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Hendrix College was selected to receive the Institute of International Education (IIE)’s 2012 Andrew Heiskell Award for International Partnerships for its leadership role in the development of the Rwanda Presidential Scholars Program.
Hendrix will also be featured by the IIENetwork as a “best practice” in international education.
“I’m delighted that we have been recognized for our leadership role in this program, which has contributed significantly to internationalizing the participating campuses, providing us all with first-rate students from Rwanda who teach us about their culture as they pursue their academic subjects and learn about American culture,” said Dr. Robert L. Entzminger, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost of the college.
“It has also created exciting opportunities for our American students to pursue internship and research projects in Rwanda, and it has allowed us to contribute to the rebuilding of this African nation.”
In partnership with the William J. Clinton Foundation, Hendrix leads a consortium of 18 U.S. colleges and universities in eight states that work with the Rwanda Ministry of Education to provide four-year, undergraduate scholarships to a select group of Rwanda’s best and brightest students to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects.
The Ministry pays transportation costs, health insurance, room and board fees, incidental expenses, books, and winter and summer break allowances. Consortium members provide 100 percent tuition.
The consortium is currently the largest provider of scholarships to the Rwanda Ministry of Education, with 129 students enrolled as of the fall semester 2011.
Hendrix serves as project coordinator for the consortium and is principally responsible for obtaining scholarship commitments, overseeing the student selection process, and administering the financial aspects of the program.
Each spring, a delegation of consortium representatives travels to Kigali to select the next year’s participants from a pool of candidates created from Rwanda’s National Exam in Math and Science. The delegation administers a written test and interviews each student.
To date, the Rwanda Presidential Scholars have an average GPA of 3.57, and 13 students have maintained a 4.0 GPA.
“The Rwanda Presidential Scholars are not only among the brightest and most accomplished in Rwanda, they are also among the brightest at their U.S. colleges and universities,” said Dr. Peter Gess, director of international programs and assistant professor of politics at Hendrix.
“At each of the participating institutions, the students have won top awards for high academic achievement, including placement on the Deans’ List, membership in academic societies and subject-specific academic awards.”
Equally impressive are the accomplishments of the students outside of the classroom, Gess said.
“Many of the students have been cultivated for research with faculty experts in physics, technology, biology, chemistry, computer science, and economics,” he said. “They also compete for and are awarded prestigious internships in the U.S. within their fields of study.”
Rwanda Presidential Scholars have undertaken various leadership responsibilities throughout the consortium, including serving as resident assistants, volunteering or working as math and science tutors, leading various academic interest clubs, playing intercollegiate or intramural athletics, and joining or creating international clubs for the promotion of Rwandan culture.
Although the primary focus of the program is to help Rwanda achieve its long-term development goals, the presence of Rwandan students on campus enhances the quality and value of the educational experience provided by the consortium members, Gess said.
“Having day-to-day contact with Rwandan students helps faculty members, administrators and students of the participating schools develop a global view and gain a better understanding of the challenges faced by developing counties.”
A second phase of the program allows U.S. students to study abroad and intern in Rwanda. The consortium will soon sign a memorandum of understanding with the Rwandan Ministry of Education for an administrator exchange program with Rwandan higher education institutions.
Other institutions in the consortium include Belhaven University in Jackson, Miss.; Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Ala.; Harding University in Searcy; Henderson State University in Arkadelphia; Lyon College in Batesville; Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss.; Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga.; Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia; Philander Smith College in Little Rock; Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas; Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga.; University of Arkansas in Fayetteville; University of Arkansas in Little Rock; University of Central Arkansas in Conway; University of the South, Sewanee, Tenn.; Washington and Lee in University, Lexington, Va.; and Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C.
The award will be officially presented Friday, March 9, in conjunction with the 7th Annual IIE Best Practices Conference at IIE headquarters in New York City.
Created in 2001 to promote and honor the most outstanding initiatives that are being conducted in international higher education by IIENetwork member universities and colleges, IIE’s Heiskell Awards showcase the most innovative and successful models for internationalization of campuses, study abroad, and international partnership programs in practice today.
IIE is particularly interested in highlighting initiatives that remove institutional barriers and broaden the base of participation in international teaching and learning on campus.