Outstanding Family and Consumer Sciences graduate: How one woman found purpose through tragedy

Bella Olsson kissing a dog on the forehead

Bella Olsson followed a winding path to graduate from Colorado State University with a degree in family and consumer sciences in the School of Education. After originally declaring another major, it wasn’t until the loss of her brother that she found her true calling as an educator.

Finding her calling

Originally from Winter Park, Colorado, Olsson came to CSU for the connection to the natural environment and her familial connections to Fort Collins. An avid enthusiast of mountain biking, hiking, skiing, camping, and anything that will allow her to get outdoors, CSU was a great fit for Olsson.

“When I toured the campus, I instantly loved CSU and felt at home,” Olsson said.

Bella Olsson
Bella Olsson returned to CSU after her brother’s death with a new path ahead of her.

During Olsson’s time as an undergraduate, she had to overcome several financial, personal, and familial challenges on top of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The most devastating challenge, though, was the unexpected loss of her older brother over Christmas of 2017.

“Losing him was earth stopping and life-shattering, at the time it was hard to imagine continuing through school,” said Olsson. “It was so difficult for me to work through my grief and trauma from losing my brother and I chose to take some time away from CSU at this point and I focused on healing from the loss.”

Thankfully, Olsson found the strength to return to campus and was greeted with open arms.

“When I was ready to come back to school, CSU welcomed me back and helped me find a place again,” Olsson said.

Upon her return, however, Olsson had come to the realization that her passions lay with family and consumer sciences where she could work with young people. She credits her brother’s passing with proving her clarity.

“I realized after this tragic event that I had a different calling and passion than what I was pursuing at the time,” said Olsson. “After meeting with Dawn Mallette about the Family and Consumer Sciences Program, I knew that the challenges I faced were bringing me to this new place in my life.”

Mallette, an associate professor in the School of Education and chair of the Family and Consumer Sciences Program, became Olsson’s adviser through this transitional period. Having a supportive, empathetic presence by her side was critical to Olsson’s success as a student.

“Dawn allowed me to grow as an educator and fall in love with the content I was going to be teaching,” Olsson said.

Carving out her space at CSU

Olsson spent many of her summers working at a local pool in Fort Collins: managing, teaching swim lessons, and coaching a swim team. Here, she was able to tap into her love for educating and expand her understanding of mentoring youth.

“Every summer I always looked forward to working, coaching the swimmers, and building relationships with the members at the pool,” she said.

During the school year, Olsson worked hard to make a name for herself in CSU’s Family and Consumer Sciences Program. She has a lot to be proud of, from making the leap to a different major part-way through her college career to then flourishing in her new environment.

Bella Olsson petting a dog in the woods
Olsson will begin her teaching career this fall.

“I think one of the biggest accomplishments I had at CSU was finding my place in family and consumer sciences,” Olsson said. “I met some amazing people in the education program who helped to support me and encourage me in the content. I am so grateful for all the experiences I had within the program that have allowed me to grow into the educator I am.”

After creating such profound and enduring memories, what Olsson will miss most from CSU is the same thing she came for: the campus.

“I will miss spring days studying outside on CSU’s campus and walking around during the autumn months when the leaves cover the ground,” said Olsson. “CSU has such a beautiful campus with natural spaces that made me feel closer to my home in the mountains.”

State recognition

On May 5 during Teacher Appreciation Week, Olsson was honored as one of the state’s top aspiring educators in a virtual ceremony. She was named to the Future Educator Honor Roll by the Colorado Department of Higher Education and the Colorado Department of Education. Olsson was nominated by Mallette for this recognition.

Plans after graduation

This fall, Olsson will begin her teaching career at Mountain View High School in Loveland, Colorado. It’s clear that she’s on the right path just in the enthusiasm she has for this new journey.

“I am so excited to be a full-time educator, working with students and encouraging others to pursue their dreams!” Olsson said.

Family and Consumer Sciences is an undergraduate degree program offered by the School of Education, part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.