Sarah Riva

Kim Needy, Sarah Riva, GRAD, Student, Faculty

Addressing Unexpected Need

Emergencies happen and can upend the most structured plans. When students are involved, grades, finances, jobs and family can all be affected.

Sarah Riva encountered a financial emergency as a graduate student working on her doctorate in history. An international student from England, Riva is not eligible for domestic scholarships or federal financial aid, and she found herself needing extra funds to prevent the disruption of her education.

She turned to an option she discovered through her director of graduate studies: The Needy Family Graduate Student Emergency Fund.

After applying for the fund and receiving the amount she needed to cover her emergency, Riva continued with her classes and research. Without it, she says, she’s not sure what she would’ve done.

Riva’s situation is exactly the type of dilemma Kim Needy, dean of the Graduate School and International Education, wants to address. Needy and her husband, Bill, created the Needy Family Graduate Student Emergency Fund to specifically support graduate students – both domestic and international – who find themselves in dire need of financial assistance.

“As I meet with current students or alumni, I hear stories,” Kim Needy said. “Many are international students with limited resources, and something happens. Sometimes they just need a helping hand – a friend, a mentor or even money. For some, it’s the last straw and they need as little as $20.

“Students are focused on their studies and research,” she added. “When they’re distracted by other things, like limited resources, that detracts from their studies. Sometimes, it can end schooling for them.”

Thanks to the emergency assistance Riva received, as well as her scholarship support, her journey can continue uninterrupted.

“My scholarships mean everything to me,” she said. “They allow me to travel to the Arkansas Delta and get my research done.”

Riva’s research focuses on the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, particularly the work of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and their role in Arkansas. She has a passion for Arkansas history and wants to tell the state’s story more widely. The research she is pursuing may affect how Arkansas is portrayed in history textbooks in the future and truly does impact the state.

“As the dean, I’m a strong believer that graduate education, in particular, is so impactful to our local community, state and world,” Needy said. “We need to keep these students in school and keep educating them. If we can do something to help ease their burden, then it’s a worthwhile investment.”

Support Students and Graduate Education

  • The Graduate School at the University of Arkansas has a reputation for producing some of the most influential leaders and researchers of our time. Our students work with experts in their fields who are striving to answer today’s most challenging questions. They are at the forefront of discovery and are committed to enriching the global community.
  • Graduate students are involved in research to solve pressing global issues. They also serve as mentors to undergraduates and are a critical part of a pipeline of future educators and members of the corporate world and industry.
  • One of the best ways to attract high-caliber graduate students is to offer scholarships and fellowships. Other universities compete for this talent as well, so it’s important to offer financial incentives.
  • Once graduate students are enrolled, funding their education remains essential. Both non-endowed (current use) and endowed support can provide critical assistance to students who are pursuing graduate degrees.

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