Max Hill ’20

Mapping a meaningful career pathway.

Max Hill '20

From career communities to internship opportunities, the CLS helped Max Hill ’20 align his values, strengths, and curiosities.

When Max Hill ’20 looks back at his four years in Grinnell, the relationships he developed at the College particularly stand out.

He met his two best friends, bonded with his football teammates, and engaged with faculty members in interesting ways. When it came to planning for his future, he treasures the relationships made with Careers, Life, and Service (CLS) staff.

Keira Wilson [assistant director of service & social innovation] is one of my mentors at Grinnell,” Hill says. “She is energetic and kind. Going back to my first year, she was always encouraging me to branch out and think about what service and social innovation look like.”

Hill, who grew up in California’s San Fernando Valley, is a first-generation graduate. He originally thought he was destined for community college. Grinnell’s offer of admission changed his plans, and scholarships along with working on weekends helped him mitigate the amount of student debt.

Max Hill '20 works on the project with classmates and with assistance of a professor.
Max Hill ’20 (left) works with classmates on a project.

A political science major (with a concentration in statistics), Hill envisioned becoming a lawyer and then a politician. Thus, he joined the CLS’s Law Career Community though his interest started shifting to finance during his first year at Grinnell. Career communities provide specialized advising and programming for students to focus and connect their values, strengths, and interests to particular post-graduate goals and ambitions. There are seven career communities ranging across industries and professions.

“I later joined the Business and Finance Career Community because financial literacy and stability were very important to me coming from a low-income background,” Hill says. “I was trying to get my feet wet in those skills. My first internship, which was with the Iowa Center for Economic Success, dove into microfinance and social enterprise. We were providing financing for minority small business owners. It also taught me how to read financial statements, balance sheets, and credit reports. It was real experience that put me on a trajectory of helping people while understanding the dynamics of financial products.”

Hill also interned with Hubbell Reality and later was a CLS service and social innovation intern, which further shaped his career interests in fiscal policy, workforce development, and affordable housing. The internships, like many others at Grinnell, were supported through gifts made to the CLS.

During his time on campus, Hill stayed busy. He was a wide receiver and kick returner for the Pioneer football team. He served as a monitor and barbershop coordinator for the Conney M. Kimbo Black Cultural Center, led campus Bible study, and studied how cities work on four continents after receiving the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.

“Grinnell is very much a school where you cannot be passive about your time,” Hill says. “Going to this school really drew out my intrinsic motivation and helped me think and be intentional about what I do with my time.”

Max Hill '20 makes a diving catch playing for the Grinnell Pioneer football team.
Max Hill ’20 makes a diving catch playing for the Grinnell football team.

In 2020, Hill was awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, a one-year grant for purposeful, independent exploration outside the U.S. Hill’s project – which has been delayed until 2022-23 because of the pandemic – will take him to China, Brazil, Senegal, Jamaica, and Dominican Republic to explore Black Masculinity and Martial Arts. Through interviewing, community engagement and observation, Hill will study the physical and spiritual aspects of martial arts to explore the intersection of blackness and manhood. His first stop will be a Shaolin temple in China.

“Martial arts isn’t just fighting for the sake of fighting. It’s their whole way of life,” Hill says. “I’ll be studying with monks and eating a vegetarian diet. They push you where you need to be in terms of growth. Some people come there and meditate; other people do physical work in order to bring their life into balance.”

With the Watson journey on hold, Maureen Fitzgibbon, director of the CLS Government & Social Service Career Community, invited Hill last year to an orientation about public policy. That event became a gateway for Hill to pursue a master’s degree in public policy and international affairs from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.

“The CLS provides students with numerous resources from learning how to write cover letters to developing interview skills,” Hill says. “They helped me with developing a writing style that I’m still using when applying for internships. The staff wants you to succeed. They helped me identify and follow my dream.”

— by Jeremy Shapiro