Mackie O’Hara hails from central Arkansas and was convinced her college choice would take her out of state. Four years later, and the Donaghey Scholar was right about one thing – she has traveled far and wide. But her college home was right down the road at UALR.
I am incredibly proud to be a Donaghey scholar at UALR. The sense of community and opportunity that comes with the title is awe-inspiring. Hundreds of students have borne the title before me, but as I approach graduation in May and my transition from a “Donaghey scholar” to just a “scholar,” I realize how important this program has been for me. Of course, college shapes all students and brings them places they never thought they’d go, but, at the risk of sounding sappy, I have to say that the Donaghey Scholars Program has made me who I am today.
As a senior in high school, I had sworn to leave Arkansas as soon as I graduated, but I knew it would never happen as soon as I interviewed for the Donaghey Scholars Program. The moment I stepped into “the lounge” – a student-gathering place next to the office – I knew I was home. There were Scholars sitting around tables, on couches, and at computers, talking to each other, just chilling. I could tell they all knew one another well and enjoyed each other’s company. They were immediately welcoming and, before I even said hello to the director for my interview, I was comfortable and settled. From that moment on, I was a Donaghey scholar.
Even when I received acceptances and financial aid from out-of-state schools, I could not accept them. Nothing compares to the deal offered by the Donaghey Scholars Program: full tuition, a stipend, a computer, a required study abroad experience, an interdisciplinary, holistic education, and a truly wonderful group of friends. Almost all of the Donaghey courses are team-taught, meaning there are two or more professors teaching at once, each from a different department. When you take courses from professors from different departments, coming from different theoretical perspectives, you begin to see the different avenues and approaches any problem can take. You automatically begin thinking in a way that encompasses all sides of an issue: economic backlash, historical impetus, cultural impact, and environmental consequence, just to name a few. As a result, I think that students with a holistic background are able to approach world problems from a sensitive, yet constructive perspective, one that I find lacking in many world leaders.
This interdisciplinary approach eventually led me to my major and prepared me for my academic future. At the end of this semester, I will graduate as an Anthropology major and Biology minor. In graduate school, I plan to study Biological Anthropology, a completely interdisciplinary field that studies human evolution and incorporates subjects such as anatomy, paleontology, evolutionary biology, sedimentology, stratigraphy, and ecology. I don’t think I would be nearly as prepared for my field without the intellectual support of the Donaghey Scholars Program.
As a scholar, I have had the opportunity to go abroad twice. My first trip was for a language study abroad program in France, which I extended to include a personal travel tour of Italy, Spain, England, and Ireland. The year after my summer in Europe, I was accepted to a field school in South Africa. I received a fellowship from the Anthropology department and a grant from the Undergraduate Research Team to help finance the trip. Once there, I spent a month excavating a 2-million-year old cave site and living on a rhino and lion game preserve. That experience cemented my decision to study human evolution in graduate school and my desire to keep traveling.
This school harbors great opportunity and enthusiasm for its students. The support I have received over the last four years from faculty, administrators, and friends has made me proud to call myself a Donaghey Scholar and proud to be a UALR Trojan.