As a little girl, Andra Hansen, a communication professor, never dreamed that the small and simple experiences that she had on a regular basis would lead her to where she is today, but those formative years were essential to the person she has become.
Hansen grew up in Idaho Falls as the youngest of six children. Her father left his stable job and started his own pharmacy the year she was born, so she had countless experiences working with him.
As a free service, Hansen’s father regularly made deliveries to customers who were too sick or elderly to pick up their medications themselves.
Hansen remembers being impressed that her father always remembered everything about everyone and genuinely cared about the people he served. She said this was one of the many experiences that shaped her desire to help people.
“I’m really confident that that had a profound effect on what I want to do and what seems valuable to do with my time,” Hansen said.
Hansen has been a faculty member in the Communication Department at BYU-Idaho for more than a decade.
Before her time at the university, Hansen spent time working in various disciplines, such as English and politics, but she believes the work she is doing now at BYU-I is the work that she has always wanted to do.
“I have always wanted work that was meaningful,” Hansen said. “For me, money is not an end to pursue. It always comes back to people and connecting to them in a meaningful way.”
Hansen is the director of VOICE Advocacy, a program that acts as an advocate for the citizens of Rexburg and the surrounding communities.
She feels passionate about the work that VOICE is doing and believes it will have a positive influence on students and on the campus.
“I hope for students that it increases their reach of empathy,” Hansen said. “I think that diversity of experience is a huge blessing. I also think that the university is so amazing, and we have the capacity to produce such an abundance of good.”
She is also passionate about helping students become professionally competitive through experiences with VOICE.
“They are going to get more professional skills,” Hansen said. “They just are working with diverse audiences, working off campus, working with peoples’ really different lifestyles, solving communication problems that start there between organizations and on a bigger scale. I really really believe that it can up their professional game.”
VOICE is a program that is independent of BYU-I, but students can get involved in a number of ways.
Under Hansen’s direction, VOICE is involved in two major projects: Suicide Prevention Training with the QPR Institute and Idaho Department of Correction’s reentry training program.
QPR Suicide Prevention Training is designed to train individuals on how to handle situations where someone they come into contact with might be at risk of suicide. The cost of the training is typically $29.95 per person, according to QPR’s website, but VOICE is making it possible for students to be trained for free.
In order to receive this free service, a student or faculty member must simply organize a group of about 20 individuals to take the course. So long as the event is student directed, the training is free.
Some examples Hansen suggested for easy groups to involve were Home Evening groups, roommates or classmates.
Hansen said this project will have a large impact on the campus as a whole and encourages all students to get trained.
The second big project that Hansen is involved in with VOICE is reentry training for Idaho Department of Correction.
These training seminars provide resources to offenders who are reentering society to make the transition back into their communities and families smooth and keep them out of situations in which they might re-offend.
Students who participate in the training have the opportunity to work directly with trainees and gain data by gathering and analyzing experiences.
Hansen is passionate about both of these projects and hopes students will take advantage of the opportunity to participate.
Hansen is always looking for VOICE volunteers. One way to get involved is to take the advocacy practicum 397R or COMM 470, Strategic Communication and Social Change. Prerequisites may be waived by speaking to Sister Hansen directly about particular circumstances.
For students who cannot participate directly by joining the classes, there are plenty of opportunities to help.
Hansen strongly believes that, while there are great needs all around the world, it is just as important to help with the needs that are right around us in our own community.
“A person in one place is as important as a person anywhere else,” she said. “You don’t have to change everything, but you know that you helped one person, and then that can multiply.”
Student and others can go to VOICE Advocacy on Facebook to see how you can get involved.