Today@Sam Article

Commencement Spotlight: Ilianna Nanyes

May 1, 2024
SHSU Media Contact: Campbell Atkins


Ilianna Nanyes

Austin, Texas

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with minor in Forensic Science

Ilianna Nanyes is preparing to complete a major step in her educational journey when she graduates from Sam Houston State University May 11. She will then continue her pursuit in law enforcement by attending the University of Texas at San Antonio to earn her master’s in criminal justice and criminology.

“I then hope to gain admission into law school to be an attorney, where I will finally be able to finish a dream my mom started for me 20 years ago,” she said.

Growing up, Nanyes watched crime shows with her mother and learned it was something she was passionate about. The two bonded over the experience, which led to a deeper understanding between the two of them and a strong sense of family.

“When my mom first entered college, she was a C.J. major with hopes of one day becoming a judge,” Nanyes said. “She decided to make the brave decision to unenroll from college for our family’s sake to raise me into the young woman I am today.”

Nanyes’s road to SHSU, however, was never an easy one. She experienced an extremely untraditional senior year in high school as a member of the COVID-19 pandemic class of 2020. This, along with the fact that she was one of the first in her family to attend college, made Nanyes’s transition a difficult one.

“Like every college student I had my success and failures that required me to be proactive to get back to where I needed to be,” she said. “While completing my degree was hard, I made the most of what I had and used my resources. I am proud to say that no matter what challenges or adversities I faced, at the end of the day, I am proud that I will be a SHSU graduate.”

While the journey was long and arduous at times, Nanyes’s’ initial decision to become a Bearkat was an easy one.

“SHSU is known for its amazing criminal justice program and when I toured for the first time, I knew where I was meant to be,” she said. “The close-knit community and academic opportunities were important to me. SHSU did more than just check all the boxes for me; it exceeded my expectations.”

During her four years at Sam Houston State, she participated in several organizations and community service projects. These included Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, Order of Omega Greek Life Honors Society, SHSU’s Panhellenic Council, the Freshman Leadership Program (FLP)/FLP Past Peers and The Ultimate Bearkat Society.

“As a student I was involved in various community service projects, such as the FLP State Park Cleanup, a Veterans Resource Center project on Veterans Day and volunteering with St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church,” she said. “Due to my various organizations, I also participated in Huntsville’s Main Street Adopt-A-Block program, where I spent time making the city a cleaner place for everyone to enjoy. I did all of this to leave the world a little cleaner and a little better than I found it.”

Through her Greek affiliations and other organizations, she also earned many accomplishments through her four years. She has held many positions as an executive member of Sigma Sigma Sigma, including Panhellenic Council Vice President, where she helped establish the organization’s highest recruitment to date. For her dedication, she was named to her sorority’s hall of fame at the end of her tenure.

“That meant a lot to me that I was able to make an impact on so many people,” she said. “With all the work I’ve given to my sorority, that is definitely one of my proudest accomplishments.”

She also stepped outside of her comfort zone when she worked as an emcee for the university’s awards ceremony, The Sammys. All in all, her accomplishments at the collegiate level prepared her for potential feats in the real world and helped mature her into a professional.

Through hard work, perseverance and a drive to succeed, Nanyes made the most of her time at SHSU and established a strong sense of community with the university that will stay with her regardless of where her road leads next.

“The traditions are what make Sam Houston so great and bring the community together, this is the one thing I will miss the most,” she said. “I have attended every single home football game, every Tree of Light ceremony, the final Battle of the Piney Woods game and so much more. Even though I am finishing my time here, I hope to one day return and have a place in the traditions I grew to love during my four years.”

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