Spanish lit grad balances motherhood and academics

April 30, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

Getting a degree or being a parent is a lot of work for anyone, requiring careful time management and a strong work ethic. Rachel Hill, a senior at the School of International Letters and Cultures, has taken on both and will graduate in May while her three children watch from the crowd. Hill family Rachel Hill and her children Atticus, Emry and Iris, and husband Brandon Kelley. Download Full Image

“I have a 6-year-old son, a 3-year-old daughter and a 17-month-old boy,” Hill counted. “And two dogs. And my husband works about 50 hours a week (for the military).”

Hill’s house is full of hard workers. Even as she prepares to graduate this May with a degree in Spanish literature, Hill is gearing up to pursue the Spanish 4+1 program.

“We had our second baby, and then I went back to school after she was 4 months,” Hill said. “It was something that we both knew needed to happen to ensure our family’s future.”

Hill would bring her new daughter to class, enthusiastically accommodated by SILC faculty, like David William Foster. While she found it harder to attend events like SILC Café, Hill was determined to continue studying.

“I found a way, with all the craziness, to do really well in the program,” Hill explained. “It has a really great variety of instructors and professors. That’s something I really enjoyed.”

Hill credits the SILC faculty, her marriage, family, friends and faith with helping her through the program, especially when it got overwhelming. Bringing her new daughter to class was helpful, as were the extensive options for events and clubs, like ASU Family Night. The flexibility to engage with the SILC community went a long way.

"I feel like my kids can come with me and be a part of my experience on campus," Hill said. 

That flexibility is fortunate as well, as the Spanish literature program is rigorous, encompassing diverse topics and time periods. But that has been Hill’s favorite part of the program as well.

“When you study literature, any literature, but especially Spanish literature, it’s like taking a core sample of the Earth. You know exactly what’s going on at any time period when you read this literature. It tells you socially, economically, politically what was going on in that region or that country during that specific time,” Hill explained.

Hill believes this holistic knowledge, and the research skills that come with it, will help her move forward in an academic career.

In 4+1, Hill wants to find inclusive points of view within Spanish literature and explore less-known topics. She proposed focusing on Black Latinos in Latin American.

“Through that study, I can come out and possibly do something that revolves around social justice,” Hill said. “I’m hoping to take what I’ve learned in undergrad and apply it to present problems we have right now in our society.”

As for her children Atticus, Iris and Emry, they’ve taught her a lot as an undergrad as well, which she’ll bring into future studies. She hopes others can benefit from the ways she pushed through stress and doubts.

“Even being a parent not in school, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the present. Even if you’re not a long-term-goal person, understand that it’s part of a process, you’re in a season of life, and this is not going to be your life forever,” Hill said. “You’re investing in your kids; you’re investing in yourself.”

Gabriel Sandler

An early love of hiking and exploring led to a passion for geology

April 30, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

This May, Chad Kwiatkowski will be graduating from ASU with a bachelor of science degree in Earth and Space Exploration – Geological Sciences. He is also the School of Earth and Space Exploration Dean’s Medalist for 2018, having earned this award through his stellar academic record, his skills as a leader, and his drive and energy in pursuing his academic passions.  Chad Kwiatkowski Chad Kwiatkowski's goals include teaching at a community college and establishing an animal/farm sanctuary. Download Full Image

An avid hiker and explorer, geology was a natural fit for Kwiatkowski. And having grown up in the northern part of Phoenix, choosing geological sciences for his major gave him a chance to study the landforms that had surrounded him during his childhood, like the McDowell Mountains.

That love of being outdoors also led Kwiatkowski to the realization that learning could take place in the classroom and also on his own free time, during weekend hikes around Arizona, ultimately blending work and play and doing something that he loved.  

In the future, Kwiatkowski hopes to earn a master’s degree, teach at a community college and establish an animal/farm sanctuary. 

He answered questions about his time at ASU:

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you chose?

Answer: I needed a science credit while pursuing my associate’s degree at community college, and my girlfriend recommended that I take geology. I already enjoyed hiking and exploring the wilderness near my hometown, so geology was a natural fit. It made the whole world seem to make sense, while also filling my mind with questions.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: While at ASU, I learned that learning takes place both in and out of the classroom. It is important to pick a major you are passionate about, so you have the drive to pursue it further in your free time. For me, this involved going on weekend hikes in the mountains surrounding Phoenix, armed with geologic maps and reports of the area. Doing this, I learned many things that there simply wasn’t time for in the curriculum. If you do what you love, work and play will blend into one and you will live a happier life.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: ASU is a leader in many branches of geoscience, and its location in the Southwestern U.S. makes it ideal for a range of geological studies. Additionally, I grew up on the northern fringe of metropolitan Phoenix, so studying at ASU gave me the opportunity to learn about the landforms I grew up around that held a special place in my heart, such as the McDowell Mountains and the Tonto foothills. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: When you begin college, take a diverse assortment of classes. This will help you find out what interests you the most. If I hadn’t branched out and done this, I may never have discovered my passion for geology. Many adults come back to college after working for decades in a field they didn’t enjoy. If you happen to be near the beginning of your college career, that is an especially perfect time to branch out and find a field that suites you. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My special spot on campus was under a big, beautiful tree outside of the PS-F (Physical Sciences Center F-Wing) building. In the shade of its leaves, I spent countless hours reading my textbooks, doing homework, and meditating, which kept me balanced during the inevitable collegiate chaos.

Q: What are your plans after graduation? 

A: Upon graduation, I will be pursuing a master’s degree at Northern Arizona University. After graduate school, I hope to attain a teaching position at a community college in the Western U.S. and establish a farm/animal sanctuary with my girlfriend.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would strive to solve the educational crisis by funding education research. If we can understand how our students learn most effectively, we can more efficiently allocate current resources, in addition to seeing specifically where more resources are needed. The students of today will solve the problems of tomorrow, and putting in the time, money and effort to understand what students need to thrive should be a major focus of our society.

Karin Valentine

Media Relations & Marketing manager, School of Earth and Space Exploration