Sitting on a roof in the bitter cold of a Chicago November, joints aching, Austin Hill thought to himself: Going to school is better than working construction.
So he returned to Union.
Austin’s meandering journey to graduation started at Union, but he dropped out before completing his degree.
“I quit because I became disillusioned with college,” Austin admits. “I was spending a lot of money and it was high stress. I was convinced by friends and family that college was the key to success. But school was never my thing, and I experienced burnout, so I decided to go work on other things.”
He took a two-year hiatus before his rooftop reckoning returned him to Union. These gap-years weren’t the first time Austin contemplated the merits of college. He pursued a brief career in construction before beginning his freshmen year. He wasn’t convinced college was a worthy investment.
But at Union he found financial advisors who were forthright and teachers who cared.
“The financial advisors were always honest with me. I could tell they were trying to help me get my money’s worth. And the teachers cared about me. That was one of the things I liked best about Union, the teachers cared about me, and I could tell.”
When considering a major, Austin knew a desk job wasn’t for him. “I want to do something dynamic. I don’t work well in a rigid structure. I also want to be creative and to help others.”
His reasons for choosing the Health and Human Performance Program were both practical and personal.
“When I was in high school,” Austin shared, “the doctors told me I should take more concern with my health. They told me I could end up diabetic if I didn’t turn my numbers around.”
So, Austin did. His journey transformed his life and planted in him a passion to help others experience this same transformation.
“I get really excited seeing people’s turnarounds,” Austin explained. “I love seeing how it can change lives. I like watching people gain confidence. I like watching them smile more. I like seeing them have more energy. I like seeing the happiness and fulfillment it gives them. It’s so rewarding to see someone’s life change for the better and to know you helped them get there.”
After a false start and two gap years, Austin graduated from Union in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in health and human performance and minors in personal training and business.
Austin admits it can be a challenge to maintain an active lifestyle, but a simple formula has proved useful in reaching his goals. “Make it work and make it play,” Austin advises. “By make it work, I mean: make it a part of your schedule; write it down; make it something you do every day; make it a habit. But at the same time, don’t forget to make it play; find the exercise you like. At the end of the day, the exercise you like doing the most is better than the best exercise you never do.”
by Trena Reed ’97