The Van Andel Graduate School of Statesmanship is planning to present diplomas to Hillsdale College’s first two doctorate recipients this May.
Kathleen Thompson and Nathan Gill will graduate with a doctor of philosophy in politics. Besides honorary degrees that Hillsdale has presented, these are the first two doctorates granted in the 174-year history of Hillsdale College.
Thompson, wife and mother of two with another on the way, completed her undergraduate work in English and politics at Texas’ University of Dallas, which boasts a similar liberal arts curriculum to Hillsdale. She entered the Van Andel Graduate School in 2012. Her studies focus on politics at the local and state levels and her doctoral thesis discusses the role of progressivism in home economics.
“The graduate school just started up when I entered, and it was the only one that focused not only on educating graduate students to become professors and join academia, but also educating for real politics,” Thompson said. “I was interested in the action-oriented aspect of Hillsdale’s program.”
Gill earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey and a master’s in politics from Regent University in Viriginia. He entered the graduate school in 2013. His research interests include the understanding of natural rights and social contract theory and their link to present-day progressivism. He said he has accepted a teaching position at a liberal arts college.
In order to earn their doctorates, Gill and Thompson completed the extensive list of core classes.
completed the extensive list of core classes.
These include studies in ancient to modern political philosophy, including Xenophon, Machiavelli, and Churchill, as well as two foreign languages.
They both completed their dissertations successfully in March.
Ronald Pestritto, graduate school dean and professor of politics, taught both Gill and Thompson in numerous classes throughout their four years in graduate school.
According to Pestritto, College President Larry Arnn envisioned starting a graduate school at the college since he began in 2000. Thanks to the generous donations of the Van Andel family and a fundraising campaign in 2010, the vision became reality in 2012 after the two-year accreditation process. The first cohort of students, including Thompson, began their post-graduate work in the fall 2012.
“There are a lot of people that should feel some satisfaction from seeing this moment at the college,” Pestritto said. “It’s true that I have been involved in it, but it is the work from a lot of different people. It really has pulled resources from all parts of the college.”
Pestritto said he believes the Van Andel Graduate School will graduate two to three doctoral students per year.
“The most rewarding thing about the Ph.D. program at Hillsdale is being able to have six years reading the great books and becoming familiar with them,” Thompson said. “It was an enormous privilege.”