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$18.7M Gift to Expand UAFS Nursing, Arts Programs

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The Windgate Foundation has donated $18.7 million to the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith to expand the school’s nursing program and Windgate Art and Design building.

The gift, which is the largest in the school’s 94-year history, will help double the university’s nursing graduates and address a shortage of workers in the field. The university said it will hire 27 additional faculty members immediately while expanding and equipping simulation labs to maximize existing infrastructure. 

In the second phase of the expansion, the university will add two new proposed degrees: an associate degree of Nursing and a registered nurse-to-bachelor of science in nursing pathway. Neither program will be brand new to UAFS, the university said in a news release, they have seen a resurgence of interest following the pandemic. 

In total, 40 new faculty members will be hired and the programs are expected to graduate close to 300 additional nurses per year.

“This is a gift to this entire region, not just to the University of Arkansas  Fort Smith,” Chancellor Terisa Riley said in the release. “It reaches far beyond the boundaries of this campus to absolutely transform this area.”

Funds will also be used to increase the footprint of the Windgate Art and Design building, creating a more immersive public experience and adding fine arts studios for students and faculty. Beginning next year, UAFS will offer new courses and broaden existing courses, including book arts, 3D-design, art history, graphic design, gallery and collections, museum preparator training, sculpture, ceramics, and digital fabrication.

Plans call for a center to advance the study and practice of book arts, as well. Additional workshop spaces, accessible entrances, and common areas throughout the building will further public collaboration with students, faculty, and alums.

“This gift will meaningfully augment every aspect of our department: the ways we educate students in each of our degree programs, the scope of our exhibitions and art collections, and the services and programming we can offer to the River Valley region and to broader art communities,” Katie Waugh, head of Art and Design at UAFS, said in the release. “This will shape not only how we address our current needs, but will also substantially inform our trajectory going forward.”

Prior to this gift, the Windgate Foundation awarded more than $25 Million to UAFS in support of the Windgate Art and Design building and endowment, visual arts and design programming, and a comprehensive scholarship endowment for high-need students.

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