Rochelle Biegel Hoffman
EDUCATION • M.Ed. in Professional Development UW-Eau Claire • B.A. in Education Secondary Social Studies University of Missouri-Kansas City
ENROLLED • Cohort 4
LOCATION • Augusta, Wis.
Turtles are one of the earliest memories as a child for Rochelle Biegel Hoffman. For as long as she can remember, she always had a bucket–or rather buckets–of turtles, frogs, tadpoles and any other crawling things she could find, sitting on the back step of our family farmhouse. Rochelle grew up on our family cranberry marsh, generation five. Despite not particularly liking the taste, cranberry juice may just run in her veins. She has always found peace in the smell of wetland swamp, and knew she wanted to be a part of this work. When Rochelle’s parents expanded their operations in 2012 to develop new hybrid cranberry vines, she packed up her cul-de-sac house in Kansas City and moved into a one-bathroom farmhouse with her husband and two babies to grow those hybrid cranberries. Rochelle just finished a year teaching high school Social Studies in the KCMO school district. Despite coming from a long line of teachers, she quickly realized that year her interest in teaching was at the college level. By day, she and her husband renovated, planted and tended new cranberry plantings, and by night Rochelle worked on her master’s degree in education. Rochelle got a position at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, working with college access and college success programing. Blugold Beginnings gave her the opportunity to grow as an educator, and help her gain valuable experience. First generation, low income, and students of color are outperformed by their white counterpart in every high impact practice at UWEC. We know these high impact practices–student research, campus employment, internships, study abroad, immersion experience–are valuable and transformative in a liberal arts education. Rochelle’s work in Blugold Beginnings has focused on increasing the rates of high impact practices participated in by first generation, low income, and students of color–with an emphasis in undergraduate student research. Providing equitable educational opportunities and pathways for all students, in particularly important to the values of our program, and herself. As her role on the cranberry farm has changed over the years, Rochelle become more involved with developing new growing and management techniques for sustainability on the cranberry marsh. Rochelle has become more involved and developed relationships with partners in the horticulture department at UW to help with the development of low-input cranberry vines. As research opportunities have materialized for myself, she has found herself diving deeper into sustainability efforts. The same can be true for undergraduate students that are provided the opportunity to conduct research. Students who may not have otherwise considered careers of interests in sustainability are able to learn the research process and develop a passion for sustainability through their research.
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