By Ryan Carson
Mike Hills has spent his entire life in a college town. Now, he leads the department that gives students the opportunity to live in ours. As the newly minted Director of Admissions, Mike Hills is determined to bring his 28 years of experience as an admissions counselor in colleges all around the county to help keep Denison a leading liberal arts institution.
Director Hills was born a Buckeye. His father was a college professor at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio. At the age of seven, Hills’ father moved the family to upstate New York after taking a job at Saint Lawrence University. Hills stayed in New York for his undergraduate education where he completed his degree at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y.
Hills credits his years at Hartwick as greatly influencing his career choice.“During my undergraduate years, I was a tour guide in the admissions office and was always interested in the role of encouraging people, students and parents to choose a college,” he said.
He continued, “When I was a tour guide, I learned a lot about the admissions field and I had some good mentors when I was a student in the admissions office at Hartwick College.”
After staying at his alma mater for three years as an Assistant Director of Admissions, Hills had the opportunity to attend Harvard University to pursue a degree in higher education.
At the age of 25, Hills enrolled in the Administrative Planning and Social Policy Master’s Degree Program at Harvard.
The new director believes that his classmates helped enrich his educational opportunity at Harvard:
“It was an amazing opportunity for me as my classmates were presidents of colleges, vice presidents of student development and deans of admissions,” Hills said.
Harvard’s rigorous academic curriculum such as the use of case studies inspired Hills to continue to pursue a career in admissions. “I loved my experience at Harvard,” he said. “It fostered my interest in staying in the profession. The more I studied about higher education, the more I realized I didn’t know as much as I thought I knew going into it,” Hills said.
After his experience at Harvard, Hills and his wife Laura, a social worker and college professor, decided that Denison and the surrounding Granville community presented a new and exciting challenge for both of them in their respective careers.
Hills has two children: his daughter Elizabeth is a senior at St. Lawrence University and his son Matt is a high school senior who splits his time between C Tech and Granville High School.
It is evident that Director Hills has enjoyed his time at Denison since the moment he arrived on the Hill. “Coming to work every day doesn’t feel like work,” he said. “I represent Denison and I believe in the mission of the institution. Admissions is about developing relationships.”
After nearly 21 years serving in a multitude of roles in the Denison Admission Office,” I was humbled and honored to be selected as Director of Admissions and my hope is that I can continue to build upon our past successes,” Hills said.
His new position does not come without its challenges. Hills cites some of the problems facing admission offices across the country. “The admissions landscape has changed. We are dealing with families that have a hyper-price sensitivity to paying for college,” Hills said..
However, it is apparent that he believes that Denison has some advantages while navigating the fluctuating admissions backdrop. “We have such a wonder product here at Denison. We have a beautiful campus, an amazing student body and faculty and a willingness to outwork the competition, Hills.
Looking into the foreseeable future, Hills wants to put his own stamp on the Denison Office of Admissions.
“I would like to be able to raise Denison’s visibility to the point where more young people from across the country and around the globe have the opportunity to experience the world class education that we offer,”Hills said.