Hollins Earns National Rankings in The Princeton Review’s “The Best 384 Colleges”

Hollins University is among the top 20 schools in the country for politically involved students, college theatre, and effective student government, according to the new edition of The Princeton Review’s annual college guide, The Best 384 Colleges.

Based on surveys of 138,000 students, an average of 359 per campus, The Best 384 Colleges features detailed profiles and rating scores in eight categories of the top colleges and universities in the nation. The book also includes ranking lists of the top 20 schools in 62 categories.

Hollins is ranked #5 in the category Most Politically Active Students, #10 on the Best College Theatre list, and #13 for Most Active Student Government.

“We picked the 384 ‘best’ colleges for our book primarily for their outstanding academics; we highly recommend each one,” said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s editor-in-chief and the book’s lead author. “However, we know applicants need far more than an academic rating or ranking to find the college that will be best for them. We created our 62 ranking lists to help narrow that search. They are based entirely on data we gather beyond academics that gives insight into what the schools’ enrolled students say about their professors, administrators, school services, campus culture, and student life. In the end, it’s all about the fit.”

In its profile, The Best 384 Colleges calls Hollins “a place for unique individuals to thrive, empowering each other and forming a supportive community for women.” It also describes the university’s alumnae network as “solid…many students land jobs and internships through previous graduates.”

The 2019 edition of The Best 384 Colleges was published August 7.

 


Film Major’s LGBT Short Is a YouTube Sensation

A Hollins University student filmmaker is generating impressive online buzz with her unconventional approach to the LGBT movie genre.

Collide, a short film written and directed by Hannah Thompson ’20, has been seen more than 510,000 times since it premiered on YouTube in December 2016.

“I wanted to do something original that I could relate to,” says Thompson, a double-major in film and psychology from Warrenton, Virginia. “A lot of LGBT short films are also geared toward a straight audience by featuring two fem lesbians and portraying sexual situations. They can make more money that way, but it has always made me feel uncomfortable.”

Collide is the story of two young women who dislike one another intensely upon their first meeting in a high school classroom. But when their teacher pairs them on a project that focuses on conquering their individual fears, a friendship blossoms and they ultimately fall in love.

“Coming out is not a main plot point,” Thompson explains. “There’s no tragic story where being gay is their downfall. Their sexuality is never mentioned. It’s just something that happens similar to any straight love story. I wanted people to watch Collide and say, ‘Wow, I’ve had this happen to me.’”

Based on the more than 1,100 comments that have been posted on YouTube since the film’s debut, Collide has clearly touched many. Thompson believes it’s because the story “ends happily. We’re excited for what’s to come, and people understand that the two main characters are going to be together. Often, especially in popular films, it doesn’t happen that way. I wanted something that was easy for people to latch onto, and I’m grateful they did.”

Thompson says she’s been humbled by what people have shared. Feedback has often been along the lines of, “I don’t really see happy lesbian stories. I’m so glad to find something relatable instead of watching a heterosexual romance and hoping I can find something that’s meaningful to me.” Viewers overseas have expressed this common sentiment: “This isn’t legal here, but I’m so glad to see something like this. It makes me feel that maybe one day I can have this life.”

The film has also inspired fan fiction and even prompted Halloween revelers to dress up as the film’s characters. In March, Unite UK: An LGBT+ Blog Uniting the Community Together, interviewed Thompson and members of the film’s cast for a feature story, and last summer, Collide was an official selection as a semi-finalist at Canada’s Our Voices Film Festival.

Thompson’s journey of artistic discovery that ultimately led to filmmaking was by no means pre-determined. She attended art classes and camps from an early age, “but I couldn’t find the thing I was best at. I did theatre, studio art, photography, and I was mediocre at all those things. I never really found what I loved until I took a film class at Hollins.”

Growing up, Thompson was familiar with Hollins because her grandmother is an alumna. In her early teens, at her grandmother’s urging, Thompson attended Hollinsummer, the university’s educational camp for rising ninth through 12th grade girls. “I was scared because it was my first sleepaway camp,” she recalls, “but I loved the campus. It was the first time I’d ever been away from home that I wasn’t homesick. I felt like it was sort of my place.”

That impression still resonated with Thompson when she was applying to colleges a few years later. “Even though I had been at Hollins a lot, I went ahead and did a real campus tour. I remember turning to my mom and saying, ‘This is it.’”

Thompson initially thought she’d major only in psychology, but her artistic drive persisted despite her previous frustrations. Since film was a genre she had not actively pursued previously, she decided to enroll in a video production class her first year. “I was nervous because it was the first film class I had ever taken. I worried, ‘What if this doesn’t go well for me?’ I don’t like not being good at things.”

Fortunately, Thompson quickly found an ally in Amy Gerber-Stroh, associate professor of film and chair of Hollins’ film department. An accomplished filmmaker in her own right, Gerber-Stroh helped Thompson build her confidence and realize film making was the artistic outlet she had been seeking.

“Amy has changed my life in so many different ways. Coming into Hollins, I was afraid I wasn’t going to find the thing I could pour my entire heart into. I felt like I had so much to say and I didn’t know where to put it.”

With guidance from Gerber-Stroh and other faculty as well as the support of her fellow film students, Thompson says she “has a home in the film department. It’s this place where I can be myself and share my art. Sometimes you have to do that when your work is incomplete and therefore at its most vulnerable, but I’ve learned that’s okay because students and mentors are always there to help, especially when you’re flustered and your ideas aren’t working out.”

Thompson now has four films available online. Another short, August and the Rain Boots (2017), is similar to Collide in that it tells the story of a friendship that grows into a romantic relationship and ends on a celebratory note. The film boasts more than 192,000 YouTube views and was recently selected to appear at the Oregon Cinema Arts Film Festival.

“Hannah has become such a superstar through our film program,” Gerber-Stroh says. “It’s remarkable how often she gets requests from advertisers, actors, and others from the film industry asking for a chance to work with her. She epitomizes this new era of how students make films and videos and how they show their work.”

Thompson plans to go to Los Angeles after graduating from Hollins. “I want to be a director for the rest of my life, telling my stories and working with amazing people.”

 

Photo caption: Hannah Thompson ’20 shoots a scene for her 2017 short film, August and the Rain Boots. 


2018 Grad Wins Hallberg Award for Creative Nonfiction

Rachael Walker ’18 has been named the recipient of the Fourth Annual Bill Hallberg Award in Creative Writing, presented by the Department of English at East Carolina University (ECU).

The competition is open to undergraduates at colleges and universities in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, and this year’s award was given for excellence in creative nonfiction.

 

Walker, who graduated this spring from Hollins with a degree in English, was recognized for her essay, “A Small Seed of Fate Carried Inside Me.”

“As politics continue to make women’s reproductive rights a national conversation, Rachael Walker’s ‘A Small Seed of Fate Carried Inside Me’ reminds us of the personal, often fraught relationships women have to their bodies,” said Renee K. Nicholson, assistant professor of multi and interdisciplinary studies at West Virginia University and a judge in the contest. “As it explores the terrain that is women’s bodies, it complicates it by simultaneously addressing what it means to be of mixed ethnicity. Gently threading these ideas through sections, Walker takes us through familial relationships as well as the journey to better understand the self.”

Walker will receive a $150 cash prize. A reading of her winning essay will take place at ECU on a date and time to be determined.


Suzy Mink ’74 Wins Triathlon Gold in Denmark

Triathlete Suzy Mink ’74 has added another triumph to her distinguished competitive career.

Mink, who serves as Hollins University’s vice president for external relations, captured her age group’s gold medal in the Long Distance Triathlon at the International Triathlon Union (ITU)/ Fynske Bank Multisport World Championships, held July 5 – 14 in Denmark. The festival features five world championships in four disciplines (Duathlon, Aqua Bike, Cross Triathlon, and Long Distance Triathlon), and this year welcomed approximately 5,000 national and international athletes. The race consisted of a 1.8-mile swim, 74 miles on bicycle, and an 18-mile run.

Mink’s gold medal victory caps an impressive 12-month record of athletic accomplishment for her. In August 2017, she won third place in her age group at Canada’s Penticton ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships. The following month, she placed 20th at 2017 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final (Olympic distance) in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

In January of this year, Mink helped launch the inaugural Torch Relay at the kickoff to New York’s 38th Empire State Winter Games. She was the Games’ honored guest as a tribute to her membership on the relay team that carried the Olympic torch 900 miles to Lake Placid for the 1980 Winter Olympics.


Hollins Swimming Earns Scholar All-America Honors

The Hollins University swim team has been awarded Scholar All-America status for the Spring 2018 semester by the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America (CSCAA).

This is the sixth semester in a row in which the CSCAA has honored Hollins Swimming. To receive Scholar All-America status, teams must have earned a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher during the semester. The swim team boasted a 3.52 GPA this spring.

Hollins Swimming can also claim the distinction of being the top academic team within the Old Dominion Athletic Conference overall for the second consecutive semester.

“We can’t wait to continue this trend next year,” said Head Swim Coach Patrick Richardson.


Emili McPhail ’18 Crowned Miss Virginia

For the second year in a row, a Hollins University alumna has been named Miss Virginia.

Emili McPhail ’18, who graduated from Hollins this spring, won this year’s scholarship competition, which was held June 21-23 at Liberty University in Lynchburg. “Ending Hunger in the U.S.” was the communication studies major’s platform, and in the talent competition she performed a number on piano from the Broadway musical, The Phantom of the Opera.

The former Miss Arlington will receive over $20,000 in scholarship funds and compete in the Miss America Pageant in September.

“I congratulate Emili on this tremendous accomplishment and wish her the very best as she heads to Atlantic City this fall,” said Hollins President Pareena Lawrence.

McPhail succeeds Cecili Weber ’17, who reigned as Miss Virginia 2017. “We are extremely proud of Cecili’s representation of the commonwealth and Hollins over the past year,” said Lawrence.

In addition to McPhail, one other Hollins alumna and two current students took part in the Miss Virginia Pageant this year:

  •  Andolyn Medina ’16, Miss Piedmont Region, was among the 12 contestants who made the final round of competition. She also received the 2018 Miss America State Community Service Award and the Volunteerism Award sponsored by Wells Fargo and the Margaret R. Baker Charitable Foundation.
  • Dominga Murray ’20, Miss Crooked Road, was also a top 12 finalist and a recipient of the Volunteerism Award.
  • Monica Osborne ’20, Miss Dominion, was presented the Caitlin Uze Legacy of Kindness Award.

 

 

 

 


Four Hollins Contestants to Vie for Miss Virginia

The 2018 Miss Virginia Pageant, which takes place June 21 – 23 on the campus of Liberty University in Lynchburg, will boast a significant presence from Hollins University.

The reigning Miss Virginia, Cecili Weber, is a Hollins alumna (she’s a member of the class of 2017), and this year’s competition features four contestants who are recent graduates or current students:

 

  • Andolyn Medina ’16, Miss Piedmont Region, whose platform is “Demand an End: Stop Childhood Exploitation and Human Trafficking.” She will sing an opera vocal in the talent portion of the competition.
  • Emili McPhail ’18, Miss Arlington, is an advocate for “Ending Hunger in the U.S.” She will play piano in the talent competition.
  • Dominga Murray ’20, Miss Crooked Road, is promoting “Hunger Has a Cure” and will display her vocal talent at the pageant.
  • Monica Osborne ’20, Miss Dominion, is competing with the platform, “Buy Local, Eat Local, Be Local,” and will perform jazz en pointe.
Cecili Weber Miss VA
Cecili Weber ’17 Miss Virginia 2017

The winner of this year’s Miss Virginia Pageant will go on to vie for the title of Miss America in Atlantic City on September 9.

Through state and local organizations, the Miss Virginia Pageant supports education, advocates for community service, and provides young women with a forum in which to express their talents, intelligence and opinions in culture, politics, platforms, and the community. The competition is a scholarship pageant that each year gives scholarship dollars to deserving young women from all over the state who participate in local pageants and the state pageant. At the local and state Miss America competitions, millions of dollars in scholarship assistance have been made available to young women. For years, the Miss America Pageant has been the largest scholastic benefactor to women in the world.

Top photo (from left): Andolyn Medina ’17, Miss Piedmont Region; Emili McPhail ’18, Miss Arlington; Dominga Murray ’20, Miss Crooked Road; and Monica Osborne ’20, Miss Dominion.


Hollins, Roanoke College Seek Nominations for the 2018 Kendig Awards

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2018 Perry F. Kendig Arts and Culture Awards, which recognize individuals, businesses, and organizations in the greater Roanoke region that provide exemplary leadership in or support for the arts.

The deadline for nominations is Monday, July 16. The nomination form and other information can be found at https://kendig.press.hollins.edu/.

Hollins University and Roanoke College have co-sponsored the awards since 2013. The 2018 Kendig Awards will be presented on Wednesday, September 12, from 5:30 – 7 p.m. at Lorimer House on the Hollins campus.

Three Kendig Awards will be presented this year, one in each of the following categories:

  • Individual Artist (selected from all disciplines, including dance, literature, music, media arts, visual arts, and theatre)
  • Arts and/or Cultural Organization
  • Individual or Business Supporter

Individuals, businesses, and organizations from the greater Roanoke region (which includes the counties of Botetourt, Franklin, and Roanoke, the cities of Roanoke and Salem, and the town of Vinton) are eligible, as are past Kendig Award recipients from 1985 – 2012.

“The Kendig Awards program provides a focal point for celebrating the greater Roanoke region’s cultural identity,” said Hollins President Pareena Lawrence. “This initiative enables all of us to realize and appreciate the vital role arts and culture play in economic development as well as education in our schools.”

“Presenting this annual program builds an even stronger arts and culture bridge between our campuses and the community,” added Roanoke College President Mike Maxey. “We are proud to join with Hollins to champion this celebration of the arts.”

Named for the late Perry F. Kendig, who served as president of Roanoke College and was an avid supporter and patron of the arts, the awards were presented by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge for 27 years.


Vet School Next Stop for Bio Major Who Conducted Amazon Rainforest Research

Katlin Gott ’18 came to Hollins four years ago with a goal of becoming a veterinarian, and now the biology major and chemistry minor has earned the opportunity to take the next major step in making her dream a reality.

The senior from Fairfax, Virginia, has been accepted at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, a leading biomedical teaching and research center. The college admits just 50 Virginia residents to its Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) program each year.

Gott complemented her classroom and lab work at Hollins by working as a veterinary assistant and completing internships in Roanoke and elsewhere, including a Signature internship in West Virginia with veterinary physician and Hollins alumna Jacqueline Chevalier ’01.

Another highlight of Gott’s academic career was spending Spring Term of her junior year in the rainforests of Peru with the School for Field Studies Center for Amazon Studies. While there, she was able to combine her interests in ecology and animal disease by studying gut parasite loads in primates. Her research project, “The Effect of Environmental Factors on Endoparasite Load and Diversity in Black-Capped Night Monkeys (Aotus Nigriceps),” was featured at Hollins’ 61st Annual Science Seminar last month.

“Our results suggest that human disturbance significantly increases parasite species diversity based on the changes in forest density,” Gott reports. “Future research will focus on determining if the degree of forest disturbance plays a role in these relationships, and if zoonotic transmission of parasites between humans and the black-capped night monkeys is occurring.”

Along with her academic work, Gott has been actively involved in a range of campus activities. Along with serving as vice president of the Pre-Med Club, she has represented the group Voices for Unity in the SGA Senate, and, she adds, “I also play guitar, and I’ve been a part of ensembles and played as an accompanying guitarist for a few choral events.”

Gott will begin pursuit of her D.V.M. degree this fall.

 


Dance Major Taking Commitment to Artistry, Social Justice to L.A. and London after Graduation

Epitomizing Hollins University’s enduring slogan artistically, geographically, and academically, Paris Williams ’18 is definitely going places after she graduates this spring.

The dance major, who hails from New Orleans, will be pursuing her Master of Fine Arts degree in choreography beginning in the fall of 2019 at London’s University of Roehampton, whose international status draws students and dance artists from around the world.

But before that, Williams is anticipating a very exciting and productive gap year more than 5,400 miles away. First, she’s been awarded a full scholarship to attend the Dance/USA 2018 Annual Conference, which takes place June 6 – 9 in Los Angeles. According to the conference website, the event enables participants to “network and learn from nearly 500 dance professionals including executive directors, artistic directors, emerging arts leaders, artists, agents, company managers, presenters, development and marketing staff, and more. Conference programming is shaped around issues of equity and justice, community and collaboration, audience development, and preservation and legacy.”

Then, Williams will remain in L.A. to complete a residency with No)one. Art House, an arts/dance collective that The Huffington Post reports “is one of the only black run contemporary dance organizations in the country. No)one’s aim is to shift the paradigm on how people view dance, art and people of color’s bodies….” Artsmeme.com called No)one, “another harbinger that incredible things are happening in dance in Los Angeles.”

Williams’ upcoming opportunities in Los Angeles and London are the culmination of a distinguished college career.

“During my time at Hollins,” she says, “I have interned twice with our M.F.A. program in dance, including going to the program’s residency in Frankfurt, Germany. I also took part in the Hollins London abroad program, and have been able to attend a variety of conferences on topics surrounding LGBTQ+, dance and performance, and other social justice initiatives.”

This year, Williams served as chair of the university’s Black Student Alliance and has also been the external chair for the Hollins Repertory Dance Company. During her four years she was also actively involved with Cultural and Community Engagement, the Batten Leadership Institute, the Office of Admissions, Housing and Residence Life, the Office of Student Affairs, and many other campus activities.

“Paris is a tireless leader and social justice advocate,” says Meredith Cope-Levy ’12, M.F.A. ’18, Hollins’ coordinator of alumnae events. “She has made incredible work during her time here.”

Williams in turn praises the Hollins dance program for providing her with the foundation for her accomplishments as an undergraduate.

“I give loads of love and gratitude to HollinsDance, especially [Associate Professor of Dance] Jeffery Bullock, for my dedication, growth, and success at this university.”