Inaugural Class of Arkansas Fellows Revealed This Week

by Mark Carter  on Monday, Jun. 2, 2014 12:00 am  

Warwick Sabin will lead the Arkansas Fellowship program, which kicks off this summer by placing recent college grads into two-year internships with leading Arkansas companies.  (Photo by Michael Pirnique)

The inaugural class of Arkansas Fellows will be revealed Wednesday at a Governor’s Mansion reception.

The new Arkansas Fellowship program pairs graduating college seniors from state schools with Arkansas-based host companies for two-year internships that will pay an annual salary of $40,000.

The program is modeled after the prestigious Orr Fellowship in Indiana and funded by Winrock International, the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Northwest Arkansas Council.

Ten Fellows were selected from a pool of more than 80 applicants representing 12 Arkansas colleges and universities. In addition to the inaugural class, the 10 host companies will be revealed Wednesday as well.

Arkansas Fellows will be provided:

  • Access to the host company’s senior leadership for mentoring and support.
  • Opportunities to build deep relationships with peers and business and community leaders.
  • Invitations to lectures with renowned speakers.
  • Civic engagement opportunities.
  • Accelerated paths to professional development.
  • An annual salary of $40,000 paid by the mentor company. (It may also include additional benefits and bonuses provided at the discretion of the mentor company.)

Leaders in the state’s startup community believe the fellowship program can help entice the state’s top graduating seniors to stay in Arkansas and possibly launch successful tech-based startup ventures.

“There has been growing recognition among leaders in business, government and education that we need to do more as a state to retain and develop our native talent in order to be competitive with other regions,” said Warwick Sabin, Arkansas Fellowship director.

Sabin is firmly connected these days to the state’s business scene. Former publisher of the Oxford American magazine, Sabin is the director of the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, which is opening the Argenta Innovation Center in downtown North Little Rock later this summer.

This fall, he will lead the Little Rock version of the 2014 ARK Challenge tech startup accelerator. Plus, he represents midtown Little Rock in the Arkansas House of Representatives

Sabin believes the Arkansas Fellowship will become an important part of the Arkansas entrepreneurial ecosystem, taking advantage of the many entrepreneurial resources and programs now available in the state.

“It will also contribute to those programs,” he said. “In addition to their employment at the host companies, the Arkansas Fellows will participate in educational, civic and other enrichment activities that we will organize for them in order to increase their ties to the community and encourage them to remain in the state after the fellowship period ends.”

Sabin believes the impact will be long term. Aside from providing graduating seniors with relatively high-paying gigs for their first couple of years out of school, it will sew important seeds.



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