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The Scoop on Trent Hill
By SJ Alexander
February 23, 2003

Trent Hill, a lecturer here at the iSchool, took some time to talk to me on Valentine's Day about how his first year of teaching here is going, and what he does when he's not chained to his desk.

For those who don't know, Trent is a recent graduate of the iSchool, finishing his MLIS in the spring of 2002. However, he isn't new to the world of teaching. Before enrolling at the iSchool, Trent taught as a graduate student in the early '90s at Duke University, which lead to a post-doctoral teaching position at Clemson University in South Carolina until 2000. He holds a Ph.D. in English literature and taught classes at Clemson on literary criticism.

I asked him how teaching at Clemson differed from the atmosphere at the iSchool. "It's night and day!" he replied without hesitation. "The atmosphere at the iSchool is much more collegial than any place else I've ever been. The administration is extremely supportive. Mike [Eisenberg], if you're reading this, I'm not kissing your ass!" he laughed. "Seriously, there is less of a division, and I feel like we're all colleagues. I felt that as a student, and I still feel it as faculty."

Trent has a long-time love for music. He has played guitar since the 1980s, and has also experimented on and off with the violin. He told me he started off playing "arty folksongs in coffee houses," which somehow lead to his involvement in a band called "Blue Chair" from about 1987-1992. "We were influenced by King Crimson and the Minutemen. I'd like to think that I was channeling Jeff Buckley, but when I listen to the recordings I realize that I just sounded like Kermit The Frog. I was totally trying to sing out of my range."

Trent brings his interest in music to many aspects of his work. His most recent article, "Why Isn't Country Music 'Youth' Culture?" appears in the book Rock Over the Edge: Transformations in Popular Music Culture (2002) and is available through the UW Libraries. He wrote freelance record reviews for Rolling Stone in the early '90s and cites Lester Bangs as an "early intellectual influence."

Trent has done quite a bit of traveling to places in Europe, such as England, Belgium, and his "spiritual home," The Netherlands. He married in 1999. He and his wife, Melinda, honeymooned in Spain. When he has time, Trent also takes part in randonneuring, an endurance bicycle sport where the challenge is to cover 100-600 km in a set period of hours.

As we brought the interview to a close, I wanted to know why I should take LIS 537 (Construction of Indexing Languages) from him, which is offered this spring and spring 2004. "Well, I've taken it, of course. Our group got a really good sense of how not to create a thesaurus-we were sort of the 'scared straight' group. It's also good practical experience. A lot of job listings ask for people who can build ontologies and controlled vocabularies. It's very do-it-yourself, and you develop an appreciation for the tools."

Finally, I asked Trent to tell me a little bit about his history and personal life. "I was raised in Kannapolis, North Carolina, the hometown of Dale Earnhardt and George Clinton."

"George Clinton of Funkadelic?" I asked.

"Yes, and I think it's an absolute crime that they don't have a statue of him anywhere in the whole town!" he laughed. Trent still strongly identifies with his Southern roots: "I couldn't be more southern if I was dipped in lard and deep-fried."

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