Colleen Penaluna is a Communication Studies major and member of the School of Communication Student Advisory Board. The SAB advocates for the needs of students in the SoC by serving as the student voice to the administration and generating and implementing programs and initiatives designed to enhance the student experience within the School. Have questions, concerns, or ideas about the student experience in the School of Communication? Let her know!

Well hello there! I’m Colleen, a studious, shy, Sacramento native adjusting to SoCal life here at Chapman University. I transferred as a junior in the fall of 2018 after graduating from Folsom Lake Community College with my AA-T in communication studies. I’m currently working on my undergraduate degree in communication studies with a political science minor.

On an adventure near my home in NorCal

As a kid, I never could settle on what I wanted to do when I grew up. It wasn’t because I didn’t have any interests; rather my problem was that I loved learning about everything so much that I just couldn’t decide! I wanted to do everything – be a scientist, president, a blogger, an artist, you name it! As I got older, it became excruciating trying to settle on just one subject to study in college. Entering into my senior year of high school, I thought I had settled on studying anthropology or English because I loved learning about people and had a passion for writing and reading that I wanted to share.

Those plans were turned completely upside down, however, when a few months before my graduation in 2015, I had quite the surprise – I was selected to serve as the State President of IORG in California, an international nonprofit for girls ages 11-20 that teaches leadership through community service. It was an overwhelming honor, but it also came with a cost; as a full-time volunteer position, it meant I would have to take a gap year from school. As a lover of learning everything about anything, it was a difficult choice to accept.

At first, it was an adjustment being away from school. As a self-proclaimed nerd, I wasn’t sure who I actually was outside of my GPA and syllabuses. As time went on though, I found that this distance from the routine of school gave me the clarity I needed to explore what my passions were outside of school curriculum. More importantly, my time in this leadership position empowered me to make my life one devoted to helping others. The initial interests that led me to consider anthropology and English were reinforced; I wanted to connect with people, help people, change people, learn about people, hear from people, speak to people – what I really wanted was to communicate with people.

Speaking as State President

But, at this point, I had never even heard of communication studies before! So I remained undecided about what major could possibly encompass all of these passions and skills I now had and chose to enter a community college so that I could consider possible majors at a lower price. My counselor there gave me a few different recommendations for majors she thought I may be interested in, one of which was communication. After meeting with professors, reading about the field, and taking a few courses, I knew that this was how I could reconcile my love of fostering meaningful connections with my desire to take action in my community.

In addition to learning about communication for the first time, it was also at the community college that I heard about Chapman University! Chapman was recommended to me by my counselor at my community college, and after visiting I fell in love. When I found out that Chapman would still accept my AA-T so I could enter as a junior, it was a done deal!

Today, I am currently working as a legal assistant at a law firm in Costa Mesa, and I hope to intern back in my hometown of Sacramento over the summer. I’m still not quite sure what I want to be when I grow up, but I know that I absolutely want to continue working for non-profits, particularly focused on mental health or women’s rights. I hope my political science minor will help turn my communication work for these groups into larger-scale political action to benefit communities across the globe, perhaps by working as a lobbyist for legislation or a liaison between government organizations and non-profit missions. I still can’t decide!

I am also a member of Lambda Pi Eta, the honor society for School of Communication students on campus, as well as a member of the Student Advisory Board for the School of Communication. Serving on the board, I hope to continue to help develop the School of Communication to better serve transfer students, and to also advertise our programming to a broader audience so that more community colleges know of our fantastic programs here!

If you have any questions about gap years, community college, transferring, the School of Communication, or more – let me know!