Assistant Professor, Spanish, Italian & Portuguese, Director of Advanced Spanish Language and Acting Director of Fourth Semester Spanish
Entrepreneurial course taught by Professor Abbott
About Professor Abbott
Spanish & Illinois website
Closing The Gap Between Classroom And Real World Experience
By Alyssa Schoeneman, AEL Intern
Whether the general public likes it or not, the Spanish-speaking population in the United States has grown tremendously over the past few decades. Assistant professor of Spanish and Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership faculty fellow Ann Abbott recognized Spanish-related needs at the University and in the Champaign-Urbana community at large that she remedied with her courses Spanish in the Community and Spanish and Entrepreneurship; Abbott’s courses foster better communication practices in the CU Latino community and they give her students an added push in developing their oral Spanish skills.
By implementing community based learning in Spanish in the Community, Abbott is working to educate her students about Hispanic cultures. Abbott works with students to develop the language they will need to be successful in dealing with Spanish-speaking businesses and in other Spanish-speaking institutions before sending them out on their own. After a day or two of work in the community, Abbott meets with her students in the classroom to debrief and contextualize their experiences.
The class allows a type of synergy to develop between the students and their community partners, an aspect which Abbott said has been the most rewarding aspect of teaching for her personally.
“I love seeing my students get excited and knowing that they are learning a lot,” she said. “They often grow in ways that they wouldn’t in a traditional class setting.”
Abbott believes that the most significant benefit that her course offers to students is the opportunity to use their Spanish in a real world setting to solve real world problems.
“That experience gives them confidence, it improves their Spanish, and they become able to better put themselves in the shoes of other people and to look at the world from a different perspective,” she said.
A lot of negative stereotypes exist about the Latino community, Abbott explained, but when students are able to truly understand the Latino lifestyle, a lot of those lies or half-truths get eliminated.
“That is a real benefit to society,” she said, “having citizens who are able to challenge the ideas in the media and to think and act for themselves.”
The main goals of Abbott’s courses are the development of language and a deep sense of cultural learning.
“I also hoped that students would begin to think entrepreneurially – to have a framework that they could use in any context of their lives to make change…to be able make a plan and then to follow through with it,” she said. “I wanted to open students to the possibility that they can be entrepreneurial and to give them the tools to do so.”
Abbott gauges the success of her courses in two ways – through a written assessment on the final exam and by observing the students’ functional use of Spanish in their community work. The quality of the students' writing always improves, she said, as does their ability to apply concepts discussed in class to real world situations.
“I always see very nervous students at the beginning of the semester – they are anxious about going off campus and they have doubts about their abilities to understand community members,” Abbott said. “By the end of the semester, I see confident self-assured students who are doing great work.”
And her students haven’t been the only ones to benefit from her coursework; Abbott has seen a restructuring of her own work and research since becoming an Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership faculty fellow.
“Becoming a faculty fellow added a new dimension to my work,” she said. “I was interested in what the students would learn by working in the community and having the entrepreneurship component of the course added an extra dimension.”
In terms of her teaching, she continued, it has allowed her to give students a plan – to be able to ask students where they can take their ideas and how they can build on them to make newer, greater things.
Abbott and others involved in Spanish and Illinois are currently working to develop an undergraduate certification in Professional Development and Community Engagement for Spanish majors; the certificate would be available to students who want to change their focus from Spanish literature and linguistics to using Spanish for their professional development and community engagement.
“The community engagement, volunteerism and community service involved in the Spanish and Illinois coursework– those are big ideas to our students and they want to implement their Spanish skills while doing that,” Abbott said.
She added, “I don’t know if they are aware of it coming in, but they are doing the kind of work that will build their resumes.”
Entrepreneurial courses taught by Professor Abbott
Spanish in the Commmunity (Download a sample syllabus, PDF, 68KB)
The main goals of this course are to familiarize students with the necessary information and skills to be able to effectively communicate in Spanish, to improve their fluency, and to provide a maximum amount of opportunities to communicate in Spanish. Communication involves both
listening and speaking. Therefore, students will listen to a variety of sources, including their
instructor, their fellow classmates, video and audio components. And in order to communicate as
effectively as possible in Spanish, the course emphasizes three areas:
- content that focuses on Latino cultures.
- strategies to aid effective communication, including vocabulary building for specific situations, tools for conversation management, rules on language use in formal and informal situations, and tips about cultural norms with regards to conversations.
- review of specific grammar points, broadening of students’ general vocabulary, and pronunciation techniques that enhance communication by strengthening students’ accuracy
SPAN 332, Spanish and Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures and Communities (Download a sample syllabus, PDF, 68KB)
In the course we will draw upon examples of social entrepreneurs in Latin America Fellows from Latin America, Acción, a non-profit microcredit
organization originally founded in Latin America and then brought to the US, etc.), in the US,
and around the world. However, it is important to note that many people who can be described
as social entrepreneurs may not be familiar with that term themselves. In this course we are
concerned with understanding the entrepreneurial process and recognizing examples of
entrepreneurial activity that address social issues.
Learn more about these courses on Spanish & Illinois website
Visit Course Catalog website for course availability
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About Professor Abbott
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