Graduate Ready

Sergio Peña '21

The experience of conducting research with faculty mentors helped Sergio Peña ’21 envision and go after his goals.


Sergio will be pursuing a master's and doctorate in communication arts and sciences at Pennsylvania State University starting this fall, with plans to go on to become a professor at an institution like Illinois College.

Sergio received GO! Program funding for his graduate school application process, an award made possible through the Stephen M. Tillery ’72 Award for Prestigious Post-Graduate Study. Not only was he admitted to the highly competitive university for his post-grad career, but he received an excellent offer that included funding and a teaching position — all of which he said is a testament to the communication and rhetorical studies department at IC and the student-faculty research he did during his time as an undergraduate.

Sergio was so inspired by his faculty mentors and his research experience that he plans to become a professor who does research while teaching and developing strong relationships with his students. He hopes one day to be like the professors who helped him grow as a student.

“Every single one of those professors, even the ones that I did not have in class, in some way, helped and nurtured my communication abilities, knowledge and skills,” he said. “I feel so prepared for really any academic experience that may be thrown at me in the future in graduate school.”

The communication and rhetorical studies major also had minors in history, psychology and Spanish — and more campus involvement, honors and leadership roles he could have planned out. Sergio is a Phi Beta Kappa inductee; served as Student Senate president for three years, among other student government leadership positions; served in leadership roles for Nuestra Casa and Mental Health Advocates of Illinois College; and was an honorary member of Chi Beta literary society, an active member of the Black Student Union and a student ambassador. In addition to student-faculty research, Sergio completed multiple on-campus internships to gain additional valuable hands-on experience.

Sergio says his undergraduate research experience set him apart in the applicant pool and gave him a lot of confidence in the application process. It developed his critical reading and writing skills, and the perseverance needed to do research. And the trust the faculty he worked with put in him was extremely rewarding.

“The experience and ability to work with faculty so closely is probably one of the things I most value about my time at IC,” he said. “They were able to prepare me, both in terms of skills, but also in terms of the business or professional side of academia and the communication discipline. And now I feel really, really excited to take on the next step of my career.”