Sam Hansen moved to Fort Smith in 2012 for a one-year internship. Nearly five years later he’s not just still here; he and his wife recently have bought a home in Fort Smith and are firmly rooted in the local soil.
“I am passionate about the progress of Fort Smith as a city,” Hansen said a few weeks before his spring 2017 graduation from UAFS. It’s clear that he’s planning to stay for a while.
The year-long internship that brought Hansen from Hayward, Wis., was with New Life Church, at 9000 S. Dallas St. in Fort Smith. While working at the church, Sam met his wife, the former Sarah Foster. Sarah is a 2015 graduate of the elementary education program at UAFS, and she teachers at Central Elementary School in Van Buren.
Being the recipient of the Greg Smith Memorial Scholarship, an annual gift given by Sue Plattner-Smith, has allowed Hansen to make changes to his life plan as he moved forward. Originally he wanted to be an English teacher; now he’s looking at other options, including attending graduate school and continuing a position at New Life Church, where he and Sarah are children’s ministers. Sue says, “How honored Greg would be to know that the scholarship impacted Sam’s life and his educational goals. Greg felt that learning and education were vital, and he knew that UAFS was an institution that added greatly to our community. Sam’s story reinforces our commitment to provide educational opportunities for all motivated and determined individuals seeing to better themselves and those surrounding them.”
Teaching at the college level is part of his long-term plan, perhaps when he is in his 40s, he says. In the meantime he hopes to continue and enrich his work as a pastor. He’d like to be a primary pastor at a church someday, but he realizes that at 23 he likely is too young for that responsibility now.
Hansen also is a member of the Army National Guard, and training for that part of his life took a full semester away from his studies. He still managed to finish in four years, though, because his scholarship allowed him to accelerate his studies, while working at the church and maintaining a 3.2 GPA.
“Because of having that scholarship I was able to take 18-19 hours of credit per semester,” he said. “My main focus can be school (and I am) also able to pursue my passion for ministry. It alleviated a lot of the financial stresses that could have come up. It’s allowed me … to focus my energy and time on my passions.”
An English major, Hansen can think of many things he could do when once he graduates in fields like communications and marketing. But he’d like to do a little writing for area publications, and he “really, really” hopes he can start graduate school soon. Of course, that doesn’t mean leaving Fort Smith; he has his heart set on earning an online degree through Liberty University. One of the reasons Liberty caught his eye is its military-friendly policy that makes the per-credit-hour cost affordable for service members and veterans. He also has some military benefits he can tap during graduate school.
Hansen says he knows his time at UAFS has prepared him for whatever he does next.
“College is a safe place to develop responsibility and learning strategies, to become a student of learning,” he said. “In my experience, it (college) has enforced and encouraged lifelong learning. That’s something I think (that) is really going to transfer into any career.”