Monday, May 5, 2014

Student Spotlight: Nicole Stawiarski

by Carli Smith

Editor's note: In my SPAN 332 "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" course, students must work on a community-based group project. This semester, one of the teams worked on creating profiles of former students of Spanish who have gone on to be entrepreneurs or work in an entrepreneurial environment. I'm so proud of these former students and their stories. --Ann Abbott

Nicole has displayed social entrepreneurship throughout the community.

At my previous position at Telemundo Chicago, our station provided many services to Hispanics in the community including local news for Spanish speakers, information about immigration and immigration services, and health care information. We also participated in a variety of community events to celebrate cultural heritage and support the community (e.g. Back to School Health Fairs).

The Spanish program at UIUC has been very helpful for Nicole in her career path.

I used Spanish to speak to co-workers, translate presentations and documents, create web content, provide customer service, network, and interact with Chicago’s Hispanic community. I had a broad knowledge of cultural figures and pop culture specific to various Latin American countries that I applied to managing the social media accounts for the station.

Nicole offers advice to aspiring Spanish students.

Take your education into your own hands. I did a lot of independent study in high school to achieve fluency before coming to college. Speaking Spanish isn’t just memorizing grammar rules and verb conjugations, rather it’s learning how to connect to other people and use the language. Read in Spanish, write in Spanish, listen to music and dance in Spanish, and you should do it to the point that you are dreaming in Spanish (literally one of the coolest parts of being a language major). Take pride in your skill. Find an accent you like and listen to it, mimic it until you can feel comfortable speaking and pronouncing Spanish correctly. Lastly, don’t be afraid to use it. A college education is a huge investment. These four years will leave you with a life skill that is capable of bringing you fulfilling experiences for the rest of your life. Cash in on that investment.

As with any job, there were pros and cons to Nicole’s work in the community.

While I was a Spanish major, my first job after college was at a local television station working with media sales and marketing. My Spanish skills allowed me the opportunity to learn a whole new set of professional skills that I now use at a marketing agency in Chicago. I still use Spanish in my personal life and as an independent tutor. I love working with children and passing on some of my study tricks. I take pride in my ability to learn and adapt to new challenges and relate to people from different cultures. While at the University of Illinois I also studied Italian, French, and Portuguese, and now that I have graduated I am studying Hindi in my free time. It’s a challenging transition to the professional world, but I strive to achieve a balance between personal and professional. I took many valuable lessons from my professors – one in particular told me that he did some of his best work late at night when it was crunch time. I now look at times of stress as challenges, put in my best work instead of dreading the situation, and take pride in the result – which is key to any profession. 


  1. Great post! I'm impressed by Nicole's ambition and dedication to using her Spanish.

  2. Gracias, Jill. She is a role model for others--just like you. I hope Spanish majors will see these examples and think that they can follow similar paths.