When English Hinton left Hillsdale with her politics and art history degrees, she thought the school would forget about her. Now, Hinton has made Hillsdale history as the only graduate to work for the popular home improvement network, HGTV.
After graduating in 2018, Hinton attended the University of Georgia where she pursued a master’s degree in preservation. As part of her coursework, Hinton was required to write a thesis reflecting modern updates in the field.
“I wrote about how HGTV presents preservation,” Hinton explained. “I wanted to research shows that claimed to be doing some kind of preservation work, and HGTV is what people think of when they think of home renovations.”
Over the course of a year, Hinton researched her two favorite shows — “Rehab Addict” and “Restored by the Fords” — to ensure the network was doing its part for preservation.
“It’s important — at least, it’s important to me — that if they want to claim preservation, they’re actually doing preservation,” Hinton said.
Through the process of defending her thesis, Hinton said she grew an appreciation for HGTV’s preservation standards, which made her interested in working for the network.
“I remember sitting in the office one day with my thesis advisor and I told him, ‘one day I’m going to work on this show,’” Hinton said. “I don’t know how, I don’t know when, I don’t know why, but I just know that I have to.”
And after completing her thesis in April, Hinton did just that. She Instagram direct-messaged the project manager for ‘Home Town,’ a show that specializes in revitalizing historic homes, and a month later, Hinton was a construction intern for the show. Based in Laurel, Mississippi, the show’s hosts Ben and Erin Napier renovate at least 20 vintage homes a season.
After learning more about the show’s efforts to preserve historic properties, she decided to align herself with its mission — and soon, she was on site.
“I was on all the job sites they were working on,” Hinton said. “It was a lot of running errands, meeting with all the trades. I helped organize plumbers, electricians, carpenters, all of that.”
Hinton was present for season five of ‘Home Town.’ The specific projects she worked on are confidential, but they will air on the show later this year.
Jordyn Pair, one of Hinton’s former classmates and sorority sisters, said she wasn’t surprised at Hinton’s determination.
“She’s always been bold,” Pair said. “She has guts out the wazoo.”
Although Hinton said the internship revolved around many trades — construction, plumbing, carpenting — her background in liberal arts was crucial.
“It’s weird to go from a political philosophy degree to getting a master’s and then going into construction,” Hinton said. “It’s not your typical storyline. But, I started in preservation because of how Dr. Arnn used to talk about the Churchill quote: ‘We shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us.’”
Ken Koopmans, Executive Director of Career Services and Hinton’s former boss, said he always knew Hinton’s time at Hillsdale would contribute to her passion for preservation.
“Her Hillsdale education prepared her for this field because she has a respect for tradition, which is important when identifying objective beauty,” Koopmans said. “She’s got a good sense of how integrity, clarity, and due proportion create objective beauty.”
Although her educational background was crucial in securing the spotwith HGTV, Hinton’s go-getter attitude, which Koopmans witnessed during her time as a Career Coach, certainly helped.
“I remember her reaching out to me before school even started, asking how she could help with marketing career services programs,” Koopmans said. “She always took the initiative to think of what could make us more efficient. I could always count on English to follow through, and if processes didn’t work, she would identify why, and fix them.”
According to Pair, Hinton has always been dedicated to preserving tradition.
“When English found out we were removing some of the wallpaper in the Kappa house, she said, ‘what do you mean they took it out?’” Pair said, laughing. “It was awful wallpaper from the 70s, but that’s English. She has a strong relationship of preserving beauty.”
Now, Hinton will be working for Tom Williams Residential as assistant project manager and director of marketing for the company’s newly formed historic renovations and restorations division. Her goal? Starting a preservation division in the company.
“Williams Residential does a lot of custom builds in the Atlanta area, and they brought me on to start a preservation division of the company to focus on historic renovations,” Hinton said. “I’ll get to think about what is worth preserving and making historic spaces liveable while still retaining what makes them beautiful.”
Though bridging the gap between construction and a Hillsdale education is seemingly difficult, Hinton has one principle guiding her along her journey: beauty.
“A built environment reflects what’s valuable to a society,” Hinton said. “It’s important that our buildings are beautiful because beautiful things, beautiful buildings, draw us to beautiful things. Something beautiful happens inside buildings — and the home should be beautiful because you’re growing something of beauty there.”