Steven E. Laymon, Ph.D., Named Vice President for Graduate Programs and Continuing Studies

Hollins University has announced the appointment of Steven E. Laymon, Ph.D., as vice president for graduate programs and continuing studies. He will provide leadership for and oversight of the university’s existing programs and develop new initiatives.

Laymon comes to Hollins from the University of Virginia’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, where he has worked in several key capacities since 2014. As associate dean for academic programs and services, he was responsible for development, management, and evaluation of two undergraduate degree programs; business and professional certificates; design and strategic expansion of corporate training and outreach; and management of non-credit programs offered by the School. He worked with staff to engineer improvements in long-term sustainability by enhancing enrollment, improving operational efficiency, and creating new programs when he served for three years as the School’s interim dean. As associate professor and associate dean for academic affairs, he taught face-to-face and online courses in social sciences, leadership, and political science; managed academic programs; and created strategies to improve the quality of instruction. And, he taught courses on nationalism, American and popular culture, and social science theory as an associate professor general faculty/lecturer.

Prior to his service at UVa, Laymon spent nearly a decade as associate dean for graduate and professional programs in the University of Chicago’s Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies.

Laymon holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago, where he also earned an M.A. in international relations. He completed his B.A. in international history and political science at Miami University.

“Steven is a dynamic, enthusiastic, and collaborative leader,” said Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton. “In addition to supporting our current programs, he will create innovative new graduate, certificate, and not-for-credit programs that will meet adult learners’ interests and needs while upholding Hollins’ liberal arts mission. He will help grow the university’s national and international reputation in graduate education and continuing studies.”

“I think we have a tremendous opportunity to build graduate and continuing education programs that speak to the complex needs of the twenty-first century,” said Laymon. “We live in a dynamic world, where analytical skills, critical thinking, creativity, and inclusive perspectives are as important as pragmatic and practical skills. Hollins’ tradition of liberal arts learning provides the best jumping off point for those kinds of graduate and continuing education programs. I am excited to begin to collaborate with my colleagues at Hollins.”

Laymon will begin his duties as vice president for graduate programs and continuing studies on July 19.


Hollins Names Nakeshia N. Williams, Ph.D., as the University’s Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Hollins University has announced the appointment of Nakeshia N. Williams, Ph.D., as vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion (VPDEI). She will ensure Hollins provides an inclusive experience for all of the students and employees the university serves.

Williams comes to Hollins from North Carolina A&T State University, where she was an associate professor in the educator preparation department in the College of Education. During her tenure, she taught diversity courses to undergraduate and graduate students that were grounded in the interaction of equity, access, and achievement as they pertain to the academic, social-emotional, and identity development of P-20 (pre-school through higher education) individuals. She has served as a campus gender and equity faculty leader as well as an advisor to several student organizations.

Additionally, Williams chairs the diversity, equity, and inclusion special interest group of the North Carolina Association for Colleges of Teacher Educators. She has led numerous diversity and equity initiatives at the local, regional, and state levels, and collaborated with state and local schools, senior faculty, colleagues, and nonprofit organizations to identify and offer solutions to complex issues.

Williams holds a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in urban education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She received her master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling and bachelor’s degree in English education from South Carolina State University. A licensed professional counselor for over 12 years, she has also written numerous published articles and book chapters highlighting her research on equity and access in P-20; culturally responsive teaching; academic and global identities of minority students; socioemotional experiences of P-20 students; and teacher preparation programs at minority serving institutions.

“Hollins has endeavored to create a diverse and welcoming community, but we still have work to do to achieve inclusive excellence,” said Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton. “In her new role as VPDEI, Nakeshia will provide the leadership to ensure we are continuously striving for an improved and more inclusive and equitable campus environment. She will connect with students, faculty, and staff to provide programming and create new opportunities for deep, sustained, and institution-wide inclusive engagement and experiences. We look forward to her leadership in crafting practices and policies that foster belonging and are reflective of our loftiest ideals as expressed in our mission as an inclusive liberal arts community.”

“I am very excited about joining the Hollins campus community,” Williams said. “I look forward to working alongside administration, faculty, staff, and students in cultivating programming and initiatives aimed at improving diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence at Hollins University.”

 


Hollins Anticipates “the Beginning of a Return to Normal” in Fall 2021

Hollins University has announced the initial measures the school plans to put into effect regarding campus life when classes resume this fall.

Students will be expected to be in residence for the 2021-22 academic year, courses will be taught in person, and vaccination for COVID-19 will be required for all campus community members.

“As we wind down the current academic year, we are already looking ahead with anticipation to next fall,” said Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton. “In many respects, we foresee the beginning of a return to normal while maintaining our focus on the health and well-being of our community.”

Hinton noted that Hollins is continuing to explore how it will adapt for the 2021-22 academic year its Culture of Care, which has guided the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020. “We anticipate there will still be CDC and VDH requirements related to physical distancing, especially in our indoor spaces, and masks may continue to be required in certain situations or environments. Our overall goal, however, is to return as much as possible to the regular campus schedule and interactive community we knew at Hollins prior to the pandemic.”

Reinstating the residential requirement for undergraduate students, which was suspended during 2020-21, “will promote regular, in-person contact with others in the Hollins community and allow us to provide the best educational setting possible,” said Hinton. “Possible exceptions to this requirement will be considered based on complexities and barriers related to international travel and for certain specific medical conditions.”

At the same time, Hinton explained, “we know that in-person instruction and interaction between professors and classmates provides the richest educational benefits for our students. As such, and in keeping with pre-pandemic practice, courses will be taught in person, with many incorporating some of the technological enhancements learned over the current academic year.” She said that Hollins recognizes the benefits of online instruction “when it can be delivered with pedagogical excellence. As such, we are considering supporting a limited number of requests for courses that could be delivered virtually. These courses must meet stringent criteria that will ensure the academic excellence that is core to the Hollins educational experience.”

Hinton emphasized that the vaccination of students, faculty, and staff is critical to the university’s ability to continue meeting its highest priority since the pandemic began – maintaining the health and well-being of all members of the campus community. “With the increasing availability of safe and effective vaccines, many at Hollins are already or will soon be vaccinated. Within this context, and in support of being in residence with an active university community, all students and employees will be required to provide proof of full vaccination in order to return to campus in the fall.” She added that exemptions for medical/disability-related or religious reasons may be requested.

Hinton said that Hollins is looking ahead to resuming competition for its athletic teams this fall in accordance with NCAA, ODAC, and public health guidance. The university is also planning to move toward a more regular slate of activities, performances, and events that will meet public health guidance and be supportive of a healthy environment on campus.

“These hopeful steps forward would not be possible without the ongoing commitment and hard work of students, faculty, and staff since March of last year,” said Hinton. “This has been a difficult journey that has required numerous sacrifices. Time and again, our community has risen to the occasion and overcome the challenges we have faced with courage and with heart. That foundation helped sustain us through this unprecedented year.”

 

 


Hollins Appoints Laura A. McLary, Ph.D., as the University’s New Provost

Hollins University has announced the appointment of Laura A. McLary, Ph.D., as provost, effective July 1. She will serve as Hollins’ chief academic officer.

McLary comes to Hollins from the University of Portland in Oregon, where she first joined the faculty in 1999 as an assistant professor of German. She was promoted to associate professor in 2003 and full professor in 2015. The following year, McLary became academic associate dean for the university’s College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), where she worked closely with the dean on issues ranging from strategic priorities and budgeting to communication and personnel. In July 2020, she was named interim dean for CAS, which is the largest academic unit at the University of Portland with 15 departments, nearly 250 full- and part-time faculty, and over 1,300 student majors. She guided CAS last fall through the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring excellent teaching in a remote environment while advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and racial justice goals.

“Laura is a creative and proactive problem-solver who leads with compassion and courage,” Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton said. “She will be a dynamic and gifted collaborator with a variety of constituencies across our campus.”

“Laura impressed the search committee with her depth of understanding about the current challenges facing higher education, and I believe her innovative, action-oriented leadership will usher Hollins into a bold new future,” added Darla Schumm, professor of religious studies and chair of the university faculty as well as chair of the provost search committee. “Her passion for and commitment to the liberal arts, women’s education, and creating diverse, equitable, and just communities resonate deeply with the priorities of the Hollins faculty. Clearly, she places people at the center of all her work and decision-making.”

McLary will focus on strengthening Hollins’ position as one of the nation’s premier liberal arts colleges for women at the undergraduate level, and as an exemplary provider of coeducational graduate programs. She will pursue opportunities such as cultivating and sustaining a diverse undergraduate and graduate faculty; infusing existing academic programs and departments with new energy and vision while also developing new programs to enhance the intellectual life of the university; participating in the design and implementation of a new general education curriculum; and strengthening the university’s graduate and non-degree programs.

“We are excited to have Laura help us imagine and evolve our academic mission, building on strong traditions while moving Hollins forward,” Hinton noted.

 


Hollins Makes Test-Optional Admission Policy Permanent

Hollins University faculty have approved the permanent adoption of a test-optional admission policy for domestic students. ACT and SAT scores will no longer be required when applying for admission.

“Hollins strongly endorses a student-centered, holistic approach to admission,” said Ashley Browning, Hollins’ vice president for enrollment management. She noted that if a prospective first-year student chooses to submit ACT or SAT scores, Hollins will continue to consider them as part of the student’s total application. However, “the absence of standardized test scores will not disadvantage any domestic student’s application for admission.”

Michael Gettings, dean of academic success at Hollins, stated that the case for a test-optional admission policy is strong. “Students of color and students with fewer resources, both low-income and first-generation, tend to be disadvantaged by standardized test requirements, either because of the cost of the test, lack of access to test prep services, lower-resource schools, or other factors.  National data indicates that students from these groups earn lower SAT scores, and are thus disproportionately represented among groups with lower scores.”

Gettings explained that even though few students have to date entered Hollins without test scores, “our analysis indicates that students with lower test scores historically perform well, with respect to Hollins GPA and graduation rates, nearly the same as the overall student population.”

Hollins assesses many aspects of a student’s application to determine their academic preparedness for the university. This includes the high school transcript; course rigor; Advanced Placement, Dual Enrollment, International Baccalaureate and other advanced coursework; GPA; class rank; required essay; and recommendations.  “These are all good indicators that allow the Office of Admission to judge academic readiness,” said Gettings, “and again, our data indicate that these are predictors of academic success at Hollins.”

Browning added that Hollins’ decision reflects a broader trend in higher education. “Many schools have gone test-optional during the global pandemic, and many are making that change permanent in order to make the application process more equitable for students from all backgrounds.”

Last August, Hollins joined more than 500 college and university members of the National Association for College Admission Counseling in confirming that students would not be penalized for the absence of a standardized test score for admission in Fall 2021. The policy was intended to alleviate uncertainty for students and families as they weighed concerns about the safety of going to test centers or the feasibility of testing from home due to COVID-19.

 

 

 


Hollins, NACAC Affirm “Test-Optional Means Test-Optional”

Hollins University is among the more than 400 college and university members of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) that have signed on to the association’s letter confirming that students will not be penalized for the absence of a standardized test score for admission in Fall 2021.

Hollins and many other four-year colleges and universities will not require applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores next fall. The policy is intended to alleviate uncertainty for students and families as they weigh concerns about the safety of going to test centers or the feasibility of testing from home during a global pandemic.

“By going test-optional, institutions are making a definitive statement that they will not need test scores to make admission decisions this year,” the letter says. “Despite the change in policies, high school students and their parents are asking, ‘Does test-optional really mean test-optional?’ The answer, simply put, is YES.”

The letter’s signatories pledge that the lack of a standardized test score will in no way negatively affect the way students’ applications are assessed. “Together,” the statement concludes, “we strongly endorse a student-centered, holistic approach to admission….”

“The message to students and families is simply that…students won’t be subject to penalty if they do not present a test score during the upcoming admission cycle,” explains NACAC Chief Executive Officer Angel B. Pérez. “The institutions that have signed our statement support our approach and are affirming that students without a test score will not be disadvantaged.”

Founded in 1937, NACAC is an organization of nearly 14,000 professionals from around the world dedicated to serving students as they make choices about pursuing postsecondary education. NACAC is committed to maintaining high standards that foster ethical and social responsibility among those involved in the transition process.

 


Hollins Signs New Collective Statement Prioritizing Self-Care, Care for Others During the Pandemic

Hollins University is among the nation’s first colleges to sign a new collective statement – now endorsed by more than 350 admissions deans – that seeks to send clear messages about what college admissions deans value in students during the coronavirus pandemic. The statement also aims to relieve stresses on students and their caregivers and to promote equity in college admissions.

Care Counts in Crisis: College Admissions Deans Respond to COVID-19,” released by Making Caring Common, a project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, provides guidance on self-care, academic work, service to others, family contributions, and extracurricular and summer activities.

“Students and parents understandably have many questions about what college admissions deans are expecting during this time of the pandemic, and there’s all sorts of misinformation swirling around,” said Richard Weissbourd, the faculty director of Making Caring Common. “This statement seeks to answer these questions, to dispel the fog of misinformation, and to affirm the deans’ commitment to meaningful learning, equity, and care for self and others.”

The statement specifically underscores the following:

  • Self-care. The deans recognize that many families during this time are struggling to get by and that a wide range of students are dealing with stresses of many kinds. The statement encourages students to take care of themselves.
  • Academic work. While the deans emphasize that students’ academic work matters to them during the pandemic, they also recognize that many students are facing obstacles to academic work. The deans underscore that they will assess academic achievements in the context of these obstacles, and mainly base assessments of academic achievement on work before or after this pandemic. They further state that no student will be disadvantaged because “of their school’s decisions about transcripts, the absence of AP or IB tests, their lack of access to standardized tests (Hollins announced in May that the university is suspending the standardized testing requirement for students applying for admission in the fall of 2021), or their inability to visit campus.”
  • Service and contributions to others. The deans express that they value contributions to others and service during this time for those who are in a position to provide these contributions. They emphasize that they are not looking for extraordinary forms of service or leadership during the pandemic. They don’t want to create a “pandemic service Olympics.” They are looking for contributions that are authentic and meaningful, including contributions that respond to the many needs created by the pandemic.
  • Family contributions. The deans recognize that many students have family responsibilities, including supervising younger siblings, caring for sick relatives, or working to provide family income that can impede their capacity to engage in school and other activities, and that these responsibilities may have increased during this time. They view substantial family contributions as very important and encourage students to report them in their applications.
  • Extracurricular and summer activities. The deans convey that no student will be disadvantaged for not engaging in extracurricular activities during this time, and they state that students will not be disadvantaged for lost possibilities for summer involvement, including lost internship opportunities, summer jobs, camp experiences, classes, and other types of meaningful engagement that have been cancelled or altered.

For more information about applying to Hollins, visit the Office of Admission webpage, call 800-456-9595, or email huadm@hollins.edu.

 


Committed To “A Culture Of Care,” Hollins Announces Plans To Reopen This Fall

Hollins University has announced plans to reopen as a residential campus this fall, starting classes on August 31 and ending in-person instruction on November 20, the Friday before Thanksgiving.

After Thanksgiving, there will be one more week of remote instruction (November 30 – December 4), followed by Reading Day (December 5) and five days of virtual exams and projects (December 6 – 10). The last day of fall term will be December 10. The change in the calendar allows students to leave campus before Thanksgiving and not return until the university’s January Short Term begins.

Fall Break, originally scheduled for October 15 – 16, has been cancelled, and classes will take place during that period.

“Over the last several weeks, President-elect Mary Dana Hinton and I, along with members of our faculty, staff, and administration, have been assessing the evolving public health situation, studying guidance for higher education from the CDC and the Virginia Department of Health, and planning for the coming year,” said Interim President Nancy Oliver Gray.

She stated that Hollins “will adapt our ways of learning, living, and working in order to protect the health and well-being for all. For example, in most cases, classes will be limited to 25 persons, and there will be changes to campus dining. Informed by guidance from the CDC and the Virginia Department of Health, students will be tested for COVID-19 by Student Health if they are symptomatic or have been in contact with someone who is confirmed to have tested positive. If the test is positive, the Virginia Department of Health will initiate contact tracing.”

Gray added that everyone on campus will be required to wear facial coverings when indoors in the presence of one or more people, and maintain a physical distance of six feet from others. “Further, we will introduce more rigorous building cleaning and sanitation protocols, reconfigure some offices, and adjust teaching spaces in order to abide by the six-foot physical distancing requirements.

“We are committed to a culture of care, and as members of the Hollins community, we share a mutual responsibility to adhere to health and wellness guidelines.”

Noting that the university will keep students, faculty, and staff informed throughout the summer as additional plans and guidelines are finalized, Gray said, “We are considering not only the present situation, but also the very real possibility that dramatic changes in the trajectory of the coronavirus may require changes in our plans. Even though we place a very high priority on learning in a residential community, we must remain flexible in response to changing public health conditions and local, state, and federal guidance.”

Additional information on Hollins’ plans to reopen this fall can be found at www.hollins.edu/onward.


Hollins Announces SAT, ACT will be Optional for Fall 2021 Student Applicants

In response to the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Hollins University is suspending the standardized testing requirement for students applying for admission in the fall of 2021.

The one-year test optional policy means that prospective students do not have to submit SAT or ACT scores in order to be considered for enrollment in the class of 2025.

Ashley Browning, Hollins’ vice president for enrollment management, says the temporary policy is intended to help alleviate anxiety in a challenging and unprecedented time.

“We know opportunities to take SAT or ACT exams have been cancelled, and may continue to be postponed in locations throughout the country. Students may also be concerned that they will not be able to take the tests in an environment that allows for social distancing, or that their performance may be compromised in other ways,” she explains. “Our test optional policy this year will hopefully take away some stress and worry during the 2020-21 application cycle.”

Browning adds that Hollins applicants may still choose to submit SAT or ACT scores for consideration. “We take a holistic approach to evaluating applications that includes a wide range of factors. If a prospective student believes their test results are an accurate reflection of their current academic ability, we will welcome them as part of our review process.”

Hollins’ decision to go test optional, Browning notes, is just one of the ways in which the university is reaching out to prospective students at a time when stay-at-home orders remain largely in place. “This spring, we’ve been holding a number of interactive webinars where students and their parents can learn more about topics of interest and ask questions. We also offer a virtual campus tour, and our admission counselors and financial aid advisors are available via Zoom or phone to share information, including how affordable a Hollins education can be. Annually, we award $28 million in financial aid and scholarships, including scholarships ranging from $24,000 to full-tuition for admitted students.”

Founded in 1842 as Virginia’s first chartered women’s college, Hollins is an independent liberal arts university providing undergraduate education for women, selected graduate programs for men and women, and community outreach initiatives. In addition to 29 undergraduate majors and eight coeducational graduate programs, including a nationally recognized creative writing program, the university offers the Rutherfoord Center for Experiential Learning, which supports extensive career preparation, study abroad, and undergraduate research opportunities; the Batten Leadership Institute, which teaches students how to understand and navigate feedback, conflict, and negotiation; and the Entrepreneurial Learning Institute, which provides students with the resources needed to develop an entrepreneurial outlook across all fields, including the social sciences, business, humanities, fine arts, and STEM.


Nancy Oliver Gray Returns to Hollins as Interim President

Hollins University has announced that President Emerita Nancy Oliver Gray has been named the school’s interim president for the 2019-20 academic year, beginning August 12.

Gray, who was president of Hollins from 2005 to 2017, will serve in that capacity while the University conducts the search for a new president to succeed Pareena Lawrence, who resigned as president effective June 30.

“We are extremely grateful to be able to benefit from Nancy’s leadership and institutional knowledge during this time of transition,” said Alexandra Trower ’86, chair of the Hollins Board of Trustees. “She left an indelible mark on our campus as Hollins’ 11th president.”

Among her many achievements, Trower noted that Gray “facilitated innovations in our undergraduate and graduate programs, oversaw major campus renovations and improvements, masterfully managed the University’s budget, and spearheaded the largest fundraising campaign in Hollins’ history and doubled the size of the endowment.”

Since her retirement two years ago, Gray has been a senior consultant at Gonser Gerber, where she helps colleges, universities, secondary schools, and other non-profit organizations nationally with institutional leadership and advancement. She will continue this work while assuming her new role at Hollins.

“When the Board of Trustees approached me to serve as interim president, I knew I had a responsibility to return to this special place and community during this time of presidential transition,” Gray stated. “I will do all I can to help the University move forward as the search for the 13th president of Hollins is conducted.”

In a message to the Hollins community, Trower said that Gray’s responsibilities as interim president “will be focused on ensuring that we have a smooth and successful leadership transition,” and that Gray will also play an important role in the presidential search process.

“With Nancy’s help and with the support of Hollins’ strong bench of senior leaders,” Trower concluded, “I can say with confidence that Hollins will remain the university of choice for the leaders, decision makers, and cultural shapers of tomorrow.”