Meet Our 2018 Graduates

El-Noor Akhter
Major: English (B.A.)
Minor: Chemistry
Final Project: The Color of Women, A Chapbook of Poetry
What’s Next: “I am about to take a year off to work and strengthen my resume before going to medical school.”

“Being a Donaghey Scholar was an opportunity I will never forget. I learned what it meant to be a scholar and to struggle through and appreciate my education. Being a scholar changed the way I approached my studies, as well as how I approached lessons in my life. I will never be the same person I was before the program. I know I will continue to take these lessons on my journey in the world.”

McKenzi Baker
Major: International Studies: Private Sector (B.B.A.)
Final Project: Juntos pero no revueltos: A Comparative Case Study on Alleviating Discrimination
What’s Next: “I will be pursuing a J.D. at Boston University School of Law.”

“The Donaghey Scholars Program taught me the difference between Baroque and Post Modernist Art and Music, the pedagogy of the oppressed, the fine points of evolution, climate change, carbon taxing, the descent of mankind into inequality, and so much more. Because of my experiences here, I’ve developed a taste for art galleries and symphonies, learned what it means to be a conscious citizen, met life-long friends, and even gotten to study in South America, all paid for. No debt. This program has not only challenged me but supported me in so many different ways, carefully shaping my undergraduate career and preparing me for a productive future. I am very thankful.”

Gary Blanks
Major: Information Science
Final Project: The Helping Hand of the Helping Hand: A Paperless Non-Profit & Working in an IT Field
What’s Next: “I am currently searching for internships to help propel myself into the IT industry. This fall I will be continuing my education at UA Little Rock, pursuing a masters degree in Information Science.”

“The Donaghey Scholars program helped me hone my skills by introducing me to ways  to think differently. I’ve been able to see the world in a different light than before and this program helped me put those skills to the test while still helping me develop and learn what I can do in the world to help it become a better place. The ability to see the interconnections between different subjects and how people can bring them together to create astounding ideas and creations is something that this program really focuses on and executes effectively.”

Marina Bobyleva
Major: Mass Communications: Public Relations and Strategic Communications (B.A)
Minor: Spanish
Final Project: From Glocal Marketing to Glocal Care
What’s Next: “I am gaining experience in public relations and marketing in Little Rock. Next year, I am planning to attend a graduate program in Intercultural Communications.”

“The Donaghey program gave me a chance to earn an undergraduate degree in the United States. I was able to study with a group of bright, motivated, interesting students and explore questions and issues that rarely come up in other classes. The Donaghey classes are thought-provoking and engaging. The program has also given me the ability to travel abroad and expand my knowledge about another country.” 

Hannah Dorsey
Major: Anthropology (B.A.)
Final Project: Arboreal vs. Terrestrial Behavior in Captive Great Apes and Effective Exhibit Design for Zoos
What’s Next: “I will be looking for ways to gain archaeology experience over the next year and applying to grad schools!”

“This program has given me the unique opportunity to grow as person and as a scholar. I look back on freshman year and have to laugh at how I thought I knew everything. News flash, baby Hannah, you know the very opposite of everything. This program helped me break through naivety, educated me in so many different fields, and taught me to appreciate every opportunity. I cannot express in words how grateful I am to have been a part of it.”

Emily Elam
Major: Anthropology (B.A.) and Spanish (B.A.)
Final Project: 500 Fiddle Tunes: Transcriptions of Billy Matthews’ Old-Time Archive
What’s Next:  “I am teaching fiddle and banjo lessons, working with high school students in the College Prep Program at World Services for the Blind, and continuing to perform old-time music in the Central Arkansas area in a duo known as the Bow Tanglers and in Mountain View, Arkansas as the fiddler for the Lazy Goat String Band.”

“The Donaghey Scholars Program has helped me to approach my passion of old-time music with an academic perspective. When I came to college, I had little hope that playing the fiddle would ever be more than a hobby. Transcribing and analyzing 500 fiddle tunes for my final project showed me the wealth of culture hidden in the notes.  Now, I look forward to continuing to preserve and share this old-time music with aspiring musicians and academics alike.”

Jamie Forth
Major: Mass Communications (B.A.)
Minor: Theatre
Final Project: An Option: An Original Screenplay
What’s Next: “My future plans are to tour with my script.”

“The Donaghey Scholars Program meant that I had support and guidance during the most influential part of my life. While we are all very different people, we are all very driven and dedicated, and it was a privilege to be included in such a tight knit and positive cohort.”

Brian Gregory
Major: Political Science (B.A.)
Final Project: Growing Grace: The Story of Southern Millennials
What’s Next: “I will be the Deputy Campaign Manager for Sabin for Mayor and will be looking to go to graduate school after that in the near future.”

“The Donaghey Scholars Program provided me with the opportunity to be able to grow intellectually and personally. The directors, the students, everyone associated with programs genuinely cares about each other and they push to see and understand the world differently. I am where I am today in part because of the things that the program has imparted in me. I am forever grateful to Dr. Hawkins, Dr. Scott, and the Donaghey Foundation.” 


Ben Kane
Major: Computer Science (B.S.)
Final Project: CityInquiry: A Data Driven Real Estate Solution
What’s Next: “I recently accepted a Site Reliability Engineer position at LinkedIn, so I drove to California and I’m enjoying the new sights and work.”

“The Donaghey Scholars Program not only paid for my Bachelor’s degree, but also gave me some of the best classes and friends! As a STEM major, the humanities focus has been unexpectedly gratifying. Among other things, I now have important writing skills, and an appreciation for art, (greek and roman) history, and (cathedral) architecture that really helps me appreciate life. I can’t recommend this program enough.”

Amber McDonald
Major: Computer Science (B.S.)
Minor: Mathematics
Final Project: Punctual: The Development of an Appointment Reminder Application
What’s Next: “I am currently working as a Production Support Mainframe Application Programmer at Fidelity Information Services. Using COBOL coding language, my job is to analyze issues reported by clients and resolve those issues.”

“This program was everything I never knew I needed. I had the opportunity to interact with some of the most amazing, supportive people I have ever met. I also had the opportunity to study abroad in Spain and take classes that I never would have taken on my own. Thanks so much to the Scholars Program for thrusting me out of my comfort zone and expanding my horizons. I love this program and recommend it every chance I get!”

Rebecca Moreira
Major: Chemistry (B.S.) and Spanish (B.A.)
Final Project: Novel Renewable Resource-Based Nanocomposites for Removal and Recovery of Phosphates from Contaminated Wastewaters
What’s Next: “I have been accepted to the UAMS College of Medicine class of 2022 and will be pursuing a dual MD/MPH degree.”

“The Donaghey Scholar’s Program helped me identify not only my academic strengths, but also my passions and how I could integrate both into a fulfilling career as a physician. When I needed encouragement, direction, or advice, the program directors and staff were always willing to give me their time. I was particularly drawn to the interdisciplinary coursework and the opportunity to learn about concepts far outside of my own field of study. Through the Donaghey Program, I learned how to approach issues from multiple directions, to back up my own beliefs and viewpoints, and to engage in meaningful, respectful discussion about worldviews different than my own.”

Lelia Rosenkrans
Major: Dance Performance (B.F.A.)
Final Project: Fitness, Salivary Biomarkers, and the Modern Dancer’s Perceptions
What’s Next: “After graduation, I am embarking on a series of foreign travels to study dance improvisation in Stolzenhagen, Germany and become certified to teach yoga in Rishikesh, India. When I return, I will be applying to medical schools, conducting research, and performing.”

“The Donaghey Scholars Program has expanded my mind to think and work in an interdisciplinary fashion, pushing me to seek and find connections between seemingly disparate disciplines. The program believed in my wild dreams of combining the art of dance with chemistry, which eventually led to the conduction of an original research study on stress and metabolic, salivary biomarkers in dancers. Additionally, the generous scholarship has given me the opportunity to volunteer abroad in Karapitiya, Sri Lanka and Tomepampa, Peru and study neuroscience and conduct research at Boston University School of Medicine. This program has encouraged me to achieve things far beyond what I could have imagined before attending college. I am truly thankful for the mentorships, friendships, and personal growth that occurred as a result of being a part of the Donaghey Scholars Program.” 

Zachary Smith
Major: Mathematics (B.S.)
Final Project: Bottoms Up: A Water Quality Analysis Along the Fourche Creek Bottoms Wetlands
What’s Next: “I’m starting my Master of Science in Mathematical Sciences with an emphasis in Applied Statistics during Fall 2018.  Additionally, I’ll be continuing my research on the impact of urbanization in the Fourche Creek Watershed.”

“The Donaghey Scholars Program was and will always be my home.  Before entering the program, I was very shy, not able to communicate in the world.  Throughout my time in the program, I presented my research at eight conferences and expos, recognized my potential to lead through motivation and empathy, and reestablished my love for people and our planet.  The Donaghey Scholars Program creates strong leaders; they helped cultivate the leader in me that wants to help preserve our waterways.”

Emily Summers
Major: Anthropology (B.A.) and French (B.A.)
Final Project: Reflections in Stone: A Mortuary Analysis and Digital Archiving of Calvary Cemetery
What’s Next: “I hope to get my Master’s in Public History from UA Little Rock.”

“The Donaghey Scholar’s Program not only challenged me academically, but also gave me the secure foundation I needed to explore my personal interests.  It opened all kinds of doors to intellectual and professional opportunities.  More importantly though, it introduced me to my life-long friends and family.”


Miguel Valderrama
Major: Construction Management (B.S.)
Final Project: Design for a Disaster Relief Shelter Response Modeled on the 2015 Nepal Earthquake
What’s Next: “I will be working at Hart|Cone Construction as an Assistant Project Manager. I hope to get experience as quickly as possible in order to become a greater asset to the company.”

“The Donaghey Scholars Program was what allowed me to move forward with my education as I could not have gone to college otherwise. The program gave me more than just a scholarship, it gave me a medium in which I could expand on my thoughts and it exposed me to different perspectives from a number of people whom I would become very close to. Critical thinking is one of my biggest take aways from the program and it’s a skill that I will be using on a daily basis throughout my career.”

Jack Williamson
Major: Mechanical Systems Engineering (B.S.) and Finance (B.B.A.)
Minor: Mathematics
Final Project: Designing and Testing the Backpack Weed Trimmer
What’s Next: “Currently I am working as an engineer at Southwest Power Pool (SPP).  I plan on attending graduate school in the next few years.”

“The Scholars Program allowed me to pursue my interests than any other potential scholarship I could’ve attained.  I also have to give the Scholars Program credit for challenging some of my perspectives and beliefs by surrounding me with intelligent discussion and a great set of courses.  I wish everyone could go through the same set of courses Donaghey Scholars go through, because the process forces you to question your beliefs and why you hold them more than any other experience I’ve encountered, and I genuinely think that it makes you a better person.  It helped me accomplish my goals by giving me the tools and the freedom to pursue whatever I wanted.”