The Kuroiwa Family
The Kuroiwa Family

Liberal arts career profile:  Found in translation 

Sometimes, the magic strikes in the classroom: You know instantly what you want to be and do. Other times, the magic strikes off campus, through an internship, a service-learning project, or just plain time off.

For Erin Kuroiwa, the magic happened during a two-year break following her freshman year at IUPUI. While doing volunteer work with her church in Chicago, she found herself immersed in the Spanish language. That inspired her to return to IUPUI’s School of Liberal Arts to earn a bachelor’s in Spanish at age 25.

While grad school would take her in the direction of a health services career, her love of language never left. So after a move to Phoenix, Kuroiwa and her husband, who studied French at IUPUI, took an entrepreneurial leap into a language-based venture to help out with their finances.

“We were young and married,” said Kuroiwa. “We were just trying to make some extra money. So we started tutoring. My husband was tutoring in French and I was tutoring in Spanish. My husband, who is very entrepreneurial, said ‘I think there is a huge market here.’ There are six million people in the Phoenix metro area. He said ‘I think we should start a business. People are asking for Russian tutors and other languages and I think we can have a go at it.’ So we started with private tutoring in a variety of languages. We then expanded to an onsite location and then group classes.”

The Kuroiwas’ language school, Le Tutor, offers interpretation and translation services. It offers classes for all ages along with group classes and private lessons. The Kuroiwas serve a wide client base, from those who want to learn popular languages such Spanish, Italian, and French to government employees who need to learn Farsi or Arabic for trips to the Middle East. Le Tutor also works with the state of Arizona to provide translation and interpretation services.

Along with Le Tutor, Kuroiwa worked at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital where, as an injury-prevention specialist, she developed patient education materials and promoted child passenger safety.

Last November, the Kurioiwas took time off for travel and moved back to Indianapolis. Now, Erin Kuroiwa is doing contract work and teaching child passenger safety technician courses for the Automotive Safety Program within the IU School of Medicine.

Meanwhile, Le Tutor is still going strong, the Kuroiwas are still very involved, and they make trips to Phoenix once a month to help lead the business.

Kuroiwa said the liberal arts have worked wonders for creating and building a business.

“That constant perspective of looking at the diverse world, languages, philosophy, and thought have shaped where we are today,” said Kuroiwa. “All of that helps you look at what you want for yourself and how to analyze information and make difficult choices and decisions.”

The business, in turn, is paying dividends not only financially but also for lifelong learning.

“During the course of our time as business owners, we have been able to interact and meet with children and families all over the world,” said Kuroiwa.

It’s an IUPUI success story found in translation.