Suder Foundation Collaboration Results in Student Success Initiatives

A $75,000 gift to Campaign Arkansas will enhance the Arkansas STEP to Success Program and First Scholars Mentoring Incentive Scholarship.
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A $75,000 gift to Campaign Arkansas will enhance the Arkansas STEP to Success Program and First Scholars Mentoring Incentive Scholarship.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Suder Foundation of Plano, Texas, is working with the University of Arkansas to enhance the Arkansas STEP to Success Program through the First Scholars Mentoring Incentive Scholarship and a gift of $75,000 to Campaign Arkansas.

The Arkansas STEP to Success Program is a data-driven, student-focused enterprise to maximize student success with a to-and-through college approach to recruitment, retention and post-graduate achievement. The program places special emphasis on increasing access and affordability and dramatically improving graduation rates for first-generation and low-income Arkansans.

The First Scholars Mentoring Incentive Scholarship will provide resources to develop, motivate and recognize outstanding mentoring. Each semester, four or more student mentors will be rewarded for exceptional effort or achievement – in student engagement, innovations in mentoring and group retention – to highlight and encourage program success. The program will also provide leadership and professional development opportunities for student mentors through the funding of training, conference attendance and other experiential learning. Eight students will be recognized each year with a scholarship.

Through mentoring and the First Scholars Mentoring Incentive Scholarship, the Arkansas STEP to Success Program will ensure that students at risk of leaving the university because of financial or academic obstacles will have the opportunity to earn financial aid and mentoring, experiential learning opportunities, career development and other help to achieve success after college.

“The Suders have a great philanthropic reputation nationally for supporting first-generation students, and I am absolutely thrilled that they have provided financial resources so we can enhance educational opportunities for first-generation Arkansans,” said Charles Robinson, vice chancellor for student affairs. “We are truly honored to join the list of Suder-sponsored programs.”

First Scholars was founded by Eric and Deborah Suder, who wanted to focus on helping less-advantaged students better themselves through higher education, specifically those who are the first in their families to attend college. In 2008, they created The Suder Foundation and the First Scholars Program.

“The Suders have always been interested in education,” said Diane Schorr, executive director of The Suder Foundation. “They made it a priority to focus on students with mid-level academic credentials who had financial need, because they realized their potential. They recognize that peer mentors are an effective retention strategy and provide critical support for first-generation college students. The Suders are excited to contribute to the mentors’ professional development.”

The mission of The Suder Foundation is to dramatically improve the graduation rate of first-generation college students and prepare each scholar for a life with self-awareness, success and significance. Their First Scholars Program enhances holistic student development at personal, academic and professional levels and increases the probability of first-generation students achieving academic excellence, having an enriched college experience, graduating in four years and being better prepared for the future.

The University of Arkansas is the ninth public university to partner with The Suder Foundation to increase accessibility for first-generation students. Active university affiliates include the University of Kentucky, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, the University of Memphis, Washington State University, Northern Arizona University and Kansas State University.

STEP is the university’s newest student success initiative and joins other programs, such as the Accelerate Student Achievement Program, a comprehensive summer bridge and two-year mentoring and retention program serving first-generation and low-income students from the Mississippi Delta region of Arkansas.

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


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