Veteran Professor Jason Peters Finds Home in Hillsdale

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Hillsdale College hired Jason Peters this spring.
Courtesy | Porch Books

“I want to teach at a liberal arts college before I die,” Peters said. “I’ve always wanted to teach in a great book program.”

Peters began teaching at the college in the fall semester of 2021 after being hired in the spring.

Peters became a professor in 1994 and was an English professor at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., From 1996 to 2021. He is also editor-in-chief of Front Porch Books and a trade journal, Local Culture.

This semester he teaches two sections of ENG 105 and ENG 360: American Literature: 1820 – 1914.

Peters, from Michigan, said he had known Hillsdale since the late 1970s, but didn’t think much about it until his daughter Emma started studying at universities.

“I actually insisted that she look at Hillsdale seriously,” Peters said.

He’s been thinking about changing careers in the last five or so years, he said, but he didn’t want to work at another school unless it had a great books program and an agreed-upon focused curriculum. by the entire faculty.

When he heard about the opportunity to teach at Hillsdale, he said he didn’t think much would come out of it.

“There you go, something came out of it,” said Peters.

Peters said it was a difficult decision to leave Augustana.

“It’s not necessarily an easy thing. You leave behind students and friends, ”he said. “But I decided to do it, and I’m very glad I did.”

Emma Peters ’20, who is the executive assistant to the vice president of business development and admissions and junior project manager at Hillsdale College, said that one of the reasons she thinks her father’s teaching style is better suited to Hillsdale than to Augustana is that it has the characteristics of a true liberal arts college.

“I don’t think Augustana has a good grasp of what the liberal arts mean,” Emma said. “I don’t think they know how to go about giving their students a good liberal arts education.”

Another perk of teaching at Hillsdale is that it’s closer to home here in Michigan, he said.

After living near Augustana on Rock Island for 15 years, the Peters family decided to return to Michigan.

“My parents found a 12-acre property in the same Michigan town where my mom’s and dad’s parents live,” Emma said. “My grandparents were getting old and sick, and my parents wanted to be closer to them so that they could take care of them.”

The family returned to Michigan in 2012, and Peters makes weekly trips to Augustana College, a 12-hour round trip. He would leave on Monday and stay on Rock Island for the week, sleeping in an apartment. On Thursday he would return home and spend the weekend with his family, Peters said.

“One of the biggest perks of being in Hillsdale is that he will be able to come home with his family every night for the first time in seven years,” Emma said.

Emma said she was thrilled her dad was working with her in college.

“I was very excited and hopeful,” Emma said. “I know what type of teacher my father is and that this would be an exciting opportunity for him.”

“It will be such a refreshing change for him to teach with like-minded people,” Emma said. “It will be so good for him to teach in a school where he truly believes in the mission of the quorum and lives it with all his heart. I think he joined the Hillsdale College mission while he was at Augustana College.

Assistant religion professor Don Westblade knows Peters for sending two of his three children to Augustana College. Westblade said her daughter, who majored in English and graduated from Augustana in 2012, said Peters was her favorite teacher.

Westblade shared a story that particularly united his family to the Peters family. While her daughter was a student in one of Peters’ classes, she was involved in a serious bicycle accident and suffered a concussion, which caused her to miss her homework deadlines, Westblade said. Nonetheless, Peters granted him pardon during this emergency.

“He was extremely accommodating to her and postponed the work she needed to do,” Westblade said. “He supported me enormously. “

Westblade said he believes Peters would be a better fit in Hillsdale than in Augustana because of the different school cultures.

“He’s just a better fit here,” Westblade said. “I think it will be a perfect fit for the faculty. “

Professor Emeritus Michael Jordan, former chair of the English department, said he was happy the English department was adding an agrarian to the faculty, which contributes to his knowledge of agricultural life featured in American literature. Jordan, who retired after teaching at Hillsdale last fall, taught American literature at Hillsdale for almost 30 years.

Jordan, who attended a talk on Wendall Berry that Peters gave last spring, also said he was an authority on Berry, as well as a friend.

Jordan said he believes Peters will fit well into the department’s grand streak of books due to his wide range of knowledge beyond American literature.

“He’s a real generalist,” Jordan said. “He is a seasoned professor of world literature. “

Associate history professor Darryl Hart, who knows Peters from his work at Front Porch Republic and the Intercollegiate Study Institute, has written essays for some of Peter’s books.

“I think he’s going to be a lot happier here and in better shape overall,” Hart said.

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Kehoe Young

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