Pittman’s gift boosts Grove Scholars

Grove Scholars principal Gray Flora IV (center, with pizza) takes the 2022 freshman cohort bowling to help them bond and relax before beginning their college experience at Ole Miss. Photo courtesy of Renvy Pittman

OXFORD, Mississippi – A private donation of $1 million to the University of Mississippi is the catalyst that has brought significant changes to Ole Miss Grove Scholarshipsenabling the program to provide a superior level of service to its students.

The Grove Scholars Program facilitates academic achievement and job placement for Mississippi residents seeking degrees related to science, technology, engineering, and math, as well as health care.

Formerly under the umbrella of another student success program, Grove Scholars became a stand-alone organization, housed within the liberal arts college, and has a full-time dedicated program director and manager. Its independence also makes the program eligible for dedicated resources from the College of Liberal Arts and the Provost’s Office.

Because of these changes, “we now have staff members who are exclusively focused on the academic success and overall growth of each Grove Fellow,” said Gray Flora IV, program director. “We will be better able to target resources to both the group and individual students to ensure their needs are met to be successful throughout their undergraduate experience. »

Meeting those needs takes money, which is why former UM Renvy Pittman’s recent donation is crucial to the program.

All college expenses for Grove Scholars, such as tuition, room, food, books, and supplies, are covered by the program for the second summer semester before their freshman year. The Ole Miss Opportunity Student Scholarship covers most expenses for the fall and spring semesters; Grove Scholars then pay for one course each summer of their undergraduate career.

Through the program, students will be offered services such as increased tutoring, help finding jobs or internships, stipends for unpaid or lightly paid internships, help with college-related costs and entrance exams, tips for changing majors and enhanced program activities.

“By staying true to Renvy’s transformational vision, we want our students to not only graduate, but have impactful, well-rounded undergraduate careers that set them up for success after college is over,” said Flora, adding that this year the number of students eligible to participate in Grove Scholars has increased from 13 to 25.

“As we grow, we will need more money to cover these costs and fulfill these guarantees. We need more people to invest in work.

Renvy Pittman, UM alumnus and donor, and Gray Flora IV (fourth and fifth from left), Grove Scholars program director, join an early cohort of Grove Scholars on campus. Photo by Bill Dabney/UM Foundation

Since 2014, Pittman, a Jackson native living in Los Angeles, has contributed more than $2.1 million to the program. She hopes her most recent donation will serve as an example, encouraging other Ole Miss alumni and friends to provide private support for the program.

“Gray had a really hard time setting this up independently and bringing in 25 kids this summer without his #2 person in place yet, so we’re accelerating the expansion,” Pittman said. . “I can see it getting really big.

“Within a few years, I expect we will have 100 children in the program.”

Grove Scholars is the brainchild of Stephen Monroe, president and assistant professor of writing and rhetoric and former assistant dean of liberal arts.

Monroe and Pittman realized Ole Miss Opportunity recipients interested in STEM or health professions could benefit from a bridging program that would help them transition into university and college-level work. With Pittman’s support, 12 OMO Fellows were selected for the program in the summer of 2014.

For the stability of the program, Pittman credits university administrators, especially provost Noel Wilkin and Lee Cohen, dean of liberal arts.

“This is a program that provides student benefits that extend beyond the classroom,” Wilkin said. “It provides them with support, encouragement and opportunities that help them succeed and develop skills that will serve them well throughout their careers.

“This program is a wonderful example of our commitment to student success and how support programs benefit students.

Cohen agreed.

“It is not uncommon for us to see students arrive on campus unprepared for the many challenges they will face inside and outside the classroom,” he said. “It can cast doubt on their ability to pursue their dreams.

“Grove Scholars provides much-needed assistance in multiple areas, which helps with retention and success toward graduation. Our intention is for Grove Scholars to become a nationally recognized program that will be the envy of other universities across the country.

Both trustees expressed their gratitude for Pittman’s generosity, his tireless advocacy for underserved students, and his dedication to building Grove Scholars.

“We’ve been doing this program since 2014, and I wanted the program to grow,” Pittman said. “Even though we were helping the students, I knew we could do a lot more.

“I’m happy with how far we’ve come, but I think we can do even more for the program now.”

To donate to the Grove Scholars program, visit https://give.olemiss.edu or for more information, contact Nikki Neely Davis at [email protected] or 662-915-6678.

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