Every Experience is Valuable
FSHN student reflects on service in wake of Wallace E. Barron All-University Senior Award
Belinda Hoffman isn’t sure of many things. Though the one thing she is absolutely sure of is that she cannot envision a life in which she isn’t working in the service of others.
The fifth-year senior from West Liberty, IA has done a lot:
- Participated in several service adventures — both at home and abroad
- Changed her majors/minors five times (she’ll graduate with a double major in Global Resource Systems and Dietetics)
- Adopted a foreign language
- Is the vice-chair of CALS Ambassadors
- Worked for the Iowa Crop Improvement Association
- A community advisor for Iowa State University’s Department of Residence
- A leader in an off-campus student ministry group (International Friendship Connection)
- A Rising Star intern with Iowa State Extension and Outreach
- And been the president the last two years for the Students Helping Our Peers (SHOP) on-campus food bank
In honor of her efforts, Hoffman is one of several recipients of the 2022 Wallace E. Barron All-University Senior Award. The Iowa State University Alumni Association established this award in 1968 “to recognize outstanding seniors who display high character, outstanding achievement in academics and university/community activities, and promise for continuing these exemplary qualities as alumni.” The award is named for Wallace E. “Red” Barron (’28), who was the director of alumni affairs at Iowa State from 1937 to 1968.
“Hoffman represents herself and the [Iowa State] community with tremendous character and pride while maintaining her spot in the top two percent of her senior class,” said Jeff Johnson, president and CEO of the ISU Alumni Association, at the award recognition ceremony. “Hoffman is invested in the Iowa State community. As a global thinker, Hoffman assisted the Iowa State Uganda program in agricultural development that advances food and nutrition systems. This helped infants, children, mothers, and farmers. As president of SHOP, Hoffman continues her commitment to solving issues of food security, nutrition, and health. She spreads awareness of food security and hunger problems in our world to the Iowa State community.”
While she is honored to receive the recognition and accolades in honor of her activities and pursuits, Hoffman explained that it took her some time to truly know what this award meant to her in the context of her life, as well as of past recipients.
“Listening to everybody’s story in that room, this award is just something that is a representation of hard work students have done without working towards the award,” Hoffman said. “The students recognized, and myself, weren’t working towards this award all four years. Through the process of doing what we thought was right, we’ve all been recognized for the act of committing ourselves to those bigger things than ourselves.”
Being in the interest of service is something Hoffman admits wasn’t initially a part of her. In observing her parents and siblings, she took an affinity to their giving spirits and community-mindedness.
“It really started from a young age,” Hoffman said. “There wasn’t a pressure that I had to do those things, but by seeing it as an example, it became inherently a desire that I had and still have, and am really grateful for.”
Hoffman didn’t waste much time getting to work upon arriving to campus. Majoring in global resource systems, she already had a desire to solve problems. Hoffman expressed that the major allowed her the chance to make a difference by creating sustainable systems through integrating social, natural, and economic sciences. In the fall of her sophomore year, she decided to participate in the Iowa State University Uganda Program, part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, in which Iowa State affiliates partner with citizens and institutions in Kamuli and Kampala, Uganda, and Makerere University.
While working with the area agronomist and nutrition educators on site, Hoffman was able to see first-hand the connection that both disciplines had on the impact of human life.
“It was eye-opening, and a lightbulb moment to see the role of nutrition in agriculture in community development,” Hoffman said. “I didn’t have any experience with the nutrition side of things. Where I grew up, I’m one of lucky ones that has had a healthy relationship with nutritious food and its availability. I can now see that nutritious food access is a bigger problem than what we think it might be.”
Upon her return to campus that spring, Hoffman began pursuing courses in nutritional science, ultimately leading her to choose dietetics as her second major — in addition to taking Spanish as a foreign language. As a major in dietetics, Hoffman believes she’ll have the ability to educate all individuals on their relationships with food, and how best to feed their unique bodies, no matter where they live or socio-economic background.
Despite her ambitious resume over the last five years, Hoffman isn’t exactly set on where she wants to go from here. In continuing her interest in service, Hoffman knows eventually she wants to become a Registered Dietician (RD) and be able to take her education and knowledge into the field to help individuals and their relationships and access to food.
“You’d think after completing these super impactful things I’d have a defined path I’m heading down, but I’m still deciphering,” Hoffman said. “I would like to become an RD and work with resource-poor communities — that’s one thing I know that I want to do, whether in Iowa, another state, or around the world.”
But after five years of school and service learning, Hoffman is going to take a break before venturing off to graduate school. She intends to spend some quality time with relatives and new additions to her family that she has had to put off due to schooling, trips abroad, and the COVID-19 pandemic.News