“Ask them in, and invite some more.”

For obvious reasons, I enjoy seeing what graduate students do with their educations when they decide not to pursue academic careers. Meet Christina Ball, a Yale Ph.D and founder of Ecco Italy. Here’s how Ball describes her project to the folks at the terrific Roma-centric blog Eternally Cool:

I always knew I was too creative, too enthusiastic for academia. Still, it wasn’t until 2004, 6 years after earning my doctorate in Italian Literature from Yale, that all of the pieces fell into place for Ecco Italy in Charlottesville, Virginia. I had always dreamed of running my own school, a place without grades, a classroom that opened out onto the marketplace and the world, a place where conversation would be more important than written tests, where students of all ages would be encouraged to pursue their dream of “becoming Italian” in a supportive and beautiful environment.

With its language instruction, food and wine courses, travel training, and other cultural programs, Ecco Italy is the sort of place that doesn’t just happen; it must be a product of one person’s passion. Ball clearly adores her home-away-from-home:

Wandering the streets and river banks of Rome’s Trastevere and Ghetto neighborhoods in the late summer is an experience I constantly crave when I’m home in Virginia. It’s both blissfully peaceful and energizingly urban at the same time. Everything radiates warmth and beauty. Only in Rome have the otherwise conflicting powers of chaos and mystery declared an eternal truce.

Burned-out grad students should pause and take heart. There’s much you can do with your passion and knowledge—if you’re up for some entrepreneurial fun.

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