It didn’t bother Andres Sanchez, M.S. ’21, any to look out and see growing irritation in the audience. In fact, it proved his point.

As a doctoral candidate in the Department of English, Sanchez specializes in conceptual poetry. At this particular reading, Sanchez stepped up to the microphone and said these six words over and over: “I came here to bore you.”

People became restless, and a friend after the show expressed frustration to him. That was music to Sanchez’s ears, as his six-word expose repeated countless times had triggered strong emotions. He wanted to show that even simple concepts become difficult over a period of time, which is the theme of his dissertation.  

“My guiding idea is to come up with and defend the idea that we should look past standard modes of critique and evaluation,” Sanchez said, noting that there are many ways writing can offer societal commentary.

Man in uniform stands next to Department of English sign
Sanchez is simultaneously working on completing his dissertation as a doctoral student in the Department of English while fulfilling his military commitment.

So, it might be a surprise that someone who practices theoretical academia is set to become a military intelligence officer in the United States Army, where every move is calculated and critical in literal life or death situations.

But Sanchez, who also received a master’s degree in math from the University this spring, believes that having that intellectual inquisitiveness in such an intense line of work will benefit him as an intelligence officer in a complex global world.

“The way we perceive a problem is individuated, and every individual sees it differently,” said Sanchez, who commissioned as a second lieutenant on May 7. “We’re supposed to analyze a situation that gives the best answer possible, so other people can use it to determine the next step.”

Sanchez, who began his course work at Illinois State in 2016, loves learning but also felt a calling to serve. He had a grandfather in the Army, a cousin and brother-in-law in the Air Force, and a father who was in law enforcement for more than 30 years. In 2018, in the middle of both his master’s and doctoral programs, Sanchez joined Illinois State’s ROTC.

Despite being older than many of his peers, Sanchez brought in a unique outlook and immediately became an invaluable member.

“Andres was an incredible addition to our program,” said Army Lt. Col. Kraig Kline, a professor of Military Science. “His perspectives and pursuit of knowledge regardless of the subject was inspiring and challenged me as an instructor.”

Sanchez navigated a rigorous schedule. He woke up for mandatory 6 a.m. workouts three times a week while pursuing both a master’s and doctoral degree—in addition to the teaching duties that come with those roles. The Chicago native credits a strong support system, including his friends, family, and husband, for keeping him encouraged.

Sanchez, who earned his master’s degree in English from Eastern Michigan University after completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago, also spent a year abroad in Hangzhou, China, as an educational consultant for Chinese students wishing to study at an American university.

He has interacted with all types of people, and that perspective has helped him teaching undergraduate students for the past five years at Illinois State. He’s appreciated the opportunity to learn from other people’s experiences and believes this puts him in a unique position as a military intelligence officer, because communication must be key in that demanding occupation.

“Teaching has helped shape my thinking of how the world works,” Sanchez said. “With any branch of the Army, everyone is coming in from so many different areas. We can all bring our own backgrounds into what we do.”

Kline also believes his academic pursuits and teaching experience will help him prepare other soldiers with the tools to critically evaluate problems to come up with logical solutions.

“His breadth and depth of knowledge is remarkable for a junior military intelligence officer,” he said. “In teaching and with his diverse spectrum of academic interests, he is charged with developing his peers, influencing members towards a collective objective, and thinking critically, which are competencies that junior officers must be able to demonstrate.”

In January, Sanchez will head to his basic officer leadership course at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. Before then, he’ll have a chance to get as much of his dissertation done as possible, while resuming his teaching duties at the University.

His long-term goal, once he’s wrapped up his doctoral degree and officer commitments, is to teach at a service academy, combining both his service and academic pursuits. No matter what, he never plans to stop learning, and his life will be anything but boring.

“Every moment of your life is determined by everything that happened to your life beforehand,” Sanchez said. “Take advantage of what you have learned and constantly keep evaluating and assessing.”