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HR management and Spanish grad to advocate for Spanish speakers

| Denise Olson

Photo caption: Sofia Earle spent a brief three weeks studying in Chile in spring 2020 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the return to the U.S. of all American students studying internationally.

Many Blugold graduates have plans in place that will take them far from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to begin their next chapter. Human resource management and Spanish double major Sofia Earle is one of those graduates heading off to a distant location — two of them, in fact.

“From February to August of 2022, I will be working in Alaska expanding my human resource management experiences,” the Lakeville, Minnesota, native says. “Then I am off to Spain where I will be teaching English as a second language.”

Earle says these two experiences will best set her up for her ultimate career goal, part of which has been to achieve Spanish fluency by age 25.

“My sister is stationed in Alaska, and I am really looking forward to living with her and saving up for my big move to Spain,” Earle says. “Working as a teaching assistant with a program called Auxiliares de Conversación, I will focus on facilitating conversation in English through games and interactive activities. My plan is to be there for at least two years.”

Future plans to combine her skills

female student in cap and gown

Sofia Earle, a human resource management and Spanish liberal arts major, will spend the first years of her career working in Alaska and Spain, jobs she says will prepare her for the goal of using Spanish skills to advocate for workers.

While her main goal for the immediate future is Spanish fluency, Earle has longer-term goals for combining her human resource management degree with those language skills.

“I’d like to work for a nonprofit agency that serves immigrants and refugees arriving in the United States, one that provides them a safe space as well as the medical, physical and emotional support and resources they need,” Earle says.

“I would love to be part of an HR team in such an organization, and focus on hiring quality candidates to support these populations. I also aspire to serve as an interpreter for Spanish speakers.”

Earle’s intentions to help people and communities through her mastery of the Spanish language come as no surprise to UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff who have observed her compassion and cultural curiosity for years.

Meghan Mehlos Licon, a senior lecturer of Spanish, is one such instructor who has watched Earle’s growth as a student of Spanish and of global citizenship.

“Sofia stands out in terms of her excitement for learning, her commitment to speaking Spanish whenever possible and her personality — passionate and compassionate,” Licon says. “Sofia was not just concerned with mastering the content of our class, but wanted to go beyond that, learning about and connecting with others in the Spanish-speaking world, here in our community, as well as globally.”

Licon cites several examples of Earle’s insatiable desire to learn, including:

  • Actively and consistently engaging with guest speakers in class.
  • Deeply engaging with her host family on a study abroad trip to Chile and remaining connected to them since.
  • Using her Spanish skills as a nanny for a local Spanish-speaking family.
  • Recently collaborating with students around the globe to collect data about the international toy market for a course in cross-cultural leadership.

A prime Blugold Beginnings success story

When thinking back on her wide-ranging student experiences at a Blugold, Earle says it was her first major connection to campus, the Blugold Beginnings program, that gave her the support she needed to succeed academically, socially and culturally.

“I thank Blugold Beginnings for giving me the resources and opportunities I needed as an intimidated, overwhelmed and excited freshman,” Earle says.

Earle says the program, which serves historically excluded and first-generation students, provided her with essential financial support, and offered the chance to make a positive impact on others by mentoring 25 students in the cohort for two years.

Jodi Thesing-Ritter, EDI training coordinator at UW-Eau Claire, served as the director of Blugold Beginnings when Earle arrived on campus, and recalls a student who she says did not let any learning opportunities get away from her.

“Sofia maximized her UW-Eau Claire experience, seeking many opportunities to stretch and grow, from participating in the Civil Rights Pilgrimage to study abroad,” Thesing-Ritter says. “Sofia appreciates the importance of constantly working to increase cultural competence through learning opportunities, a perspective her peers learned from as well.”

Earle, who was named to the Dean's List for nine academic terms, believes that all the opportunities she was offered through the Blugold Beginnings program anchored her student success and will serve her throughout life.

“Blugold Beginnings set me up for success, and demonstrated the significance of cultural and racial understanding and the importance of community,” she says. “I would not have academically and personally succeeded as I did if it weren’t for this program.”