IDEALS Earns $2.1 Million Grant to Promote DEI Practices With Local Nonprofits

The IDEALS Institute at the U of A has received a $2,185,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation and Walton Family Foundation to provide 100 regional nonprofit organizations with resources to become more diverse, equitable and inclusive. 

This investment is the second phase of TRUE Northwest Arkansas, a community-based initiative launched in 2018 to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in Benton and Washington counties. IDEALS will reimagine the program as TRU Powered by IDEALS.

The grant to IDEALS is part of's recent three-year, $5 million commitment to building a culture of belonging in the region and is the next iteration of their TRUE initiative.

The IDEALS Institute, based in the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, will provide DEI capacity building, organizational assessment, professional development, consultation and community-building opportunities to five cohorts over two years.

"Our IDEALS Institute fulfills a crucial aspect of our land-grant mission, collaborating and conducting outreach to create a better Arkansas," said Yvette Murphy-Erby, vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion. "By providing results-focused training and resources, we will help local nonprofits break down barriers and foster systemic change toward a more diverse, equitable and inclusive state."

IDEALS, launched in 2019, promotes diversity, equity and inclusion practices via professional development, consultancy and research. Since its inception, IDEALS has provided training, consultation and thought partnership throughout the state. 

In its first year, IDEALS participated in TRUE's 10-month TRAIN cohort, which convened regional organizations from multiple sectors for peer-learning experiences and expert-led coaching sessions.

"We are thrilled to be able to leverage the IDEALS Institute's extensive expertise to help drive transformative change in our region and are honored that the Walmart Foundation and Walton Family Foundation have entrusted us with this important work," said Elecia Smith, executive director of the IDEALS Institute. "We look forward to training, recharging and uplifting nonprofits in Northwest Arkansas to implement DEI-focused strategies and plans."

Through the grant, IDEALS will recruit, select and lead participants over two years and provide practical strategies to advance their DEI journeys and strengthen the efforts of local nonprofits. TRUE is an acronym for Train, Recharge and Uplift, which are the three focus areas for the initiative.

The Train area will guide nonprofits new to DEI work; the Recharge area will support the ongoing efforts of nonprofits already invested in DEI work, and the Uplift area will build the organizational capacity of nonprofits led by and for minoritized communities. The Uplift organizations will receive funds for technical assistance from Arkansas Community Foundation to support their participation during the two-year process.

"Through the TRUE initiative, we have begun to see the power of supporting organizations as they deepen their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion," said Julie Gehrki, vice president of philanthropy at Walmart. "The IDEALS Institute will continue to build on this work, and their leadership will be critical in advancing a culture of belonging in the region." 

Support from the Walton Family Foundation is part of its 2025 Strategy for the Home Region Program, which envisions Northwest Arkansas as one of the most vibrant and inclusive places to live.

"Working together to enhance DEI practices will develop deeper connections among organizations ensuring everyone feels welcome in Northwest Arkansas," said Emma Pengelly, deputy director of the Walton Family Foundation Home Region Program. "This effort will forge the partnerships and collaboration needed to create a more vibrant and inclusive community."

Since 2018, TRUE Northwest Arkansas has provided 50 local organizations with in-depth DEI training. It has also offered funding for DEI-focused nonprofits to directly serve 90,000 residents across the region.

"TRUE Northwest Arkansas helped us identify the infrastructure needed to strengthen our organization," said Diana Gonzales Worthen, director of OneCommunity, a nonprofit working to promote communities coming together to enhance the quality of life of all people. "The learning opportunities provided by this program will advance DEI efforts in Northwest Arkansas through the leadership of our nonprofit community."

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.


Elecia C. Smith, executive director
IDEALS Institute


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