Meet undergraduate student Hannah Desrochers

Hannah Desrochers in South Africa during education abroad summer experience.
Hannah Desrochers

Hannah Desrochers became a natural resources major after her first semester at UConn. She was looking for an exciting path that would take her coursework and career outdoors. Interested in wildlife conservation, she had the chance to study animals and their ecosystems during an education abroad trip to South Africa. The experience confirmed her passion to preserve habitat and protect animals for future generations. Read more about Hannah’s experiences as a UConn student.

What attracted you to the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources?

The hands-on nature of most of the majors in CAHNR is what originally attracted me to the College. I came to UConn as an undecided major with the one goal of never being stuck behind a desk for the rest of my life. I saw this goal becoming a reality within CAHNR and transferred in the spring of my freshman year.

What is your major, and why did you choose it?

I am a natural resources major concentrating in fisheries and wildlife conservation. I chose this major because I wanted to work with wild animals in a conservation setting. I want to make sure that those who come after me will be able to experience the same sense of wonder that I have through experiencing wildlife in their natural setting. The Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE) will allow me the opportunity to achieve this dream. Many of my classes have labs that are taught entirely or in part out in the field. How many other students can say that they routinely get to walk through UConn Forest for class?

Which one of your UConn activities, internships or jobs was the most memorable? Why?

The most meaningful experience I have had at UConn was the South African Field Ecology course that I participated in the summer after my freshman year. This course showed me that the whole world was my classroom, a concept that is especially true as a major in NRE. I had never been so invested in what I was learning, but then again, I had never had a learning experience quite like this one before. We were taught about different species and habitats by experiencing them out on game drives on the reserve we were staying on. Learning about the lifestyle of a lion is a completely different experience if you’re looking one in the eyes. Each day was a new learning experience because you could never be sure what you’d encounter in the bush.

Even the traditional style lectures were followed up with hands-on learning. One of the guest lecturers taught us about common species of reptiles in the area and then surprised us by bringing out several species of snakes to learn proper handling techniques. Handling a venomous snake with the knowledge that I knew what I was doing and that I was in complete control was one of the most empowering moments of my life. The most meaningful moment from the whole trip however was when I first saw a white rhino in real life. Seeing the beauty of this endangered animal with my own eyes confirmed for me that conservation was the perfect field for me.

Name two other experiences that have enriched your studies.

Being an ambassador for CAHNR and my experiences playing trombone in the music program have enriched my time at UConn beyond just my classes.

As an ambassador, I have had the pleasure of being able to connect with future Huskies and share my own experiences within CAHNR. I love to hear about the passions that future and current students have, as there is a wide range of majors within the College beyond my home in NRE. Being in a position to be able to connect with people who are just as passionate as I am, and to help new students find their own home in CAHNR have been a huge source of pride during my time here at UConn. I remember how overwhelmed I was when I began as an undecided student my freshman year. At the time, I didn’t even know what NRE was! I hope to be the person that helps new students find their place and helps them pursue their own passions.

Being a part of music groups on campus, playing trombone in the pep band for basketball games and the marching band, has allowed to balance my academic and career passions with my creative love for music. I believe these experiences have helped to round me as both a person and a UConn student.

What has the biggest challenge in your UConn career?

My biggest challenge in my UConn career was finding my place at such a large campus. Even though UConn is in my home state, it was a huge change for me. As clichéd as it sounds, joining organizations and getting involved helped me find my place here at UConn. Moving onto campus early in my freshman year for band allowed me to connect with people in my section before I even started my first semester. Throughout that first year, I was able to make friends through my learning community and from the clubs that I joined. Working at the Writing Center and the Financial Aid Office has also been a vital part of overcoming this challenge. These jobs have connected me with fantastic groups of people who have helped me beyond what I could have imagined when I first interviewed for each! I wouldn’t be where I am today without the people I have met here at UConn!

When do you expect to graduate? What then?

I expect to graduate next December after the fall 2020 semester. After I graduate, I plan to continue on to graduate school to get a master’s degree in wildlife biology and conservation. I hope to one day become a professor to inspire future generations of scientists or to do research to ensure that future generations will continue to be able to experience wildlife in nature.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?

I have a twin sister who also attends UConn, so if you see me around campus it might not actually be me! I also have two dogs named Zoe and Calhoun, who is named after the UConn basketball coach!

By Jason M. Sheldon