Women's Giving Circle Announces 2016 Grant Recipients, New Scholarship

Associate Director of Development Charles Gaines and Professor Ingrid Fritsch (center) from the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences accept a check from Women's Giving Circle President Melissa McIlroy Hawkins (left) and Chancellor Joe Steinmetz (right). Fritsch's proposal received $25,000 at the circle's 14th annual grant awards ceremony.
Photo by Whit Pruitt.

Associate Director of Development Charles Gaines and Professor Ingrid Fritsch (center) from the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences accept a check from Women's Giving Circle President Melissa McIlroy Hawkins (left) and Chancellor Joe Steinmetz (right). Fritsch's proposal received $25,000 at the circle's 14th annual grant awards ceremony.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The Women’s Giving Circle hosted its annual fall voting event on Friday, Oct. 7, and awarded $90,000 to seven University of Arkansas programs and a newly created scholarship in honor of the circle’s founding members.

The Women’s Giving Circle Endowed Founders Scholarship was established with $25,000 from the circle and a $25,000 match from the chancellor’s office. An additional $2,500 is being made available for immediate distribution in the spring 2017 semester. First-generation students with financial need will be given preference to receive the scholarship.

“The Women’s Giving Circle is an important group to our campus, and my wife Sandy and I are very pleased to be involved with their efforts this year,” said Chancellor Joe Steinmetz. “Their grants to students, faculty research and innovative programs are admirable and truly demonstrate their awareness of our campus’s evolving needs. This scholarship is an excellent example of their foresight to address another area of need, which I am happy to support.”

The Women’s Giving Circle is made up of U of A alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the university and was created to encourage women as philanthropic leaders. The circle raises funds in part by requiring annual cash gifts from its members. The annual membership is $1,000 for alumnae or friends and $500 for recent graduates, students, faculty and staff.

This year’s grant recipients were chosen from 49 proposals, with nine finalists selected through an online vote. Women’s Giving Circle members heard presentations from the finalists as part of Friday’s voting event and then chose the winning programs. The amounts of the seven grants given out this year ranged from $3,000 to $25,000.

The proposals that received funding this year include:

  • “Micro” – Probing the Chemistry of Depression, Drug Addiction and Other Diseases of the Brain, a research initiative presented by Ingrid Fritsch from the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. Fritsch seeks to build and evaluate a new type of microprobe that downsizes recent successes in neurotransmitter detection. The $25,000 of funding will help the research become eligible for a major federal research grant and allow researchers the opportunity to understand diseases that include depression, drug addiction, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
  • Explore Engineering Program: Northeast Arkansas, which will use its $11,500 grant to help expand an existing successful program to reach 50 rising sixth through ninth graders in Eastern Arkansas. The program increases exposure to STEM fields and concepts and is housed in the College of Engineering.
  • Dream B.I.G. Brave Girl Initiative: Phase Two, which provides mentoring and educational resources to sixth and seventh graders at J.O. Kelly Middle School in Springdale. The program received $7,500 and was represented by Student Affairs and the Center for Community Engagement.
  • Cooking for the Future, which will expand an existing program that provides cooking and nutrition education for students. The project is a partnership between the Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry and University Housing and will offer classes in residence halls. It was represented by the Division of Student Affairs and received $6,000.
  • Explore Skilled Trades Camp, a new program that will address the need to educate high school age females who are non-degree seeking about career options in vocational and skilled trade professions, including truck driving, auto repair, electrical and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). The program was presented by Heather Sprandel on behalf of the University of Arkansas Global Campus and received $5,000.
  • Transportation to Opportunity: Increasing Access for Women and Children in Rural Arkansas, which seeks to develop performance metrics to assess whether transportation access may be limiting the opportunities for women and children in rural Arkansas. The proposal received $4,500 in funding and was submitted by Andrew Braham, Sarah Hernandez and Sadie Smith from the College of Engineering. 
  • Pregnant and Parenting College Students Lunchtime Learning Series, a series of five on-campus meal sessions to educate pregnant and parenting college students about the resources and strategies available to help them succeed. The program received $3,000 and was presented by Susan Stiers on behalf of the Division of Student Affairs.

Steinmetz, along with Melissa McIlroy Hawkins, newly sworn-in president of the Women’s Giving Circle, presented checks to the grant recipients.

“Being a member of the Women’s Giving Circle is a very unique and humbling experience. To see the power of our collective efforts is very rewarding, and I would encourage all women to join us,” said Hawkins. “We are happy to be celebrating our 14th year of giving back, not only to the University of Arkansas, but to projects that impact our entire state. We are especially excited about the new endowed scholarship honoring our founding members. It will make a wonderful difference in the lives of students, just as our founders have made a wonderful difference for the University of Arkansas.”

The Women’s Giving Circle was established in 2002, and its founding members included Sylvia Boyer (B.S.E. 1963), Pat Cooper, Johnelle Hunt, Mary Trimble Maier (B.A. 1949), Julia Peck Mobley (B.S.E. 1965), Harriett Phillips (B.A. 1972), Debbie Walker, Lynne Walton (B.A. 1970), Margaret Whillock (B.S.E. 1957), Mary Lib White and Donna Axum Whitworth (B.A. 1966, M.A. 1969).

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Jennifer Holland, director of development communications
University Relations
479-575-7346, jholland@uark.edu


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