Hillsdale College professors were recently ranked fourth best in the nation by the Princeton Review.
Every year, the admissions consulting company surveys over 122,000 students from 377 colleges and universities to create lists of the top schools in 62 categories. The diversity of categories — from “Best College Library” to “Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians” — allows for quite a few schools to be represented in the lists, and Hillsdale now stands among their ranks as number four in Princeton Review’s 2013 rankings for “Professors Get High Marks.”
Director of Admissions Jeff Lantis said the ranking is a “wonderful commentary on the great faculty we have at Hillsdale College,” particularly concerning its commitment to teaching and nurturing students.
“Our professors are great because they are teachers first,” he said. “There are plenty of professors out there that publish and write books but never see undergraduate students. That’s not the focus here. They do great research, some write books, but their primary focus has always been on teaching students.”
This emphasis on developing teacher-student relationships has had a long history; in fact, Lantis can recall his own apprehension as a Hillsdale student about meeting with his professor for the first time.
“I was a little nervous, and I had put it off until very late in the semester, but he had kept track and he said, ‘These are the four students that need to see me,’” he said. “And sure enough, we had a wonderful chat, and created some rapport, and really made the class more enjoyable.”
And as director of admissions, Lantis said he continues to hear stories of “great interaction and personal attention between students and faculty.”
Theo Harwood ‘11 graduated with a degree in Latin and is currently working on his doctorate in ancient philosophy at Cornell University.
“When I talk to my fellow graduate school students, they had a couple professors that they were mentored by in college,”
he said. “But I had at least a half a dozen that I was really quite close to.”
One professor in particular stands out for him.
“I remember a number of times going to Dr. [Joseph] Garnjobst’s office at night,” he said. “Whether it was help for work, or just to talk to him because I was depressed, he was an encouragement.”
Provost David Whalen said this personal quality is a strength inherent to the size and type of the college.
“Most small liberal arts colleges have faculty who care about their students,” he said.
Of the top 10 schools on the professor list, six of them are liberal arts schools.
While it is necessary for an excellent faculty, Whalen said that it is neither the student-teacher interaction nor Hillsdale’s scholarly reputation that distinguishes it from the rest, but a third indescribable aspect that puts Hillsdale above the rest.
“It occurs in the classroom, and it has to do with intellectual acuity tied to a passionate love for the student and the discipline. We don’t have a word for that, but it’s what makes for an excellent professor, and students recognize it,” Whalen said.
He also remarked that the professors here at Hillsdale go above and beyond in their capacity not only as professors, but as people.
“There’s this other thing [in a Hillsdale education] that will thrill you, and you’ll remember it for the rest of your life.”
“And in that,” Whalen said, “I don’t think anyone can touch us.”