Associate Professor of Criminal Justice Jill Fort, Ph.D. said she was shocked and honored at the news that she would be receiving a Kansas Independent College Association (KICA) Faculty of Distinction award. This year marks her eleventh year teaching at Newman University, and she said she loves every minute of it.
Fort was also honored with the Newman University Teaching Excellence Award during the Academic Honors and Awards Convocation April 21, 2016. That awards ceremony is held each year to recognize student scholars and their academic achievements and leadership skills. After receiving the honor from Newman, she was then nominated for the KICA honor.
“I’m shocked, overwhelmed and amazed and feeling very honored. It’s really neat, the positive response I’m getting from all my colleagues and students,” said Fort of hearing the news.
Her students have very good things to say about her. Amanda Dent, a 2016 graduate, said, “She helped me to regain my confidence and passion for learning. Her advice, humor, expertise and compassion propelled me forward and helped me get to where I am today.”
Fort said she finds different ways to connect with her students and get them engaged in the learning process. “I’m kind of goofy, so it’s not too hard for them to connect in that manner,” said Fort. “I also like to play devil’s advocate to get the discussions going, make them think on their feet.”
Her journey in the criminal justice field began at Wichita State University where she also met her husband, Sgt. Keith Fort. “I met him in my very last class which just happened to be titled Romantic Relations in a Changing Society. It was a class that I took as part of my sociology minor.” She then moved on to the University of Nebraska Omaha where she received her Doctorate in criminology and criminal science.
Teaching wasn’t something she thought would be in her future while earning her degree. She liked the idea of research in the forensics field — crunching numbers and studying trends and patterns. Her first teaching assignment for a class of 125 students during her Doctoral studies was a bit overwhelming. “I definitely learned a lot from them, and then my second class I was assigned to was only 30 students.”
Even though the smaller class was less intense, she still wasn’t quite sold on teaching. “I had some support from faculty in the program who told me I should give it a try,” said Fort. “I’m not sure of the exact moment, but one day it just clicked. Now I love what I do. I love hanging out with students, getting their input on things, especially hot topics.”
Fort teaches an array of classes that relate to criminal justice and sociology. Working with Associate Professor of Biology Stacy Jones and Assistant Dean of Adult and Transfer Studies Teresa Wilkerson, she helped create two of the classes she teaches.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Kimberly Long, Ph.D. was excited to share the news with the Newman community, and encouraged everyone to “take a few moments to let her know how much we appreciate her leadership and presence on campus.”
Fort will receive her KICA award at a ceremony and reception held in Manhattan, Kan. Oct. 13.