Fellowship Program Aims to Curb Arkansas Brain Drain

Apr 1, 2014

Warwick Sabin
Credit Nathan Vandiver / KUAR

The benefits of Arkansas’s investments in higher education are sometimes reaped by other states when graduates leave Arkansas to pursue careers elsewhere. This challenge is often referred to as brain-drain.

The Arkansas Fellowship program led by State Representative Warwick Sabin, a leader in Central Arkansas’s push for new tech jobs through projects like the Arkansas Innovation Hub, is in the process of implementing a new program designed to encourage top Arkansas college students to remain in the state after graduating.

Sabin said the loss of graduates to other states has been a problem hindering the development of industries demanding an educated workforce.

“Companies are concerned about the brain drain that’s occurring in Arkansas. Many companies find it difficult to recruit talent to the state and to keep talent in the state especially in areas that are really the most exciting and promising areas in industry right now. That includes the tech sector and the start-up entrepreneurial sector,” said Sabin.

The Arkansas Fellowship program is in part based on a similar operation in Indiana that Sabin said shows 80 percent of fellows being retained in the state after fellowships end. Sabin identified several contributing factors for retainment, including continued interaction with the organization to foster a more holistic learning experience.

“By the time the fellowship is over they have creative relationships not only with the CEO of their host company but also with CEOs of the other host companies because part of the fellowship program is about networking with the other fellows and the other companies. But part of it is just being established in the community. Many college graduates after they finish school where they end up immediately is where they put roots and where they start to build a foundation, and network, and feeling a sense of community,” said Sabin.

The first round of interviews for potential fellows are being undertaken state-wide this week, ending Friday, with placement into host companies expected at the end of this month. Sabin said 12 Arkansas companies are currently participating with the possibility for more by month’s end. He predicted retaining talent now will lead to a ripple effect later, creating a pattern of graduates choosing to stay in state to work in what he hopes will be a burgeoning new tech sector.

Sabin for the first time identified the 12 participating companies to KUAR with the expectation of more joining in the future:

Acumen Brands

Bourbon & Boots

CFO Network

Circumference Group

Collective Bias



Moxy Ox


Stone Ward