CONWAY, Ark. (December 9, 2011) - The United Nations Educational, Scientific
and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Union for Pure and
Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) designated 2011 as the International Year of Chemistry
To celebrate IYC, Hendrix College hosted a dinner to honor students from
Rwanda who are majoring in chemistry and biochemistry at Arkansas colleges and
universities. The event was underwritten by a grant from the American Chemical
Society (ACS) to the Central Arkansas Section of the ACS, with supplemental
funding from the Hendrix Office of International Programs.
In 2007, Hendrix led the creation of the Rwanda Presidential Scholars
Program, a partnership with the Rwandan government to enroll highly talented
Rwandan science and mathematics students at colleges and universities in the
United States. The program is administered by Hendrix in partnership with
the William J. Clinton Foundation. The Hendrix-led higher education consortium
was the brainchild of David Knight, chairman of the Hendrix College Board of
Trustees. Knight, the chief legal counsel at Stephens Inc., worked with President
J. Timothy Cloyd to begin Hendrix's relationship, and both have been instrumental
in recruiting new colleges to the consortium during the past four years. The
program now includes 129 Rwandan students enrolled at 18 institutions across
"As coordinators of this program, we have many opportunities to interact
with the students socially and cross-culturally. And of course we support them
academically as well," said Dr. Peter Gess, Director of International Programs
at Hendrix. "But this was a rare opportunity to celebrate the academic
research successes of the Rwanda Presidential Scholars. These students will
indeed play a large leadership role in the development of their country."
The event began with a showcase of chemistry and biochemistry research presented
by 12 Rwanda Presidential Scholars from Hendrix, Harding University, Philander
Smith College, and the University of Central Arkansas. In addition, nine other
chemistry and biochemistry majors attended to observe their fellow Scholars'
research and participate in animated discussions about new research. The
chemistry or biochemistry majors invited their advisors and research directors,
allowing fifteen faculty members and other researchers to be recognized as dedicated
and inspiring mentors and fostering excellence in research. Faculty from Hendrix
College, University of Central Arkansas, Philander Smith College, Harding University,
and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and the National Center
for Toxicological Research (NCTR) attended this event.
As students and faculty mingled before dinner, it was clear that both had
a passion for continued development of ideas. Many students credited their mentors
for fostering an attitude that Chemistry and biochemistry can and will play
a pivotal role in the continuing development of Rwanda. During dinner, at four
tables where students and faculty sat together, the conversation continued to
revolve around application of undergraduate research to real-world problems.
"I believe that chemistry is one of the keys to developing nations," said
Hendrix chemistry professor Dr. Randall Kopper. "Just think how important chemistry
is for every aspect of development, from water purity to quality assurance in
Hendrix senior Renato Gatsinga plans to put his biochemistry degree to work
in public health and medicine.
"I am excited about this event," he said. "We rarely get together and talk
about research with students from other institutions. I am surprised at the
exciting things my fellow students are doing."
Harding University senior Rene Rugango said that he was pleased not just
about the event, but that he was able to attend with his advisor, Dr. Edmond
Wilson. Apart from attending large national or regional conferences, it is unusual
for students have the opportunity to exchange ideas with faculty in such an
intimate and supportive environment.
Dinner was complemented with African tea and short speeches by Dr. Gess,
Hendrix chemistry professor Dr. Tom Goodwin and Dr. Grover Miller of the UAMS
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
All discussed how encouraged they are by the dedication by both students
and faculty to excellence in research and a clear understanding of the relevance
of chemistry and biochemistry to the future of Rwanda and the individual careers
of the Rwanda Presidential Scholars.
"It was a great opportunity to honor the efforts of Rwandan students and
their fellowship program and partners in advancing science in a country that
was devastated in 1994," said Dr. Miller. "We cannot undo the horrors
of the Rwandan genocide, but we can help to prepare the country for a better
Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is a national leader in engaged liberal
arts and sciences education. Hendrix was named the country's #1 "Up and Coming"
liberal arts college for the third consecutive year by U.S. News and World Report.
Hendrix is featured in the 2011 edition of the Princeton Review as one of the
country's best 376 colleges and is listed in the 2012 edition of the Fiske Guide
to Colleges as one of 25 "Best Buy" private colleges included. Hendrix has been
affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. For more information,