Hendrix College Signs MOU with Girls Academy in Rwanda

Hendrix College and the Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology (GGAST) in Rwanda have finalized an agreement that will offer assistance for up to two of the Academy’s graduates per year to attend Hendrix. The memorandum of understanding (MOU), signed today at the Academy, builds upon relationships between Hendrix and organizations in Rwanda that began more than a decade ago.

Hendrix College played a significant role in creating the Rwanda Presidential Scholars Program, a partnership with the Rwandan government to enroll highly talented Rwandan science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students at colleges and universities in the United States. The first four Rwanda Presidential Scholars arrived on campus in the fall of 2007, and since then, the College has awarded degrees to 41 Rwandan students. Additionally, Hendrix built a consortium of 18 colleges and universities across eight southern states; an additional 145 Rwandan Presidential Scholars have matriculated at these institutions. In 2017, Hendrix awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to Bridge2Rwanda founder and CEO Dale Dawson, who was instrumental in aiding the College’s involvement in the Rwanda Presidential Scholars Program. And as the Rwanda Presidential Scholars Program concluded, Hendrix expanded its partnership with Bridge2Rwanda to admit additional Rwandan students; currently five B2R scholars are enrolled at Hendrix.

Under the terms of the MOU, Hendrix will cover up to the full cost of attendance—including tuition, fees, on-campus housing, and meal plans—beyond what the selected students from GGAST can afford. The MOU builds on the work done by psychology professor Dr. Jennifer Penner and politics and environmental studies professor Dr. Peter Gess under the Dr. Brad P. Baltz and Reverend William B. Smith Odyssey Professorship. Their project is titled, “Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning about Conservation & Science in the U.S. and Rwanda: A Partnership between Hendrix College & Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology (GGAST).” Penner is currently teaching at GGAST during a sabbatical from Hendrix.

“There are not a lot of support services in Rwanda for young women who are interested and talented in STEM fields,” Gess said, adding that Penner, her Hendrix Department of Psychology colleague Dr. Lindsey Kennedy, and GGAST interns from Hendrix have launched a substantial wellness program to enrich the experience of students there.

Financial obstacles affecting Rwandan students’ ability to study abroad, the excellent academic performance of many students at GGAST, and a conversation begun several years ago with Gashora’s headmaster, Peter Thorp, led Gess to introduce the possibility of an MOU to Hendrix President William M. Tsutsui.

“Gifted students from Gashora go off to university—often in Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, or Uganda, but also at schools in the U.S. and United Kingdom,” said Gess. “Some students have larger financial obstacles than others, and we hope this agreement will make it possible for more of them to pursue higher education.” Gess says that international students have an extra obstacle standing between them and Hendrix because they need about $4,000 more for travel and living expenses than a student from within the U.S. requires.

For the visit to GGAST, Gess and Tsutsui were accompanied by Board of Trustees member David Knight ’71 and retired Hendrix chemistry professor Dr. Tom Goodwin. While in Rwanda, they have visited businesses started by Arkansans, and made a stop to meet with leaders of the Bridge2Rwanda program. Later this year, a group from the College’s Miller Center for Vocation, Ethics, and Calling will interact with GGAST students as they travel to the area for a service-learning trip at a nearby public school.