UW-Eau Claire graduate believes ‘everything’s possible’

Veteran and mom Angela Hazen shared her life story last Thursday


Photo by Kar Wei Cheng

Angela Hazen gave advice about overcoming adversity to the audience in the Council Oak Room last Thursday.

In the face of challenges like domestic abuse, cancer and child custody battles, a UW-Eau Claire graduate from the class of 2017, Angela Hazen said she stays grounded in her dreams.

“I know what I want in life, and I’m going to move forward,” Hazen said.

Hazen was invited to speak by the Women’s Resource Center as part of Women’s History Month celebrations last Thursday in the Council Oak room of the Davies Student Center. The veteran shared her life story and offered her advice in honesty and perseverance.

Hazen’s story began on a rural dairy farm in Eau Claire, where she grew up with her brothers and sisters. In addition to helping around the farm, Hazen said she participated in 4-H and loved horseback riding. Her brother’s wife, a college graduate, mentored her during her childhood.

After high school, Hazen enlisted in the U.S. Army. Basic training provided Hazen with stability and care, she said. Despite her boyfriend’s wishes for her to leave the army, Hazen stayed put, eventually excelling in physical fitness.

When Hazen left basic training, she married her boyfriend and moved to Alaska to work on a military base. Hazen said she soon found that the “real world” was different — Hazen discovered her husband cheated on her and sought an annulment.

“You learn a lot of things in life,” Hazen said. “Think about that — it’s always better to tell the truth. If we all did that, we’d have a much happier life.”

Hazen’s next relationship was even worse, she said. Her then-partner “turned violent” when things didn’t go his way and sexually assaulted Hazen. In act of self defense, Hazen kicked her boyfriend in the stomach, which sent him to the hospital. She packed up her bags and lef

“Probably the best decision in my life,” Hazen said, “(was) to get out of that relationship.”

Meanwhile, at her job, Hazen faced verbal sexual assault from her coworkers. Everything started spiraling downward, Hazen said, when she had a miscarriage. She annulled her then-marriage and left the military.

Survivors of assault, whether physical, sexual or verbal, shouldn’t be embarrassed to leave and/or ask for help, Hazen said.

Then Hazen met a single dad, who she called “Joe,” and fell in love. The two married, and Joe’s job took the family back to Eau Claire. Hazen’s family eventually grew to include three daughters and one stepson.

Hazen’s eldest daughter, Nicole, was diagnosed with leukemia. Treatment was a long and hard road for everyone, Hazen said, but Nicole was strong and beat cancer. Today, Nicole is healthy and pregnant with a child of her own.

At UW-Eau Claire, Hazen was working as a campus police officer, a position that allowed her to enroll in classes for free. When Joe was deployed to the Middle East, Hazen was forced to drop her classes in order to care for her children.

It would be a while before Hazen could return to school. When Joe returned, their marriage fell apart in an “ugly divorce.” Her ex-husband fought her for the custody of their daughters. Hazen said he hired a private investigator and had her followed.

But even at her lowest, Hazen said she never stopped believing she was a good person. She eventually gained custody of her daughters and decided to return to school once again, this time earning a bachelor’s degree in a subject she loves: Fine arts.

“If you have a passion for something in life, follow that passion,” Hazen said.

Hazen is putting her degree to work designing and printing T-shirts out of her house.

“Art’s always been an avenue for myself,” Hazen said.

However, art and design aren’t her only work — Hazen said she drives a semi-truck to put dinner on the table. In fact, Hazen owns a business; She has two trucks and trailers that she uses to transport materials for Menards.

Madeleine Vruwink, a junior business student, said she was inspired by Hazen’s story.

“We all go through hard lived experiences,” Vruwink said. “But we know it is all going to be okay in the end.

Hazen said she finds solace in the cab of her trucks. On the road, she listens to audiobooks and reflects on her life. Although her years have been full of challenges, Hazen said she tries to stay optimistic and keep moving forward.

“With determination and desire,” Hazen said, “everything’s possible.”