Mentee to Mentor: Rebekah Dell Finds her Home in Hillsdale
Written by Crystal Schupbach
In November of her senior year of high school, Associate Dean of Women Rebekah Dell had actually never heard of the place she’d call her home for the next fifteen years.
It was that December when a friend’s grandparents boasted of Hillsdale and urged her to visit the school like their granddaughter had. Rebekah recounted her visit as a freezing, miserably cold day in January.
Fortunately, that didn’t dissuade her.
“I wasn’t sure what the liberal arts was all about. I didn’t have a clue as to what I was getting into, but I knew that something special was happening here,” Rebekah said. “I had to take on the challenge because I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t.”
At that point in her life, she had no intentions of making Hillsdale, Michigan, her home. She always thought she would return to her small town in southern Ohio where her cousins and second-cousins lived three miles down the road. She would have her five younger siblings and parents close.
Years later, however, she would find that her coworkers and mentors at Hillsdale impacted her life and encouraged her in ways similar to her family.
“I had such a good experience with the administration through my senior-year RA experience that it really started the idea of, How can I give back? So much has been given to me; would there be a place for me to give back to the college?” Rebekah said.
She interviewed for an admissions counselor position. Then, during her last semester, Dean Philipp urged her to instead consider the position of director of student activities. Dell had been able to form close relationships with Dean Phillip and Dean Petersen her senior year when she was part of a team of RAs called upon to prep the new atmosphere of the Suites.
“Dean Philipp offered me the job the day before graduation,” Rebekah said. “I believe I accepted the job that day.”
After five years as director of student activities, she still expected to move on. But another opportunity arose that changed her plans.
In 2011, in order to alleviate the workload faced by administration, College President Larry Arnn asked Dean Philipp to create two new positions in any place she saw fit. She chose to create the Associate Dean roles, and she again asked Rebekah to consider.
“Dean Philipp has been such an incredible mentor to me,” Rebekah said. “She teaches you as you work with her. You’re not just an employee. She did so much teaching and sharing that I felt comfortable going into a position of this nature.”
Rebekah said she ultimately took on the new position because it was the change she wanted, but it wouldn’t uproot her life.
Since she has assumed her tasks at the College, Rebekah has become a mentor for many students herself. She has not just made Hillsdale her employer; she has made it her home. Working on the Hospice of Hillsdale County Board and as Hillsdale’s panhellenic advisor for women’s Greek life, she has entered the lives of students and community members.
When asked how she keeps from burning herself out, she replied that two things help her.
“If I can help—even a little bit—a student in my community grow or learn the way that I’ve been taught to grow and learn, then that is far more important to me than any burnout or struggles I’ve been faced with. I see purpose in the work,” she replied. And also, “You have to take care of yourself, and I’ve had to learn how to do that.”
The camaraderie she has with her colleagues is a refreshing part of her life here as well.
“That makes a difference—when you work with people that at the end of the day just care about the people they are working with and serving, it impacts the environment,” Rebekah said. “How deeply the staff believe in the work; they aren’t here because it’s a job; they’re here because they care.”
Rebekah has ultimately found through these experiences that the Hillsdale family continues past graduation.
“It was a big deal for me to not go back to the town where I was raised and be very close with my family,” she said. “But the way the families of the faculty and staff are so warm, so encouraging—they pour into my life just like I hope to pour into students’ lives.”
Crystal Schupbach, ’20, is a Michigan native studying psychology and journalism. A few of her favorite things include dogs, summertime concerts, and garage sales–in that order.