The Walmart Foundation has donated $5 million to help finance construction of a Student Success Center at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. The school announced the grant Thursday (Nov. 21).
A groundbreaking ceremony for the building was held Sept. 12. The four-story, 71,000-square-foot facility will be located at the location of the former Social Work Building, between Memorial Hall and Old Main. It is scheduled to open in early 2022.
The foundation’s contribution counts in Campaign Arkansas, the university’s $1.25 billion capital campaign to advance academic opportunity at the U of A.
“As a first-generation college student, I can attest to the importance of having access to programming and resources that foster success in a university setting,” Chancellor Joe Steinmetz said in a statement. “The Walmart Foundation is making it possible for more students — especially those from Arkansas — to access the tools they need in one convenient location, and this grant will help create the first Student Success Center of its kind in the SEC.
“We are appreciative of the foundation’s continued support of our students and recognize that investments like this will help students who have unmet financial, academic and social needs achieve academic success.”
One of the goals of the Student Success Center, according to a UA release, will be eliminating significant undergraduate student achievement gaps. The center will serve the entire campus as a centralized comprehensive academic support unit, and the program staff within the center will initiate contact with students during the summer before their first year. This connection will continue as students move toward careers or professional and graduate programs and include financial, academic and social support.
The second floor of the Student Success Center will be named the Walmart Foundation Academic Excellence Hub in recognition of the $5 million gift. It will be the main floor of the facility and will include spaces like the 360 Advising Studio, STEM Studio, Fulbright Advising Studio, First-Generation College Student Outreach and Arkansas First-Generation Student Programming.
The 360 Advising Program is a pilot initiative in the Office of Student Success and proactively assists students in need by using predictive analytics to provide mentoring, resources and support to first-generation Arkansans. The STEM Studio will provide academic support for gateway math and science courses and help students demographically underrepresented in STEM fields prepare for meaningful careers.
The university’s graduation rates have improved significantly over the past 15 years – reaching a record 66% in the latest U.S. News and World Report rankings. For students without financial, social or academic need, the six-year graduation rate is 77.7%.