Rita Hess, a 2016 alumna of Illinois State University with a graduate degree in Spanish linguistics, received the prestigious Gabriela Mistral Award for her academic achievements, noteworthy leadership, and initiative in Sigma Delta Pi, the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society.

An Elk Grove native, Hess also graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Illinois State with a Spanish major and a minor in Italian Studies. During her time at Illinois State, she studied abroad with immersions in Granada, Spain, and Quito and Cuenca, Ecuador. She served as the president of the University’s Chapter of Sigma Delta Pi this year.

“I wanted to surround myself with people who had the same interests and with whom I could share my experiences and love for Spanish culture,” said Hess of her decision to join Sigma Delta Pi. “I soon found out how much amazing work the chapter does in the community and with some area schools and was hooked, it was a great combination of community involvement, teaching, and leadership experience, and all of it had some aspect of Hispanic culture tied into it.”

Under Hess’ leadership of Sigma Delta Pi, the chapter held network events with students and professors, and engaged in community projects, such as teaching to elementary students, and performing a puppet show for local youth.

Hess now works with IOR Global Services in Northbrook, Illinois, as a language program manager.

The Gabriela Mistral Award is granted by Sigma Delta Pi’s national Executive Committee and may be presented to only one person per chapter yearly; the honor is reserved for outstanding graduate or undergraduate students of Spanish who are active members of Sigma Delta Pi.