UD & Hillsdale college: A tale of two colleges

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Teresa Mull
Contributing Writer

A private, liberal arts school stands in a somewhat uninspiring, in-between location. Its student body consists of approximately 1,400 generally conservative and religion-oriented students. These students study a core curriculum under the guidance of faculty whose ratio to students is 1/10.

The features just listed are as familiar as they are astonishing, since every fact applies both to the University of Dallas and to Hillsdale College, located in Hillsdale, Michigan. Another noteworthy statistic is the number of Dallas to ‘Dale (and vice versa) professor trade-offs which have taken place of late.

The most recent faculty transfer was announced last semester and resulted in the departure of Dr. Thomas West, former politics department chair, along with his wife Dr. Grace Starry-West, classics professor. Prior to the West’s heading North, UD saw Dr. John Grant, long-time dean of student life, trade in his Crusader blue and white for a different hue of Charger blue.

Dr. Andrew Moran of the English department has also taught at Hillsdale. He has seen a number of similarities between the two schools. “Hillsdale and UD are alike primarily in the type of students they attract, students who are bright and ambitious and who are willing to work hard because they recognize that a liberal arts education is a good in itself,” he said.

Dr. Thomas West, who has taught at Hillsdale for two weeks, expressed a similar impression.

“So far it is very similar to UD,” West said. “Students are bright, polite and generally interested in what I have to say.”

The Princeton Review’s annual rankings of American colleges also reflected the two schools’ similarities. Though Hillsdale is no longer affiliated with any denomination, it was ranked as having the second most religious students, with UD coming in sixth. UD came in at number six again as having the most conservative students, and Hillsdale at number one.  UD and Hillsdale also share spots on the list under the categories of “Future Rotarians and Daughters of the American Revolution,” and “Don’t Inhale.”

For Moran, however, UD’s cohesive curriculum places the university higher than Hillsdale.

“UD’s great advantage is its curriculum,” Moran said. “Hillsdale professors offer great individual classes, but there’s not much coherence to the curriculum as its largely based around distribution requirements.”

Senior assignments also make UD better, according to Moran. “Hillsdale also doesn’t have required senior projects and comprehensive exams, as most of our majors do – just honors theses for the best students,” he said.

Dr. Laura Baugh, biology professor, earned her B.A. in English from Hillsdale. She noted that Greek Life at Hillsdale “really dominates the social scene.” Baugh also said that since Hillsdale is a college and not a university, the “opportunities for higher level research and exposure to a graduate school environment are less readily available to the students.”

Moran agreed on the impact that the Braniff Graduate School has on UD as a whole.

“The presence of the graduate program further lifts the intellectual aspirations of the community,” he said. “Teaching graduate courses, for example, challenges the professors, which has a trickle-down effect on undergraduate education.”

The UD-Hillsdale relation is evident on both campuses, sometimes quite literally. Just one example is senior Patsy Craig, whose father is a professor at Hillsdale, and whose brother is also enrolled there as a student.  There has also been at least one reported case of a “mixed-marriage” between a UD alumnus and a Hillsdale grad in recent years.

The kindred academic environment that exists between Hillsdale College and UD is twin-like. Things will be shared and advantages of one over the other will exist in a trade-off. Hillsdale is known for its generous benefactors and financial prosperity, but not for its study-abroad program.

According to the 2011 U.S. News & World Report listing of best American liberal arts colleges, Hillsdale ranks 88th in the country. It ranks seventh in the Midwest and first in the state of Michigan, according to the 2011 Forbes report of America’s Best Colleges. UD, in turn, ranks second in the state of Texas in Forbes’ Best Colleges and was named one of the top 50 liberal arts schools in the nation by National Review.

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