A Broader Intellectual Community

Written by Elizabeth Vietor

Cradling a cup of warm coffee, wearing my favorite dress, and seated in an auditorium beside acquaintances who would later become my best friends, I eagerly leaned forward to catch the beginning of a talk entitled “Deep Magic in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.” The night before, an assortment of Hillsdale freshmen (including myself) had piled out of a borrowed car and wandered through Notre Dame’s unfamiliar campus. This morning, we had made our way to a small building filled with bescarved individuals discussing beauty and art while nibbling on miniature cheesecakes.

We had traveled from Hillsdale to attend the annual fall conference at Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture. Spanning a weekend in early November, it features a series of talks and panels based around a central theme, which that year was beauty.

That weekend was one of the highlights of my freshman year, so much so that I have returned every November. In addition to providing delicious food and a beautiful setting, the conference offers a needed perspective shift at a critical time in the semester, and this is really what pulls me back year after year.

Studies are rigorous at Hillsdale. By mid-semester it’s easy for me to get tunnel vision about papers, assignments, and professors’ expectations, trying so hard to do well that I unwittingly make myself a tad jaded in the process. The conference helps with this. It’s an early November wake-up call that says, “Look up! Remember how much you enjoy studying the humanities?”

The conference provides an outlet for thinking about topics familiar to the typical Hillsdale student–like beauty, justice, and good and evil–outside the confines of West and Union Streets. It places Hillsdale students in dialogue with a broader intellectual community by gathering like-minded individuals from different campuses and backgrounds and allowing them to share their ideas in a festive setting.

Seeing Hillsdale in dialogue with a larger intellectual community reminds me what engaging with the “real world” after graduation could look like. For me, the conference is a welcome reminder that there’s an enthusiastic community out there eager to receive and discuss thoughts and ideas. Hillsdale plays a necessary part in this community, and it’s nice to know that we aren’t alone. It’s reassuring to remember that a culture of ethical, intelligent discussion doesn’t end when my four years here come to a close.

And if this realization can come alongside fine food and close friends, all the better.

Elizabeth Vietor is a junior Latin major with an affinity for thrift shops, butter, and scrunchies. She hails from Phoenix, Arizona, originally, but now that she’s here, doesn’t know how she existed for so long without seeing the leaves change every fall.

Published in February 2019.