At Hollins and Beyond, Gates Millennium Scholars Program Benefits Senior

The Northern Mariana Islands is an American commonwealth, but its distant location in the western Pacific Ocean (nearly 6,000 miles, for example, from Los Angeles) is a big reason why few students there have the wherewithal to come to the U.S. to attend college. Saipan, the largest of the Marianas, has just one community college, and many residents feel they have little choice but to enter the workforce directly out of high school.

Epa Cabrera ’20, a double-major in business and economics at Hollins, was born and raised on Saipan and one of her high school teachers, Gerard Van Gils, was determined to change that mindset. As a result of going to college in Utah, Van Gils had experienced first-hand the advantages of higher education in the States. So, Cabrera recalls, “he brought together those of us who were among the 25 students with the highest GPAs at our school to take a college prep course. He showed us what it was like to attend college on the mainland and exposed us to all these scholarships.”

Because of the class, Cabrera discovered one of the nation’s largest and most ambitious scholarship initiatives. Funded with $1.6 billion from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) program was established in 1999 to support African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American, and Hispanic American students with high academic and leadership potential who also have financial need.  Selecting 1,000 Scholars a year since its inception, the GMS program today funds over 20,000 students, more than half of whom are first-generation.

The GMS application process was rigorous. “In addition to five letters of recommendation, they required all applicants to write eight essays, each of which had to be at least 1,000 words in length,” Cabrera explains. “The essays took three months to finish.” Fortunately, she had great resources to draw upon, including another teacher who served as her mentor as well as her own compelling personal experiences. “I wrote about growing up and working on my family’s farm and how we sold vegetables every Saturday morning,” she says. “I also talked about the impact of the huge typhoon that struck Saipan in 2015 (Typhoon Soudelor, which caused extensive damage to the island and was one of Earth’s most powerful storms that year).”

Cabrera’s hard work paid off and she was one of six students from her school who were named Gates Millennium Scholars in 2016. “This was big news for Saipan,” she says, “only one other person from here had previously earned this honor.”

Throughout her college career at Hollins, Cabrera’s GMS scholarship has picked up financially where her Hollins grants and scholarships left off. In addition, the award has made real-world experiences outside the classroom possible, including participation in the Jamaica Cultural Immersion Program during spring break in 2018, and an opportunity to study abroad at Università degli Studi di Roma Tre in Rome, Italy, the following fall.  It has even provided funds for her to fly home during her summer breaks. During this, her senior year, the GMS program will enable Cabrera to work as a research assistant during the 2020 Short Term at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and take part once again in the Jamaica Cultural Immersion Program over spring break.

GMS also offers funding for up to 10 years for Scholars who wish to pursue a graduate degree in computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health, or science. Cabrera plans to use this benefit to complete a Master’s degree and possibly a Ph.D. in public health in preparation for a career in global health economics.

“I am grateful that because of this program, I will be able to graduate from Hollins next spring debt-free and then continue my education without an economic burden,” she says.

 

 

 

 


College Factual: Hollins Is One Of The “Best Colleges for the Money”

Hollins University is among the top 10% of institutions regionally and nationally that are considered “Best Colleges for the Money” by the college ratings website College Factual.

Hollins is ranked #21 out of 374 colleges and universities in the Southeast and #98 out of 1483 schools nationwide in that category, whose goal is to identify “colleges that are offering the best education quality for the best price. To come up with this ranking we measure the total average cost of the degree, and then compare the cost of the school to other schools of similar value.”

Academically, College Factual places Hollins in the top 1% of schools that are “Most Focused” in English Language and Literature and General English Literature; the top 5% in Foreign Languages and Linguistics, Romance Languages, and Fine and Studio Arts; the top 10% in General Biology, Classical Languages and Literature, Visual and Performing Arts, and Dance; and the top 15% in Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Mathematics, Natural Resources and Conservation, Drama and Theatre Arts, and General Psychology.

“In the context of majors rankings, focus is the percentage of undergraduates in the given degree at that school,” College Factual explains. “[T]he most focused rankings identify the schools that are likely to have a greater concentration on a particular major, based solely on the percentage of students enrolled at the college or university.”

College Factual describes itself as “a website created to help every student discover a college and career they love without debt holding them back.” It gathers data from both public and private sources, including the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) from the National Center for Education Statistics, a branch of the U.S. Department of Education.

The complete 2020 rankings for Hollins can be found here.


U.S. News: Hollins Is One of the Nation’s Top 30 Schools for Social Mobility, Value

U.S. News and World Report’s 2020 Best Colleges places Hollins at #24 among the country’s Top Performers for Social Mobility and ranks the university as the #30 Best Value School, both in the National Liberal Arts Colleges category.

The 2020 Best Colleges rankings were released to the public September 9.

Rankings for social mobility are new this year to the publication. They recognize how well colleges graduate students who receive federal Pell Grants.

U.S. News determines which colleges and universities offer the best value for students by taking into account both academic quality and cost, and factoring in three variables: Ratio of quality to price; need-based aid; and average discount.

Hollins is ranked #102 overall among National Liberal Arts Colleges and is cited as an “A+ School for B Students” in the category. “Since the U.S. News rankings are a gauge of excellence,” the guide explains regarding the latter recognition, “a college or university had to first be ranked in the top three-fourths of their 2020 Best Colleges ranking categories to be eligible.” In addition, the guide looked at average first-year retention rates and whether institutions admitted a meaningful proportion of students who didn’t get straight A’s. Hollins is noted as a “More Selective” school in the “A+ Schools for B Students” listings.

The U.S. News profile of Hollins features a detailed overview of academics, cost and aid, how to apply, and more.

 


Fiske Guide Cites Hollins’ Strengths in Art, Dance, and Film

Hollins University is one of the “more than 300 of the country’s best and most interesting colleges and universities,” according to the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2020. Created by former New York Times education editor Edward B. Fiske, the guide selects colleges for inclusion “with several broad principles in mind, beginning with academic quality.”

The Fiske Guide calls Hollins “one of the South’s leading women’s colleges” and includes the school among the nation’s small colleges and universities that are “Strong in Art or Design,” “Strong in Dance,” and “Strong in Film/Television.” Undergraduates quoted in the university’s profile praise their fellow students as “independent, ambitious, and passionate” while also citing the residence halls (“Most of the dorms are beautiful historic buildings full of character and comfort.”), the coursework (“I have been challenged by most of my classes here, but the workload has been manageable enough that I have been able to do a bunch of extracurriculars, too.”), and the professors (“Faculty members are typically accessible and often work hard to make sure they can help any students having trouble.”).

One senior concludes, “A student should only attend Hollins if they want to be a part of a close-knit community that fosters creative minds and ambitious spirits.”

The introduction to the Fiske Guide‘s 2020 edition notes that it is “a revised and updated version of a book that has been a bestseller since it first appeared over three decades ago. [It] is universally regarded as the definitive college guide of its type. If you are wondering whether to consider a particular college, it is logical to seek out friends or acquaintances who go there and ask them to tell you about their experiences. We have done exactly that – but on a far broader and more systematic basis than any individual or family could do alone.”

 

 


Netflix To Feature YA Drama Based On Hollins Author’s Novel

An acclaimed young adult book co-written by an alumna of Hollins’ graduate programs in children’s literature is headed to Netflix.

The Internet TV network has ordered 10 episodes of Tiny Pretty Things, an hour-long series based on the novel by Dhonielle Clayton M.A. ’09 and Sona Charaipotra. The show is scheduled to premiere in 2020.

Tiny Pretty Things follows the triumphs and challenges of students at The Archer School of Ballet, an elite dance academy in Chicago where the competition to succeed is fierce. Published by HarperCollins in 2015, the novel is described by Kirkus Reviews as “a page-turner with a heart.” Publishers Weekly notes, “This enticing glimpse into the ballet world is rich with detail and drama as the authors highlight its glamour and darkness.” Shiny Broken Pieces, a sequel, was released the following year.

Clayton’s other works include The Belles (her debut solo novel, released in 2018) and The Everlasting Rose (Book Two in The Belles series, published in March of this year). She has also contributed to the story collections Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America; Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet; and Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens. Originally from the Washington, D.C., suburbs, Clayton went on to major in English at Wake Forest University. After earning her M.A. in children’s literature at Hollins, she completed her M.F.A. in creative writing at The New School. A former secondary school teacher and elementary and middle school librarian, she is co-founder of CAKE Literary, which is described as “a creative kitchen whipping up decadent – and decidedly diverse – literary confections for middle grade, young adult, and women’s fiction readers,” and is also chief operating officer of the non-profit We Need Diverse Books.

Clayton taught a week-long workshop at Hollins in July on writing for children and will be joining the faculty of the university’s graduate programs in children’s literature in the summer of 2020.

 


Hollins Earns National Rankings in The Princeton Review’s “Best 385 Colleges”

Hollins University is among the top 20 schools in the country for politically involved students, effective student government, and college theatre, according to the new edition of The Princeton Review’s annual college guide, The Best 385 Colleges.

Hollins is ranked #4 in the category Most Politically Active Students, #16 for Most Active Student Government, and #19 on the Best College Theatre list. In the guide’s profile of the university, students state that the campus is “a great place for people who want life experience” and “the internship and study abroad opportunities for students of this school are exceptional.” Students also describe professors as “amazing, talented, dedicated, and compassionate.”

“We salute Hollins University for its outstanding academics and we are truly pleased to recommend it to prospective applicants searching for their personal ‘best-fit’ college,” said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s editor-in-chief and lead author of The Best 385 Colleges.

Only about 13% of America’s 3,000 four-year colleges are profiled in The Best 385 Colleges and are chosen based on data The Princeton Review annually collects from administrators at hundreds of colleges about their institutions’ academic offerings. The company also considers data it gathers from its surveys of college students who rate and report on various aspects of their campus and community experiences.

The 2020 edition of The Best 385 Colleges will be published August 6.

 

 


Poliner Selected as Finalist for the 2019 Algren Award

Elizabeth Poliner, associate professor of English and creative writing at Hollins and director of the Jackson Center for Creative Writing, has been selected as a finalist for the 2019 Nelson Algren Literary Award, presented by the Chicago Tribune.

Poliner was recognized for her short story, “Sabelle.” She will receive a $750 cash prize and her work is featured on the Tribune’s website.

Named in honor of the American author best known for his National Book Award-winning 1949 novel, The Man with the Golden Arm, the Nelson Algren Literary Award is a nationally recognized contest for original short fiction. Held annually since 1981, the contest received more than 3,000 entries this year. It was judged by Jennifer Acker, founder of The Common, an online literary magazine; Mona Simpson, who won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize in 2001; and Jane Smiley, a two-time winner of the Heartland Prize.

Poliner is the author of the novel, As Close to Us as Breathing, winner of the 2017 Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize in Fiction, finalist for the Harold Ribalow Prize for Jewish fiction, and an Amazon Best Book of 2016. She is also the author of a story collection, Mutual Life & Casualty, and a volume of poetry, What You Know in Your Hands. Her stories have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, The Kenyon Review, The Common, Colorado Review, and TriQuarterly, among other journals. A member of the Hollins faculty since 2008, she teaches in both the Master of Fine Arts and undergraduate creative writing programs.


Penguin Random House to Publish Hollins Author’s Debut Novel

Rebekah Lowell was drawn to Hollins five years ago to pursue an advanced degree in children’s book writing and illustrating. At the same time, the university’s graduate programs in children’s literature offered her sanctuary and the chance to regain her identity after enduring a decade of domestic abuse. Today, Lowell holds a Master of Fine Arts degree and says she has made great strides in finding her true self again. The Maine resident has also sold her debut book, The Road to After, to the Nancy Paulsen Books imprint at Penguin Random House.

“When I first arrived at Hollins with my young daughters, we drove straight from a women’s shelter,” Lowell recalls. “The first week in classes, I almost had to return home because of the level of trauma we had all been through. But Ruth Sanderson (author, illustrator, and professor in Hollins’ graduate programs in children’s literature) and Amanda Cockrell (who retired last year as director of the children’s literature graduate programs) were creative, generous, and supportive. After being at Hollins for a few weeks, I knew I had found a safe place to not only heal, but to thrive.”

Susan Bloom Discovery Award
This year, Rebekah Lowell M.F.A. ’19 received the Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award, which honors emerging writers and writer/illustrators.

Publishers Weekly describes The Road to After as “an illustrated middle grade novel written in verse about how the beauty of the natural world helps a girl reclaim her life after years of captivity and domestic abuse at the hands of her father.” Lowell says she was “compelled to write about my past” after she had been enrolled for a few summers in the M.F.A. program.

“The words first showed up as a picture book manuscript, but the content needed more room to breathe,” she explains. At her home in February of 2016, she used verse to expand on the story “because it begged to be written that way,” and completed a rough draft. Candice Ransom, the author of 150 children’s books and a member of the children’s literature graduate programs’ faculty, agreed to help edit the book; by the following summer, Lowell was laying out the entire novel on classroom tables in the Richard Wetherill Visual Arts Center at Hollins.

After developing a few more drafts, Lowell felt she was ready to reach out to an agent for representation. In the spring of 2018, she signed with Wendi Gu at Janklow & Nesbit, who, Lowell says, “fell in love with the project. We workshopped it more, and about 16 drafts later, we started sending it out to editors.” In April 2019, Penguin/Paulsen bought The Road to After at auction, and the novel is slated for publication in the spring of 2022.

Lowell is quick to express her gratitude to Ransom and other professors and classmates for their help in bringing her novel to fruition. “Throughout revision, prior to the sale, there were many times when I wondered if the voice was unique enough, if the psychological abuse was coming through, if my presence as the mother in the book was too strong. Hillary Homzie, Lisa Fraustino, Julie Pfeiffer, and others offered to read the text and provide feedback, even outside of classes.”

Lowell graduated in May, and while she deeply misses being on campus this summer, she hopes to return one day in another capacity.

“The wonder of Hollins stays with me,” she says.

 


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.”