UA Women’s Giving Circle awards eight grants

story and photos by Julie Bagley
jbagley@thecitywire.com

Arkansas First Lady Ginger Beebe helped handout more than $100,000 to eight grant winners Thursday (Oct. 18) on the University of Arkansas campus.

The Women’s Giving Circle presented the checks before more than 70 members and UA Chancellor Dr. G. David Gearhart.

“I remember very well when we started the Women’s Giving Circle and the promise it gave to the university and it has fulfilled its promise,” said Gearhart, “You’ve continued to make the Women’s Giving Circle relevant and you support many programs. It is a great vision you have and a tremendous and meaningful impact on this campus.”

The Women’s Giving Circle was created in 2002 by the founding members of the Women and Philanthropy Committee of the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century. The purpose of the group is to create a substantial pool of new money from women in support of the University of Arkansas while, at the same time, encouraging women as philanthropic leaders.

It pools the group’s resources and gives money through its annual grant award process. The amount awarded for each program varies.

The Women’s Giving Circle Food Recovery Information Project received $12,000 and will create a legal guide to food donation and will help businesses develop a plan to donate food safely. The No Woman Left Behind Campaign was created to educate the community about sexual assault and it plans to expand the program by offering more intervention training to students and facilitators and was awarded $8,700.

Dr. Sha Jin in the Department of Biomedical Engineering received $20,000 for research in treating breast cancer patients with their own cells. Michelle Gray, College of Education and Health Professions, Health, Human Performance and Recreation received $7,400 to increase osteoporosis knowledge among women at the UA. Nearly $10,000 was awarded to The Volunteer Action Center Literacy Program. The program provides for student volunteers to read to and with a child for one-hour once-a-week for 10 weeks out of the semester.

“There’s power in numbers and you are saying that to our country aren’t you,” said Beebe, “We know how important literacy is to our children. It warms my heart in what you are doing and how many people you are affecting.”

One of the more intriguing programs which received more than $7,000 went to Dr. Vijay K. Varadan who is a distinguished professor of neurosurgery and Dr. Matthew Ganjo, director human performance laboratory. They are studying the production, testing and implementation of a smart bra for wireless real-time monitoring of cardiac arrhythmias and blood pressure with a smart phone.

Radio station KUAF received $15,000 to digitally preserve interviews conducted on its “Ozarks at Large” program. The catalog of interviews will available to everyone on its website and at the Mullins Library.

More than $20,000 was awarded to Dr. Jeff Wolchok in the college of engineering to create an alternative to treat urinary incontinence. Currently, plastics are used as bulking material to treat the problem. The alternative is materials harvested from human donors.

“The Women’s Giving Circle has a great vision and you have had a tremendous and meaningful impact on this campus,” said Gearhart.

For incoming president Melissa Werner giving the grants is a big deal.

“I’ve been a member since 2006,” she said, “We read all of the proposals and evaluate them and want to give money to each one.”

The grant committee received more than 40 proposals. Chancellor Gearhart challenged the group to grant $50,000. They met the challenge and Gearhart matched the grant money to total $100,000.

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“It is a pleasure to match your extraordinary giving circle,” said Gearhart.

In order for the Women’s Giving Circle to have funds available for awarding, cash gifts are required for membership. The annual gift requirement is $1,000 for alumnae or friends and $500 for those memberships affiliated with the University of Arkansas, a student or graduate within five years.

“My mom gave me the membership and as my Christmas present every year so I give back and hear the proposals and affect change in that way ... it’s neat the see the effects we can have,” said Werner.

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