Roberto Santillan Named 2018 Lincoln Laureate

Dec. 6, 2018 | Joliet, Ill.

Sometimes, the potential others see in us can inspire us to reach great heights and realize our innate potential to succeed. For University of St. Francis (USF) senior Roberto Santillan, such has been the case. Santillan, who cites the support of faculty at USF as a catalyst to a successful collegiate career that is entering its final semester, was recently named a 2018 Student Laureate of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois.

According to the Lincoln Academy of Illinois website, the organization honors one outstanding senior from each of the four year not-for-profit degree granting institutions and one outstanding senior from among all of the community college students who, in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln, demonstrated leadership and service in his or her campus or community and excellence in curricular and co-curricular programs, to be named Student Laureates and receive the Abraham Lincoln Civic Engagement Award and the Lincoln Medallion. Honorees were celebrated at the 44th Annual Convocation and Investiture of Student Laureates on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018 at the Hall of Representatives of the Old State Capitol Historic Site in Springfield.

Santillan was humbled to be recognized among such elite company comprised of top college students from across Illinois, but was just as humbled as he looks at the caliber of past winners of the award from USF.

“Some amazing people from USF have earned this award in the past. I’m friends with the past three USF honorees and I know how talented and gifted they are, so I actually thought that this might be out of my reach,” Santillan said.

While his hard work, leadership, and academic achievement are what qualified him for the award, Santillan said that winning the award demonstrates the amount of support he is given daily by USF faculty and staff members.

“Being name a Student Laureate has shown me the amount of work so many people at USF have put in to help me succeed and be heard. This award is much less about my success and much more about the people at USF who have helped me succeed,” Santillan said.

One of Santillan’s political science instructors, Professor Julie Victa, is at the top of that list.

“Professor Victa has been there for me all four years that I have been here at USF. Initially, she is the one who convinced me to major in political science, but has since become not only one of my instructors, but one of my mentors. Thanks to her, I have been able to secure two internships and be awarded a research grant (with Victa). I could never thank her enough for her support and her impact on my life,” Santillan said.

“I first met Roberto as one of my Core I students, where I learned he was planning on being a history major. Through A.P. tests, he came to USF with credit for nine classes, so I told him it would be fairly easy to double major in political science,” Victa said.

“Roberto is a wonderful, engaged, curious and enthusiastic student. He has also thrown himself into a wide range of extracurricular activities at USF like peer ministry, the mock trial team, and student government president. I also selected him to work with me on a Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) grant where he examined Illinois Catholic universities’ response to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students. I had been planning to nominate him as a Lincoln Laureate when he reached his senior year since he exemplifies all that it stands for: scholarship, extracurricular activities and community service. I am so proud of what he has accomplished,” said added.

In addition to being a full-time student, Santillan is highly visible on USF’s campus because of the many roles he has assumed. He is the president of the Student Government Association, co-captain of the mock trial team, is a member of both the men’s soccer team and Schola Cantorum, and is a tutor in the USF Academic Resource Center.

For the final semester of his undergraduate experience, Santillan will spend his time in an internship with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.

“I’m very excited to spend the spring working for Senator Durbin. He is one of the most notable senators in the U.S. Government and has worked hard to generate progress in the areas of healthcare and immigration. I’m looking forward to learning more about how government functions and adding to the wonderful experiences I earned during a previous internship with United States Representative Bill Foster,” Santillan said.

After graduation, Santillan hopes to secure a job in government to continue learning more about public policy, immigration, and international affairs. He also dreams of attending law school at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law.

“At USF, I’ve had a chance to reinvent myself and I’ve learned to challenge myself. The support I have had here for the past four years has given me an opportunity to grow as a student, as a person, and in my faith. It’s been an amazing experience,” he said.

The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 49,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit
University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.