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Reach | Summer 2012

Apps for aid

Photo of Ultralingua students: Ashleigh Lincoln, Chris Kuehl, Chris Ernt, Blake Howald and Sarah Theisen

Left to right: Ashleigh Lincoln, Chris Kuehl, Chris Ernt, Blake Howald and Sarah Theisen
Photo by Lisa Miller

Thanks to five undergraduate students, humanitarian aid workers around the world will be able to communicate with disaster victims in their own languages.

In a class on strategic communications campaigns taught by instructor Bruce Moorhouse, the five decided to take on a group project for Ultralingua, a Dinkytown startup that makes language translation software for business, travel, and education. Sarah Theisen, '12; Jaclyn Lien, '12; Michelia Pham, '11; and Patrick Puckett, '12--a student from the College of Design, joined Christopher Lucia, '11, who was already on board as an intern.

Ultralingua Apps for Aid logo

They were responding to Ultralingua's desire to formalize a program that would make the translation software available to response and relief agencies. The challenge was to build the program from the ground up—from strategies and tactics to the webpage.

A year later, Apps for Aid has been used by the Red Cross and by International Medical Relief (IMR), an organization that sends short-term medical missions to help in disasters around the world—recently in China, Indonesia, Chile, and the Philippines.

Apps include general translation and medical dictionaries, verb conjugators, apps for grammar and numbers, and flashcards. Users don't need to connect to the Internet to use the services.

Meanwhile, Theisen has been hired as an intern to expand the program. She says: "When I walked into Bruce's class the first day, I had no idea that it would change my life. I am so glad I was a part of the Apps for Aid group because it led me to an internship at Ultralingua. What I have done at Ultralingua has led me to job interviews and job offers. This experience as a whole is where I see my education and career come together. CLA understands the importance of doing more than learning by sitting in a classroom. I did a real project and made a real difference."

This tiny company, literally down the street from Folwell Hall—CLA's center of language and cultural study, abounds with CLA folks. Alum Chris Ernt, B.A. '04, cinema and media culture, is a designer; adjunct linguistics instructor Blake Howald is in R&D; German-language and marketing student Christopher Kuehl, and Ashleigh Lincoln, B.A. '09, and Kelsey Lund, '12, both in strategic communications, all work in marketing; Jeremy Bergerson, M.A. '04, German, and Herman Koutouan, M.A. '11, French, are language specialists.

- Mary Pattock

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