The University of Central Arkansas received a gift of $300,000 from Southwestern Energy Co. to support undergraduate and graduate student research.
The announcement was made Monday (Dec. 5) at the newly constructed Conway Corp. for Sciences on the UCA campus in Conway.
“I am deeply honored to be here to announce the creation of the Southwestern Energy Endowed Fund for Student Research as a fund within the University of Central Arkansas Foundation,” George Sheffer, Southwestern Energy Company vice president of Operations-Fayetteville Shale, said in a UCA news release. “Through our $300,000 gift and the creation of this endowment, we have the opportunity to carry on our advocacy of science, technology, engineering and math education to secondary education in order to expand students’ opportunities and employability, whatever careers they pursue.”
According to the release, the Southwestern Energy Endowed Fund for Student Research will be granted to students conducting research in the fields of environmental science, geography and physics.
Graduate student Christopher Robinson was announced as the first Southwestern Energy/Steven L. Mueller Research Fellow.
“I know this is a really competitive grant, and I’m proud of myself and of my research and of my advisor for our hard work of what we’ve committed to this project,” Robinson said in the release.
The Texas native came to Arkansas to earn a master’s degree at UCA and study the prairie lizard with Dr. Matt Gifford, assistant professor. The $1,500 grant from the fund will allow him to quantify his research.
“This work is for my master’s thesis,” Robinson added. “I’m really honored that the committee selected me and that they thought my work was worth funding and that my study animal, the prairie lizard, is something that was consideration for conservation and trying to understand how the species interacts with their environment and how temperature change can affect their species.”
A selection committee made up of UCA professors will recommend an annual awardee who will receive at least $1,500 for his or her research. Southwestern Energy Co. employs 28 UCA graduates who work in various roles across the eight states in which the company operates.
“We appreciate this most generous gift to the UCA Foundation to support the University of Central Arkansas. This pledge is more evidence of Southwestern Energy’s commitment to this area of the country and educational opportunities for students,” UCA President Tom Courtway said in the release. “It is very important to UCA for two fundamental reasons. First, it shows the value of student research in the fields of environmental science, physics and geography, supervised by our extraordinary faculty in the natural sciences. And second, it will help us attract and retain the best and brightest students in these disciplines because they know they will have opportunities early in their educational career to engage in research projects.”