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Honors & activities

Departmental honors

The Hollins philosophy program offers students the opportunity to graduate with departmental honors in philosophy. In order to do this, students must:

  • write an honors thesis under the direction of one of the department's full-time faculty members
  • present some portion of that thesis to her peers during the Senior Seminar, and
  • defend the thesis before a committee composed of her director and at least one other faculty member.

Recent theses include: "Thoughts to Words and Back Again," "The Right to Life and Death," "Social Contracts," "A Pound of Flesh: Developing a Feminist Theory of Prostitution," and "The Ethics and Consistency of the Incest Prohibition."


Phi Sigma Tau

Phi Sigma Tau, the International Honor Society in Philosophy, has over 150 member chapters. It was founded to promote ties among philosophy departments in accredited institutions. The Society serves as a means of awarding distinction to students having high scholarship and interest in philosophy. Students have the opportunity to publish in the Society's journal, Dialogue. Hollins University is the Virginia Theta Chapter of the Society. It was founded in 1996. Our chapter's activities include sponsoring philosophy speakers, conducting informal meetings with philosophy students from other area colleges and universities, breakfast table discussions of favorite philosophy topics, and a festive yearly induction ceremony.

Among those who have delivered lectures in the past have been:

  • Rosemarie Tong, "Feminine and Feminist Ethics" (Davidson College)
  • Kit Wellman, "The Right of Secession" (Guilford College)
  • Cora Diamond, "Truth: Debunkers, Defenders, and Despisers" (U. Virginia)
  • Tom Regan, "Animal Rights and Wrongs" (North Carolina State)
  • Val Plumwood, "Feminism and Environmental Ethics" (U. North Carolina)
  • Richard Fleming, "Words Not My Own" (Bucknell University)
  • Gregory Velazco y Trianosky, "Genocide and the Spanish Conquest" (U. Michigan)
  • Richard Rorty, "Pragmatism and Romance" (U. Virginia)
  • Alvin Plantinga, "Naturalism Defeated" (Notre Dame University)
  • Tom Regan, "But For the Sake of a Mouthful of Flesh" (North Carolina State)


Ethics Bowl

Hollins is a member of the Virginia Foundation of Independent Colleges, which sponsors an annual Ethics Bowl among 15 member schools. Each year Hollins students participate in a debate-style competition held at a Virginia university in which each team considers a number of case studies in applied ethics and answers questions posed by a panel of judges. The case studies have recently focused on questions of Ethics and Technology and Business Ethics, and each year a new theme is chosen. The philosophy department sponsors the team and the coaches are philosophy professors.

Ethics Bowl 2011Hollins University has won its first-ever Ethics Bowl championship! Hollins won the 15th annual statewide collegiate Wells Fargo Ethics Bowl, held February 9-10 at Randolph-Macon College and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC). The student team, which included Morgan Blalock '16, Madchen Specht '16, and Rory Keeley '17 with faculty coordinator Associate Professor of Philosophy James Downey, competed head-to-head against other student teams from Virginia's independent colleges and universities, debating a variety of case studies highlighting ethical dilemmas. The theme of this year's event was "Ethics and Health Care." Hollins first won three of its four Commonwealth Division matches, beating Washington and Lee, Sweet Briar, and Lynchburg (the team's lone loss was to Randolph). Hollins and Sweet Briar both shared 3-1 records to lead their division, but Hollins was awarded the tie-breaker for the division title as a result of defeating Sweet Briar head-to-head. In the Ethics Bowl final, Hollins faced Cardinal Division winner Bridgewater and earned victory by choosing to defend a more difficult position and doing an excellent job arguing it. Hollins' VFIC Ethics Bowl championship is even more remarkable when you consider that none of our team members had ever participated before in the event.

Photo: Hollins' 2014 Ethics Bowl Team with Associate Professor of Philosophy James Downey


The Lafayette Bowl

A two-student debate team from Hollins University has been invited to participate in The Lafayette Debates, sponsored by the Embassy of France and The George Washington University, April 12 – 13 in Washington, D.C. According to the event's website, the debate tournament offers "the best and brightest student debaters…an opportunity to engage with prominent international relations scholars and professionals on issues of political, social and cultural significance to citizens of not only the French Republic and the United States, but also the world." The invitation comes on the heels of Hollins winning the 15th annual statewide collegiate Wells Fargo Ethics Bowl, held in February at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland.

Madchen Specht '16 and Rory Keeley '17 will represent Hollins at the event, which focuses on addressing issues of great importance to both the United States and France as a way to encourage discourse and interaction between the two nations. The featured topic at this year’s debates is the impact of globalization on culture and cultural industries. Specifically, the objectives of the international agreement on cultural preservation, the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, will be researched and debated by college and university students from both countries. Hollins will be competing against such prestigious institutions as Georgetown, Harvard, NYU, Penn State, Stanford, University of California – Berkeley, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Washington University, and Yale. More »