Swim Team Earns Scholar All-America Status

For the fifth consecutive semester, the Hollins University swim team has been named a Scholar All-America team by the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America.

To earn the honor, teams must have earned a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher for the Fall 2017 semester. The Hollins swim team last fall boasted a 3.56 GPA, its highest ever.

Coach Patrick Richardson’s squad also has the distinction of holding the highest overall GPA among the college and university swim teams that compete in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.

 

 

 


Hollins Introduces Online Graduate Program in Teaching and Learning

Hollins University is launching a new Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning (MATL), an online graduate program for licensed PreK-12 educators who wish to grow their teaching skills for the benefit of their students, their school, and their career.

The MATL is designed for teachers who want to learn more about the practice of teaching; acquire and develop new knowledge; develop curricula in collaborative teams; and assume leadership roles within a school and/or school system.

“Men and women admitted to the program will have the opportunity to work with accomplished faculty in the areas essential in today’s continually changing landscape of PreK-12 education: writing, inquiry, instructional design, assessment, leadership, technology, and contemporary issues in education,” said Lorraine Lange, director of the MATL as well as the Master of Arts in Teaching and the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies graduate programs at Hollins. “Faculty members encourage collaborative efforts and provide opportunities for students, experienced teachers themselves, to learn from one another.”

Students in the MATL program must complete seven core courses, including a graduate thesis, and three program electives for a total of 40 credit hours. All courses are taught online.

For more information, contact Lorraine Lange at (540) 362-6576 or langel@hollins.edu.


Artist-in-Residence is Powerful Visual Activist, LGBT Advocate

The 2017 winner of France’s top cultural honor will be teaching students, exhibiting her work, and leading a special symposium on the Hollins campus this spring.

South African photographer and activist Zanele Muholi will be Hollins’ 2018 Frances Niederer Artist-in-Residence during the university’s Spring Term, which begins January 31. The Artist-in-Residence program enables Hollins to bring a recognized artist to campus every year.  While in residence, they work in a campus studio and teach an art seminar open to all students. During their time at Hollins, the artist-in-residence is a vital part of the campus and greater Roanoke community.

Muholi has earned international acclaim for her efforts to document South Africa’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. In 2017, her work has been shown in galleries and museums in New York, Cape Town, London, Amsterdam, and Berlin. She is perhaps best known for her ongoing series and self-described “lifetime project” Faces and Phases, which includes black-and-white photographs of lesbian and trans South Africans. The series began in 2006 and was the basis for a 2014 book that featured 258 images from the project’s first eight years.

A new book of 100 self-portraits, Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness, is scheduled for publication in April 2018. In November 2017, she was actively involved in New York City’s Performa 17, “a leader in commissioning artists whose work has collectively shaped a new chapter in the multi-century legacy of visual artists working in live performance.”

Muholi has earned numerous awards, most recently and most notably France’s Chevalier in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters) for 2017, which recognizes those who have “distinguished themselves in the domain of artistic or literary creation or for the contribution they have made to art and literature in France and the world.” Upon receiving the honor, Muholi stated, “We work hard to create content that scholars and the rest of the world are able to use to highlight the many challenges faced by the LGBT communities….[It] is important to make sure that we unite the LGBT community so that people know that we too exist as professionals and as creators of great content.” Other honors include the 2016 Infinity Award from New York’s International Center of Photography, which recognizes major contributions and emerging talent in the fields of photojournalism, art, fashion photography, and publishing.

Highlighting Muholi’s residency at Hollins will be an exhibition of her work in the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum, February 8 – April 22. The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, will open with a presentation by Muholi on Thursday, February 8, at 6 p.m.

Muholi will also headline a symposium, “Becoming Visible – A Celebration of LGBTQ+ Lives,” on Friday and Saturday, April 13 and 14, in the Richard Wetherill Visual Arts Center. In addition to programs with Muholi, Boy Erased author Garrard Conley, and local  LGBTQ+ activist Gregory Rosenthal, the symposium will include a screening of the documentary film Born This Way and an open microphone session where members of the audience can comment and share stories.

“Zanele focuses chiefly on the black South African LGBTQIA+ community,” said Sinazo Chiya of the Stevenson gallery in South Africa, “but the significance of her work reverberates outwards to celebrate queer and marginalised communities the world over, which is crucial in our turbulent and often divisive social climate.”

Muholi is represented by the Yancey Richardson Gallery in New York City.

 

 

 


Hollins to Launch Creative Writing Major in 2018-19

Hollins University has long earned its place on the literary map, producing dozens of writers of national and international acclaim, including Pulitzer Prize winners Annie Dillard, Henry Taylor, and Natasha Trethewey; bestselling authors Lee Smith, Jill McCorkle, and Beth Macy; Kiran Desai, winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award; Madison Smartt Bell, recipient of a Strauss Living Award for literary excellence from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; and Will Schutt, winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition.

Now, Hollins’ Jackson Center for Creative Writing, which offers both a concentration and a minor in creative writing in addition to a Master of Fine Arts degree in the field, is introducing an undergraduate major in creative writing, beginning in the 2018-19 academic year.

“ ‘Where students mature into authors’ is one of the Jackson Center’s guiding principles and is even more relevant with the advent of this new opportunity for undergraduates,” said Cathryn Hankla, professor of English and creative writing and chair of the English and creative writing department at Hollins.

“At Hollins, we strive to create an environment in which each undergraduate and graduate creative writing student develops a way of seeing and saying that is distinctively their own,” added Patricia Hammer, vice president for academic affairs. “The new creative writing major strengthens this commitment. It ensures that we will continue to successfully foster new generations of authors in growing their craft.”

Hankla explained that the new major in creative writing will emphasize a multi-genre approach in its core curriculum. “The major will provide students with a working knowledge of three genres, along with ample opportunity for focused exploration through individual projects and classes in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, or cross-genre writing and literatures,” she said, noting that the major will be intertwined with the study of literature, “which the department views as essential.”

The new major features allied study in dance, visual art, film, music, or theatre, and will immerse students in a diversity of writers, writing theories, and literary experiences on campus. The major will be closely tied to the Jackson Center’s other distinctive offerings, including the Louis D. Rubin Jr. Writer-in-Residence program, the Lex Allen Literary Festival, and the visiting writers series.

“The creative writing major will offer students a systematic study of the field with an outstanding faculty of published authors,” Hankla stated. “I don’t know of any liberal arts college with as many authors of multiple books who are permanent faculty.

“I’m excited that Hollins, with its amazing publishing legacy of graduates and faculty, will add this to its curriculum.”

The Jackson Center endows substantive scholarships for undergraduate students. New students may choose to submit their work for Creative Talent Awards.

Home to Hollins’ undergraduate and graduate writing programs, the Jackson Center for Creative Writing was initiated in 2008 through a $5 million gift from Susan Gager Jackson ’68 and her husband, John Jackson. It maintains Hollins’ long-standing reputation among the top creative writing programs in the nation.

 

 


From Campus to the Persian Gulf to Cuba, a Hollins Junior Earns a Worldly Education

Hanna Strauss ’19 has embraced the notion of “global citizen” in a way few other college students have experienced.

During the summer following her first year at Hollins, Strauss spent eight weeks in Oman studying Arabic at the Center for International Learning in Muscat, the country’s capital. Last April, the National Council on U.S. – Arab Relations (NCUSAR) awarded her a fellowship to participate in a week-long visit to Qatar. Strauss is now preparing to spend her entire 2018 Spring Term in Cuba through an intensive program in which only two other Hollins students have ever participated.

“I was raised in a way that enabled me to appreciate other peoples’ cultures,” explained Strauss, who is double majoring in Spanish and political science. Embodying that understanding began at an early age: She took part in a Model United Nations program in middle school, an endeavor that took her to conferences at the UN itself in New York City.

“I was privileged to have that opportunity and decided to take it forward,” she recalled, and in addition to her two study trips to the Persian Gulf region in as many years, she has been actively involved in NCUSAR’s Model Arab League Conferences, particularly the Appalachia Regional Model Arab League (ARMAL) conference held annually at Hollins. ARMAL brings together college and high school students to learn firsthand what it is like to put themselves in the shoes of real-life Arab diplomats and other foreign affairs practitioners. Students act as representatives from Arabic-speaking countries ranging from Morocco to Iraq.

During each of the past two years, Strauss has served as the conference’s secretary-general, meaning responsibility for the event’s success has sat squarely on her shoulders. When she took on the project for the first time last year, she said she “had had some previous general experience with organizing, but I didn’t have any knowledge of what had come before with planning this particular conference. I went in pretty much completely blind last year.” Nevertheless, Professor of Political Science Ed Lynch was impressed with her dedication and enthusiasm and asked her to serve as secretary-general again when ARMAL returned to Hollins this November. He said his trust was well placed.

“Hanna performed well above and beyond the call of duty in preparing for the conference,” he stated. “In advance, she held weekly meetings to go over the rules and procedures, arranged practice debates, and created her own web page of directions, information, and best practices for council chairs.”

Strauss also established a paperless format, instituting a system that enabled conference chairs to submit resolutions to her through Google Docs and other platforms. She recruited help with running documents and checking on participants, “which made our conference just a little bit more prestigious,” and worked closely with Hollins food service provider Meriwether Godsey to provide meals and snacks, noting that “they made everything run really smoothly.”

“I took on a lot more this year, but I went in very confident,” she reflected.

Lynch believes a major factor in the achievement of this year’s ARMAL conference was Strauss’s work last spring in reactivating the Model UN/Model Arab League Club at Hollins, an organization that had been dormant on campus for roughly ten years.

“This revival, while done with my support and good wishes, was wholly a student-led initiative, from writing the club’s constitution to successfully petitioning the Student Government Association Senate,” Lynch said.

“I had thought about bringing the club back since my first semester at Hollins, and my fellowship to Qatar was the catalyst,” said Strauss. “We have a Model UN class here at Hollins, but I really wanted to supplement that.” The Model UN/Model Arab League Club now boasts more than 30 members and provided crucial support to the ARMAL conference, such as workers to assist Strauss with operations and funding for refreshments.

This year’s ARMAL welcomed 92 students from five colleges, two high schools, and one middle school, including 12 Hollins students. Delegates discussed a wide range of issues concerning the Middle East and North Africa, including changes in U.S. policy, efforts to alleviate poverty and isolation, and dealing with regional civil wars. Three Hollins students won awards: Samantha Makseyn ’19 was named Outstanding Delegate to the Political Affairs Council; Reilly Swennes ’20 was recognized as Outstanding Delegate to the Joint Defense Council; and Katie Grandelli ’20 was awarded Distinguished Chair for her work leading the Council on Palestinian Affairs.

Strauss, who is president of Hollins’ junior class, is pleased at the cohesiveness that is resulting from the Model UN/Model Arab League Club’s resurrection. “I wanted to make it like a family, more Hollins-y. I hope this will perpetuate after I graduate.” Down the road, she is “thinking about law school,” but for now she is relishing the many opportunities she’s enjoyed and continues to anticipate as a Hollins student.

“Just like being at Hollins has made me a better person, experiences such as traveling to the Middle East have rounded me out. They add something significant to you and your personality.”

 

 

 

 


Hollins Research Preps Junior for Jamestown Field School Excavation

With a lifelong interest in archaeology and a love of the Indiana Jones movies as her springboard, a history and classical studies double major has realized what she calls “a total dream”: working at the premier excavation site in America.

Meaghan Harrington ’19 spent six weeks performing hands-on fieldwork during the annual Archaeological Field School in Jamestown, Virginia, site of the first permanent English settlement in North America.  A partnership of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation and the University of Virginia, the field school immerses its students in “the methods and theories of American historical archaeology,” according to the school’s website. “Students will be helping to expand our understanding of the site of James Fort (1607-1624) as well as the events of 1619, which include the first representative assembly meeting and the arrival of the first Africans.”

“It was something I always wanted to do.  Ever since a fifth grade field trip I’ve been obsessed with Jamestown,” Harrington explains. “But I didn’t know if it was something I could do.”

Through extensive online research, Harrington discovered that UVa offered the chance to conduct archaeological research in Jamestown. “I decided to apply to their field school as a result of the confidence I’d gained at Hollins and the encouragement of my professors, who said it was something that would benefit me in the long run.” She went through a rigorous and selective application process to become one of only 13 students accepted for the 2017 summer session. She worked primarily outside the James Fort at a site where archaeologists have speculated colonists may have established a tent city due to a lack of space inside the fort.

“We dug. We did a lot of digging,” Harrington recalls. “We would go from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day except for one day devoted to lab work. And it was hot – I’m immune to the heat now!”

She says she and her fellow student archaeologists didn’t find evidence of the tent city, but did gather thousands of artifacts. “Everyone says that every shovel full of dirt will give you an artifact. That’s an understatement. It’s at least ten artifacts. I was so surprised, but that’s what’s remarkable about Jamestown. True excavations didn’t really start there until the late 1990s.”

Harrington was the second-youngest person in her work group. “It should have been an intimidating environment because all the other field students were in graduate school. But because of Hollins, where you’re encouraged to dive head-first into things and we do so much research already, I was prepared.

“As the culmination of our field school experience, we had to complete a research project and present it to the entire Jamestown staff – all the archaeologists, curators, museum staff, everyone. If I hadn’t learned research and had that experience as a history major at Hollins, I would have been lost.”

Harrington says her time in Jamestown was life-changing in several ways. “I don’t think I understood teamwork until I went there, and even though I’m not completely certain I want to be an archaeologist, Jamestown has given me so much more direction.”

Next spring, Harrington will be studying abroad in Ludwigsburg, Germany, and spending February and March interning at the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman, Jordan. “I’m not sure yet what exactly I will be doing with that internship,” she says, “but I really like working hands-on with the material culture.”

 

Photo caption: Meaghan Harrington ’19 examines artifacts unearthed at the Jamestown excavation site near James Fort.

 

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Chem Major’s Cancer Research Is a Different Kind of “SURFing”

 

One of the ways in which the liberal arts demonstrates its power is when faculty from one academic major actively support and encourage a student from a completely different major, even when those programs seemingly have nothing in common.

Chemistry major Veronica Able-Thomas ’19 learned first-hand last winter the strong connection across disciplines found at liberal arts schools such as Hollins.

“Ever since I can remember I’ve always loved chemistry, but at Hollins I also took French classes throughout my first year and during the first semester of my sophomore year. I actually got to spend the January 2017 Short Term in France,” Able-Thomas recalls. “While I was there [Professor of French] Annette Sampon-Nicolas contacted me about a summer research opportunity that would complement my pre-med track and biochemistry concentration at Hollins.”

Sampon-Nicolas urged Able-Thomas to pursue a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute (VTCRI) in Roanoke, where undergraduate students spend ten weeks in a rigorous experiential learning program.

“We’re bringing students from Virginia Tech and several other universities into an environment of trans-disciplinary collaboration and working relationships,” VTCRI Associate Professor Michael Fox said in a recent Virginia Tech news article. “We’re providing the students with hands-on, independent research at VTCRI in the laboratory as well as special seminars that highlight cutting-edge neuroscience research at Virginia Tech.”

Able-Thomas was one of only 20 students accepted out of more than 80 applicants into the SURF program. She spent the summer working with Assistant Professor James Smyth and Research Assistant Professor Samy Lamouille in the Molecular Visualization SURF program investigating brain cancer.

“I focused on glioblastoma, an extremely lethal brain tumor that accounts for the highest number of all malignant tumors,” she explains. “Glioblastoma encompasses a group of cells known as glioma stem cells, which have shown to be resistant to temozolomide, a drug taken during chemotherapy.

“Previous research identified a new molecule that can prevent migration of glioma stem cells. My project was to analyze its effect on microtubule dynamics in these cancer stem cells. This involved the use of various laboratory techniques, imaging technologies, and computing software to visualize and analyze cells.”

Able-Thomas describes the lab atmosphere at VTCRI as “very collaborative, any time I had questions I could always ask,” and credits her academic experience at Hollins for successfully preparing her to thrive in such an intensive program. “The classroom is very open at Hollins, everyone has their own voice and everyone can speak out. Discussions are always happening. I wasn’t intimidated at all when I went to VTCRI.”

Following its completion, Able-Thomas presented her research project at the Virginia Tech Undergraduate Research Symposia. She says her work as a SURF student has convinced her to consider specializing in oncology, and during the January 2018 Short Term she plans to complete an internship shadowing physicians in Gambia, where she grew up. Next summer, she hopes to return again to VTCRI.

“It was so wonderful the way a professor who isn’t even in the sciences at Hollins reached out to me with this opportunity,” she says. “It’s a great example of how professors interact here. I’m extremely grateful.”

 

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Islamic Art Loan Immerses Students in Object-Based Learning

Professor of Art Kathleen Nolan’s Islamic Art class is engaging in hands-on research with rare artifacts from the Near East, thanks to a loan of decorative objects from a West Virginia museum to Hollins University’s Eleanor D. Wilson Museum.

The Wilson Museum borrowed objects from the Huntington Museum of Art’s extensive collection of Near Eastern art, including rugs, pouring vessels, a traveling scribe set, a dish, a manuscript page firman, and bath sandals that date as far back as the 11th and 12th centuries and originated in Iran, Syria, and Turkey.

Islamic Art Class 1

“I am a big advocate of object-based learning and wanted Hollins students to have the opportunity to work with objects from the Near East. But, we didn’t have any in our permanent collection,” explains Jenine Culligan, curator and director of the Wilson Museum. Prior to coming to Hollins, Culligan was chief curator for 15 years at the Huntington Museum of Art and in 2010 was instrumental in working with Joseph and Omayma Touma on cataloging 400 Near Eastern objects they had donated to the museum. Culligan made arrangements to borrow eight of the objects through mid-December.

“When I found out that Professor Nolan was teaching an Islamic Art class,” she continues, “I broached the idea of allowing the students in the class to do research on these objects.”

NoIslamic Art Class 2lan praises Culligan for her efforts to make the objects available to her class. “The students and I are thrilled to have these. There was great excitement in the vault of the Wilson Museum when we got to experience these objects first-hand.”

Soon after coordinating the research initiative with Nolan, Culligan was approached by Professor of Political Science Ed Lynch about displaying the objects as part of the Appalachia Model Arab League Conference that Hollins is hosting November 10 -12. They will be on view during the conference in the Richard Wetherill Visual Arts Center along with additional Near Eastern objects on loan from the Roanoke community.

“These collaborations between the Wilson Museum and the art history department and the museum and the political science department seemed meant to be,” Culligan says.

 

Photos: Led by Wilson Museum Curator and Director Jenine Culligan, students from Professor Kathleen Nolan’s Islamic Art class investigate some of the Near Eastern objects on loan to the museum.

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NIH Summer Research Teaches Sunny Greene ’19 Failure’s Value

 

“These are the days of miracle and wonder,” Paul Simon’s 1986 song, “The Boy in the Bubble,” proclaims, and more than 30 years later, those words continue to resonate. Constant breakthroughs in medical research and treatment, for example, offer many the confidence that healthcare professionals can recognize and effectively address the vast majority of maladies and disorders.

Yet, despite the rapid pace of medical progress, there remain a remarkable number of people who suffer from illnesses that cannot be identified or remedied. As a result, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, created the Undiagnosed Diseases Program (UDP) in 2008. Today, the UDP welcomes more than 100 new pediatric and adult patients each year from across the nation and around the world whose afflictions are a mystery to the medical community.

“Ultimately, the UDP offers patients the hope of a diagnosis and the possibility of therapeutic strategies,” the program’s website states. “In return, patients provide UDP researchers the opportunity to gain new insights about genetic and biochemical mechanisms of disease and insights into normal cell biology, biochemistry and physiology.”

This summer, Hollins biology major Sunny Greene ’19 was part of a UDP research team. She competed with over 10,000 national and international applicants to earn one of only 1,300 12-week student positions within the NIH Intramural Research Program, the world’s largest biomedical research institution.

“I worked on a rare genetic disorder called Chediak-Higashi Disease (CHD), of which there are roughly only 300 cases known worldwide,” Greene explains. “The classical CHD case affects children and is characterized by partial albinism, easy bruising, and prolonged bleeding and clotting issues, which can be dangerous. Children with CHD also have immune deficiencies that make them prone to recurrent infections, and while a bone marrow transplant can help boost the immune system, the procedure is effective only temporarily. The disease can accelerate and be fatal.

“The atypical CHD case occurs in early adulthood. Adults with CHD don’t face the rate of infection that children do, but they are more likely to experience neurological symptoms similar to Parkinson’s. We don’t know why that is.”

To learn more, the scientists with whom Greene studied CHD are focusing on the LYST gene. “We don’t know what this gene does, that’s what we’re trying to figure out, but we know when this gene mutates it causes CHD. To truly solve this disease and do more than treat its symptoms, you have to understand the pathogenesis of the disease, and to that end we’re comparing the mutations of the LYST gene for classical and atypical patients.”

Greene calls the UDP lab atmosphere “open, welcoming, and wonderful. You have a supervisor and of course they are going to tell you what to do, but communication is a two-way street. You’re encouraged to brainstorm and collaborate and help one another. It’s an incredible community for learning.”

Sunny Greene '10
Biology major Sunny Greene ’19 investigated a rare genetic disorder at the National Institutes of Health.

Because of her time at NIH, Greene says she is convinced she can pursue both her passions in the medical field. “I enjoy the clinical side and I love the research side and I kind of want to marry the two together,” she explains. “Both are important to me because I want to see who I’m helping.”

After graduating from Hollins, Greene is looking at enrolling in a combined M.D./Ph.D. program where she is able to work on her doctorate while attending medical school. Such programs are very selective – Greene cites one in particular that admits just 13 students from over 800 applicants – but she says NIH has given her valuable credentials and crucial preparation.

“What M.D./Ph.D. programs look for is research experience and how you handle the failure that comes with that experience. I’ve never been at a place like NIH that is so successful and yet talks so much about failure, the certainty of it as a researcher, and how you react to it. Are you going to get frustrated and throw in the towel, or are you going to be resilient, persistent, and keep going? The schools I’m considering all want to see how you fail because that is guaranteed, and NIH sees failure as a launching pad to success.”

Greene plans to take two years after she graduates to conduct research “and have this opportunity to fail and succeed.” In the meantime, she plans to build upon the foundation of research she’s established as a Hollins undergraduate. “The biology department faculty is amazing and they have been so supportive of me in growing my curiosity, not just in the biomedical field but also in ecology, zoology, and marine biology. For example, I have gone with [Professors Renee Godard and Morgan Wilson] to St. John in the Virgin Islands during J-term to research marine biodiversity. I’ve definitely become invested in it.”

Greene will spend Spring Term 2018 studying abroad in Ireland at the University of Limerick.

“The Dana Science Building, and all of Hollins, is its own community that is supportive and provides a framework for the future.”

 

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Through Hollins-VT Affiliation, Shannen Kelly ’19 Thrives as Scientist

Launching your summer research project by digging ten-inch-deep ditches for eight hours in a hot, humid, poison ivy-infested forest doesn’t sound like anyone’s idea of a good time. But for Shannen Kelly ’19, it meant that one of her most anticipated and ultimately gratifying experiences of her academic career was under way.

“Not necessarily fun, but at the end I walked away thinking it was a great day,” Kelly recalls. “It was a terrific team building activity and your spirits stay high when you are working with people who are interested and invested in what you are doing, and are dedicated to helping you achieve what you’re trying to find.”

Kelly, a double major in environmental science and Spanish, is one of two Hollins students who this summer helped pioneer a new partnership between the university and the Global Change Center at Virginia Tech. The affiliation offers undergraduate students from Hollins the opportunity to gain summer research experience at Virginia Tech in both the lab and in the field as part of the Fralin Life Science Institute’s ten-week Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Program.

In collaboration with Ph.D. candidate Becky Fletcher, Kelly measured the growth rate, based on differential weather conditions, of an invasive weed called Johnson grass.  It’s found throughout the United States and has had considerable destructive impact on agriculture.

In another experiment, Kelly explains, “I did my own lab-based study of five populations of Johnson grass from five different states  – Georgia, New Mexico, New York, Texas, and Virginia – and exposed them to different light intensities or different carbon dioxide concentrations to see how the populations and their progressions differ based on latitude and climate or origin.”

Kelly notes that the research will continue over time. “This was sort of a preliminary ‘what if’ project. The long-term goal would be to create genetic profiles of each population so that we can trace the differences in photosynthetic capacity, dark respiration rates, or even carbon assimilation rates.”

Shannen Kelly '19
Hollins junior Shannen Kelly (right) and Ph.D. student Becky Fletcher conduct field research at Blacksburg’s Kentland Farm.

The junior from Tolland, Connecticut, spent much of her time at Virginia Tech’s Kentland Farm in Blacksburg and discovered “that I love field work. It was a really unique experience learning science hands-on. When we were out in the field we really had to be creative because if a problem arose you quickly had to adapt to solving it. There was a lot of perseverance involved; Becky and I would sometimes spend three or four days trying to flesh out a problem. You can’t give up – you have to push through it.

“I also liked the team aspect of research. I worked in a lab with three or four other people at any given time and a great community that was built there. If someone had a question about their research they would just swivel their chair around and ask everyone else in the lab. It promoted a lot of scientific conversation.”

One of the biggest challenges Kelly took on was teaching herself to operate a complex piece of scientific equipment. “No one in my lab really knew how to use it, and only one professor on the entire campus ever worked with it on a regular basis,” Kelly recalls. “Becky however had some experience with its operation and was able to help me in the early stages of learning, which was vital. Still, it was something you just had to work with yourself to grasp how it functioned.”  Kelly says she relied on manuals to help her troubleshoot how to construct light response and carbon response curves, familiarize herself with the “hows” behind the machine’s technical aspects, and ensure the equipment’s consistency since she and her team encountered a lot of machine-based control errors.

Her time at Virginia Tech, Kelly believes, “definitely opened my eyes to the types of opportunities I have and specifically made me very interested in research. It’s pinpointed where my interests lie right now – I’m interested in plant physiology and the ecological impact of invasive species. Most importantly, it made me interested in going to grad school once I graduate from Hollins.”

Kelly also sees what she’s gained at Hollins as blending perfectly with the teaching environment at Virginia Tech. “I feel like Hollins gives you the empowerment and Tech gives you the resources and technical competencies. I said all summer, I’m so glad I got to have both experiences because now I have my toes in both waters. Hollins is very beneficial to the individual education of a student – I can learn a lot in class. And then Tech was an incredible experience because I got to see what a research institute does. I’ve grown so much not only as a student but also as a researcher and scientist.

“I heard Tech was pleased with [Elaine Metz ’19, the other Hollins student involved in summer research at the Global Change Center] and me because most of the students who go into this program are from technical universities. We were among the few students from liberal arts backgrounds to take part. I think they were pleasantly surprised at how well-rounded we were, and that was because of Hollins.”

Kelly is now looking forward to spending Spring Term 2018 at Spain’s University of Granada, where she hopes to continue growing her skills in both her majors. “Granada is very diverse in terms of ecology and landscape and one of the leading areas of the world for environmental research.”

 

Photo Credit: Cassandra Hockman, Global Change Center at Virginia Tech

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