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M.A. in Spanish Alumnus Turns Entrepreneur while Pursuing Ph.D.

by Katherine Gortz on 06/11/2019

After completing his M.A. in Spanish at SLU-Madrid, Timothy Ashe Jr. ’06 has gone on to launch a successful career in the field of Spanish language learning and linguistics. He has worked as a Spanish and ESL teacher, study abroad scholar, certified linguist, translator, interpreter, and most recently, an entrepreneur launching his own business in online teaching.

"Studying abroad…shaped my career and has opened so many doors for me,” says Ashe. “In essence, the SLU-Madrid experience changed my life.” Now a third-year Ph.D. student in Spanish linguistics at Arizona State University, he is continuing his education while simultaneously launching his own business: the Madrid Spanish Institute.

TJ Ashe

SLU-Madrid M.A. in Spanish alumnus Timothy Ashe Jr. (Class of '06) has made a career of sharing his love of the Spanish language and culture. Most recently, he launched an online Spanish language-teaching business called the Madrid Spanish Institute. 

Ashe recently returned to Spain and had a chance to interview with Katie Gortz of Marketing and Communications:

K.G. Can you give a brief summary of your professional trajectory since completing your SLU-Madrid degree?

T.A. After graduating from SLU-Madrid, I went on to become a Spanish and ESL teacher and study abroad scholar. I have taught and researched at all levels regarding Spanish learning including: grade school, high school and now at the university level as a professor. I am also completing my Ph.D. in Spanish linguistics which I will finish in December of this year. I have worked for many companies and institutions as a translator and interpreter and I also work on freelance projects as a certified linguist.

K.G. What made you come to Madrid to pursue your master’s degree in the first place?

T.A. I was already familiar with SLU and know the institution has a great reputation. I had several friends from my hometown who went to SLU in St. Louis. One of my friends studied at SLU-Madrid for a year and loved it.  He gave me a lot of great feedback on the experience. As someone who is from a large, metropolitan area (Chicago), I knew that I wanted the big city experience. Madrid was where I wanted to be and just felt like the right place when I was initially investigating study abroad programs.

K.G. Tell me about your current job. How did SLU-Madrid prepare you for this position?

T.A. I am currently a Spanish professor at Arizona State University. I am also a third year Ph.D. student who has already completed their master’s and I continue to study Spanish linguistics and culture. I also lead American students on study abroad trips so that they can learn the language and culture of Spain. In essence, the SLU-Madrid experience changed my life. After studying abroad in Madrid, I knew I wanted to teach Spanish and continue to live abroad. For me, SLU-Madrid had and has great professors, builds top-notch classes and immerses its students in Spanish culture in the right ways. The institution was very helpful in providing me with opportunities outside of the classroom, too (like giving me experience in the ESL classroom as a volunteer). Lastly, while I was with the program, we went on excursions, had volunteer opportunities every week and everyone who worked there was willing to help to make our experience truly memorable.

K.G. Tell me more about the business you’ve founded.

T.A. I have started a business with a colleague called the Madrid Spanish Institute. We focus on teaching online Spanish courses to students of all levels. We incorporate innovative technologies, help students learn about the culture in Madrid and Spain and also assist students in preparing for the DELE exam through the Instituto Cervantes. We offer Spanish courses for business, assistance with acquiring Spanish nationality and courses for current Spanish teachers (from all around the world, including in the USA) who want more immersion and professional development opportunities and/or to sharpen their language skills. We have a proprietary virtual classroom platform and also work to find homestays and cultural experiences for students when they travel to Madrid through our programs. We customize classes and programs for students/teachers for all levels of Spanish. Our services are truly cutting-edge and based on experiential and task-based learning.

K.G. What are your professional goals long-term?

T.A. My professional goal is to continue to teach Spanish and encourage people to become involved in their communities learning Spanish and participating and engage with others to become even more aware of the various cultures that surround the language. Participating in this new business has been a dream of mine for some time because technology will help connect us with Spanish learners across the world.  Madrid is an ideal environment for learning about both the culture and language and I would like to continue working with study abroad programs too in some capacity.

K.G. What were the most important lessons you learned during your time at SLU-Madrid?

T.A. You can’t to be afraid to fail and you have to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone. The first few weeks are difficult for any student studying/living abroad for the first time.  SLU-Madrid set me up for success by helping immerse me in both the language and culture. They offered a lot of resources and access to a plethora of programs that I got to enjoy and learn from that made me fall in love with Spain.

K.G. What advice would you give to a prospective SLU-Madrid student?

T.A. I would say that studying abroad is a life-changing experience. Learning a second language is not easy and participating/interacting in a different culture will be difficult every step of the way, but you will be grateful that you chose the program at the end. Studying abroad changed my life, shaped my career and has opened so many doors for me throughout my life. I will always thank SLU-Madrid first as the program and vehicle that has helped me achieve my dreams.

Ashe's full resume is available on his website