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Hillsdale Col­lege’s Central Hall. Carmel Kookogey | Col­legian

The year of 2020 has been a chal­lenging time for everybody in dif­ferent ways. As a senior at Hillsdale College, most of this semester has been very frus­trating, but it’s also given me time to reflect upon what I’ve learned from being a student here. 

From these reflec­tions, I cannot help but be grateful. 

Three weeks ago, I was sitting in iso­lation due to contact tracing. I’ll never forget how upset I was when my housemate texted me and told me she had tested pos­itive for COVID-19, and she was putting me on her list. 

I was dev­as­tated. 

While typing emails to all of my pro­fessors and employers, I felt like some­thing I loved so much had been ripped out of my hands. I loved being in class and going to my on-campus jobs. I loved going to Col­legian assignment meetings and inter­viewing stu­dents for stories in person. 

As I pre­pared for my two weeks in iso­lation, I knew that all of those things that I loved would be missing. 

I didn’t want to sit at home and watch lec­tures from a classmate’s iPhone or listen to a lecture from class two days later. I wanted to go to class and engage in dis­cussion. I wanted to go to work and cel­e­brate the end of the semester with my coworkers. 

In my first couple of days in iso­lation, I was bitter and angry. 

After a couple of days, however, my per­spective changed. 

I was still upset about missing all of the in-person activ­ities on campus, but I realized in a new way how blessed I was to be attending Hillsdale. 

I hear stu­dents and faculty say, “Hillsdale is a special place” at least once a week. And there are countless good reasons to make this claim. 

For me, Hillsdale is a special place because of its com­mitment to the mission. As a senior, I’ve come to learn that few places have a mission and stand by it in unprece­dented cir­cum­stances. 

The first sen­tence of the college’s mission states, “Hillsdale College is an inde­pendent insti­tution of higher learning founded in 1844 by men and women ‘grateful to God for the ines­timable blessings’ resulting from civil and reli­gious liberty and ‘believing that the dif­fusion of learning is essential to the per­pe­tuity of these blessings.’”  

The remaining parts of the mission explain the college’s com­mitment to its stu­dents and society as “a non­sec­tarian Christian insti­tution,” but I want to focus on the first sen­tence of the mission. 

The men and women who founded this college 176 years ago were “grateful.” I don’t know all of the obstacles they faced in 1844, but I can imagine that founding a college is not for the faint of heart. 

Founding a college is dif­ficult, yes, but I would argue that main­taining a college in a way in which it embodies and defends its founding ideas is a more daunting task. 

Hillsdale College remains true to its founding prin­ciples. 

Its stu­dents and faculty are living proof of this fact. 

Throughout 2020, the stu­dents and faculty at Hillsdale College have acted faith­fully to the mission by embodying this opening sen­tence. 

I became filled with grat­itude while in iso­lation because of the out­pouring of love and concern I received from class­mates, pro­fessors, and employers. People in each one of these cat­e­gories sac­ri­ficed bits of their day to help me succeed and learn while I could not be on campus.  

Yes, I was not in class or at work, but I had friends who killed their phone bat­teries so that I could listen to lec­tures in real time. I had friends who spent hours fig­uring out how to send me recorded lec­tures in the middle of their busy weeks. My pro­fessors ensured that I had every­thing I needed to keep up with class while I was in iso­lation. Many pro­fessors reached out to me while I was in iso­lation just to see how I was doing. 

I don’t know what being in iso­lation is like at other col­leges. But I doubt any other college has stu­dents and faculty who are as com­mitted as the com­munity at Hillsdale to helping all stu­dents succeed regardless of the curve­balls 2020 throws our way. 

I am grateful for all of the won­derful knowledge I have gathered during the past 3.5 years here at Hillsdale. But more impor­tantly, I am immensely grateful for the beau­tiful rela­tion­ships I have formed with the stu­dents and faculty. 

This year has put everyone to a great test. In many ways, 2020 has asked each of us to reevaluate what matters most to us. 

For the com­munity at Hillsdale College, it’s unmis­takably clear that the edu­cation of its stu­dents to be good human beings remains the most important aspect of this insti­tution. 

I’m grateful to everyone in the Hillsdale com­munity for meeting the chal­lenges of 2020, and I would ask everyone to reflect upon the ways this com­munity has helped them grow in the middle of one of America’s most tur­bulent times.

 

Julia Mullins is a senior studying pol­itics.