The Honors College celebrated its first 20 years by hosting a “Cheers to 20 Years” party earlier this month.
Twenty years ago, the Honors College was established with a portion of the historic $300 million gift to the University of Arkansas made by the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation. Earlier this month more than 100 Honors College alumni, faculty, staff and friends gathered to celebrate the college’s first 20 years, reconnect with old friends and honor professors who made an impact.
Among the guests were Naccaman Williams, special projects director for the Walton Family Foundation, who recalled that “we had our eye on creating greater opportunities for the people of Arkansas.” Twenty years in, he affirmed that “every now and then you get it right, and with the Honors College, we got it right. There’s been nothing but good that’s come out of the college — students, faculty and staff. We look forward to following the paths of students who seized the opportunities offered by this great college.”
One such student will be Mary Jia, an honors biomedical engineering senior from Stuttgart, Arkansas, who spoke at the reception. Jia won the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship for her research in gene editing, conducted under the guidance of former Honors College Fellow Chris Nelson (B.S.B.E., magna cum laude, ’09). As a standout high school senior, Jia was encouraged to look out of state but said that “when I first visited the University of Arkansas, I immediately became aware that my ideal research environment was much closer than I initially thought.” Her Bodenhamer fellowship “eliminated any monetary concerns,” and Jia plans to pursue a graduate degree in genomic research.
The Honors College also invited alumni to nominate faculty who made an impact on their lives. Forty faculty members were honored and invited to attend the reception, where slides shared the heartfelt testimonials sent in by their former students.
The Honors College will continue the celebration through the 20/20/20 campaign, which invites honors alumni, faculty and friends to mark 20 years of the Honors College by pledging to donate $20 per month for 20 months. Visit the 20/20/20 web page to make your gift.
“This support allows us to continue making a difference in the lives of honors students for years to come,” said Director of Development Autumn Lewis Spicher (B.A., political science, economics, summa cum laude, ’14; M.A., public administration, ’21), whose Honors College fellowship made it possible for her to attend the U of A. Donors can support a variety of areas in the Honors College with their gift, from study abroad and internships to the Honors College Path Program, which recruits and provides scholarships to exceptional students from underrepresented populations.