University News

Dicksen Named WIU's Lincoln Laureate

March 13, 2020

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MACOMB, IL – Western Illinois University senior biology major Mariah Dicksen, of Lockport, IL, has been named Western Illinois University's recipient of the 2019-2020 Lincoln Academy of Illinois' Student Laureate Award.

The prestigious award, presented annually to an outstanding senior of each of Illinois' four-year degree-granting institutions, honors a student's overall academic excellence and participation in extracurricular activities.

"It is such an honor to be named the 2019 WIU Student Laureate of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois," said Dicksen. "This award exemplifies the legacy of President Lincoln and his civic-minded lifestyle. I hope I can exude similar qualities of leadership that can help strengthen our community, and live a life following his example."

One of Dicksen's nomination letters for the award came from Centennial Honors College Dean Rick Hardy, who said Dicksen has "taken the campus by storm with her leadership in many venues."

"What really stands out about Mariah is her long, sustained and significant interest in scientific research," said Hardy. "Last March, I took Mariah to the Upper Midwest Regional Honors Conference, where she earned rave reviews for her research involving gene expression and human macrophages, infected by the Zika Virus. She is a natural leader and commanding public speaker. She is the leader of the President's Roundtable (comprised of the top students at the University), and recently delivered a riveting, spellbinding talk to the Western Illinois Board of Trustees on the state of academic affairs."

Dicksen is a Presidential Scholar in the Centennial Honors College at Western, with minors in chemistry and French. In 2019, Dicksen became the first female WIU student to win the renowned Barry Goldwater Scholarship, and the first WIU student to be nominated for the prestigious Rhodes, Truman and Goldwater Scholarships.

At WIU, Dicksen has completed undergraduate research both on campus, with WIU faculty through the Honors College, and off campus through summer research programs. She has been captain of the Marching Leathernecks Color Guard since 2017, vice president of the WIU Water Polo Club since Fall 2016, is treasurer and co-founder of the WIU Tennis Club and served as the sisterhood chair for Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority.

Dicksen is a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, serving as a student vice president, and the Panhellenic Council. She is also a member of the WIU Pep Band, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Sigma Alpha Lambda National Honor Society, President's Roundtable for Students, Golden Key International Honour Society, Order of Omega Honor Society, American Society of Microbiology and Beta Beta Beta National Biological Honor Society. Dicksen's additional honors and achievements include Congress of Future Medical Leaders, National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists Award of Excellence. She was her high school's representative to the Argonne Laboratory's Women in Science Conference and was an Illinois State Scholar. 

"Lincoln had a vision to create a country of equality, and I have a vision to create a disease-free world. Lincoln worked hard for his goals: he was self-educated and honest. He was not afraid of challenges and would lay out plans to surmount these obstacles," said Dicksen. "When faced with the issue of slavery, he promoted the 13th Amendment, and kept the Union together to end the Civil War. I have a clear path towards my goal and no challenges will stop me. While I may not have a war in front of me, I have the emergence of mutating viruses, epidemics and outbreaks. To combat this, I will obtain a Doctorate in Microbiology and enter a career of disease and immunology research."

Dicksen said she hopes her research will help society better understand viruses.

"I know that a disease-free world may not happen in my lifetime, but I can certainly contribute to its eventual occurrence," she said. "Just as the Lincoln Academy values the 'Great Citizens of Tomorrow,' I value the next generation of researchers. With this in mind, I intend to enter the field of academics. I feel that my life of public service will best be served conducting research and acting as a mentor for the next generation of bright minds."

Dicksen received her honor late in 2019 and will be honored again during WIU's Convocation ceremony. For more information about the Lincoln Laureate program, visit

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