Conversations Unbound is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. Our programs empower forcibly displaced individuals as paid online Arabic or Spanish language tutors for college students in the United States. These tutoring sessions are an integral component of language learning curricula that also make possible cross-cultural bonds of solidarity.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 68.5 million people are categorized as forcibly displaced today.
In this age of technological advancement and increasing global connectivity, we want to leverage technology to blur the traditional boundaries between donor and recipient. By placing forcibly displaced individuals in a tutoring position, we challenge the traditional flow of aid, and we offer an opportunity for these people to regain some sense of agency. Compensation for the tutor’s time is key to our program. We hope that this small amount of additional income will help the tutors financially and that this payment illustrates that the world values these peoples’ skills.
By integrating CU programs in language-learning curricula, these conversations provide students with a robust educational experience. Our hope is that these sessions become more than simply a homework assignment—by meeting the tutor face-to-face online, transnational relationships can form. Distance, borders, and language no longer stand as a divisive force, and we hope that both parties embrace this opportunity to blur these traditional boundaries.
Amidst one of the largest forced migrations in history, Conversations Unbound launched in 2015 as a coordinated effort, directed by Elise Shea, involving Vassar College, italki.com, current and former Vassar students, and dedicated Arabic tutors in Paris. CU grew from a digital initiative within Vassar Refugee Solidarity, and has since flourished thanks to the support of the Vassar College administration, faculty, graduates, and students, and its partnership with Small Projects Istanbul.
In 2017, CU expanded its Arabic program to Michigan State University and piloted the Spanish program at Vassar College with incredible success. The same year, CU was also incorporated in New York state and received 501(c)3 not-for-profit status, which enables CU to receive tax deductible donations from its supporters.
Looking forward, CU is excited to expand these conversations to more universities and develop new language programs that foster cross-cultural relationships!
Board of Directors
• Alaa Khabbaz, CU Arabic Tutor
• Alisa Swire, Esq.
• Chris McLaren, Program Director at Small Projects Istanbul
• Kelly Ann Collins, CEO at Collins & Company
• Maria Höhn, Professor and Chair of History at Vassar College
• Othman Karkokli, Community Liaison Officer at Small Projects Istanbul
• Elise Shea, President
• Jessica Schwed, Vice President
• Gabrielle Chwae, Secretary
• Zuzanna Wisniewska, Treasurer
• Eva Woods Peiró, Assoc. Professor, Chair of Hispanic Studies at Vassar College
• Tagreed Al-Haddad, Visiting Instructor in Africana Studies at Vassar College
• David Pecar, Website Designer
• Mark Pecar, Webmaster, Marketing Assistant
• Ilayda Takil, Marketing Assistant
• Feeha Hasan, Launched CU at MSU
• Jamie Stevenson, Principal Analyst, African Oil Markets, IHS Markit
• Sophie Slater, Paris Program Manager
• Anish Kanoria, Student Advisor
• Arisa Vithoontien, Arabic (106-01)
• Claire Kendrick, Arabic (207)
• Camelia Manring, Arabic (307), Spanish (298)
• Madio Wallner, Spanish (206)
• Dahlia Chroscinski, Spanish (366)
Michigan State University:
• Jenna Chaaban, Arabic (201-01)
• Cayman Nelson, Arabic (201-02)
• Sarise Hammad, Arabic (401)