Terrance Boyd, director of recruitment and the Path program in the Honors College, helped build the Path program from the ground up, and has provided support (and snacks) for participating students from the very beginning. Here, he reflects on the qualities that these hard-working students embody, their contributions to the community and what the future holds in store for the program. Stay tuned, as our current Path students share their stories through the “My Path in 4” blog series.
“I am: Persistent. Assertive. Talented. Hard-working.” These attributes are embodied by the courageous and admirable group of students who helped us launch the Honors College Path Program. Four years ago, more than a dozen high-achieving students joined the Razorback community intent on maximizing their college experience through academics, leadership and service. These students came from Fayetteville, Forrest City and other towns across the state of Arkansas, with one student moving from Lawrence, Kansas to attend the university. Half of them were first-generation college students, but all of them lacked the first-hand experience of being on a university campus. Together, they were preparing to embark on a journey in unfamiliar territory. Over the past four years, the Path Program has seen impressive growth. Much to their own determination, and my delight, a group of leaders found their voices and learned to advocate for themselves and for future students. Marcus Hatley II has selflessly given his time as an intern at the Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry, ensuring that university students and employees can fight food insecurity regardless of income. As the past president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Iliana Hernandez tirelessly led efforts to increase awareness of engineering-related professions and the need for more Latino representation in academics and industry.
The Honors College Path Program invited its first group of students in the fall of 2014. Path was designed to transition students of great potential into the Honors College while simultaneously exposing them to the resources available on the University of Arkansas campus. My own “Path” began over four years ago when I was tasked with developing it from the ground up. I am often asked what a typical day looks like, and I proudly say that “typical” does not exist! I have an open-door policy with my students that invites them into a space where they can be themselves and discuss life. Whether it is one student telling me how class went or five students sitting around the table offering life advice, my own experience has been richer because of the Path students. Together, we have striven to build a culture of inclusion, equality and equity for the students. Students are empowered through lessons of self-advocacy, resilience and leadership development.
Affectionately known as the Alpha Class, the first group of Path students consists of: Jean Amargos, Dominique Blake, Marcus Hatley II, Iliana Hernandez, Alyssa Hicks, Nina Lee, Cristina Perez-Espinoza, Angel Sigears, Xavier Smith, Adia Threatt, Luis Valverde and Haley Wilson. I sometimes marvel over what these scholars have accomplished during their time here at the University of Arkansas. They have mentored younger generations of Path students and other underclassmen on campus; have been mentored by faculty and professionals in their chosen field; committed countless hours of service to the Northwest Arkansas community; held competitive internships both domestic and internationally; participated in intensive study abroad opportunities; engaged in research; and much more. This group is made of future doctors, economists, professors, engineers and overall leaders –– and 100% of them are on track to graduate in May.
We challenge students to look at education as a process instead of a product. What has added to the richness of theprogram is that the process has been nonlinear. There have been ups and downs, successes and trials. One major triumph has been the recent National Science Foundation grant awarded to the Path Program for nearly one million dollars ($999,847 to be exact)! The “Path to Graduation Program” aims to increase the number of low-income students, especially those from rural regions of Arkansas, who graduate with a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) fields. With this grant, we will be able to support two groups of 18 STEM students who will receive annually renewable scholarships up to $4,500, or $5,500 if they participate in the Honors College. We are sure to spread the love among our students, regardless of discipline. Thanks to lead gifts from Dean Emeritus Bob and Lynda McMath, Nick and Carolyn Cole, and Lee and Beverly Bodenhamer, the Honors College has raised more than $600,000 to fund scholarships for students in the humanities, business, agriculture, the arts and others.
As a Path family, it is important that we celebrate our successes (and trials) together. College is not always easy to navigate, but the Path students have shown great potential for success. We invite you to interact and engage with our graduating seniors as they share “My Path in 4.” These stellar students will share their experiences over the years in the Path Program, how they plugged into the University of Arkansas, and what has ultimately led them to graduation. More blog posts to come!