Bicycle Partnership Gives International Students Welcoming Intro to University

A photographer for a local television station interviews Victor Onwukwe about his bicycle.
Photo by Ammen Jordan

A photographer for a local television station interviews Victor Onwukwe about his bicycle.

Victor Onwukwe’s grandfather rode a bike he called the “big white horse” and lived to be 120 years old. Onwukwe is one of 20 qualifying international students at the U of A who received a donated bicycle, helmet and lock recently as a result of a new partnership between the U of A Office for Sustainability and Pedal It Forward, a regional nonprofit that refurbishes used bicycles for community members.

For Onwukwe, this free bike reminds him longingly of his late grandfather.

“The bike will kind of help me to easily go to anywhere I want to go to, unless it’s too far,” said Onwukwe, a graduate student from Nigeria studying food science. “I really love the bicycle. I will use it to ride the trails that we have here every morning, to strengthen my bones and to be fit. I’m excited seriously!”

The Office for Sustainability and the U of A Office of International Students and Scholars identified 20 international students who are in need of a bicycle for transportation while living and studying in Fayetteville this semester. These students were presented with a bicycle during the UARK Bike Block Party on Sept. 2.

“Pedal It Forward is thrilled to provide reliable transportation to this group of international students and looks forward to creating access to bikes for many more students over the coming years,” said Kenny Williams, program director of Pedal It Forward. “If you have a bike that you would like to donate to the effort, please be in touch and stay tuned to learn more about our fall bicycle donation drive.”

Namiko Bagirimvano, the assistant director for international retention programs in the Office of International Students and Scholars, added, “We are very excited and thankful for this partnership to welcome our new international students in such a unique way. This program not only helps our newly arrived international students to have transportation means around the campus right away, but also introduces the growing bike culture in NWA to them. Some students are from countries where riding a bicycle is integral to their cultural experience.” 

Part of the Graduate School and International Education, the Office of International Students and Scholars strives to create an engaging campus life by providing international education seminars, intercultural training, cultural immersions and country-specific workshops. They offer opportunities to encourage campus and community involvement through the International Culture Team, iFriend, Cross Cultural Mentors and other cultural organizations. 

Logistical support was provided by University Recreation.

“The University Recreation Outdoors Bike Shop is excited to assist Pedal It Forward, OFS and ISS in getting the bikes to the block party,” says Kat Miller, coordinator for UREC Outdoors. “Campus partnerships such as these are vital to the overall success of our students, and the UREC Outdoors Bike Shop will be able to assist these students with future bike maintenance and service needs.” 

Pedal It Forward will continue to work with the Office for Sustainability to identify additional campus partners and students who may need a bicycle while in school. The goal of this ongoing partnership is to encourage more environmentally friendly transportation options while reducing financial barriers that might exist between students and the opportunity to ride a bike.

About the Office for Sustainability: The mission of the University of Arkansas Office for Sustainability is to motivate, facilitate, and coordinate responsible practices through partnerships with students, faculty, and staff across all campus departments. The OFS uses the campus as a living laboratory by overseeing the implementation of the University of Arkansas environmental goals. These programs are part of the UA Resiliency Center, hosted by the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, and are supported by UA Facilities Management.

About Pedal It Forward: Pedal It Forward collects used bikes, fixes them, then distributes them to those in need through our 60+ Pedal Partners. We serve rural and urban low-income kids, adults and families, at-risk youth, minority and immigrant populations in Northwest Arkansas. Our mission is to increase the number of people who have access to bikes for health, transportation or recreation.   

About University Recreation: The mission of University Recreation (UREC) is to empower students for success through recreation and wellness. UREC serves the university community by providing a diverse selection of programs, events, and facilities through aquatic, club sport, intramural, fitness and wellness, informal, outdoor, and inclusive recreation.

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas' flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the top 3% of U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research News.

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