“You can make change in America through the Marshall Scholarship,” said Adam Mortara, Marshall Scholarship selection committee chair and professor of law at the University of Chicago. “I need you. So make a sacrifice.”
In an interview-style talk last Thursday in Dow A&B, Mortara spoke with former Chief Deputy Solicitor General of Wisconsin Ryan Walsh ’09 about how Hillsdale College students are essential to forces like elite higher education and how their conservative and Christian values can represent America through the Marshall Scholarship.
“You guys are here and the rest of the world is essentially hostile to what we believe,” Mortara said. “And you’re going to go out there and that’s just the world we live in and we need to understand how to live in that world.”
Mortara is also a well-known litigator in a case against Harvard regarding affirmative action, in which they uncovered that Harvard had conducted an internal investigation on whether it was discriminating against Asian-American applicants, discovered it was, and swept the data analysis under the rug. He said the case made him realize that irrespective of your opinion on affirmative action, something is “deeply wrong” with elite higher education.
“Before I let my kid go to Harvard, Princeton, or Yale, she’s got to come visit this place,” Mortara said. “That’s what I learned from the Harvard litigation.”
Walsh said despite students being challenged at Hillsdale, they believe they cannot compete against elite schools such as Harvard or Yale when it comes to challenging scholarships or career tracks such as law school or medical school.
“When we come to Hillsdale, many folks in this audience had perfect GPAs in high school. They come here, they’re challenged,” Walsh said. “They get bad grades, they learn they don’t know how to write, they don’t know how to reason. They don’t know as much as they think they know when they apply. And we think, ‘This is a tough place, this is a rigorous place.’”
Mortara said Hillsdale students should compete because it is immediately apparent that the students are “fully engaged, well-rounded,” and “likely to be more mature.”
“Each of them had a more well-rounded education than virtually anyone else I was teaching, and that’s what I noticed about Hillsdale at first,” Mortara said. “Coming from the Marshall Scholarship selection side, what I can tell you is we want Hillsdale applicants. President Arnn told me earlier tonight there has never been a Hillsdale Marshall scholar; that is incredible to me.”
Mortara said people need to talk about Hillsdale College more, and Hillsdale College students have something to represent that they can fight for anywhere.
“Don’t think the only place to wage this battle is in law school,” Mortara said. “That is not true. We need you out there everywhere. Everywhere.”
The general liberal arts education is valuable to things like the Marshall Scholarship because so many applicants are hyper-specialized, Mortara said. Marshall scholars pursue academics at Cambridge and learn more about the UK.
“The first thing we look at is, is this person representative of America? Is he going to be a good representative of the United States in Great Britain? And is this person going to be somebody who takes what they learned in Great Britain and brings it back to the United States?” Mortara said. “You are much better equipped to do that if you are not a one-trick pony. And Hillsdale kids — men and women — are not one-trick ponies.”
Junior Abby Leali said in an email the talk was “an eye-opener” and inspired her to think “more deeply about applying.” She said Mortara was informative and a “good balance between professionalism and sincere love for life.”
“I got a sense of real charity from him, and his emphasis on the formation of the whole person made me even more interested in the Marshall Scholarship than I otherwise would have been,” Leali said.
She said many see Hillsdale as just a conservative force but she “would never have come to Hillsdale unless I was convinced that it was a safe but challenging place to pursue truth.”
“I think the real Hillsdale brand are the students that the school forms: mature, outward-focused, and passionate about what they’re trying to do. And they have solid reasons for the things they do, grounded in logic and, more often than not, in faith,” Leali said. “That alone really sets us apart from the crowd, I think. We know how to think, and, maybe even more importantly, we learn about compassionate, constructive dialogue.”