When Helen Hill transferred from Seminole Community College to the University of Central Florida in 1979 to complete her bachelor’s degree, she never imagined that she’d stick around for more than three decades.
“I didn’t know what I would be doing. I think I thought that I would go out and get a job and go to work, but I ended up having a career right here,” Hill said.
More than 30 years later, Hill is retiring from her position as director of Regional Campuses Advising. She began her pursuit of higher education as a nontraditional student, attending classes in the College of Business Administration part-time while working and raising three children with her husband, Edward.
In the summer of 1980, Hill was hired as a clerk for the advising office at the College of Business Administration. While she wasn’t yet able to directly advise students, Hill took care of transcripts, posted grades and helped organize orientation and registration under the guidance of a faculty member.
By working, she was able to afford to continue going to school, so she took one or two classes per semester and graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s in business in 1988. Hill continued working with the college as an instructor/adviser until 1992, when her supervisor approached her with a suggestion.
“In the fall of ’92 my dean said, ‘You know, I’d really like to give you a promotion, but you need to have more education,’ and so I started with my master’s.”
Hill finished her master’s in education in 1997, graduating with a 4.0 GPA. She was eventually promoted to director of Student Services and went on to complete her doctorate in higher education, finishing her dissertation in 2004.
“I did well because my family supported me totally,” she said. “My husband, all three of the kids, we’d spend our evenings around the kitchen table with all of us doing our homework. I couldn’t have done it without my family.”
The biggest challenge was finding a balance between work, school and family, said Hill. “I had to make sure that my family didn’t come up short because I was going to school.”
She advises students going through similar challenges to persist, but not overload.
“Your life is out there – your home, your family – and this is a piece of it. And while it’s an important piece of it and you want to do well, it’s not the entirety,” she said. “Sometimes it makes sense to take a step back. Keep things in balance and keep your life on an even keel.”
She said her proudest accomplishments have come from helping students overcome difficult situations.
“This huge place has all the same elements that a city has and it really plays out in the students’ lives,” she said. “Also, being invited to weddings when students graduate and being sent pictures of grandchildren is nice.”
Dr. Taylor Ellis, the associate dean of Academic Programs and Technology, has worked with Hill for over 14 years both as a supervisor and colleague and said that Hill has always looked out for the best interests of the students and the university.
“Helen has a very big heart and she wants very much for students to succeed,” Ellis said. “The one thing that stands out the most is that Helen has never been afraid to take a student who she thought needed an advocate and work for them.”
Hill retires from UCF on June 30. She’ll take a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyo., with her husband and meet friends at Yellowstone National Park for a road trip back to Florida.
“I’ve always really enjoyed helping people and UCF has given me the opportunity to do what I really have enjoyed,” she said. “It’s been a great ride.”