Party of five: Hill family at home at UT

May 2, 2013 | Features, UToday, — Languages, Literature and Social Sciences, Honors
By Vicki L. Kroll

The alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m. and Shauna and Mike Hill are up.

They have two sons, Nathaniel, 5, and Theodore, 3, to get ready for preschool before their workdays begin.

Shauna takes the boys to the Early Learning Center on Health Science Campus, then goes to work at UT Medical Center, where she’s a dietician.

Mike heads north on I-75 to Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Mich., where the UT doctoral student is an instructor of English.

The Hill family, from left, Shauna, Theodore, Mike, Nathaniel and Jeanetta, are right at home at the University.

The Hill family, from left, Shauna, Theodore, Mike, Nathaniel and Jeanetta, are right at home at the University.

“They won’t let me live at home,” Jeanetta Mohlke-Hill joked. “And I don’t get up at 6:30.”

The UT senior’s morning starts a bit later, and she makes her way to Main Campus. Her days left at the University are few; she’ll graduate summa cum laude from the Jesup Scott Honors College Sunday, May 5, with a bachelor’s degree in women’s and gender studies.

Then the 22-year-old has two weeks before she flies to Paraguay. She’ll be in the South American country two and a half years as a member of the Peace Corps.

“I’ll be doing community economic development,” Jeanetta said. “Basically, I’ll be teaching personal finance classes and helping with small business development.”

It’ll be another addition to an enviable resumé.

While at UT, Jeanetta has interned for the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C., through the Washington Center; traveled to Nicaragua for spring break with the Honors College to help at an elementary school; volunteered to be a note-taker for the Office of Accessibility; helped with UT Women’s History Month and Take Back the Night; tutored for three years at the Writing Center and served as assistant director for one year; registered people to vote through Organizing for America; coordinated activities for grade-school children at a local church; and written columns for The Independent Collegian.

And she founded the UT Feminist Alliance in 2011 and served as the student organization’s co-president with Hillary Gyuras until a couple weeks ago.

“She’s accomplished a lot in the time that she’s been at UT,” Shauna said.

“I was just telling [Jeanetta] last night how every situation that she’s ever in she shines,” Mike said. “She really is incredible both because of the amount of work she puts into things and also how much she cares.”

That caring started at a young age.

“She always had a sense of justice, wanting to make sure that people who had fewer resources or were not able to defend themselves had what they needed. I think even when she was a kid in elementary school we saw that,” Shauna said.

“She has a very strong sense of justice and sense of responsibility, and it’s just part of who she is,” Mike added.

Jeanetta credits her time at UT to mapping out her future.

“For women and gender studies, there’s an emphasis on learning through actually doing stuff, not just sitting in classes, taking in information and reading, but applying what you’ve learned in your classes, developing the skills you’ve learned, and putting them in the real-world context,” she said.

She and Gyuras did just that through the Washington Center.

“That experience — I can’t put a value on it,” she said. “It’s one of the main reasons I decided not to go to graduate school right away. I decided I wanted to get a little bit more experience in actually doing things and learning about things through activism and action.”

Volunteering in Nicaragua through the Honors College also was an influence.

“Going to Nicaragua really helped me figure out that I wanted to apply for the Peace Corps and it’s one of the main reasons I committed to it,” she said. “I’m ready to go; I’m ready to graduate.”

“I’m a little worried, but I’m excited for her because I think that’s a perfect fit for her personality and for her experience,” Shauna said.

“We’ll miss her terribly,” Mike said. “We’re not worried about international travel or danger or things like that; we take a more realistic view that anything can happen anywhere, so she may as well go live an amazing life.”

Jeanetta isn’t the only Hill graduating this year. Nathaniel will complete his time at the Early Learning Center in August.

“The teachers there are very good with the kids,” Shauna said. “Nathaniel and Theo are always happy to go to school.”

“The center really is an amazing resource that I don’t think enough people know about at UT,” Mike said. “The teachers really work with the children; it’s a combination of play and exploration and little lessons. And both the boys thrive there.”

Mike, who was a lecturer in English at UT from 2001 to 2006, is at the midway point of his PhD in social foundations of education and said he hopes to graduate next year.

“UT is a foundation for all of our lives — where I had my first professional job and where I’m pursuing my PhD studies, where Shauna has had one of her longest jobs professionally, and Jeanetta has blossomed there, and the boys have started there,” he said. “I think it’s interesting, all the critiques we might make of UT, but then how much the center of our family it’s become because of the opportunity of that regional center of academics and scholarship.

“Our family is so proud to be involved across the campus, and we are profoundly grateful for the opportunities that UT affords us.”

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