There is a cliché that a degree in fields such as history or English does little to equip its holder for the “real world.” This notion, still bandied about from time to time despite vast evidence to the contrary, is something that Rosemont graduate Sally deVincentis ’64 has found to be demonstrably untrue. “As a history major and an English minor you might think I graduated prepared for nothing but in fact I was prepared for everything,” she said in a recent interview.
In her career she has held several titles from teacher, to CEO of a national non-profit organization, to her current role as founder of the Illinois-based educational technology firm APTE. She credits Rosemont and the liberal arts education she received for her ability to transition from one industry to another saying, “As far as a ‘career’ is concerned, my education at Rosemont taught me how to think, to look back at the past to find solutions for today, and to consider alternatives not necessarily in my line of work.”
That statement is born out in her shift from the classroom to the boardroom. She says that her early work with children with disabilities was the catalyst for her entrance into the field of educational technology explaining, “When I first saw the power of computers to level the playing field for people with disabilities, I was hooked. That was in the early 1980s.”
After founding APTE in 1990, it become clear to deVincentis that technology was a tool that could enrich the lives of all children, regardless of their developmental status. The company went on to create numerous award-winning software programs that are used in homes and classrooms across the globe.
APTE has also branched out into the rapidly growing mobile apps market. Viewing this as another professional challenge to be met with thoughtfulness and enthusiasm, deVincentis said, “As for motivation, we have been early to do a number of tech innovations, including an early iPhone app. Every new tech innovation has been like an invitation to a party… and we usually accept with pleasure.”
APTE’s newest creation is the iPhone app “Gumball Blast.” In the game, players are tasked to create the perfect gumball by getting their recipe just right. Players must be sure not to make their gumball too sweet or else risk ruining their “game health.” As the game progresses the recipes become more intricate, adding wilder colors and more complex flavors.
The APTE staff engaged in a balancing act while designing Gumball Blast, wanting to make the game fun and exciting while also retaining an educational element. Said deVincentis, “The iPhone has more than 500,000 apps. In developing a new app, you have to consider what will make people want to own it. Fun becomes the operative word. With Gumball Blast we stated with fu’ and then figure out how to build in an educational component.”
Added deVincentis, “There is no age limit on the educational possibilities presented by apps. APTE is always dreaming up new ways to stretch minds, young and old.” With that in mind, it’s no surprise she founded a corporation that seeks to advance the way children learn.
Her belief that learning could be an adventure is something she says she acquired at Rosemont. “Before Rosemont, school had always been a little like the army,” she said. “You followed rules and did what you were told. Intellectual curiosity was not part of the plan. Rosemont was decidedly different. My best memory of Rosemont was Miss Breen’s English literature class where learning became a thrill, a joy, a real turn on.”
Now, through her work, Sally deVincentis is sharing that joy for learning with students, young and old, across the world.