ATU Program to Create Opportunities for Diverse Teacher Candidates

Arkansas Tech University is creating new pathways and incentives for individuals from historically underrepresented groups in northwest Arkansas to enter the teaching profession.

At the recommendation of Alice L. Walton, the Walton Family Foundation has pledged a $600,000 grant to the ATU Foundation to support the initiative. Funds from the grant will provide loan forgiveness to eligible ATU graduates.

“It is important to have a diverse teaching force that reflects the demographics of the student body,” said Dr. Robin E. Bowen, ATU president. “Research suggests that students from underrepresented groups often perform better on standardized tests, have improved attendance and are suspended less frequently when they have at least one same-race teacher. The student loan forgiveness program will not only provide minority graduates with a financial incentive to teach in northwest Arkansas, but it will also prepare the graduates for success in the classroom and the community through the implementation of a mentoring program for the participants.”

ATU students who participate in the program will agree to teach in northwest Arkansas for the first three years after their graduation and two additional years in any area of Arkansas. The first wave of the grant will serve 21 ATU students.

“Arkansas Tech is pleased to contribute to the development of a more diverse pool of teacher candidates for northwest Arkansas,” said Jason Geiken, ATU vice president for advancement. “This initiative is consistent with the Arkansas Tech mission of student access and success. We look forward to the positive outcomes that will result from this grant.”

-By Sam Strasner
for the Tech Action, Spring 2021