With Tick Study, Ciera Morris ’19 Launches Career in Tackling Infectious Disease

When biology major Ciera Morris ’19 wanted to challenge herself by completing a voluntary senior thesis, she sought a project that would reflect her interest in infectious disease research as it relates to public health. Collaborating with Assistant Professor of Biology Elizabeth Gleim and Associate Professor of Biology Morgan Wilson, she found the perfect vehicle: Exploring tick ecology in southwest Virginia and its possible connection to the risk of Lyme disease.

“Given there are a lot of public health implications in regard to tick research, working with Dr. Gleim and Dr. Wilson was the best option for me,” Morris says. “We decided my project should focus on species composition and the abundance and phenology of ticks in southwest Virginia to better comprehend disease ecology in the Roanoke Valley. This included understanding what tick species are present and what times of the year they are active.”

“Her project has been incredibly intensive involving a year of monthly filed collections of ticks at sites all over the Roanoke Valley,” Gleim explains. “She collected almost 20,000 ticks and did a lot of lab work, too.”

With the sheer volume of ticks involved, Morris notes that the process of analyzing the ticks she gathered will have to be continued by other students after she graduates. But, she adds, “I could see this study being published in a couple of years or so.”

Another highlight of Morris’ undergraduate career was a signature internship two years ago with Climate Central, a New Jersey-based nonprofit organization that performs ecological research and produces nonpartisan information regarding climate change. During that January Short Term opportunity, “I was investigating the impact of wildfires on air quality and human health in California and Washington State,” she says.

Morris’ impressive record of research has earned her a two-year, post-baccalaureate fellowship at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana. The facility is part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

“It’s a really impressive fellowship,” Gleim states. “Some of the premier research on tick-borne diseases has historically come out of the Rocky Mountain Laboratories,” including the discovery of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

“I’m primarily going to be looking at how pathogens are transmitted to hosts, and how disease development occurs out of that,” Morris says. “I’ll be working with and learning from a laboratory team that brings different backgrounds of knowledge and skills. I’m excited because I think it’s going to be a good transition from dealing with tick ecology to viral research in general. It’s a good stepping stone to where I want to be.”

After completing her fellowship, Morris expects to go on to graduate school and pursue either a Master’s degree or a Ph.D. focusing on infectious disease. Whatever path her career ultimately takes, she is confident her experience as a student-athlete has given her the tools to maintain a healthy work-life balance. A member of the Hollins soccer team for four years, three of which she served as team captain, Morris says her professors supported her active participation in interests outside the classroom while her coaches encouraged her to pursue undergraduate research.

“Continuing that type of balanced relationship with both academic and extracurricular interests is important. It teaches you a lot as you move into a career setting.”

 

 


Meaghan Harrington ’19 Says Her Liberal Arts Education “Opened My Eyes To New Conclusions”

Meaghan Harrington ’19 once believed her inability to focus on one interest or a single area of study reflected poorly upon her. “I labeled that as uncertainty, and in a lot of places there’s really no space to be indecisive,” she recalls. “It’s viewed as a negative thing.”

But at Hollins, Harrington says she has been able to immerse herself in a liberal arts environment that encourages exploration and self-discovery. “It always frustrates me when people talk down the liberal arts, because the opportunity to do whatever I want and dabble in all these different fields has opened my eyes to new conclusions. Eventually, I found a mishmash of things that work for me.”

“Meaghan is what I’d describe as a ‘big thinker,’” says Associate Professor of History Rachel Nunez. “She really exemplifies the power of a liberal arts education to help students find new ways of thinking and being.”

Harrington’s quest to find the right academic combination included considering majors in international studies and gender and women’s studies. Ultimately, she landed upon double-majoring in history and classical studies, but she’s never hesitated to continue embracing any topic that she finds compelling. “I’ve taken classes in fields from environmental studies to music, and most recently I’ve been really interested in dance,” she notes. The latter helped inform her choice to examine in her senior history thesis the rhetoric of Mormon women on the female body in the late 19th century.

During the summer of 2017, between her sophomore and junior years, Harrington brought her interest in archaeology, a field that has fascinated her since fifth grade, to fruition. She performed six weeks of hands-on fieldwork at the annual Archaeological Field School in Jamestown, Virginia, site of the first permanent English settlement in North America (her research is detailed in this article). The following February and March, her desire to work in a diverse cultural setting was realized during an internship with the American Center for Oriental Research in Amman, Jordan. Then, she continued growing her experience in archaeology as a volunteer with the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville.

Field excavation is drawing Harrington back to Jamestown this summer for an internship that she says is designed to help “demystify archaeology.” She will help conduct research on The Angela Project, an effort to explore the life and landscape of one of the first recorded Africans brought to English North America in slavery. “I’m excited to contribute to the creation of more diverse stories about the past,” Harrington says.

She adds that she is especially looking forward to using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to collect data at the site. A GIS captures and analyzes spatial information and offers a wide range of applications,  from the study of history to urban planning and architecture. “With this software-based technology, you can create maps and three-dimensional images,” she explains. “It’s the perfect way to visualize everything in which I’m interested.”

Harrington is so excited about GIS and its possibilities that she will be completing a post-baccalaureate certificate in the field, and employing the knowledge she gains to determine her future educational and career plans.

“I’m probably going to graduate school at some point, but in the meantime I think I will spend a couple of years in the field using GIS. The creativity in that work will certainly help me to define my future interests.”

In other words, no matter where life takes her after Hollins, Harrington will go on thinking big.

 


Salowey, Cockrell Recognized at Honors Convocation

Hollins paid tribute to two revered faculty members during the university’s 42nd Honors Convocation on May 7.

Professor of Classical Studies Tina Salowey received the Herta T. Freitag Faculty Legacy Award. Since 2000, Hollins has presented the award to a member of the faculty whose recent scholarly and creative accomplishments reflect the extraordinary academic standards set by Freitag, who served as professor of mathematics at Hollins from 1948 to 1971.

“This year’s honoree teaches numerous literature genres, two ancient languages, and the art, religion, history, philosophy, architecture, science, and geography of the long-lived civilizations that spoke and wrote those languages,” Vice President for Academic Affairs Patricia Hammer stated in her convocation remarks. “The breadth and scope of her interests have in turn had a profound impact on her work as a researcher and a scholar.”

Hammer noted that Salowey’s intensive study of ancient grave monuments was chosen for inclusion in the 2017 publication, Women in the Classical World: Critical Concepts in Classical Studies. In collaboration with Associate Professor of Communication Studies Chris Richter, Salowey developed a digital exhibition on the World War II memorials in the Epirus region of northwestern Greece, preserving their location, sculptural design, and often poetic inscriptions. Another digital exhibition, produced with students in Salowey’s Greek 350: Greek Inscriptions class, included photographs of ancient Greek texts that were inscribed on ancient works of art. Her future scholarly plans include a textbook on mythology and environmental history, and writing a biography about the River Acheloos, the largest river in Greece.

Salowey joined the Hollins faculty in 1996.

Amanda Cockrell, who retired last year as director of Hollins’ graduate programs in children’s literature, was presented the Roberta A. Stewart Service Award. The award is granted to a Hollins employee who demonstrates long-term service, loyalty to the university, and deep caring for students and colleagues.

Beginning with just six students, Cockrell and Professor of English Richard Dillard co-founded the children’s literature graduate programs in 1992. The program was one of the first of its kind in the country, devoted exclusively to the study and writing of children’s and young adult literature. “Over the years, the program has grown in so many wonderful ways, thanks to her remarkable leadership,” said Hammer. “And her dedication to helping students find not a ‘Hollins’ voice but their own voice has profoundly touched lives both personally and creatively. As one former student noted, ‘She has counseled us, taught us, guided us, answered a million questions, sent a thousand emails, and kept track of dozens of students at once. We salute her for creating a program that has become a safe haven to so many of us, a home away from home.'”

Over the years, approximately 230 students have passed through the graduate programs designed and built by Cockrell.

 

 


Hollins Honored For Best Undergraduate Theatre Program in Virginia

One of the world’s most-read theatre websites has named Hollins Theatre as the top undergraduate theatre program in Virginia.

OnStage Blog, which covers theatre on an international level, features Hollins in the 2019 edition of “The Best Undergraduate Theatre Programs in Each State.”

“Every year, OnStage Blog deep dives into college theatre programs to find what we feel are some of the best in the nation,” the website explains. “While the perfect program is the one that fits best with the student, schools can become that fit with fantastic facilities, strong faculty, [and] multiple performance opportunities, among other things. In truth, there are some schools that do that better than others and should be recognized for it.”

“There are some really terrific programs in our state, so this is quite an honor,” said Ernie Zulia, artistic director and chair of the Hollins theatre department. “I thank our incredible theatre faculty and staff for their brilliance and hard work. They are what makes us shine.”

In its review, OnStage Blog touts Hollins for the internship opportunities it offers “at some of the country’s most prestigious professional theatres, including: Cleveland Play House, Houston’s Alley Theatre, Washington D.C.’s Arena Stage, New York’s Amas Musical Theatre, and Roanoke’s Mill Mountain Theatre. Other internships are being arranged at theatres around the country on a regular basis.”


62nd Annual Science Seminar Celebrates Student Research

Twenty-seven research projects representing the work of 30 Hollins science and mathematics students were showcased during the university’s 62nd Annual Science Seminar on April 25.

Students from the departments of biology, chemistry, environmental studies, physics, and psychology took part in this year’s poster session, which was held for the first time on the newly renovated second floor of the Dana Science Building.

This year’s seminar featured research conducted in a number of diverse geographic locations, from South America (the Peruvian Amazon’s white-sand forests), Central America (Panamanian coastal habitats), and the Caribbean (biodiversity and hurricane impact in the U.S. Virgin Islands), to southwest Virginia (tick activity/species abundance and emerald ash bore infestation), the southern Appalachians (forest and cave ecosystems), and the Hollins campus itself (avian window collisions and wetlands). Students also delved into topics such as Knot Theory, stock price prediction, and parent-child interactions.

Following their undergraduate careers at Hollins, seminar participants plan to pursue a wide range of interests, which include enrolling in medical school and veterinary school; completing graduate degrees in marine science, animal science/research, ecology, clinical psychology, and chemistry; and embarking on careers in quantitative analysis, wildlife rehabilitation, environmental education, and food justice.

Among the highlights of the 62nd Annual Science Seminar was the presentation of the inaugural Ella Faith Mode Award, recognizing outstanding student research. Catherine Flayhart ’20, a chemistry major with a biochemistry concentration and a physics minor, is the award’s first honoree.

 

Photo:  Savannah Goodbar ’20 (far left) and Autumn Woodbury ’20 (far right) share their research into vehicle driver responses to snake and stick models placed on the edge of two Virginia roads, one surrounded by rural farmland and the other in a mix of forest, residential, and light business.

 


Google Applied Computing Series Comes to Hollins

Google has selected Hollins University as a partner institution to implement its Applied Computing Series, an initiative focusing on computer science education.

Associate Professors of Mathematics Julie Clark and Steve Wassell, and Vice President for Academic Affairs Patricia Hammer, spearheaded the effort to bring the Applied Computing Series to Hollins, one of only 11 colleges and universities nationally that have been accepted into the program this year.  Semester-long Applied Computing courses will be offered to students who haven’t previously had the opportunity to study computer science or data science.

“Google and we see these courses as appropriate for students of all majors who are interested in applying data science techniques to their fields of study,” says Clark.Google Logo

Google administers the course content and platform for free, and Clark and Wassell will take part in faculty training this summer. Google’s Applied Computing I, which will be offered beginning in the fall of 2019, introduces students to computer science through an easy-to-learn programming language called Python. The course emphasizes such skills as problem solving; data analysis; design, implementation, testing, and analysis of algorithms and programs; formulating problems; thinking creatively about solutions; and expressing solutions clearly. There are no prerequisite courses necessary to enroll in Applied Computing I.

Google’s Applied Computing II, which will be launched in Spring 2020, explores the topic, “How to Think Like a Data Scientist.” The course is designed to help students make informed, data-based decisions with machine learning in combination with tools such as spreadsheets, Structured Query Language (SQL), and Python. Applied Computing I is a prerequisite for this course.

“These intro courses foster hands-on learning complemented by faculty-supported, collaborative project work,” Clark explains. “Our goal is to have students complete these courses with practical know-how in programming languages and the ability to make data-informed decisions in many disciplines.”


International Honor Society in Education Establishes Hollins Chapter

Hollins University is the home of the newest chapter of Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), the international honor society in education.

The Alpha Iota Rho chapter was officially established on campus this month with 21 inductees. The mission of this organization is to advance quality education by inspiring teachers to prepare all learners for future challenges.

“Our goal is to have this newly installed society encourage all Hollins students and future educators to continue to achieve academic excellence at Hollins and beyond,” said Shalan Mitchell ’19 and Lindsey Grubb ’19, co-presidents of the chapter.

KDP was founded in 1911 to promote excellence in education and encourage fellowship among those dedicated to teaching. Featuring an initiated membership of more than 1.2 million, KDP champions four ideals, as articulated during the Alpha Iota Rho initiation ceremony on March 7:

  • Fidelity to Humanity: “Implies faith in the potential of human beings and in the improvement of the human condition through education; compassion in the contacts one has, as an educator, with humanity; and dedication to the concept that through continuous education based upon equal opportunity, persons of all ages, races, and creeds will find increased opportunity for experiencing more meaningful lives.”
  • Fidelity to Science: “Implies that, as an educator, one will be faithful to the cause of free inquiry and strive to eliminate prejudice and superstition by withholding judgement until accurate and adequate evidence is obtained.”
  • Fidelity to Service: “The very essence of education, which seeks advancement, not merely for self, but for society as well.”
  • Fidelity to Toil: “The will to do the task that must be done whether the task pleases one or not, faith in the social necessity and intrinsic reward of the education profession.”

To learn more about the Hollins chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, email kappadeltapi@hollins.edu.

 

Photo caption: Lindsey Grubb ’19 (left) and Shalan Mitchell ’19, co-presidents of the newly established Kappa Delta Pi chapter at Hollins.

 


Hollins Announces New Dean of Graduate Studies

Image of Julie DeLoiaHollins University has named Julie DeLoia, Ph.D., as dean of graduate studies at the university. She will oversee the university’s established graduate programs and be responsible for developing new programs.

DeLoia comes to Hollins from Jefferson College of Health Sciences in Roanoke, where she had served as dean of the college and professor of arts and sciences since 2017. She also held a secondary appointment at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University School of Medicine, where she was a professor in the department of interprofessionalism. Previously, she held various academic appointments and leadership positions at the George Washington School of Public Health, Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

DeLoia holds a B.S. in biology from Westminster College and a Ph.D. in human genetics from Johns Hopkins University. She completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wistar Institute.

“We are excited to welcome DeLoia as a member of the Hollins leadership team,” said Hollins President Pareena Lawrence. “The university and our graduate programs will benefit greatly from her broad experience and expertise. She is a proven leader with a track record of innovation, including developing and launching successful distance education programs, creating flexible, hybrid course programming for working students, and tracking marketplace trends through alumni and employer engagement to inform curricular revisions.”

“I am honored to be joining Hollins University, which is one of our nation’s outstanding institutions and one that is committed to superb liberal arts education,” said DeLoia. “I have been impressed and inspired by President Lawrence’s energy and dedication to growing Hollins in alignment with its mission and values and look forward to being part of the Hollins community.”

Hollins offers coed Master of Arts (M.A.) degrees in children’s literature, liberal studies, screenwriting and film studies, teaching, and teaching and learning, and Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) degrees in children’s book writing and illustrating, children’s literature, creative writing, dance, playwriting, and screenwriting. For more information about the university’s graduate and certificate programs, visit https://www.hollins.edu/grad.


Hollins, Virginia Western Announce Guaranteed Admission Agreements

Hollins University and Virginia Western Community College have established Guaranteed Admission Agreements (GAA) for graduates of four Associate of Science programs from Virginia Western.

Students who obtain a cumulative grade point average of 2.5 in academically transferable courses and complete all requirements for Associate of Science degrees in business administration, general studies, social sciences, or social sciences – education, are guaranteed admission to Hollins.

“Hollins and Virginia Western recognize the need to partner and facilitate the path for women who seek to earn a four-year college degree and transfer their credits seamlessly into the Hollins curriculum and degree programs,” said Hollins President Pareena Lawrence. “Our GAAs will empower more students to continue their undergraduate education at an institution that prepares women to succeed in all sectors of society with an emphasis on leadership, life skills, and professional development.”

Lawrence noted that GAA students who enroll at Hollins will enjoy a number of benefits. “They are eligible for admission to competitive programs, financial aid, scholarships, parking, housing, and all other student services just as any other Hollins student. And, GAA students with a minimum of 58 credits will be given junior status and can enroll directly into 200 level courses or higher at Hollins.”

At a signing ceremony on Friday at Virginia Western, President Robert H. Sandel shared his excitement regarding the new agreements with a group of students. “Hollins is an outstanding university and has always been a wonderful partner for Virginia Western. These new agreements will give our students another pathway to seamlessly transfer and continue their education in pursuit of a strong career,” he said.

All of the courses that are accepted by Hollins will be applied towards the student’s baccalaureate degree and major program. A minimum grade of “C” must be obtained in each course the student wishes to transfer. GAA students can expect to graduate from Hollins with a baccalaureate degree after the successful completion of a minimum of 64 credits, two four-credit Short Term activities (classes, trips, independent study, or internships), and two physical education courses.

Moving forward, Lawrence said Hollins will provide up-to-date information to GAA students at Virginia Western pertaining to transfer procedures, financial assistance, housing policies, tuition and fee payments, and deadlines. Hollins will also develop a GAA guide for use by counselors, faculty, and students at Virginia Western.

Hollins is an independent liberal arts university offering undergraduate education for women, selected graduate programs for men and women, and community outreach initiatives. Founded in 1842, Hollins features nationally recognized programs in creative writing and theatre, extensive internship and study abroad opportunities, and a dedicated alumnae network.

Virginia Western Community College is a forward-thinking community college inspiring individual, community, and economic transformation. It provides quality educational opportunities that empower students for success and strengthen communities. The college provides credit based academic programs and non-credit workforce training along with distance learning online and dual enrollment courses in area high schools. To learn more, visit www.virginiawestern.edu.

Photo: Flanked by Virginia Western Community College students, Virginia Western President Robert Sandel and Hollins President Pareena Lawrence sign the Guaranteed Admission Agreements between the two institutions. 


Princeton Review Touts Hollins as a “Best Value College”

Hollins University is one of the nation’s best colleges for students seeking a superb education with great career preparation at an affordable price, according to The Princeton Review.

The education services company profiles Hollins in the 2019 edition of its annual guide, The Best Value Colleges: 200 Schools with Exceptional ROI for Your Tuition Investment, published by Penguin Random House/Princeton Review Books.

Information on the book, including its school profiles, is accessible for free on The Princeton Review’s website.

“We salute Hollins and all of our Best Value Colleges. They stand out for their outstanding academics and their affordability via generous financial aid to students with need and/or comparatively low sticker prices,” said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s editor-in-chief and lead author of the book. “Students at these colleges also have access to extraordinary career services from their freshman year on, plus a lifetime of valuable alumnae/i support.” The Princeton Review ranks Hollins #17 in the category, “Top 25 Best Alumni Networks.”

The book’s editors at The Princeton Review state, “A Hollins education is an affordable education. And students are thrilled to report that the Financial Aid Office is nothing short of ‘fantastic.’ Importantly, through a combination of need-based aid, scholarships, and cost-effective loans and grants, the university is able to distribute over $24 million annually in financial aid.”

The editors add, “The career outlook for Hollins students is pretty rosy. That’s partially thanks to the fact that undergrads are able to tap into a ‘highly active alumni base.’ They also have a wonderful Career Center at their disposal. Indeed, from the beginning of the first year, undergrads can swing by the office and start plotting their path to career success.”

The Princeton Review crunched more than 40 data points to tally ROI (return on investment) ratings of the colleges that determined its selection of the 200 schools for the book. Topics ranged from academics, cost, and financial aid to graduation rates, student debt, alumnae/i salaries, and job satisfaction.