Featured Adult Learners

Off-Campus and Non-Traditional Student Services (OCNTSS) works to welcome, incorporate, and promote non-traditional students in the NIU community. This includes recognizing those students who have taken a different path, taken extra steps, persevered over struggles or simply have a great story to tell about their academic and life journey. Recognizing the contributions that these students provide to NIU fosters their sense of visibility and advocacy on campus, in addition to encouraging a stronger presence on campus. These nominees will be considered for our annual Eli Whitney Award.

To learn about the initiative click on the criteria link below.

Featured Adult Learners Nomination Criteria

To nominate  complete the following form

Featured Adult Learners Online Nomination Form

Deborah Smiley


Current Studies: Major in Sociology, minor in Family & Child Services

Meet Ms. Deborah Smiley! She has lived many places, but holds some loyalty to Chicago. She is a full-time sophomore here at NIU, who is pursuing her sociology degree, in addition to getting certified in criminology. She plans to pursue a law degree specializing in either family or criminal law after obtaining her bachelor’s degree. Her passion lies in working with foster care children and families, as well as youth in the juvenile detention system. She hopes to secure an internship in the field in the next year or two.

Ms. Smiley is mother to three-year-old David, who attends the NIU Child Development Lab while mom goes to classes and takes care of business. Their favorite pastimes together include trips to the park, reading books, and cooking (even though it can get messy). In her small amount of spare time, Deborah enjoys reading crime novels.

In addition to the many hours she gives to motherhood and studies, Deborah is an active member of the S.I.S.T.E.R.S. service organization at NIU. She loves the community service work that she is able to do through the organization. Her time helping out with organizations such as Hope Haven and local nursing homes means a lot to her. She is also an involved member of College Parents Group and S.W.A.N. (Students Who Are Non-Traditional) on campus. She is proud to have been named Mother of the Year in 2014 by NIU’s B.R.O.T.H.E.R.S. organization as part of its Tribute to Black Women. Deborah also acted as President of the Northern View Council (Residence Hall Association) during her first year at NIU. 

Personal Motto: “Never give up!”

Advice for fellow Huskies: "Don’t shut yourself off from other people. You never know what opportunities you can find when you get involved."