Robert Scaife '04

Great Grads: Robert Scaife ’04

news-scaifeRound two proves not giving up can lead from working the graveyard shift to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Robert Scaife who grew up in Bryant admitted his first shot at college was a failure — “a fact I am not proud of.” But it didn’t end there.

It was while working the third shift at Little Rock National Airport during the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that Scaife “really felt drawn to politics. With all the discussion about the impending invasion of Iraq, I felt that the time had come for me to get back into school.”

The international studies program at UALR appealed to his interests. “When I finally decided to go back to UALR, I worked my tail off and graduated with a 3.3 GPA and with honors for being in the top 10 percent of Greeks on campus,” he said.

After persisting to a baccalaureate degree in 2004, the next hurdle he wanted to jump was going to graduate school to study human trafficking and nationalism. Scaife proved to naysayers who told him that because he failed out before that he would never get into grad school. “It took me a year, but I made it,” he proudly said.

While at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando, the political science graduate student encountered yet another obstacle hearing “you can’t. I had professors from my own department tell me that I would never get a Fulbright because of my undergraduate grades and because a student from UCF had never gotten it before.”

The Fulbright Scholar Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and grants are made to faculty and professionals for a variety of educational activities, primarily university lecturing, advanced research, graduate study, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools. This flagship international educational exchange program was proposed in 1945, by Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas.

Scaife didn’t let the negative comments discourage him. “Fortunately, my experience at UALR gave me the tools to do the research and prepare my application for the Fulbright, he said particularly working with Barbara Bowlus and Jim Miller on campus. The ambitious student wanting to further expand opportunities studying international affairs was accepted and said the Fulbright program “was quite an experience. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to complete my research on human trafficking in Europe. I met many wonderful people and gained many friends and colleagues.”

In contrast to fueling planes at an airport, Scaife now works as a congressional fellow, writing speeches and responses to constituent letters, researching legislation, and assisting in drafting legislation.

“DO NOT let anyone tell you that you can′t,” he advises students. “If I had listened to those people, I′d probably still be working the graveyard shift at the airport,” said Scaife who is in the top 5 percent of his class. 

He credits his home state alma mater with helping him build a strong foundation for his accomplishments. “Working with graduates from many large private and (public) universities, I have been able to get a taste of the possibilities that are offered in these larger schools,” Scaife said. “UALR isn′t the largest university, and it doesn′t have a large endowment, comparatively, but I got an education that those guys from the big schools never got.

“I learned how to manage a full-time job while going to school. I paid my own way and found funding to get me to Europe,” he said. “UALR gave me the keys to not only be academically successful, but to be successful in life, too.”

After getting more involved with UALR’s Alumni Association, Scaife added, “I feel that my views as an alumnus are heard and counted. This very fact has made me want to be more involved with the Alumni Association and with my fellow alumni in the area.”