Dante Hill

Dante Hill
Photo by Megan Bean

Dante Hill said he never will forget pizza and Play-Doh.

In his first semester as a resident hall assistant, only one resident attended his first planned program that included those two items as attractions. For the then-sophomore at Western Carolina University, the experience would be recalled afterwards as a miserable failure—but one that left him with two choices: give up or move forward.

He chose the latter, and the decision led him to an unlikely, yet very fulfilling, career, said Hill, now Mississippi State's associate director of residence life.

After quickly licking his wounds from the negative experience, Hill went on to earn two RA-of-the-year awards at WCU as he completed a business administration bachelor's degree in law. Instead of going on to law school, however, he decided to pursue a master's in counselor education, with an emphasis in student affairs.

That decision would bring Hill to MSU in 2008, where he became both a graduate student in the College of Education and a resident hall director. After completing the graduate degree in 2010, he joined the Division of Student Affairs staff full-time as an area coordinator.

For the past two years in the Office of Housing and Residence Life, Hill has supervised the university's 15 residence hall staffs and their programming activities, among a variety of other duties. The work is hard, but it's worth it, the Durham, North Carolina, native said.

"I look at when I was in college; education was very important to me, but what really stands out in my mind is the relationships I had with residence hall staff and other students," Hill said. "Those people had an impact on my life outside the classroom, and I want to give that back to others."

Hill admitted that he originally had plans to leave Mississippi, but now he, wife Eileen and young son Camden have made a home in Starkville.

"I thought I'd be here two years and be gone," he said. "But my seven years here have been great and the people here are amazing. They make you feel at home and make you feel comfortable.

"They make you want to stay."