Yolanda Fay Elias: Getting Busy With It
April 17, 2012
Set to graduate in May of 2012 with bachelor’s degrees in both mathematics/computer science and English/Spanish, Elias has been running and gunning since she set foot on the Angelo State campus in 2007. She has won research awards, thrived in the Honors Program, represented the university at state and national events, and started a student organization—all while completing study in two very diverse major fields of study.
Even her background is busy. Born to who she calls “internationally curious” parents in Cuauhtémoc, Mexico, Elias moved to Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada, at three years old and then to Seminole, Texas, in 2001. While she retains her Canadian citizenship, she graduated from Seminole High School after excelling in both math and English—hence the dual degrees at ASU.
“When I got to ASU, nobody told me that wasn’t normal,” Elias said, “so, I just pursued both. I had a lot of credit coming in, so I was pretty much a sophomore in my first semester. That gave me the cushion to take extra classes without having to stay too much longer. I’ll have finished in about five years.”
“When I got a call from an emissary of the Honors Program,” she continued, “I thought it would be a great fit. I also didn’t want to go too far from home, so ASU was perfect.”
Staying busy in the Honors Program brought even more activities into Elias’ schedule. In the summer of 2011, she participated in the national Partners in the Parks program at Olympic National Park in Washington. The goal of the program is to take honors students out of the classroom and educate them about the National Park System and various aspects of the environment. Outings were conducted by park rangers, research scientists and park administrators.
“When I got a call from an emissary of the Honors Program, I thought it would be a great fit. I also didn’t want to go too far from home, so ASU was perfect.”
“It was definitely ‘out of the box’ for me,” Elias said. “I had never been hiking before, so it was a terrifying challenge. But, it is definitely one of the best experiences I have had in my undergraduate career.”
Back on campus, Elias’ Carr research project, “The Effect of Color Space on Wavelet Image Compression,” was chosen from all the entries in ASU’s annual fall Student Research Showcase to represent the university in the 2011 “Posters at the Capitol” display at Texas Undergraduate Research Day activities in Austin.
“They bring in research poster displays by undergraduate students from universities across Texas and give legislators the opportunity to meet the students and see what they are doing,” Elias said. “It’s basically to encourage them to keep funding education and keep those types of research programs going.”
Her project was then entered in the Poster Competition at the National Collegiate Honors Council’s annual conference—and won a Best of Show award. By then she had also started working on an English research project, and presented it at the conference as part of an interdisciplinary research panel.
Another Honors Program experience led to Elias forming the BIGS student organization to get more students involved in the national Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
“Through the Honors Program’s Community Development Program, I got placed on the local Big Brothers Big Sisters board,” Elias said. “I had already been a Big Sister for about six months, so I thought that was perfect. We found a lot of interesting ways to use my connections at ASU to get more students to sign up, and it just took off from there.”
“We wanted to connect Big Brothers Big Sisters to the campus and allow students who are already Bigs to help with recruitment,” she added. “We also wanted to provide Bigs the opportunity to meet each other, socialize and form a support network. The program is really important to me and I’m excited the university allowed us to start the campus organization.”
Though she also won the Honors Director Award in 2010, Elias’ activities are not limited to the Honors Program. She is a member of the Pi Mu Epsilon math honor society, Sigma Tau Delta English honor society and the Honors Student Association. She previously mentored first-generation students in the RAMS program through the ASU Multicultural Center, and served as chairperson of the Student Organization Advisory Committee through the ASU Center for Student Involvement. In her limited spare time she tutors about a half-dozen students, ranging from 5th grade to high school, in algebra, chemistry and English.
After she graduates, Elias plans to put being busy aside and take a well-deserved year off for some overseas travel before enrolling in graduate school. She is currently torn between her two passions and is considering both classical studies and mathematics. She has also added environmental studies as a possibility following her Partners in the Park experience.
“I’m looking into programs that incorporate environmental advocacy,” Elias said. “But, right now there are so many options. I just need to settle down and see if I can pick exactly what I want to do.”
Regardless of which path she chooses, Elias is sure to get busy all over again.