FORT SMITH, Arkansas — The University of Arkansas Fort Smith (UAFS) announced a nearly $8 million gift from the Windgate Foundation this week, which will provide multiple avenues to enrich and elevate academic opportunities for students at UAFS.
The gift includes more than $4 million in direct student support through a need-based university scholarship including $394,000 for academic program development and expansions, $240,000 to develop an artist in residence program and $120,000 to support paid internships for emerging student artists and designers.
“As an educator, I am so moved by what this support will do for our students,” said Katie Waugh, head of the UAFS Art Department. “This gift will broaden their access to professional and creative communities, and it is an absolute dream to be given the chance to build new ways to support them. Our students accomplish incredible things and often do so while managing many responsibilities. The direct positive impacts this gift will have on them is profound.”
Through the $4 million portion of the gift, any UAFS student who is eligible to receive Pell Grants, and who receives no other form of free aid will be able to attend the university at little to no out-of-pocket cost.
Tuition and mandatory fees for a full-time student at UAFS amount to $7,335 per year, with Pell Grants covering roughly $6,100 of that cost. Through the Windgate gift, the university will be able to provide the remaining $1,235 to eligible students, bringing the cost of their tuition and mandatory fees down to $0.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to bring a college education within reach for so many UAFS Lions,” said UAFS Chancellor, Dr. Terisa Riley. “Approximately 150 students per year need this type of financial assistance, and this generous gift from the Windgate Foundation will allow us to fully cover the cost of tuition and mandatory fees for those students who are facing the greatest amount of financial need.”
The comprehensive, fully-funded Artist in Residence program will be a first for UAFS. “This will bring innovative artists and designers into the university and region, to create new work and engage both students and community members. We look forward to hosting a variety of exciting new ideas and creative practices,” explained Waugh.
“The Windgate Foundation’s support for this Artists in Residence program is exceptionally exciting as it will introduce our students and faculty to diverse artistic methods and mediums, expanding their depth and breadth of knowledge,” said UAFS Chancellor, Dr. Terisa Riley. “We are thrilled to continue our outreach with regional schools and sharing the transformative power of the arts with the entire River Valley, and I am delighted to have Katie Waugh at the helm of this outstanding academic department.”
The internship fund expands existing options for studio art and graphic design majors at UAFS to engage in experiential learning opportunities with direct financial support, easing the burden students often experience when undertaking unpaid internships. “We are so excited that the work and time our students expend in these experiences will be both academically and financially beneficial,” said Waugh. “This helps students establish a pattern and expectation early in their careers of being compensated for their creative work."
The gift comes on the heels of several recent commendations awarded to the university, including ranking as the 51st best college in the nation to earn an affordable undergraduate education in the arts, acknowledging the exceptional value, faculty support, and career placement students find at UAFS.
“We are excited, grateful, and energized by what has been granted to us but also what lies ahead,” said Blake Rickman, executive director of the UAFS Foundation and vice chancellor for university advancement. “We accept the responsibility that comes with gifts of this magnitude with thoughtful determination, and cannot thank the Windgate Foundation board enough for their trust in this university and the incredible artistic work happening on this campus.”
Students interested in pursuing a degree through the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith Art Department may request more information here.