When Shane Hale graduated from Waldron High School, he had more than 20 scholarship offers from schools all over the country. Prestigious universities such as Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Baylor and others had offered him generous scholarships.
Instead, he chose the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith. Where other schools barely interacted with him past reaching out to him to let him know he received a scholarship, he said the personal interest UAFS professors took in him influenced his decision to attend.
“Dr. Dennis Siler reached out to me to recruit me to the Honors International Studies Program,” Hale said. “Having a professor who’s going to lead my program and be one of my professors come down and personally speak with me meant a lot. It created that personal connection that by the time I stepped on campus, they already knew me.”
His decision to attend UAFS has proven to be the right one. His time here has set him on a career path he never expected, offered him leadership opportunities to bolster his resume, and unlocked a passion in him for community involvement.
Hale admitted that he didn’t think UAFS was “the perfect place” initially, but that once he got here, he changed his mind “completely.”
“What I love about UAFS is that it’s a community. You have support systems. Your professors support you, and your peers support you,” Hale said. “It’s a large university, but it’s small enough that it’s friendly. If you have any problems, there’s always someone to go to. It’s not intimidating. It’s just a close-knit family atmosphere. I love everything about it.”
Hale originally planned to be a doctor, but after working as an Upward Bound tutor on campus made him realize he wanted to pursue a career in education after he found a love for teaching.
His professors urged him to conduct research, and his research was featured at the 2016 Annual Conference for Middle Level Education. He also presented at three Student Research Symposiums at UAFS, the first of which was attended by a community leader who talked to him afterwards about becoming a mentor in the community.
The result was Kids 413, a faith-based organization founded by Hale in which volunteers go to schools in the greater Fort Smith region and work with kids who come from disadvantaged situations.
The experience opened his eyes to the difficulties that others faced. One of the students he mentored was a fifth grader who attempted suicide.
“I came from a loving and caring family, and when I got involved in mentoring, I saw that not every student had it as good as I did,” he said. “You see the problems there, and it breaks your heart but it also makes you want to fix it. It’s developed a passion for the community service.”
Continuing his passion for community involvement, Hale joined the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education, a student organization on campus, and worked his way to president, overseeing many events to promote literacy in the region, including the Literacy Alive! 5K fundraiser.
Currently, he is interviewing with local schools to secure a teaching job after graduation, and he’s well-prepared after his education at UAFS.
“My decision to attend the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith changed my life in so many ways. During my time as a student here, I have been blessed with so many incredible opportunities to make an impact and work for a greater purpose,” he said. “Over the past four years, I have grown as a student, leader, teacher, and individual. I thank God, my family, professors, and community for pointing me towards UAFS. It has truly been an incredible experience.”
About the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith
The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith is the premiere regional institution of Western Arkansas, connecting education with careers and serving as a driver of economic development and quality of place in the greater Fort Smith region. Through a small campus, dedicated professors, and the university’s unique bond with its community, students at UAFS are able to do more in the areas they are passionate about, both on- and off-campus, in a way that prepares them for post-graduate success. To find out how you can do more at UAFS, visit www.uafs.edu.