are looking for workers. (Based on the Idealistas.org example from above.)
  • If the human resources person at local businesses has problems processing the paperwork for employees who are not citizens, sell that as a service. Maybe even package it along with the list of potential employees.
  • Is safety a concern at some of the area businesses that employee speakers of many different languages? Sell your services in this area, using the languages of the employees. And if those employees have low literacy in their first language, create videos or visual cues about safety. 
  • For any of the above, offer monthly classes on these topics instead of or in addition to direct services.
  • Write booklets with the information necessary to carry out those tasks, and sell your booklet.
  • Etc.
Notice that these problems are real problems. They can slow down business. They can create hazardous conditions for the business. Real problems. Real solutions. Clients (businesses) who can pay. The clients of the Refugee Center, I told students, don't make ideal customers for generating income, because many of them have limited incomes.

Then I told them to work in small groups to come up with income-generating activities for the organizations where they do their service learning for this course. They had to write two sentences: the problem, the solution.

Only three out of eight had a good start of an idea that solves a real pressing problem of someone who can pay the price and that is based on something the organization already does.
  • For businesses that need artwork for the event promotions, the children of the after-school program could provide art projects.
  • For the Boy Scouts, sell tickets to their soccer matches.
  • To motivate students in the after-school program to study, sell a board game that teaches in a fun way.
Obviously, those ideas are very rough, and students only had a few minutes to work on this. But I think it shows that it takes practice to come up with these ideas. You have to put together the pieces in ways that my students aren't used to yet. It's another example of a concept that seems obvious, but whose practice is difficult.

Monday, April 22, 2013

3 Key Insights about Entrepreneurship Education

Illinois' Entrepreneurship Forum had an exciting all-day agenda and was very well attended.
by Ann Abbott

At Illinois' Entrepreneurship Forum last Friday, I spoke on the social entrepreneurship panel. We had three minutes each to introduce ourselves and provide some "key insights."

A person in the front row held an iPad with a count-down timer, so you could not go over your allotted time. The pressure! (Actually, I like it when we are forced to be succinct and share the time with others.)

Here are the three key insights I shared.

  1. You must know your target market. This is old news, of course. But in my "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" course, my students have spent two semesters doing community service learning work with Spanish-speaking community members, two hours each week. Yet at this point they still have a very superficial knowledge of the target market's lived reality and perspectives. This isn't their fault, of course; they know much more about this target market than anyone else on our campus! But the point is that if you are going to offer products and services to a target market of which you are not a member, it takes more time and effort than you might imagine to really get to know them. This is, of course, especially true when your target market speaks a different language, is from a different national culture and belongs to a different socio-economic class than you.
  2. We need to teach professional ethics. I have wonderful, bright, energetic students who are committed to "doing good" in the world. And they do it! And in part, that is why they are drawn to social entrepreneurship. (I have said before, my students tend to be more drawn to the "social" part of social entrepreneurship than to the "entrepreneurship" part.) However, my work with students this semester has shown me that they have an under-developed sense of ethics. How is that possible? Because being a good person and wanting to "do good" are very different things than having a well-developed sense of professional ethics. In my one-week unit on ethics this semester, it became obvious to me that students cling to "rules" to guide their thinking about professional ethics, when the real test of ethics lies in the decisions you make when there are no rules. This needs to be taught somewhere in the curriculum.
  3. Liberal Arts students don't identify with the word "entrepreneur." I offer my "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" course each spring semester. It always fills--and quickly. But not because students think of themselves as entrepreneurs or are even interested in doing something entrepreneurial. My best guess is that students flock to this course because 1) it is an alternative to the more traditional literature and linguistics courses, 2) because they really enjoyed their community service learning work in the previous course ("Spanish in the Community"), and 3) they like the Tuesday/Thursday schedule. In any event, the goal of the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership was to infuse entrepreneurship education throughout the campus--not just in the business and engineering colleges. We have done that, yes. But there is still much more work to be done before students themselves are infused with a sense of entrepreneurial possibilities. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

What I Love about Spanish Community Service Learning

I received my CAPE award from Chancellor Phyllis Wise, whom I admire immensely.
by Ann Abbott

I was honored to receive one of the 2013 Chancellor's Academic Professional Excellence Awards. All the awardees do wonderful work, and I was pleased to be in the company of Cheelan Bo-Linn--a long-time friend of mine who taught me everything I know about using student teams in my teaching--and William P. Kruidenier--the father-in-law of one of my most special former students, Jill Kruidenier.

I am especially grateful to Dr. Sharon Irish who nominated me. (For just a hint of the wonderful thinking and writing that Sharon does, watch this video about her book Suzanne Lacy: Spaces Between.) I am also very thankful to those who wrote letters of support for my nomination: Prof. Silvina Montrul, the Head of my department; Dr. Darcy Lear, my colleague, co-author and co-conspirator; and Dr. Deb Hlavna, my community partner and co-Director of the Refugee Center.

But when I gave my acceptance speech, I didn't thank anyone. We were told we had one to two minutes to speak. I told a story. 

"I would like to share a brief anecdote that illustrates why I love my work at the intersection of teaching, public engagement and research.

"Ryan Kuramitsu was a student in my "Spanish in the Community" course last semester. This is a service learning course, and Ryan did his service learning work at the Refugee Center in Urbana. His supervisors were Deb, Guadalupe, Ha and Maite.

"One day, a Spanish-speaking woman came to the Refugee Center, holding a death certificate. In English. In a language she didn't speak. But she knew that her son had died in [another city]. Deb turned to Ryan and said something like, "This is yours."

"Ryan took that assignment and ran. He called the [other city's] police department and spoke to people of all ranks, even in the forensics unit. As a result of Ryan's work in Spanish and English, this mother in our community found out that her son was stabbed in the back, but while he was doing the right thing: breaking up a fight. Small consolation for a grieving mother, yet so important for her to know.

"During this process, Ryan had opportunites to learn about hegemony, the confluence of languages and power, and as always, the connections between individual lives and immigration policies. Students like Ryan and the work they do provide rich data for my research in the fields of Languages for Specific Purposes (LSP) and Community Service Learning (CSL).

"But then the course ended. Then what? We took it to the next level.

"Ryan's personal passion is fighting human trafficking. He even started an RSO about that: Carry the Fire. The Refugee Center, on a regular basis, deals with humans who have been trafficked. I worked with Ryan on a proposal for the Chancellor's Public Engagement Student Fellows program. If he wins, he will build awareness about human trafficking in Champaign-Urbana.

"That is what I love about my work in the engaged humanities: the learning is transformative, community-campus ties are strengthened, and the research makes a difference."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Student Reflection


by Susannah Koch

El poder de la paciencia

I cannot believe how quickly this semester is coming to a close. Everywhere I turn there are reminders about cap and gown orders, graduation tickets, final projects, exams, and job opportunities. This year has been much more than just a year at UofI, it has been a year of figuring out what I will become when I am no longer a student here. The best way to describe it is as the year of being patient. It is a scary thought, graduating, and has been weighing on my shoulders since I got back from Spain last year. This idea of finding a new title, what the “occupation” line will be filled with in the next few months- Unemployed? Part-time? Student?

I just recently received a job offer from The Fund for the Public Interest. It was an opportunity I actually found through the emails from Beth Chasco and then through the career center. I was excited to hear more about what the organization does and even more excited when I heard it was a non-profit helping spark actual change in our country. There has always been a part of me (maybe the young and naïve part) that wants to make a change in our world. I want to help people and make life a bit easier or healthier for generations to come. The job with The Fund would enable me to do that and to gain a lot of hands-on experience in working with a company and managing employees. In my interviews for the position of Citizen Outreach Director, I cited what I have learned through Spanish 232 and 332 in terms of social issues affecting immigrants and the importance of language services. It was nice to have some background on the issues that they are working on everyday, as well as some understanding of the challenges they face as a non-profit business.

In addition to my challenging year waiting patiently for one of my many job applications to work out, I have had quite the lesson in patience where I volunteer in the community. I have worked with children before, as a babysitter and with my niece, but never in a setting like the one at Vida Alegre. I enjoy my time there, but there have been a few trying moments in which I am not sure how to handle the children. It is a unique situation given the nature of the study that they are doing with the mothers. I want to implement some activities during the hour that the children are there so that they are busy, distracted, but also learning about how to help decrease stress at home and deal with stress themselves. I hope to continue working on these ideas and connect with my supervisor to see if they too believe they would be beneficial. Despite these problems, I am learning to be more patient and to understand that taking care of children is unpredictable, but fun!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

13 Things I Learned at the 2013 CIBER Business Languages Conference

At the Indiana University´s Union there are paintings of their female trustees through the years. Darcy Lear and I took several ¨selfies¨ with them.
by Ann Abbott

I just returned from the 2013 CIBER Business Languages Conference at Indiana University. Here are some things I learned.

1. T. Bruce Fryer's (U of South Carolina-Beaufort) presentation of a "minicaso" on "La logística de la piratería" changed the way I think about contemporary piracy because I had never considered its effects on Latin American businesses. He focused on Chile, which has "a high level of piracy... because of the extended coastline." The economic losses are huge, and in Chile alone, "62% of software running is illegal."

2. "Tiburón, de villano a víctima," presented by Dr. Michael Scott Doyle (U of North Carolina at Charlotte), made me think about shark finning (el aleteo) as something very important for our planet. I never imagined how bad the problem actually is: around 100,000,000 sharks are killed each year. They cut off their fins then throw them back into the water alive, where they drown because they can no longer swim. The "minicaso" Mike presented centers on "human predators in Colombia...who have been severely reducing the shark population off the Colombian coast in order to extract the fins for trade with China and Japan." The price for shark fins is so high, that of course people practice this illegal trade. (Students should also examine their own cultural practices of consumption that lead to the extinctions of species or permanent damage to the environment.)

3. The sixth edition of "Exito Comercial" will come out in February 2014. The authors, Bruce Fryer and Mike Doyle, have added a new feature to the "minicasos" in each chapter. After the reading, students move through different stages of questions: preguntas de comprensión, preguntas éticas, preguntas culturo-éticas y de liderazgo and finally actividades de liderazgo.

4. The University of Florida has a very interesting FLAC (foreign languages across the curriculum) program. Prof. Greg Moreland gave one very interesting example: a one-hour course entitled "World Cup 2014: Business, Culture and Sport." One of Greg's most interesting takes on the issue is the music of the World Cup; in the session we analyzed three music videos and talked about the branding of soccer as something that "brings everyone together" (despite the racism and violence within the soccer world), gender issues, corporate sponsorships, etc. Greg also teaches a full three-credit course on sports in the Spanish-speaking world. This is a topic that can be explored through so many critical lenses and yet at the same time really attract more students to our languages.

5. From Dr. Tony Houston (Bryant University) I learned how much more I need to learn! He brought a fresh perspective to the conference because of his strong grounding in second language acquisition theories. In particular, I want to follow up with him about the differences between teaching "skills" versus "competencies," the application of "mindful learning" to business language instruction, and his model of student assessment. (I also learned what a smooth singing voice he has, but that's another story...)

6. Why do we ask students to format their academic writing with one-inch margins, double spaced and in 12 point Times New Roman font? As Dr. Félix S. Vásquez (College of Charleston) pointed out, business writing is formatted differently, communicating through strategic white spaces, varying font sizes and the connections between text and images. He suggested a number of ways in which we need to delve deeper into the particularities of business writing with our students.

7. A few years make a big difference. I first presented on social media marketing at the 2010 CIBER Business Languages Conference at the University of Pennsylvannia. The audience was small and the interest-level was pretty low. This year I presented on social media marketing using examples from RadioAmbulante.org. Interest was much higher and the audience's own awareness and use of social media was higher. I see this as an important direction for business languages.

8. Integrating languages for specific purposes across the curriculum is an alternative to building separate certificates, minors and majors. Dr. Darcy Lear showed the "Profiles for Success" that her service-learning and internship students did for Acción Emprendedora in North Carolina. However, her experiences with a minor have led her to believe that we cannot accomplish everything in just a few courses.

9. It is important to make bold statements in your presentation. "I want to challenge the notion of expertise," Dr. Diana Ruggiero (U of Memphis) stated at the beginning of her talk. She did that in the following contexts: the expertise of LSP professionals within departments of more prestigious areas of expertise; using the expertise of the heritage language learners in your classrooms; benefiting from the expertise of community members and partners.

10. The world isn't completely flat yet. Dr. Lily Martínez (Frostburg State University) challenged the audience as she detailed the Appalachian environment in which she teaches. Her attempts to engage both her students and the community have to take a very different path than those of us who work in areas unaffected (directly) by rural poverty.

11. Although 2012 was a very good year for LSP publications and conferences, our challenges are real. Of the six obstacles Dr. Juanita Villena-Alvarez (U of South Carolina Beaufort) outlined, I think these stand out: 1) LSP faculty's lack of interest in the MLA 9 (not viceversa), 2) lack of response to MLA's calls to incorporate student needs in our curricula (we still do not have a comprehensive study of what those student needs are), and 30 the demise of current training in LSP (since it's not incorporated into graduate student training, how will new people be trained in the field if CIBER's support wanes).

12. As a group, we are highly committed to adding this important dimension to the curricula of language departments and to the intellectual work of our departments' research. At our conference, you will find a friendly, supportive environment that welcomes new people and new ideas yet carries a sense of camaraderie from year to year. Next year's conference will be at Canyons Resort, Park City, Utah from April 24-26.

13. Indiana University has a beautiful campus. Although the conference this year was smaller than usual, the IU CIBER did a lovely job bringing us all together to learn from each other and to encourage us to continue bringing business language studies (Mike Doyle's term) to our students. Gracias.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Student Reflection



by Susannah Koch

Public Engagement Symposium: A Unique Opportunity to Network

The month of February was a very busy one for me as I was starting to really dive into the job search for after graduation and the Public Engagement Symposium was February 28th with my group in Spanish 332. One of the main components of the class is an ongoing group project focused on a community event or organization. My group was originally just Taylor Eighmy and I, but we happily gained Marlee Stein after a few weeks. We decided to choose the symposium presentations project for the semester and have really enjoyed the process so far. The project consists of two presentations at two different symposiums at the beginning and end of the semester on the Spanish Community Service Learning Classes Spanish 232 and 332. The first of the two presentations, the Public Engagement Symposium, took place in the Illini Union and there was collection of organizations, classes, and projects that have a community outreach component represented at the symposium. It was a unique opportunity for networking, educating the public and improving each organization by learning what works for others.

After much discussion and planning at the undergraduate library, Marlee, Taylor and I decided to prepare a multi-media presentation. This included a colorful poster, key words, hand-outs and two computers; one with a video of interviews from students, community partners and Ann, and the other with the Spanish and Illinois Blog for perusal. I tackled the video using iMovie on the computers at the library and quickly discovered it takes time and patience to use the program, as well as good ears. It was a long process, but I think that it came together well and gave us an opportunity to include more people and community partners in our presentation directly. The hand-outs were about the two classes in general, what was similar and different between the two, and then there were two others with testimonials from past students of the classes who have integrated the skills they learned into their careers and life goals. I really enjoyed watching the video clips and talking to people about the class and how important it is to them because it has been so important to me. I especially enjoyed my interview with Ann Abbott as she is the brains behind the entire operation and the ideal example of taking initiative and helping make change locally.

All of our components turned out well, including the poster, which Marlee designed using several different pictures from students and community partners in action. We decided to focus more on the visual aspects of our presentation materials, with bright colors, large pictures and target words in Spanish and English also printed on colored paper. We definitely stood out from the other groups because our poster was simple, whereas a lot of the others were filled with information and various graphs. The presentation itself also went well because we had the opportunity to share our experiences, but to also learn from others. It was unexpected the amount of networking that we did in terms of looking for new opportunities for students who take the Spanish in the Community classes and of ways we can improve the experience for all parties involved. There also seemed to be a great interest in CSL classes from people, as it is something new on campus and of great value to our community.  

Thanks to all who helped make our presentation a success!