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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.”

 

Illus­tration by 

Hannah Ahern