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Katie Benson, 2011-12 Dykstra Scholar

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Kaitlin Benson Named 2011-12 Dykstra Graduate History Scholar

Oct 21, 2011

Kaitlin Benson, originally from Rockford, Illinois, has been named the recipient of the Western Illinois University (WIU) Department of History's Darrell and Virginia Dykstra Graduate History Scholarship for 2012-12. The Dykstra Scholarship is awarded each year to an outstanding History Department graduate student at WIU.

Ms. Benson is currently in the second and final year of her M.A. degree program at Western Illinois University. She was first awarded a History Department Graduate Assistantship (GA) in Fall 2010 and is currently serving the History Department as a GA for a second year. She is also writing a Master's thesis, "Before the Compromise: Slave Labor in Territorial Missouri, 1804-1821," under the direction of Dr. Virginia Jelatis, Associate Professor of History. Her research focuses on slave labor in five Missouri counties, from the Louisiana Purchase to Missouri's statehood. Ms. Benson was recently named as the recipient of a Graduate Student Research and Professional Fund Award from the WIU School of Graduate Studies, and was awarded a College of Arts and Sciences Graduate Student Research and Professional Development Grant; this grant funding will help support her thesis research in archival collections in Missouri.

Ms. Benson has also been building her professional qualifications by working as the Fall 2011 intern for Macomb's Western Illinois Museum. In that capacity she has been given the opportunity to curate the "Civil War at Home" exhibit that will open at the Museum in February 2012. In addition, WIU's Phi Alpha Theta chapter appointed her as a 2011-12 co-editor of the Western Illinois Historical Review, the journal of outstanding student research published on-line by the History Department. She is also involved in the formation of a new abolitionist group at WIU, Western Against Slavery, which is working to raise awareness about the global issue of human trafficking.

Prior to coming to WIU, Ms. Benson's academic abilities and commitment to excellence in the field of History were already being recognized with a number of scholarships and awards. As an undergraduate student at Rock Valley College, Ms. Benson won the History Department's "Excellence in History Award" in both 2006 and 2007. After her transfer to Northern Illinois University (NIU), she was awarded membership in both the Phi Alpha Theta and Golden Key national honors societies in 2009. Upon her graduation from NIU in 2010 with her B.A. in History, she was awarded NIU's "Golden Key Award" in History.

Ms. Benson joins previous Dykstra Scholars Abby Lagemann and Austin Schwartz as recipients of the History Department's only graduate scholarship. The Darrell and Virginia Dykstra Graduate History Scholarship was established by Virginia Dykstra in November 2006 in memory of her husband, the late Professor Darrell Dykstra. Professor Dykstra earned his BA from Harvard in 1967; held a fellowship from the American Research Center in Egypt from 1971-1973, and received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan in 1977. He was Professor of Middle East History at WIU from 1977 to 2006 and was the History Department's Graduate Advisor from 1987 to 2005.

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