Interview with Carolina Bailey

SLA alumna Carolina Bailey recently sat down with Wendy Johnson for coffee on State Street to talk a bit about her work in higher education and in the community.


image of Carolina Bailey


WJ: So, Carolina tell me about your current job.


CB:  I am Spanish faculty in the World Languages Department at Madison College.  I teach classes and, as part of my job, I also do service and professional development. I teach Spanish levels one to five, first semester to fifth semester. Being that it’s a technical college where the focus is on teaching, teaching is the main focus of my job. Professional development is focused on classes that we need to be taking to keep certified in Wisconsin through the Wisconsin Technical Colleges System, specific certification for technical colleges. Service is whatever projects I need to be doing for the department or for the college.


I am allowed to do research as long as it is on my own time and does not interfere with my workload. So I was able to kind of marry research with the fact that I was in the classroom to collect data for SLA research. I did that for the first three years, and I presented at different conferences. And then after that my research took a totally different turn. What I began was not SLA research, but the research methods I learned in SLA helped a lot. I started focusing my research on diversity issues. I started to look at how supported faculty at the college feel by supervisors, administrators, by the college.


WJ: So, focused just on faculty, not students?


CB: Just faculty, because the college is awesome at focusing a lot on the well-being of the students. It does a lot of research on them and provides a lot of resources. But then I thought that there was a big gap regarding faculty because I noticed that students were saying, “we need more people that look like us.” Meaning Latinos, Blacks; Asians also. So I’m like, oh yeah, they do have a point. If you look around, this place looks pretty white.


My research at the beginning focused mainly on faculty of color and whether they felt they were being supported, so that they could actually better help the college, better help the students. Based on my research, I did conference presentations about how faculty of color were feeling, about the changes they proposed that needed to be happening at an institutional level. And then because of this kind of research I was invited to the Madison College Diversity and Community Relations Council. I gave a presentation to them about the state of affairs for their faculty of color. It was kind of eye-opening for them. So they recruited me to be part of that Council, which has since worked really hard on improving the college climate for faculty as well as the students. That’s really helped me to get a better picture of what goes into how a college is run, what kind of policies we need, and why we need to be doing what we’re doing.


WJ: So give me an example of a policy the Diversity Council recommended and implemented.


CB: One example: Though the college had a diversity statement, it needed to be absolutely revised. We created a full document of the diversity commitment of the college. So one of the policies was that–and I don’t remember the exact wording– we need to be conducting research and looking at the research immediately, right away, so that we can create solutions for the gaps that we see. Before, research was conducted but then nothing happened. So one of the policies is that research has to be looked at right away and used to come up with solutions so that we can actually see gaps closing.


And now because of the work I was doing at the college level, I was recruited by a group called “Step Up: Equity Matters,” a group here in Madison. The group came to life after the Race for Equity report, and I came to be part of that group about two years after it had started. Their whole goal is to see what things they could actually be doing to change the gaps that the Race for Equity report was showing. They do workshops around Madison and around Wisconsin about how improve the climate, to look at what can we do as individuals reflecting on our biases to be able to create spaces that are equitable for everybody.


WJ: Tell me more about some of your teaching-related projects.


CB: Another work project for me stems from the fact that the College has really good relations with the community and businesses, and we have seen that businesses are requesting employees that are coming with some kind of foreign language competency. So I am working on a proposal for a certificate of proficiency, to recognize language and cultural competencies. We are in the process of creating that. Actually, later today I will be doing a presentation for something called the Innovation Fund, to request funding for this certificate, which will be for both Spanish and French.


I’m also working with a colleague in French to bring in new materials to the classroom and to online classes. My goal is to bring in more about Africa to the French classroom, to bring the “periphery” of the French-speaking world to the center.


WJ: And so back to the question we had about your earlier research in your first three years that focused on SLA classroom research. What did you look at there?


CB: I looked at the use of preterit and imperfect in second semester and fifth semester Spanish. Then I looked at how self-recordings can actually help with language performance. So for that one, students needed to record themselves for a minute, and they weren’t allowed to pause the recording. So even if they were like “ah…eh…” they had to keep going until they had a minute. And then after that, they needed to play the recording, listen to themselves and do a meta-analysis, so they were like “oh my God, I paused a lot.” “I have a lot of mistakes in masculine or feminine.” And from there write a little paragraph: What do you think you were good at and what were things that you think that you could improve. And then it was a chance to see if actually their language, their performance, improved at the end of this semester, and it helped! I was actually very surprised.


Then, one more thing, three years ago, we received a Fulbright-Hayes grant to collect research on how globalization was impacting indigenous communities in Bolivia and Peru. We went for a five week trip. Our group included college and high school instructors, fourteen or fifteen people. Oh my God, it was so eye-opening to see how these indigenous communities have still so much to offer. But they’re being overlooked because of globalization. I created a website that is open to the public where I’m still uploading recordings, videos.


WJ:  Okay so one more question. Do you have any advice for current SLA students, about finishing the program, for example?  


CB: So for finishing the program, just be disciplined and dedicated, get it done. Don’t putz around. Just get it done. Whatever tears may be shed now, there will be smiles later.



An update: Carolina received funding and approval for a language certificate at Madison College and will be working on implementing it in the coming months. She says, “I am so happy! It is not a big amount (only $28,000) but it is still a huge responsibility for me because there are very specific deliverables that I have to achieve. So exciting!” 


Carolina’s website on her work with indigenous communities in Bolivia and Peru: “Fulbright 2015-Hays Group Projects Abroad: Bolivia and Peru


Interview (in Spanish) with Carolina from Madison radio station WORT on the Bolivia/Peru project.