WSU Student Finds Joy in the Midst of Change

OGDEN, Utah – In a year full of uncertainty, Weber State University freshman Sophie Beck has experienced her fair share of ups and downs but has found joy in unexpected places.

On March 13, When Weber State transitioned spring semester 2020 to a virtual format, students quickly had to adjust to a new learning environment. Many students also faced changes to their home life as well. Beck was no exception to any of this as she made the decision early in March to move back with her family.

“Moving home was a little strange at first,” Beck said. “It almost felt like I was going backward in life because I had been away from home for quite a while, and now I was living at home again. Being able to focus on school helped me adjust to everything and feel a little bit more normal though.”

Beck wanted to be closer to her family in part to help her mom take care of her older sister, who has a rare genetic disorder called Wolf Hirschhorn Syndrome. The syndrome includes characteristic facial appearance, delayed growth and development, intellectual disability and seizures.

“My sister Hannah was previously living in a group home for adults with disabilities, but we decided it was best if we brought her home,” Beck said. “That way we could limit the number of people she has contact with, and we could also have her close to us and spend more time with her.”

Beck said becoming the primary caretakers for her sister was a major adjustment for her family, but the process has been rewarding. One of the things Hannah unexpectedly enjoys is listening to Sophie's professors as they deliver online lectures.

During the spring semester, Sophie was listening to her communication professor Susan Hafen deliver a lecture when Hannah suddenly started smiling and laughing in response to the sound of Hafen’s voice.

“I was just working on classes one day when it happened,” Beck said. “She’s always been really entertained by sounds and things like that, so I love to play music for her to see what kinds she likes and responds to. I never expected her to like the sound of my professor's voice, but she was sitting next to me and just seemed to really enjoy the sound of the lecture.”

Beck said moments like that are what have helped her find joy and hope during difficult times.

After high school, Beck briefly attended the Marymount Manhattan College dance program in New York, but quickly realized dance was not the right career path for her. With encouragement from her family, she decided to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

While on her church mission in Stockholm, Sweden, Beck found her passion for writing and journalism. When she returned to Utah, she decided to attend WSU as a communication major with an emphasis in multimedia journalism.

Although she has faced challenges in her first year at Weber State, Beck said her time at the university has been positive and fulfilling. With the help of her professors, the sudden move to online learning in the spring was made much easier.

“My biggest challenge has been trying to stay motivated and not get too anxious about everything going on,” Beck said. “Keeping a strict schedule for homework and focusing on positive moments has helped a lot, and my professors have also been really encouraging. I knew the professors at Weber State were awesome, but seeing them adapt to the current situation to help their students has grown my appreciation for them even more.”

Through all of these changes, including the stress of COVID-19, Beck said her relationship with Hannah has helped her see the good in the world and recognize that happiness can be found in the middle of the unknown.

“Hannah has been a rock for my family during this time, especially with everything being so uncertain,” Beck said. “It's been really awesome to have her around because she reminds us that it doesn't really matter what goes on around the world; we're together, and that's what's important. She has always helped us see the joy in everyday life. Now more than ever, she helped us keep a bigger perspective in mind and just enjoy the time we have.”

Next year, Beck said she will continue her studies at Weber State. She also plans to move into her own apartment, but close to her family, so she can continue to help her mom and spend time with her sister.

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Allison Barlow Hess, Public Relations director
801-626-7948 •


Shaylee Stevens, Office of Marketing & Communications
801-626-7948 •