To celebrate 50 years of coeducation at Kenyon, we’re profiling three dozen of Kenyon alumnae during the 2019-20 academic year. These women, merely a small sample of the thousands of female graduates who have earned Kenyon degrees since 1969, will discuss their undergraduate experiences and how their education in Gambier prepared them for their lives and careers.
The 17th alumna in our series is Hillary Child ’13, originally from Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. Child majored in physics and modern languages and literatures (Russian area studies) at Kenyon, with a minor in mathematics. After graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, she went on to earn a master’s degree in physics at the University of Chicago, where she is currently completing her doctorate. In the field of computational cosmology, Child studies how the stars and galaxies formed in their particular arrangements. In 2017, she was featured in the Alumni Bulletin as one of 10 young alumni to watch.
How do you prioritize your life and get things done?
Lots of lists and calendars, and breaking the big goals down into weekly and daily parts. I’ve kept a daily to-do list for years, but adding a weekly one made a big difference. It helps me keep focused on what needs to happen over the course of the week, get motivation and satisfaction from crossing things off, and see how much progress I’ve made over a longer time.
Where did you first discover your power?
I think I’m still in the process of discovering my power! Some days I feel more hopeful and powerful than others. One thing that helps is thinking about the things I can do and change, as a way not to get lost in the enormous issues that can seem too big for me to have any power to affect.
Who at Kenyon inspired you?
I found all my professors and classmates at Kenyon to be inspirational in their passion and commitment to all their varied interests. Two professors in particular, [Associate Professor of Physics] Tom Giblin and [Professor of Russian] Natalia Olshanskaya, inspired me with their creativity, caring and dedication to getting the best out of their students, in and out of the classroom.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
One piece of advice that’s currently resonating with me is to focus on enjoying the present, rather than always looking to the future. I tend to be always thinking about what comes next, whether that’s planning the next year or just counting the hours to the next thing I get to do, but it's been rewarding to more fully pay attention to the present.
How has your worldview evolved since leaving Kenyon?
My view of how big the world still is, and how many fascinating things there are to learn, has continued to expand. I’ve recently been learning a lot about apple trees, and the amount of knowledge that goes into something as seemingly simple as an apple is amazing. For example, apple trees are being bred not only to have particular kinds of fruit, but to carry that fruit closer to the ground to make it easier to pick. It makes sense, but isn’t anything I ever thought about!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Read about the previous woman in our series: Maraleen Shields ’00
Read about the next woman in our series: Elisabeth Hire ’00