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McLarty Scholars Announced for 2019

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (APRIL 2, 2019) – The McLarty family today announced that two University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service students, Brady Ruffin and Andrea Zekis, have been selected as this year’s McLarty Scholars. During their semester-long fellowships at Vital Voices Global Partnership (VVGP) in Washington, DC, Ruffin and Zekis will conduct research and evaluation of the interaction, strength and effectiveness of the VVGP global network of women leaders.

“Brady and Andrea continue the tradition of talented and engaged graduate students from the Clinton School and we are honored to play a part in fostering their exceptional dedication to public service by connecting them to VVGP,” said Donna McLarty, co-founder of the McLarty Scholars program and VVGP.  “Both students have demonstrated their commitment to addressing human rights issues and empowerment in their own communities and beyond.”

A graduate student at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, Brady Ruffin received a Bachelor of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications from the University of Mississippi in 2018.  Most recently, Brady served as a summer youth intern mentor at the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, Oxford, MS, where he facilitated sessions on social and personal mindfulness and civic engagement.  His time at the Clinton School has sharpened his passion for transformative service and will be leveraging his skills, passion and background to create effective networks of women leaders across the globe.

Andrea Zekis comes to the program with a strong background in and commitment to advancing human rights.  She has a six-year background of working in advocacy, including a position as public relations chair for the Arkansas Coalition of Reproductive Justice, a place on a team of researchers conducting interviews and making best practice recommendations for formerly incarcerated people in Arkansas, and building networks of state contacts and organizing rallies at the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington, DC.  Andrea attended Syracuse University and the University of Central Arkansas before coming to the Clinton School where she has gained valuable research and evaluation skills.

“The McLarty family is proud and pleased that we continue to connect students from our home state of Arkansas with Vital Voices here in Washington.  The perspective our Scholars gain from their time here is a necessary component to deepening and broadening understanding of global issues,” said Mack McLarty, co-founder of the McLarty Scholars Program.

The class of 2019 is the sixth class of McLarty Scholars, joining a list of accomplished graduates of the program who are making an impact on organizations around the globe. Past scholars include Anna Applebaum of California, Tshering Yudon of Bhutan, Mara D’Amico of Michigan, Jennifer Guzman of Arkansas, Michelle Perez of Venezuela, Arjola Limani of Albania, Mollie Henager and Emily Smith both of Arkansas, Marina Giannirakis of Pittsburgh, and Christine McCall of Chicago.

The McLarty family also supports the Presidential Fellows Program, which allows University of Arkansas students in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Science to attend biannual workshops at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress in Washington, D.C., as well as the McLarty Endowed Study Abroad Scholarship at Walton College.

About the McLarty Scholars Program

The McLarty Scholars Program was established in 2002 by Donna and Mack McLarty, along with their sons Mark and Franklin, their daughter-in-law Gabriela and their granddaughter Brianna. Through the program, Scholars conduct cutting-edge research and collect crucial data to inform and shape life-changing programs in partnership with mission-driven organizations in Washington, DC. Their work helps drive civic empowerment, promote peace, and support human rights around the world, while helping the local communities they serve to access these organizations’ global networks.


About Vital Voices Global Partnership

Vital Voices Global Partnership is an international non-profit organization that identifies and partners with creative and fearless women leaders around the world. Vital Voices searches the world for women leaders with daring vision for change, then partners with them to make that vision a reality. We provide them with capacity building, skills training, grants, access to a network of their peers, mentorship, visibility, credibility, recognition of their efforts and guidance to accelerate change on a global scale.

For more than 20 years, Vital Voices has invested in women leaders from over 180 countries and territories. We are venture catalysts, supporting women who advance economic opportunity, increase political and public engagement, end gender-based violence and promote human rights. Vital Voices connects women already solving problems in their communities and equips them with the tools they need to incite global, positive change and accelerate shared progress for all. Visit to learn more.


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For more information about the McLarty Scholars program visit