Catherine de Groot loved her elementary school Spanish classes. They opened a window to a world of different people, countries and languages. 

So de Groot continued studying Spanish at Groton-Dunstable middle and high schools and then through one of several dual-enrollment classes she took at Middlesex Community College’s Lowell campus. There, her window on the world opened wider as she got to know native Spanish speakers and Southeast Asian American students.

That experience inspired her to apply to UMass Lowell. She was admitted to the Honors College and awarded a $4,000 Immersive Scholarship to do research with a professor, intern or study abroad the summer after her first year. 

“I already liked Lowell – I had a lot of fun here, and I really, really like the diversity,” she says. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do careerwise, but UMass Lowell had tons of programs, and I kept hearing about all of the great opportunities here.”

De Groot soon decided to major in business with a concentration in marketing. She used her Immersive Scholarship to work in the provost’s office the summer after her freshman year, where she built a database to track and budget for graduate student teaching and research assistants. She also helped Assoc. Teaching Prof. Ashwin Mehta conduct research on developing an entrepreneurial mindset among students.

Her favorite job that summer, though, was serving as the UML student ambassador for a group of 25 students and a professor from M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women in Chennai, India, who came to campus for an intensive summer business program. De Groot accompanied them to classes and on excursions, answered all of their pop culture questions and learned about India in return. She served in the same role the following summer.

“I have dozens of friends from India now,” she laughs. “They tell me about all of their different holidays and invite me to their weddings.”

On campus, de Groot has continued to work for the provost’s office and the new Division of Graduate, Online and Professional Studies (GPS). Off campus, she got a six-month co-op with Curriculum Associates, where she tracked some of the company’s digital marketing efforts and customer responses. She is planning to study abroad in Spain during the fall semester of her senior year.

All along, de Groot has volunteered in the community, turning her passion for diversity into action. She found volunteer opportunities through UML’s Community Connections website. She also learned about the Non-Profit Alliance of Greater Lowell (NPA), an umbrella organization for dozens of agencies. She attended the group’s meetings for a year, looking for a big project that would use her growing marketing skills. 

“I wanted to keep giving back and to get involved in the community. I thought, ‘What if I did something to support the business side of nonprofits?’” she says.

Finally, she found the right fit: Lowell Telemedia Center, the local cable access station, wanted to do a series of interviews about the work of various nonprofits. De Groot agreed to coordinate the project, making it her honors capstone.

De Groot says she’s learned a tremendous amount about the nonprofit world, where she hopes to work one day, by listening as NPA board members interview nonprofit administrators on camera – and after.

“I love sitting in the background and listening,” she says. “Sometimes, when the cameras are off, they keep talking, and a lot of good stuff comes out about why they got into this work and why they’re passionate about it.”