University of Arkansas at Fort Smith to expand paid internships, officials tell UA trustees

FORT SMITH — University of Arkansas at Fort Smith students will have expanded access to paid internships thanks to a $1 million donation.

While all internships provide value to students, being paid for them is even better, said Chancellor Terisa Riley, who announced the Doug and Kathy Babb Premier Internship Endowment Thursday during a University of Arkansas System board of trustees meeting on the UAFS campus.

Paid internships are open to more students, since some students can’t afford to accept unpaid internships — more than half of UAFS’ students are eligible for Pell grants, which are for students with low-income backgrounds.

Doug and Kathy Babb committed $1 million for paid internships and apprenticeships for UAFS students to match employer contributions so students can benefit from hands-on practice and real-world experience as they prepare for careers, according to UAFS. This isn’t the couple’s first notable gift to UAFS, as they also endowed the Babb Center for Career Services, which helps students not only with typical career preparation, but also crucial “soft skills” employers demand.

The internship fund will have two components, Riley said. Signature internships support students who receive internships with strategic partners and key employers in the River Valley region, while signature micro-internships will support students who participate in project-based, short-term internships at no cost to hiring partners.

“By 2028, we anticipate awarding five to six of the premier internships, and around 20 micro-internships, each year,” said Rachel Rodemann Putman, UAFS director of communications. The Babb gift is a five-year pledge beginning this year, “so we hope to begin rolling out internships in fall 2024.”

Babb was executive vice president of Beverly Enterprises from 2000-07. That former nursing home giant once called Fort Smith home. He was chief executive officer of Cooper Clinic from 2007-14 before becoming managing director of Babb Strategic Services.

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