Leslie Padilla, a first-year graduate student in the developmental psychology program, is a 2017 recipient of the Donald F. McHenry Fellowship.

Padilla was born and raised in Chicago and attended the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a bachelor’s degree in Spanish with a concentration in Hispanic Linguistics. She was on the dean’s list her last three consecutive semesters and participated in UIC’s Summer Research Opportunities Program for Undergraduates to polish her research skills and prepare for graduate school.

In 2015, Padilla had the opportunity to work with UIC professor Kim Potowski, Ph.D., investigating bilingualism in a dual language setting. She chose the master’s program in developmental psychology at Illinois State to continue her studies due to the interests she shared with faculty members here.

“While investigating new ideas, I plan on studying language acquisition in bilingual children within a school setting as part of my thesis,” Padilla said. “Specifically, I would like my research interests to include narrow spectrums of different social factors contributing to this phenomenon and their effects on the retention of a student’s native language.”

This year, Padilla will participate as a graduate research assistant to Gregory Braswell Ph.D., in his study of children in a museum setting. She hopes this experience will provide insight into which specific social skills she should look for when doing her own research. Padilla plans to pursue a Ph.D. after completing her master’s degree at Illinois State and hopes to one day run her own language acquisition research lab.

Donald F. McHenry ’57, a United States Ambassador to the United Nations, participated in many student activities during his time at Illinois State. He was a member of the student chapter of the NAACP and the student radio station and participated in theater productions. In 1956 he captained the debate team and was named Outstanding Debater at Illinois State and in the United States. McHenry attributed much of his success as a diplomat to these and other experiences at Illinois State that helped him strengthened his communication skills and deepened his understanding of the great issues that helped him so ably serve in his role as ambassador.