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Jennifer Jane Grafton, a Kishwaukee College alumnus, has been named a University Honors Fellow for the upcoming academic year at Northern Illinois University. Pictured is Jennifer with Dr. Tony Thomas, Coordinator of the Kishwaukee College Honors Program. Jennifer was the first graduate of the Kishwaukee Honors Program in May 2013 and was accepted into the NIU Honors Program when she transferred that fall.

KC Alum named NIU Honors Fellow

Friday, August 15, 2014

Kishwaukee College alumna Jennifer Jane (formerly Grafton) has been selected as one of 12 students to serve as a University Honors Fellow for the upcoming academic year at Northern Illinois University. Jennifer graduated from Kishwaukee College in May 2013 and transferred to NIU in Fall 2013. The Lee resident has future plans to attend law school.

As an NIU University Fellow recipient, Jennifer will receive a $5,000 tuition waiver and a unique opportunity to develop her leadership skills. Jennifer's main responsibilities as an Honors Fellow will be to act as one of two Student Coordinators for the Peer Mentor Program, which involves leading 36 mentors who will work with approximately 150 new Honors students through their first year at NIU. In addition, her plans, articulated to the Fellows Application Committee, include working with the University's office that serves nontraditional students and veterans to encourage participation in the NIU Honors Program and to host a Peer Mentoring Summit in Spring 2015.

This is not Jennifer's first recognition as an NIU student. In April 2014, she received the Eli Whitney Award of Excellence at the University as an outstanding non-traditional student. Whitney Awards are selected from independent nominations of students who demonstrate positive characteristics; Jennifer was nominated for her leadership qualities, trustworthiness, mentoring, and her ability to overcome adversity while continuing her education.

While at Kishwaukee College, Jennifer had the distinction of being the first graduate of the College's new Honors Program by completing 12-credit hours of Honors' coursework in Spring 2013, the inaugural semester of the program. She credits the Kishwaukee Honors Program with preparing her for the rigors of being an Honors student at NIU. "The Honors Program at Kish really challenged me to push myself," she said. "The Ethics class with Dr. Thomas prepared me to think critically and defend my positions with oral arguments."

Dr. Anthony Thomas, who teaches philosophy at Kishwaukee College, is the driving force behind initiating the Honors Program at the College. Currently there are 50 students participating in the Honors Program on campus. Kishwaukee College is one of only two community college programs in the state (the other being Highland College) that have the distinction of being cited as a Partner Honors Program with NIU. Dr. Thomas has developed a program that seamlessly matches and prepares Kishwaukee College students to move into the NIU Honors Program or be well prepared for Honors Programs at other four-year institutions.

Jennifer has four children, ranging from age 24 to 6, and made a decision to return to school several years ago. She explained, "I decide to redefine who I am. Life changes and I needed a new direction." After enrolling at Kishwaukee College, Jennifer quickly became an excellent student and was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for students at two-year colleges. She never looked back.

Today, she is concurrently working towards a B.A. in psychology and B.S. family and individual development at NIU. Her long-term goal is to become a lawyer working in the non-profit sector for families dealing with domestic violence. Gaining accolades and awards, such as being named a University Fellow for 2014-15, is another step toward that goal.

For more information on the Honors Program at Kishwaukee College, contact Dr. Tony Thomas at 815-825-2086, ext. 4260 or at The fall semester at Kishwaukee College begins August 25; registration is currently in progress. For more information on enrolling at Kishwaukee College, contact New Student Connections at 815-825-2086, ext. 6099 or at or visit

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