Outstanding Islander Graduate Ila Pridgeon ’23 Earns Communication Degree, Finds Community on Campus

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — An example of commitment to academic excellence and a contribution to campus and community, Ila Pridgeon ’23 has been named the Fall 2023 School of Arts, Media, & Communication Outstanding Islander Graduate. She will walk the commencement stage on Dec. 16 as she earns a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

Pridgeon’s journey at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi began in fall of 2020, a precarious time at the peak of the global pandemic.

“I made the decision to study at TAMU-CC just as the world was on the cusp of altering dramatically,” said Pridgeon, who grew up in Arkansas. “The Island University turned out to be the perfect place for me to embark upon my academic journey, while serving as a safe haven for me during a transformative stage in my life.”

It was during this time that Pridgeon became more aware of the importance of communication in connecting people and communities.

“The pandemic revealed the vital importance of communication to disseminate crucial information, to provide comfort to those in distress, and to foster a sense of unity in a time of isolation,” she said. “This ignited a passion in me to explore the art and science of communication and to harness its potential to connect people and drive positive change.”

Dr. Diana Ivy, TAMU-CC Communication Professor, taught Pridgeon in two courses.

“Ila is mature and has a sharp mind, strong critical thinking skills, a superb sense of priorities, and the requisite work ethic and determination to see projects to completion,” Ivy said. “Her peers love her and seek her out for group projects.”

A belief in the power of community support compelled Pridgeon to take a student worker position as a Career Peer Mentor with the university’s Career and Professional Development Center. Her role involved undertaking one-on-one interactions, workshops, and seminars with fellow students, where she helped with resume building, interview preparation, and effective job searching techniques.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of my role has been witnessing the growth and transformation of students throughout their academic journey,” Pridgeon said. “I’ve had the privilege of seeing timid freshmen evolve into confident, career-ready individuals who are poised to make a meaningful impact in their chosen fields.”

Pridgeon also volunteered as a Sexual Assault Advocate with the Coastal Bend Purple Door, where she provided comfort, support, compassion, and resources to survivors of sexual assault.

“I am proud to stand as a source of strength and support to survivors, and for the opportunity to help Purple Door make a tangible difference in someone’s life during a vulnerable and distressing time,” Pridgeon said. “This work has only reinforced my belief in the impact of community support and the power of advocacy in calling for social change.”

As a first-generation college student living hundreds of miles away from her Arkansas home, Pridgeon grappled with the cost of tuition, textbooks, and living expenses and also suffered family losses during the pandemic.

“The support of friends, family, and the college community became a lifeline during these times,” Pridgeon said. “However, I embraced this role as a pioneer in my family, determined to set an example for future generations.”

Pridgeon said a highlight of her Islander experience was her attendance at the Black Student Union Gala.

“The Black Student Union Gala was more than just an event; it was a night of unity, empowerment, and celebration,” she said. “It was a reminder of the importance of finding spaces where one can fully embrace their identity and connect with others who share similar experiences.”

Pridgeon also credits the university with helping her approach mental health from a perspective of empathy and understanding.

“As a black woman, I’ve faced the added layer of navigating mental health within a community that has historically faced stigma surrounding mental well-being,” she said. “The university has taught me that prioritizing my mental health is not a sign of weakness, but an act of self-love and empowerment. TAMU-CC has empowered me to face the challenges of adulthood with confidence, and to embrace the unique intersection of my race, culture, and identity.”

The next step in Pridgeon’s academic career will see her pursue graduate studies in International Relations, with a focus on marginalized communities. This goal was further reinforced after she was paired with public relations professional Darcy Schroeder during the Islander Mentor Program.

“Darcy generously shared her time, expertise, and network, opening doors to opportunities that I might not have discovered on my own,” Pridgeon said. “Her encouragement and constructive feedback have been instrumental in shaping my approach to public relations, instilling in me the confidence to pursue ambitious goals and strive for excellence.”

Pridgeon credits TAMU-CC and the connection she has forged on campus with being instrumental in her personal growth and resilience.

“For me, college has been a sanctuary where I’ve not only expanded my intellectual horizons, but also allowed me to embark on a profound journey of self-reflection and self-improvement,” she said. “Life on the Island is more than the pursuit of knowledge; it’s about becoming a part of a much bigger family.”