Jason Hillman, Class of 2006, traveled thousands of miles the August following commencement to pursue graduate studies in Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University.
From BVU to Tel Aviv and Cairo, He's Becoming a World Citizen
Buena Vista Today
Buena Vista University alumni often come back to campus with stories of how their education has helped them to compete with some of the best and the brightest students in graduate and professional programs. Few better exemplify that experience than Jason Hillman, Class of 2006, who traveled thousands of miles the August following commencement to pursue graduate studies in Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University.
There, Jason studied with some of the leading scholars in the field. "My peers and professors asked where I developed my historical knowhow," he says. "They seemed to be shocked that a lowly Midwestern kid from Omaha, Nebraska could hack it with Ivy League graduates and students from the top universities in Europe."
At Buena Vista, Drs. Bill Feis and Dixee Bartholomew-Feis, professors of history, served as strong role models and mentors for Jason. "They are two people for which education has done a lot and they impressed upon me, and always encouraged me, to think about the next level of education. They are professional historians, but more than that they are exceptional educators which is why I feel so fortunate to have studied with them."
The academic stimulation and encouragement he received from his BVU professors, as well as a memorable study-abroad experience in The Netherlands in the fall of 2004, helped influence Jason's decision to attend graduate school in Tel Aviv. "My trip to The Netherlands really opened up new horizons in my thinking and my view of the world. My extensive time abroad has helped me to become adept at cross-cultural communication, which has led to many connections and friendships. I am now better able to empathize with people of different backgrounds, nationalities and ethnicities."
Looking back on his freshman year at BVU, Jason acknowledges his mind was not always focused on his studies. One day, he literally received a wakeup call in Bill Feis' class. "I had dozed off in his class and he woke me up and suggested I should leave if I felt tired," he recalls. "I realized he was serious and if I hoped to graduate with a history degree I had better get serious as well. Luckily, he doesn't hold a grudge and we've developed a good relationship over the years."
Jason went on to graduate cumlaude and was selected as history senior of the year. He also won first place in the world history category at the University of South Dakota Student History Conference for his paper entitled The Lion and the Arabs: Nasser and Egyptian-Arab Nationalism 1952-1961. While working on his master's degree, Jason learned both Hebrew and Arabic and taught English as a private tutor to Israeli teenagers. He also worked as a research assistant for one of his professors. His master's thesis, completed last year, was entitled A Storm in a Tea Cup: The Iraq-Kuwait Crisis of 1961 From Gulf Crisis to Inter-Arab Dispute.
This January, Jason started classes in the Drayah Language Center in Cairo, Egypt to continue his Arabic studies. His long-term plans include pursing a doctorate or working for the government or a nongovernmental organization (NGO).