Renvy Pittman’s belief in the power of higher education is evident in her continued generosity to the Grove Scholars program at the University of Mississippi.
The 1977 UM College of Liberal Arts graduate’s recent $100,000 gift to the program is the latest in her legacy of support, which now totals over $900,000, including a 2019 gift of $175,000 for the renovation of George Hall.
As the designated home for the FASTrack Learning Community and Grove Scholars on the Oxford campus, George Hall gives scholars and staff a place to spend time together.
“It’s a community,” said Pittman, a resident of Los Angeles, California. “Students need community to be successful in college. So Grove Scholars identifies these young people, brings them in and empowers them to unlock their potential and encourage each other.”
The program facilitates academic success and job placement among Mississippi residents seeking degrees in health professions or subjects related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and who also have received the Ole Miss Opportunity (OMO) Scholarship.
In 2014, Pittman and the program’s founder Stephen Monroe, chair and assistant professor of writing and rhetoric and former assistant dean of the UM College of Liberal Arts, realized OMO recipients interested in STEM would benefit from a bridge program helping orient them to the university and college-level work.
With Pittman’s support, 12 OMO scholars were selected for the program that summer. Since then, the program has grown to serve over 150 students and consists of classes in math and sciences for academic credit as well as tutoring, exposure to labs and lectures on campus, and social events — all occurring in the summer before the students’ freshman year.
“I have worked with Renvy for over 10 years and she has become a dear friend. It has been amazing to watch the Grove Scholars program excel as Renvy’s vision for the program continues to come to life,” said Denson Hollis, major gifts officer for academics and chief development officer for Ole Miss Athletics. “The best is yet to come for this program and it is solely because of Renvy’s profound impact and generosity. Her importance to Ole Miss and especially to our students is invaluable.”
Because the OMO scholarship does not cover summer tuition, the Grove Scholars program also provides students with opportunities to take summer classes throughout their undergraduate career. The newest initiative of the program offers financial support for Grove Scholars seeking a career-relevant internship during the summer term.
Students find that being introduced to college life prior to their freshman year gives them a chance to bond with each other and with the program’s director, Gray Flora.
“What’s so great about what Renvy has done is she’s enabled a lot of students to have what they need over and above their scholarships,” Flora said. “It’s one thing to say, ‘Yes, you can come to the University of Mississippi,’ but it’s another thing to give them the tools and the equity to really be able to thrive at a major public university.
“It’s more than just being able to come. You have to know how to navigate this place,” he continued. “There are all these extracurricular needs that you don’t think about and Renvy has enabled us to provide those for the students. That’s the difference between access and true equity.”
It’s a passion for Pittman.
“I would like to look back after 10 years and see these kids, who are not children anymore at all, using their degrees in science, technology, engineering or math to make their communities in Mississippi a better place,” she said.
About the Grove Scholars
The Grove Scholars Program provides an intensive academic program to encourage and facilitate academic success and job placement among Mississippi resident STEM majors who have also received the OMO Scholarship. The program is unique in that it has a strong focus on career-readiness. It is intensive in nature and takes a year-round approach to student development. Grove Scholars begins with a bridge program the summer before students traditionally come to campus and uses an incentive-based model to encourage students to perform in the classroom, become involved on campus and make the most of summers and other breaks in the academic calendar. To visit the Grove Scholars website, click here.
For more information and student profiles, visit Grove Scholars online.
About Ole Miss Opportunity
The University of Mississippi is committed to providing access to quality education for students from all backgrounds. Through its OMO program, the university guarantees that eligible Mississippi resident students receive financial aid in the fall and spring semesters to cover the average cost of tuition, residence hall housing and an allowance for meals. This program fills the gap in funding after all federal, state, institutional and private scholarships and grants awarded to the student have been considered.