Sometimes one moment can change a lifetime. As a student in eighth grade, Stephanie Hoff committed her life to becoming the next Katie Couric. When the long-time journalist retired, Hoff would be there to take the reins. She poured herself into studying journalism and communication, and when she graduated from high school, she slammed the door shut on her way out of town.

"You know those kids who say the grass is always greener? And they're going to find it?" Hoff asks with a smile, "Well, I was one of those kids."

Maybe it was the impetuousness of youth, but she was ready to set the world on fire. Hoff entered a course on journalism and communications at a nearby university, fascinated while studying the delicacy of objective journalism. She worked side-by-side with journalists in the field and in the studio. Through the lens of their experience and her own, she saw the challenge of a 24-hour news cycle and the sacrifices required to succeed as a television news anchor. In some ways, the reality didn't match her expectations.

During her senior year of college, Hoff and a fellow student took on a self-appointed final project (an unconventional decision, she jokes, that is telling of her personality). They would film a documentary, covering women as journalists at the local, regional, and national levels. The project took her as far as New York City, where she scored an interview with, well, who else?

"Since I was going to be Katie Couric's successor, I figured I should interview her," Hoff explains.

But there was a problem – a growing unease. News personalities…were running themselves ragged. Working lengthy shifts, missing their children's milestones. Many of the anchors hired professional nannies to supplement their own absence, and often breaking a big story took precedent over friends, family, and compassion.

Her big break wasn't seeing her name in lights. Instead, Hoff was traveling to location with another journalist to cover an accident story. That was all they had been told. The team rushed to the scene to learn the horrible truth: a child, drowned and lifeless. Her job was to tell the world, and the realization crushed her.

"That was not our story to tell, but we told it," Hoff recalls, her tone somber, her voice just louder than the air blowing through a nearby vent. "It made me ill. This was somebody's baby."

That one moment changed everything. Hoff faced an impossible decision. Would she back down on her dream and a promise? Could she walk away from the journey she was on?

"I had to choose. I could stay on this path—and I could slay it—but what would it do to me? I didn't know what I was going to do, so my fiancé (now husband, Nathan) and I moved home."

 

 

Sometimes one moment can change a lifetime. As a student in the eighth grade, Stephanie Hoff committed her life to becoming the next Katie Couric. When the long-time journalist retired, Hoff would be there to take the reins. She poured herself into studying journalism and communication, and when she graduated from high school, she slammed the door shut on her way out of town.
"You know those kids who say the grass is always greener? And they're going to find it?" Hoff asks with a smile, "Well, I was one of those kids."
Maybe it was the impetuousness of youth, but she was ready to set the world on fire. Hoff entered a course on journalism and communications at a nearby university, fascinated while studying the delicacy of objective journalism. She worked side-by-side with journalists in the field and in the studio. Through the lens of their experience and her own, she saw the challenge of a 24-hour news cycle and the sacrifices required to succeed as a television news anchor. In some ways, the reality didn't match her expectations.
During her senior year of college, Hoff and a fellow student took on a self-appointed final project (an unconventional decision, she jokes, that is telling of her personality). They would film a documentary, covering women as journalists at the local, regional, and national level. The project took her as far as New York City, where she scored an interview with, well, who else?
"Since I was going to be Katie Couric's successor, I figured I should interview her," Hoff explains.
Everything was to plan, but there was a problem – a growing unease. News personalities…were running themselves ragged. Working lengthy shifts, missing their children's milestones. Many of the anchors hired professional nannies to supplement their own absence, and often the newsroom and breaking a big story took precedent over friends, family, and compassion.
Her big break wasn't seeing her name in lights. Instead, Hoff was traveling to location with another journalist to cover an accident story. That was all they had been told. The team rushed to the scene to learn the horrible truth: a child, drowned and lifeless. Her job was to tell the world, and the realization crushed her.
"That was not our story to tell, but we told it," Hoff recalls, her tone somber, her voice just louder than the air blowing through a nearby vent. "It made me ill. This was somebody's baby."
That one moment changed everything. Hoff faced an impossible decision. Would she back down on her dream and a promise? Could she walk away from the journey she was on?
"I had to choose. I could stay on this path—and I could slay it—but what would it do to me? I didn't know what I was going to do, so my fiancé (now husband, Nathan) and I moved home."

Finding Herself at Home

 
Stephanie Hoff's life was on pause. She returned to her hometown, but what she found was more than breathing room. She found friends. She found family. She found her memories and her future alive and well in Fergus Falls.
"It wasn't in our life plan to move to Fergus Falls," she says. “But, I rediscovered a community aligned with the life I want to live."
She wanted to know her neighbors, recognize the faces at the grocery store. An opportunity came with the area Chamber of Commerce, and Hoff became the new executive director. Then, a few years later, she assumed a role in communications with Otter Tail Power Company, headquartered in Fergus Falls. Today she serves on the executive team as Director of Communications.
There was something unique about Hoff. She was a woman succeeding in fields dominated by men, and that made her a mentor to other women seeking help to balance work, life, and personal passion projects. Many of these women had hit a wall and needed direction. Big ideas always ended with the question, "How are we going to do this?"
"It's scary." Hoff says, "Especially if you don't know how to answer those questions."
To bolster her mentorship, she enrolled in a professional coaching course on her personal time, spending 10 months and hundreds of hours learning how to ask questions that fostered introspection, that encouraged taking time to understand the person in the mirror rather than a prescribed recipe for success. Meanwhile, the isolation of the pandemic left many alone to their thoughts, and Hoff says some responded to the disruption by working harder than ever.
"All they knew was that running hard and fast felt safer and easier than doing nothing and not knowing – so they kept running."

Arm-in-Arm

 

Hoff's mentorship training put her in contact with people from across the globe. She studied in workshops, was coached through her own development, and served as a coach to others. In the process, she developed a digital curriculum, something that she calls I CHOOZ.

"I had no idea this was what I was preparing for," Hoff says. All she knew was, "there were women coming to me with life's questions, and I wanted to do better for them."

With the upheaval of the pandemic and major national and global events, Hoff believed her program could be used to help others. She reached out to Greater Fergus Falls, hoping to bring her classes to the masses, and she walked away with a plan.

Hoff is passionate about her role at Otter Tail Power Company—and across Otter Tail Corporationcommitted to enterprise work on healthy work / life integration.

In addition, she hopes her online course—narrated by Hoff and including documentation at every step—will help more people than she ever could in a one-on-one capacity.

"I know with every fiber of my being that I was put on this earth to help other women through the experiences I've had.”

Ultimately, Hoff hopes to foster a community of women working with and for other women.

 

[Written by local author R.C. Drews]

Arm-in-Arm

Hoff's mentorship training put her in contact with people from across the globe. She studied in workshops, was coached through her own development, and served as a coach to others. In the process, she developed a digital curriculum, something that she calls I CHOOZ.

"I had no idea this was what I was preparing for," Hoff says. All she knew was, "there were women coming to me with life's questions, and I wanted to do better for them."

With the upheaval of the pandemic and major national and global events, Hoff believed her program could be used to help others. She reached out to Greater Fergus Falls, hoping to bring her classes to the masses, and she walked away with a plan.

Hoff is passionate about her role at Otter Tail Power Company—and across Otter Tail Corporation. She is committed to enterprise work on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

In addition, she hopes her online course—narrated by Hoff and including documentation at every step—will help more people than she ever could in a one-on-one capacity.

 

"I know with every fiber of my being that I was put on this earth to help other women through the experiences I've had.”

 

Ultimately, Hoff hopes to foster a community of women working with and for other women.