New Honors assistant director embraces Iowa City

Emily Hill arrived in Iowa City a little over three weeks ago. Since, she has made her home in the Blank Honors Center as the new assistant director of Honors at Iowa.


Tate Hildyard

University of Iowa’s newly appointed Honors Associate Director on April 25, 2019.

Kinsey Phipps, News Reporter

Illustrations of literary figures adorn her door, rugs, photos, and plants color her office. After just three weeks, new Honors at Iowa Assistant Director Emily Hill has made her home at the UI and in Iowa City.

Hill followed Bob Kirby, Honors at Iowa assistant director for nearly two decades, after he left to become full-time director of the Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates in February. While Kirby’s knowledge will be missed, Honors looks forward to a fresh perspective, Honors Director Art Spisak said.

“Everyone is excited because she’s got a great attitude, she’s ready to learn, and she brings new eyes and a fresh perspective on things,” he said. “One of the things I noticed during the interview process is she is extremely student-centered. Her heart is in the right place.”

The University of North Dakota is Hill’s alma mater and where she was introduced to honors. During her undergraduate studies, she became close with the Honors staff and faculty there. As an eager, young student dreaming of law school, the Honors staff gave her an outlet to find her true passion: literature and writing.

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Hill continued her graduate education at North Dakota, earning a master’s in English. She was able to teach for a semester in Norway and fell in love with life abroad. She hopes to bring her passion for travel to the UI by creating more study-abroad opportunities for students through Honors in the future.

In addition to study abroad, she has begun brainstorming ways to continue improving the program. She hopes to spark more Honors-specific classes, including those that cover general-education requirements.

Hill started her career in honors at North Dakota. She was an instructor and worked with student-engagement activities and recruitment. Last year, she moved to the University of Idaho’s Honors Program as a student-engagement coordinator. She began searching for something more, and more was the UI, she said.

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“I was looking for the next step in my career. The UI is such a great school, and there’s longevity in this program that speaks volumes about how it’s valued and continues to be valued by the community, university, and the state,” Hill said. “Even though it’s a large school, I feel like there is an emphasis on community. I’ve found in my very short time here that students are connected to each other.”

While learning the ropes here, Hill also works on her Ph.D. dissertation in educational foundations and research. She is studying exceptional college students, specifically gifted students who struggle with mental health, she said, and she hopes to defend her dissertation in December. She will continue researching and applying that knowledge to her work at the UI.

“I think her focus in her dissertation is something that is really important and relevant to our population,” said Emily Johnson, the Honors director of records and enrollment.

Hill is settling in to Iowa City life well, she said. As an arts lover, she admires the culture-filled streets she gets to walk every day. Being from North Dakota, she understands Midwestern nice, but Iowa nice is different, she said.

“People go out of their way to help you,” Hill said. “It’s a very friendly place; I really adore it.”