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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Max Hill


Football brought LA-native Max Hill ’20 to Grinnell, but it wasn’t the only thing that kept him here.

“My freshman year of high school, one of my coaches who coached JV and freshman,” he said. “He was the one that called me in my senior year and told me about Grinnell; he really recruited me.”

After visiting Grinnell, Hill decided it was the right place for him. And even though football again played an important role in his transition to rural Iowa, at Grinnell, Hill has branched out into an array of activities.

“I’ve been playing football since I was 10. It’s a big part of my life. … But once I got to Grinnell, you know, I was a football player, but on top of that, I’ve done SGA, I was a Black Cultural Center monitor, I held different jobs on campus. It’s just one of the things that you do,” Hill reflected. “But I would say it’s pretty big in that it has laid the foundation for … [and] makes the transition to college pretty easy.”

In addition to these extracurricular activities, Hill is a political science major and a statistics concentrator. He said that it’s been his relationships with professors that have made him feel at home at the College. In particular, he has formed strong bonds with Associate Professor Peter Hanson, political science, with whom he has worked as a research assistant on the Grinnell College National Poll, and Assistant Professor Barry Driscoll, also political science.

“I wasn’t doing too hot in Barry Driscoll’s class my sophomore year, and I did like the course material, the connections between politics and the economy, but it was more so, how to be a student,” Hill said. “Every time I would get a bad grade, I would go to him and get feedback, and just the process of becoming a better student was pretty cool, and I think that’s what Grinnell is really about.”

Despite his involvement at Grinnell, both within and beyond the classroom, Hill’s experience has had its ups and downs.

“I was about to leave my freshman year at Grinnell because I didn’t really like the campus atmosphere,” said Hill. His friends, and in particular his involvement in the Black Faith group, kept him grounded.

“One thing that I can say about Grinnell is, they have really cool people, and really different people,” he reflected. “Before, I would have thought that they were weird. But my friend Angela Frimpong said this: ‘Being on Grinnell’s campus gives you the opportunity to learn how to love better.’ Even though there’s things I disagree with, at the end of the day, they’re people.”

Now, Hill is poised to move forward from his four years on Grinnell’s campus to even greater endeavors. This spring, Hill was one of 47 students from across the country to receive the prestigious Watson Fellowship, providing him $36,000 to conduct research around the world next year. His project will focus on black masculinity and martial arts.

“It’s very personal because, I’m a young black man. You’re kind of stuck in the middle a little bit as a black man going to Grinnell,” said Hill. “At home, I hang out with people who are not

necessarily the nicest, and I don’t really … gel with them, but also when I got to Grinnell, everybody here is just so soft, so sensitive. I just had to reconcile [those]. I had to find a balance between assertiveness and empathy.” His experience at Grinnell made him wonder about the facets of black masculinity in different countries with different black experiences.

Next year, Hill plans to travel to China, Brazil, Senegal, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic to conduct his research, though the relationships he has built up over four years will no doubt continue to tie him to Grinnell.

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