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Life Story: Teacher recalled for international focus

Barb Rolland assisted international students, helped Hmong in area

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Barb Rolland wanted to help international students and newcomers acclimate and adjust to life in the Chippewa Valley, friends and colleagues say. Rolland worked with students while teaching at UW-Eau Claire, and she also was pivotal in assisting the Hmong community move to the area.

“She took care of international students from all over the world,” recalled Fay Bob, who worked alongside Rolland in the UW-Eau Claire international student office in the 1970s and 1980s. “She was committed to seeing them be successful when they got here.”

Rolland died Wednesday at the age of 89. Funeral services will be held 11 a.m. today at First Presbyterian Church in Eau Claire.

Rolland taught French at UW-Eau Claire in the foreign languages department from 1960 until 1993, according to the university’s public relations office. She also taught English as a second language. She helped create the International Folk Fair in the mid-1960s, according to the university. The annual event has continued after she retired — it was held April 29 this year. The event draws thousands of people to campus.

In 1974, Rolland began serving as the university’s foreign student adviser as well as her role teaching French. Rolland did a sit-down, recorded interview in 1987 with university officials, talking about the importance of working with those students.

“I think because one of the things we try and do in foreign languages is say look, this culture is not the same as our culture,” Rolland told the interviewers. “We’re all people, but in addition to having a different language, there are different things that they expect, there are different things that they are going to look for, there are different ways of doing things.”

Rolland added: “This is a pretty big world, but we all live here together.”

Rolland and her husband, Alvin, wanted to make the students feel at home.

“She’d have gatherings at her home, like barbecues, with the students,” Bob said. “They hosted international students themselves.”

Rolland was fascinated with learning about other people, Bob said.

“She just really cared about others, their cultures, and nationalities, and she wanted to help them learn the language and help them succeed at UW-Eau Claire,” Bob said. “Even after the international students graduated, I know she kept in touch with many of them.”

week for Rolland, and Rolland would record it and distribute the tapes to high schools inAnne-Marie Bittner, who was born in France but now lives in Eau Claire, said she would do a ‘radio show’ entirely in French each the area.

“She was the nicest person,” Bittner said. “She was always smiling, always wanting to help.”

Bob described Rolland as an outgoing person.

“She was very involved in a lot of things,” Bob said. “She was very friendly.”

Rolland worked to help the Hmong community adjust to life in the Chippewa Valley. However, no one currently working at the Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association worked alongside her.

Contact: chris.vetter@ecpc.com


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