Maria Hynson

Class of 2015
Major/Minor: Humanities with minors in Art and Art History, Philosophy

I am the house that Washington College built and I use the tools that it has given me every day in my job and in my life. I have my colleagues, classmates, and students to thank for that.

How has your liberal arts education influenced you? How do you apply your LAE in your current career?

I spent over 11 years as a student at Washington College. That’s over a quarter of my life so far. Being a student for so long, and being a non-traditional student on a traditional, residential campus had a profound influence on me. As a student, I learned that beyond having a job and earning money and a place to go and things to do everyday, the most valuable thing that my liberal arts education has brought to my life is an opportunity to learn and an opportunity to teach.

The student part of my experience is easy to talk about, but there are things that I’ve learned here that weren’t taught to me in the classroom. Over the years, I have learned from my faculty and staff colleagues, my classmates, my student workers, and my club advisees.

One of the best things that I ever did was to volunteer my time to teach our students how to build houses as the Advisor to the College’s Habitat for Humanity club. Every Fall and Spring Break, we load up the vans and I take a few dozen students on the road to wake up before dawn, do hard manual labor, and spend the week sleeping on a gym floor. All under a sobriety pledge. And on this little journey, besides the sobriety pledge, we only have two rules: (1) you don’t go anywhere alone; and (2) you should always be respectful.

Only two rules are needed because they pretty much cover all you need to know. Or do. Or be. Rule #1 covers safety, comfort, an emergency plan, and a sense of teamwork and camaraderie. It means that you offer help when it’s needed, and ask for it when you need it. Rule #2 covers civility and compassion. It means that you give credit where credit is due, that you respect one another’s belief systems and the space that you’re in, and that you respect yourself enough to learn and grow from the journey.

I am the house that Washington College built, and I use the tools that it has given me every day in my job, and in my life. I have my colleagues, classmates, and students to thank for that.

Who was your favorite faculty member? Story?

I had many great faculty and staff teachers over the years, both in and out of the classroom, but my favorite and greatest academic influence was the first Dean that I worked for – Dr. Joachim Scholz. We first discussed the idea of me taking classes when I had my job interview. When the time came to register for my first class a year later, he encouraged me to sign up for Dr. McColl’s “Introduction to the History of Western Art.” When I told him later that first semester that I wanted to declare my major in the Humanities, he was not in favor of my choice – as a humanist scholar himself, he declared that there was no clear career path from the humanities, and he wanted me to do something more practical – he wanted me to consider a Business or Economics major, or anything in the social sciences – but I was adamant about my choice, and while he disagreed on a practical level, he spent hours teaching me about the books and ideas that I was studying.

Over the years, he spent a lot of time trying to suggest possible career outcomes for me, while simultaneously testing me and encouraging me to always reach farther in my chosen major. He was the best teacher, boss, and mentor that I could have asked for – he praised and criticized me in equal measure, and whether or not we agreed, he encouraged me to argue for what I believed to be right. The respect and time that he granted me made all the difference in how I viewed myself as a thinking, rational human being. Before I met him, I was an indifferent student. Under his tutelage, I became a lifelong scholar of the best things that make us human, and a seeker of wisdom – a philosopher.

What is your favorite Washington College memory?

My favorite memories come from the times that I’ve spent on break with the Habitat club. We have our own traditions and we look forward to reviving them every year. We spend the whole week together – round the clock, twenty-four/seven. We often live and sleep in a church gym on the floor and, one year, we spent all week with 30 people in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house. It’s kind of like going to summer camp or having a weeklong slumber party. In the course of the week of living, working, playing, sometimes arguing, all together, the team really comes together and acts as a family unit.

Every group that I’ve ever taken on an alternative break trip is different – they each are made up of different students, different destinations, and different challenges. But the overwhelming bond that they all share is the purpose and passion of the people who participate in this adventure of serving others. They all are quick to realize that no matter how crazy and crowded our living situation is for that week, we are much better off than the people that we are there to help. Habitat, as an organization, is built on the foundation of partnership, and our living and working communally is one of the best and strongest ways to build those bonds of community and family.

Did your Senior Capstone Experience have a major influence on your future career or your personal growth? If so, please explain what your SCE entailed and how it influenced who or where you are today.

My SCE was probably the most difficult thing that I did as a student, but was also the culmination of more than a decade of study. Writing it wasn’t easy, but it was cathartic. My SCE really showed me how much I had grown as a student, and how ready I was to take on a new job. I chose the Humanities major not because it delineated a clear career path, but because it taught me how to read, write, and think critically, and those skills will transcend any career that I choose to pursue.

Campus Involvement
  • Douglass Cater Society of Junior Fellows
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Omicron Delta Kappa
  • Phi Sigma Tau
  • Pi Lambda Theta