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Spanish lit grad balances motherhood and academics

Hill family

Rachel Hill and her children Atticus, Emry and Iris, and husband Brandon Kelley.

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.

“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.”

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