Paths Toward Truth

Thomas Conner
Associate Professor of History

Thomas ConnerThomas Conner is the Dean of Social Sciences and Associate Professor of History.

Just when they were knee-deep in student exams and all the other paperwork that comes at the end of the semester, we decided to give some of our faculty and staff an exam of their own. We asked each to write a brief essay on Hillsdale College’s mission and how it relates to his or her academic area. Readers interested in a more extended discussion of the curriculum may order a copy of Provost and Associate Professor of Law Robert Blackstock’s February 1995 Imprimis issue “Hillsdale College and the Western Tradition: Exploring the Roots of Freedom.”

What sets the Hillsdale College faculty apart is its dedication to fostering the intellectual growth of students and to designing and presenting a curriculum that lights paths toward truth in both the oldest and the newest ways. Our academic program is often characterized as “traditional,” and its devotion to time-honored understandings of what constitutes an educated person makes it so. But, the faculty is equally dedicated to bringing before our students the most up-to-date ideas and knowledge from a wide variety of disciplines.

The various talents of the Hillsdale faculty are remarkable. Our professors come from the finest graduate programs in the world. Many of them are publishing scholars and acknowledged experts in their fields. But, the quality that defines our faculty more than any other is dedication to teaching and advising. This is evident in innumerable ways. It can be seen in the halls of our classroom buildings where dozens of faculty offices have open doors signaling an invitation for students to come in and talk about course work, scheduling, career plans, or, for that matter, anything at all. It can be seen in the minutes of faculty department meetings that reveal a deep and abiding commitment to effective pedagogy and academic rigor. It can be seen in the countless spontaneous interactions of faculty and students around campus—in the dining hall, at athletic events, concerts, plays, and honorary society meetings. The degree to which our faculty devotes time and talent to teaching—inside and outside the classroom—is extraordinary.

One of the best things I can report about my personal experience at Hillsdale is that I have had the freedom to do practically everything in teaching that I ever dreamed of doing—from offering courses on the subjects I feel most passionately about in Western history to convincing skeptical students that those subjects are relevant and meaningful. In my capacity as an advisor, I have also had the opportunity to help many students make important decisions and learn to cope with the various challenges of young adulthood.

During nearly 14 years on the Hillsdale faculty, in addition to a rich array of traditional classroom experiences, I have climbed Alpine mountains, chipped pieces off the Berlin Wall, walked somberly among the crosses of the U.S. cemetery at Omaha Beach, strolled through Red Square in Moscow, and toured some of the great museums of Europe with my students. I am sure that my colleagues agree that the teaching environment here encourages us to reach students in the most creative and dynamic ways and to put a genuinely personal mark on our relationship with them. Indeed, this is something that has set Hillsdale College apart since its founding.