Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

McLarty Scholars Announced for 2021

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (APRIL 9, 2021)The McLarty family today announced that two University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service students, Ophelia Delali Akoto and Rodrigo Santos Legaspi, have been selected as this year’s McLarty Scholars for a semester-long fellowship at Vital Voices Global Partnership (VVGP) in Washington, D.C. 


“Since 2017, McLarty Scholars have conducted research and analysis to support the VVGP network of women leaders around the world,” said Donna McLarty, co-founder of the McLarty Scholars program and co-founder and board member of VVGP. “This year’s focus will be on collecting stories of the women’s experiences as they confronted and reacted to the crises arising from the pandemic. This will provide significant insights and guidance in future programming and network collaboration.”  

Before enrolling at the Clinton School, Akoto earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Central Arkansas, a B.A. in Management and Entrepreneurship from Henderson State University and recently received project management certification. She is currently a graduate research fellow with the Newport Economic Commission Division where she is concentrating on research on the barriers preventing women from entering the labor force. With her strong background in qualitative and quantitative analysis and field research methods, Akoto will generate and analyze a wide range of economic, social and on-the-ground data for VVGP.


Rodrigo Santos Legaspi, a Master of Public Service candidate from the Clinton School, graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso with a B.A. in Political Science. An active student leader, Santos Legaspi was Speaker of the House and a legislative affairs representative at UTEP, as well as an honors student. Santos Legaspi is currently a graduate student researcher at the Central Arkansas Library System, conducting public-opinion surveys to measure views and attitudes on homelessness, hunger and poverty across Central Arkansas. Santos Legaspi’s passion for public service is rooted in the belief that all people deserve the opportunity to succeed and build brighter futures for themselves and their communities.  


“The McLarty family is proud to continue the association between the University of Arkansas, our alma materand Vital Voices through the Scholars program. Ophelia and Rodrigo will gain a deeper global vision through their work at Vital Voices and in turn the organization will benefit from their contributions of research and perspective,” stated Mack McLarty, co-founder of the McLarty Scholars program. 


“Not only is it a great learning experience for the Scholars and us, but in the last few years the Scholars have broadened our perspective in capturing the impact of women leaders,” noted Alejandra Garcia Diaz Villamil, Senior Director, Vital Voices Global Partnership. The 2020 McLarty Scholars, Nikki Anderson and Michael Webb, worked collecting, evaluating and mapping out the journeys of leaders to determine Vital Voices attribution. This information allows us to continue improving programs for leaders to achieve their bold and innovative visions for changing their communities and countries.” 


The class of 2021 is the eighth 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 Pennsylvania, Christine McCall of Illinois, Brady Ruffin of MississippiAndrea Zekis of Arkansas, Nikki Anderson of Arkansas, and Michael Webb of Kansas. 


The McLarty family also supports the Presidential Fellows Program, which sends University of Arkansas students in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences to 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 of Business. 


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, daughter-in-law Gabriela and granddaughter Brianna. Through the program, students are provided substantive opportunities for interdisciplinary learning, research, international experience and cross-cultural understanding. 


About Vital Voices Global Partnership  

Vital Voices Global Partnership invests in women leaders who are solving the world’s greatest challenges – from gender-based violence to the climate crisis, economic inequities, and more. We are “venture catalysts,” identifying those with a daring vision for change and partnering with them to make that vision a reality.  We scale and accelerate impact through long term investments to expand skills, connections, capacity and visibility. Over the last 24 years, we have built a network of 18,000 change makers across 182 countries, each of whom are daring to reimagine a more equitable world for all.   


# # # 


For more information about the McLarty Scholars program visit