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Sparking Change

hannah Huber

 

Hannah Huber ’02 (American studies) launched Amsterdam Academy as an opportunity for Americans living in Amsterdam to connect with local culture, ideas and innovators. The academy hosts panel discussions, workshops and seminars. Huber also is co-organizer of Spark, an international conference for female entrepreneurs.

How did Dickinson prepare you for your current career/endeavor?
Dickinson taught me to think across different disciplines, in true liberal arts form. Back in my Dickinson days, I knew that what I was learning in my Vampire Fiction and Film course was just as important as what I was learning in Judaism in the Time of Jesus or in Social Analysis. Today, planning lectures for my knowledge-sharing platform for the international community of Amsterdam, I make sure that various disciplines are offered, because we can always learn from one another and should never limit ourselves to subjects with which we’re most comfortable. Examples include The Future of Online Television Hosted at the Mediafonds; Euthanasia: A Historical Perspective from the Netherlands; and Mobile Apps.

“Always share your ideas—don’t be afraid of someone stealing them.”

What was your "aha" moment?
Having run a study abroad program for U.S. college students in Amsterdam for eight years, what I enjoyed most was curriculum design and scouting out guest speakers. I knew that if I enjoyed their lectures and panel discussions, others would too. My first event was a panel discussion called Start Your Own Business 101, featuring two success stories of Amsterdam business owners. I had a room full of international people, all taking notes like mad, asking great questions during the Q&A and connecting with one another over coffee when the talk was over. To me this was pure bliss, seeing people learn from one another, connect face-to-face and use the information to better themselves. Amsterdam Academy is not about passive listening, it’s about active engagement.

What inspires you?
Besides all the cliché answers like my husband, my children, my physical environment and turning David Byrne music up really loud—people inspire me. Specifically, people who go out of their way to introduce people who need to be introduced. Dickinson alum Chris Devries ’69, who very sadly has passed away, inspired me. Tracy Metz, who now serves as the director of the John Adams Institute, inspires me. As does Cate Blanchett and others who have made the Hollywood life work for them.

What advice would you offer to the entrepreneurs of tomorrow?
All those coffee meetings with people do pay off. The more people you talk to the better; make use of your network, give and take. Also, always share your ideas—don’t be afraid of someone stealing them. Don’t be afraid of feedback; take it into consideration. Not sure if this is appropriate, but it holds true for pretty much every entrepreneur I know: Fake it till you make it! Ask yourself what needs to change to head down the right path for your business. Note: stats show most startups fail within the first 18 months, so this is a key turning point.

What’s next?
I’ll be putting on the second edition of SPARK on June 14 in Amsterdam, the conference for female entrepreneurs in the Netherlands. Furthermore, I’ll be putting together customized programs for CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange), as there’s an increase in U.S. institutions wanting to do short-term programs as part of a course abroad. I’ll also be scouting out speakers for the TedxAmsterdamWomen 2016 edition. Lots to do, all complementary to each other and all loads of fun!

“I knew that what I was learning in my Vampire Fiction and Film course was just as important as what I was learning in Judaism in the Time of Jesus or in Social Analysis. Today, I make sure that various disciplines are offered, because we can always learn from one another and should never limit ourselves to subjects with which we’re most comfortable.”

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Published April 12, 2016

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