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WIU Alumna Wins National Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship

June 17, 2019

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MACOMB, IL -- Western Illinois University alumna Nicole Walker, a May graduate with degrees in forensic chemistry and foreign languages and cultures, has been awarded an $8,500 national fellowship from The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi.

Walker, a member of the WIU Phi Kappa Phi chapter and the Centennial Honors College, will use the award to pursue a doctoral degree this fall. She was accepted to all seven of the prestigious graduate programs she applied to, but will study at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Walker was named the winner of the WIU chapter's $500 Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship this year. The honor qualified her to compete for the national award.

"WIU has been fortunate to have Nicole Walker on our campus these past four years," said Associate Professor of Chemistry Brian Bellott, a member of the executive board of WIU's chapter of Phi Kappa Phi. "Nicole is an outstanding student who is actively engaged in the classroom, research lab and community. She has earned numerous awards and accolades for all that she has done here at WIU. I wish her the best in her graduate school endeavors."

The national Phi Kappa Phi office awards more than 50 fellowships each year.

"The Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship is an award for students members of the Honor Society that are beginning their first year of graduate or professional study," said Walker. "Each university chapter puts up one student, and 58 students are awarded the fellowship nationally. I was greatly honored to be WIU's choice, and am very thankful to have received this award."

Walker was also named the University's recipient of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois' Student Laureate Award for 2019 and graduated summa cum laude.

She was named one of only 11 Illinois honorable mention award winners in the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. She was also president of the ACS Chemistry Club and the WIU Chapter of Golden Key International Honour Society.

Walker was also involved in the Women in Science Club, Research Inspiring Student Excellence (RISE), the Blue Key National Honor Society, Phi Eta Sigma, is a chemistry ambassador for WIU and the recipient of a Centennial Honors Scholarship and works as a desk assistant at Lincoln, Washington and Grote halls. She was named the Organic Chemistry Student of the Year and won outstanding student awards during her freshman, sophomore and senior years.

During her sophomore year, Walker was one of just a few college sophomores nationwide selected for the Summer 2017 Research Experience for Undergraduate Students (REU), where she conducted research in chemistry at the University of Kansas.

This is the third year in a row a WIU student has won a PKP national fellowship. In 2017, alumnus Nicholas Breslin won the fellowship and is using the award to pursue his doctoral studies at Michigan State University, and in 2018, Jillian Escobar won a fellowship and is using it to pursue her doctoral degree in audiology.

Since its creation in 1932, the fellowship program has become one of the society's most visible and financially well-supported endeavors, allocating $345,000 annually to deserving students for first-year graduate or professional study.

The selection process for the Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship is based on the applicants' evidence of graduate potential, undergraduate academic achievement, service and leadership experience, letters of recommendation, personal statement of educational perspective and career goals and acceptance at an approved graduate or professional program.

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