Being a faculty advisor of student groups can be rewarding and challenging. With her role as advisor to the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society chapter at Illinois State, Angela Bailey de las Heras is helping students reach into the community and provide insights into another language and culture.
Bailey de las Heras, who has been teaching Spanish at Illinois State since 1998, began advising Illinois State’s chapter of the Hispanic honors society called Sigma Delta Pi in 2011. Back then the chapter was struggling. Several students petitioned to keep it going and approached Bailey de las Heras to be the advisor.
“We started by just trying to get enough numbers to keep the group alive,” she said. “Now the numbers keep going up and we have awards everywhere.”
One of those awards was last year’s Chapter Project Grant from the Sigma Delta Pi national office. The grant supports projects with community schools to get children connected with Spanish. “The Illinois State students teach the children Spanish words for colors as well as words for left and right feet,” said Bailey de las Heras. “From performing puppet shows to playing Twister, it gives schoolchildren the chance to experience another language.”
Community outreach is one of the keys to the success of any student group, according to Bailey de las Heras. “It has to be more than just being initiated, and listing it on your resume,” she said. The chapter works with local groups such as Habitat for Humanity and the Children’s Discovery Museum. “They worked with the museum to create an educational program that teaches students about the cultural importance of the Day of the Dead,” she added. Their work has been honored by Illinois State with the Outstanding Service and Volunteering Program Award and the award for Outstanding Collaborator Program.
The national Sigma Delta Pi office has also recognized the chapter’s work. For two years in a row, Illinois State’s Eta Epsilon chapter has been named as an Honor Chapter. Only 10 to 15 chapters out of 600 nationally earn this recognition every year. “It is just amazing how the students have managed to do all of these wonderful things,” said Bailey de las Heras, “The students are the success. I am just right there telling them to go, go, go.”
Giving students the room to generate ideas and then run with them has always served the group well, said Bailey de las Heras. “The students are where the creativity comes from. Just get them in a group and watch the sparks fly. I’m just here to give them the push to let them know that they can do it.”