Rwandan students arrive in U.S.

CONWAY, Ark. (July 2, 2009) – Arriving in the U.S. this week, 52 of Rwanda’s best and brightest students are the latest to join the successful Rwandan Presidential Scholars initiative. The program was developed to provide top Rwandan students with four-year U.S. college educations in order to help restore Rwanda’s human capital after a civil war ravaged the country a decade ago.

The 52 new students will initially participate in an intensive English program at the University of Arkansas’s Spring Institute, a professional academic organization providing cross-cultural education to international students, before beginning their freshmen years at their selected colleges and universities in August.

Beginning at Hendrix College in 2007 with four Rwandan students, the program’s consortium of participating colleges and universities grew in 2008 to include the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, Harding University in Searcy, Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia and Wofford College (S.C.). This year, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Lyon College in Batesville, Southwestern University (Texas), Birmingham Southern (Alabama) and Sewanee: The University of the South (Tennessee) joined the consortium.

The 52 new students join 25 returning sophomore and junior Rwandan students, all of whom major in science or engineering. Upon graduation, the students will return to Rwanda and play an instrumental role in rebuilding the country’s infrastructure. The program is maintained through Hendrix College’s Office of International Programs.

During the 1990s, Rwanda experienced a bloody civil war including the 1994 systematic murder of members of the Tutsi minority and moderates of the Hutu majority. Over the course of about 100 days, at least 500,000 Tutsis and thousands of Hutus were killed during the genocide. The genocide wiped out the majority of Rwanda’s educated citizenry.

A Hendrix-led higher education consortium with Rwanda was the brainchild of David Knight, the Chief Legal Council at Stephens Inc. and a member of both the Hendrix College Board of Trustees and the Bridge2Rwanda program, a non-profit effort co-founded by former Stephens Inc. investment banker Dale Dawson. Knight worked with Hendrix College President J. Timothy Cloyd to begin Hendrix’s relationship with Rwanda in 2007, and both men have been instrumental in recruiting new colleges to the consortium during the past two years.

“This program is life-changing not only for these young students but for the resilient citizens of Rwanda who will benefit from these future leaders,” Cloyd said. “The depth of the partnership between the diverse colleges and universities in and beyond Arkansas who have joined to provide these educational opportunities is a testament to our collective desires to partner with a nation emerging from such tragedy. Similarly, President Kagame and his government will provide exceptional learning and internship opportunities for college students from Arkansas.”