Hill’s interdisciplinary background provides the foundation for her desire to assist students with the integration of their intellectual encounters across disciplines, particularly through core curriculum courses, with their life experiences to attain their educational goals. Her research and writing have often integrated diverse bodies of knowledge, as shown in her book, The Uncompromising Diary of Sallie McNeill, 1858-1867 (Texas A&M Press 2009), as well as in Hill’s creative non-fiction essay, “My Elephant-Child Life” from Women Reinvented: True Stories of Empowerment and Change (LaChance 2010).
Such an aspiration for integration is the reason she is dedicated to pedagogical strategies that animate the Marianist charism, such as integrating civic engagement into my courses. Hill’s experience with such strategies has taught her that the integration of theory and praxis in the context of mission has the potential to impact student learning profoundly. She has shared such findings, based on courses she’s taught at St. Mary’s, in the Journal for Civic Commitment (2008) and the Journal of Catholic Higher Education (2009).
Recently, Hill accepted the pedagogical challenge to “flip” her classroom to integrate new technologies into day-to-day teaching routine, such as the creation of a “Digital Diagramming” exercise for an advanced class in English syntax.
A Marianist Approach to Teaching
What she wants most for her students is that they learn to think integratively, to engage disparate bodies of knowledge to solve problems innovatively, with joy and creativity – just as Fr. Chaminade did when he formed the Marianist Family in the aftermath of the French Revolution.
In 2010-2011, Hill and her family lived and worked at the Corrymeela Peace and Reconciliation Centre in Northern Ireland. While there, she studied the Irish language (Gaeilge) as well as took courses in peace and conflict transformation. Hill’s experiences in Northern Ireland, a politically separate part of the island of Ireland, enriched and deeply informed her pedagogy. What she took to Northern Ireland was her understanding of the Marianist concepts of service, justice, and peace; what Hill brought back is a deeper understanding of service, justice, and peace in a community that is still in the process of defining these concepts in a post-conflict situation. While there, Hill also studied (in formal and informal ways) the social patterns of a community that had endured thirty years of unspeakable sectarian violence. What she learned from these studies bridged her experiences there with her understanding of the relationality of the Marianist approach to education at St. Mary’s, an approach cultivated by Fr. William Joseph Chaminade in the aftermath of the horrific violence of the French Revolution. Chaminade’s choice, of invitation to growth and hospitality for all within the safety of the Gospel, resonates with Ray Davey’s choice, of invitation to growth and hospitality for all within the safety of the Gospel, when he founded the Corrymeela Community in the 1960s. Through recognizing that they both courageously answered the closed fist with an open one, Hill’s Corrymeela experience expanded and reinforced her understanding of the Marianist way of doing education.
Hill’s father, James Gasaway, was taught by and taught for the Marianists. As a result, the brothers have always been a part of her life. St. Mary’s is Hill’s alma mater where she was taught by such luminaries as Br. Louis Schuster and Fr. John G. Leies. However, the reason why she has had a thirty-year relationship with the University is because it is a vibrant community that strives to fight the good fight. Cardinal Neuman once stated, “Therein lies the nobility of the faith. That we have the heart to dare something.” Even after 160 years, the St. Mary’s community continues to have the heart to dare. “Who doesn’t want to be part of that?” said Hill.
Hill’s research is generally an exercise in nexus studies in which my cross-disciplinary interests in language, gender, power, and peace, converge to support the Marianist mission of educating for service, justice, and peace. Language is the primary tool by which human beings construct daily life. Hill’s goal in research, whether it involves questions of language and power during the American Civil War or in contemporary politics, is to increase understanding of the manipulation of this uniquely human tool in ways that promote the common good.
The reality – that so many of the most enduring structures of our lives are based on the simple puffs of air that we call language – is fascinating to Hill. Over the last decade or so, one of the most exciting dynamics in the field is the willingness for scholars to reach beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries to incorporate new theories and methods from other disciplines, such as Political Theory or Psychology, to enrich the study of language. Currently, Hill is engaged in a Critical Discourse Analysis study of protest literature that draws from literary, political, and philosophical theories.
Author, “Five Minutes and a Shell Casing.” Pecan Grove Review. 2013.
Presenter, “Encouraging Respectful Dialogue and Discussion in the Classroom.” Southwest Teaching and Learning Conference. Texas A&M at San Antonio. April 5, 2013.
Presenter, “From Eros to Death: The Discursive Strategies of Identity and Legitimation in the Diary of Bobby Sands.” South Central Modern Language Association. November 8, 2012.
Co-Author, “Catholic Social Teaching and Civic Engagement: Grounding Civic
Praxis in Catholic Theory.” The Journal of Catholic Higher Education. Fall 2009.
Co-Editor, with Virginia McNeill Raska. The Uncompromising Diary of Sallie McNeill, 1858-1867. Texas A & M University Press. 2009.
Author, “Staying on Topic, Changing the Topic: Language and Gender in the 1995 Louisiana Governor’s Race.” The Social Science Journal, pp. 296-311. Vol. 45, No. 2. June 2008.
Author, Stories from the Wake: The Revolutionary Responses of the Sodality of Bordeaux and Small Christian Communities. North American Center for Marianist Studies, Dayton, Ohio. 2005.
Author, “The Relationship between Candidate Sex and Pronoun Usage in a Louisiana Governor’s Race.” Women and Language. Vol. 28. No. 2. 25-31. 2005.
“Re-shaping Our Words, Re-shaping Our World: Crimes Against Humanity and Other Signs of the Times.” The Social Science Journal. Vol. 39. pp. 539-557. 2002.
Edward and Linda Speed Peace and Justice Fellow
Excellence in Education Award from San Antonio City Council District Seven, 2013
Distinguished Faculty Award, St. Mary’s University, 2004
Marianist Heritage Award, St. Mary’s University, 2000
Alice Franzke Feminist Award, St. Mary’s University, 1990