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Senior Nathan Stein­meyer is one of many Hillsdale stu­dents preparing for graduate school. Courtesy | Facebook

When most stu­dents reach the last month of spring semester, the con­stant refrain is “we’re almost done!”

Those seniors heading to graduate pro­grams, however, have only just begun.

After forcing down an alphabet soup of tests, including the MCAT, GRE, and LSAT, stu­dents have finally heard the verdict on where they will spend the next four to six years of their lives.

Whether they hail from the eco­nomics, religion, or science depart­ments, these soon-to-be graduate stu­dents have spent years and months honing their interests and learning to artic­ulate their pas­sions.

The process of pur­suing their par­ticular fields while still in under­graduate work at Hillsdale College has already proven the cre­ativity and resource­fulness they will con­tinue to develop in graduate level work.

Many of them have had to work with pro­fessors to pursue a spe­cific interest for which Hillsdale College doesn’t have an estab­lished program.

Katie Wright, an eco­nomics major headed to Arizona State Uni­versity to pursue her Ph.D. in sus­tain­ability, said her focus on resource eco­nomics led to a “trans­dis­ci­plinary” expe­rience at Hillsdale.

She started by seeking advice from both the biology and eco­nomics depart­ments, but, through the advice of asso­ciate pro­fessor of eco­nomics Charles Steele, asso­ciate pro­fessor of eco­nomics, dis­covered ways to make resource eco­nomics “infil­trate basi­cally every part of my life,” including her classes on linear algebra and public finance.

Another upcoming graduate student, Nathan Stein­meyer, traced his interest in Bib­lical studies through the religion, phi­losophy, and classics depart­ments.

Stein­meyer con­vinced Don West­blade, assistant pro­fessor of religion, to teach an addi­tional class in Bib­lical Hebrew and also to supervise two semesters of an inde­pendent study program. He then found an oppor­tunity with the classics department’s Joshua Fincher, vis­iting asso­ciate pro­fessor, to study the lit­er­ature of Fincher’s own culture: Judaism.

Steinmeyer’s work has paid off. In the next several years, he will pursue a Masters of Arts in Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Hebrew Uni­versity of Jerusalem, which allows him to study “the crossover between history and religion.”

“We tend to over-spir­i­tu­alize the Bible, espe­cially when it comes to the Old Tes­tament,” Stein­meyer said. “Once you start to learn the history about it, it makes the work so much more beau­tiful and adds so much depth.”

Madison Frame and Steve Sartore fol­lowed a more linear route. Frame will com­plete her degree in bio­chem­istry this spring, alongside Sartore with his degree in biology.

While Sartore took the pre-med track and looks toward his Ph.D. in osteo­pathic med­icine, Frame’s graduate-level interests drew her to research.

What got Frame “really jazzed about research” was not a class, but rather a research project with Courtney Meyet, asso­ciate pro­fessor of chem­istry, the summer fol­lowing her freshman year.

Frame’s love for research drove her to pursue graduate work, since graduate school is less about coursework and more about full-time lab­o­ratory work, she said.

“Research is dis­cov­ering new things,” Frame said, “and I love the feeling of doing exper­i­ments which no one else has ever done before.”

Frame’s par­ticular interest is with viruses, or, “tiny mol­e­cular zombies,” which she plans to research at the Uni­versity of Michigan as part of its Program in Bio­medical Sci­ences.

This program attracted Frame because of the many virus labs that it offers.

“Having a lot of variety in the options that are available means that there is more oppor­tunity for me to find a mentor that I work well with and a project I’m inter­ested in,” Frame said.  

The research project she chooses will shape the rest of Frame’s five years at Uni­versity of Michigan, similar to a human­ities graduate student’s choice of dis­ser­tation topic.

Steve Sartore prefers the clinic over the lab­o­ratory.

He was accepted into the D.O. (Doctor of Osteo­pathic Med­icine) program at Lake Erie College of Osteo­pathic Med­icine near Tampa, Florida.

For Sartore, med­icine “is one of the few pas­sions that com­bines my love of people, love of science, and fas­ci­nation with the human body.”

While both MD and DO prac­ti­tioners write pre­scrip­tions and perform surg­eries, osteo­pathic doctors (D.O.’s) have addi­tional training in chi­ro­practic work, Sartore said. Osteo­pathic doctors “try the natural method of healing using the body’s own processes to heal itself before writing pre­scrip­tions,” which appeals to his per­sonal phi­losophy of med­icine.

Sartore’s accep­tance to Lake Erie College may commit him to more than four to six years in school; it may also involve another four to six years as a doctor in the United States Navy.

Sartore is pur­suing a Navy schol­arship for his time in medical school for the chance to treat “the best of the best” and because of his per­sonal admi­ration for Navy men.

“I’ve been sur­rounded by Navy people with Chief Rogers, Coach Harner, and my next door neighbor,” Sartore said. “They all have exem­plary char­acter, and they’re products of the Navy.”

In the next several years, senior Razi Lane hopes to find himself among Navy per­sonnel as well. This fall, Lane will attend Uni­versity of Notre Dame’s law program, with the goal of prac­ticing mil­itary law as part of the JAG (Judge Advocate General’s) Corps.

“Law is a field that is not only dynamic in today’s world, but which also offers the most flex­i­bility in terms of access to oppor­tu­nities to help people,” Lane said.

Prac­ticing mil­itary law in the Navy would involve “every­thing from family law to uniform code of mil­itary justice,” Lane said, in addition to exposing him to the influence of mar­itime law on marine policy.

The Uni­versity of Notre Dame was Lane’s top choice and attracted his attention because “they want to be a force for good, and I’ve always wanted to con­tinue that tra­dition.”

To some, including intim­i­dated under­grads, being accepted into graduate school rep­re­sents the road to a suc­cessful career. But these stu­dents aren’t pur­suing a pay­check, a million-dollar sub­urban house, or a Mer­cedes SUV.

“It’s def­i­nitely a bal­ancing act,” Stein­meyer said. “Going on in your career is incredibly important…but you’re going to have your whole life to pursue your career. It’s very important to take the time today to spend time with friends and time doing the things you love.”

Sartore rep­re­sents a con­sistent theme among Hillsdale’s upcoming graduate stu­dents: he finds some of the things he loves most in his field of interest.

Sartore explained his interest in osteo­pathic med­icine: “You get to take away pain. How many people to you talk to that can say, “I take away people’s pain for a living? On top of that, they tell me I get paid to do that? That’s awesome.”

Wright found her desired spe­cialty in resource eco­nomics through her pre-existing love for nature. After plunging herself into resource eco­nomics, she realized she couldn’t see herself doing any­thing but researching fish­eries and water rights.

In addition to her fas­ci­nation with fish­eries, Wright found that resource eco­nomics wasn’t simply a story of state-of-natural sur­vival, but held oppor­tu­nities to “benefit the resource and the con­sumer by just defining the rules of the game.”

Lane’s moti­vation is simply “the desire to help people.”

“I want to put myself in a position where I can help as many people become the very best people they can pos­sibly be,” he said.