Hollins Enjoys Double Presence at Women’s Theatre Festival

The works of two Hollins playwrights were recently showcased at an event that champions gender parity, diversity, and inclusion in the American theatre.

She Made Space, written and performed by Meredith Cope-Levy ’12, M.F.A. ’18, and And Then the Moon Swallowed the Sky by Rachel Nelson ’07 were featured at the 2019 Women’s Theatre Festival (WTF), held July 12 – 14 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The WTF stages productions and readings that are written and directed by women and feature casts and crews that are at least 50 percent women.

She Made Space is an honest and touching story spotlighting a twenty-something intellectual American lesbian tourist who arrives in Paris at the turn of the 20th century. “The play traces the steps she has taken to get there in consideration of the occupation of space – both inside, and outside, of herself,” Cope-Levy explains.

“There was something incredibly gratifying about performing She Made Space, a show that celebrates queer communities and identity, in a queer-centric space,” she says. “The intimacy of it allowed the audience to interact with me in a way that has never really happened before. This is the first time I think this show has ever seen a predominantly female and queer audience. Having not performed the show myself since we workshopped it in 2016, it was also meaningful for me personally to put this character back on and share my words in such a physically personal way.”

And Then the Moon Swallowed the Sky
Actors perform “And Then the Moon Swallowed the Sky” at the Women’s Theatre Festival.

A powerfully poignant play, And Then the Moon Swallowed the Sky explores moving through grief, together and alone. “On the eve of a total eclipse of the sun, three women throughout history each contemplate the things and people they have lost,” Nelson says. “As the light begins to fade, their stories become deeply intertwined in unexpected ways.”

She adds that crucial work was done with the production last winter in order to prepare it for venues such as the WTF. “This show was in residence at Hollins in January of this year, and that residency gave us incredible clarity about rewrites, which really paid off in this production. It also generated support with the students – after having seen it through multiple drafts, they really care about this show and have a vested interest in where it goes next.”

The staging of each play was made possible by all-Hollins casts and crews. She Made Space was directed by Lauren B. Ellis M.F.A. ’20 and stage managed by Shelby Love M.F.A. ’20. “Lauren has done such a brilliant job directing this production and this show is a true labor of love for us both,” Cope-Levy says. “We are hoping to take it back on the road to other fringe festivals.”

And because of the efforts of Susie Young ’10, Natalie Pendergast ’17, Kendall Comolli ’20, and Megan Gilbert ‘20, the production of And Then the Moon Swallowed the Sky persevered despite a significant setback.

“I had to evacuate my home in New Orleans due to Hurricane Barry the day before the festival, so I could only contribute long distance,” Nelson says, “and the team really had to rally at the last second. Susie stepped up as a director and performer, and her genius and fortitude really made this happen. She and I have been working on this play for three years now, and even though I wrote it, it’s based on a lot of conversations and explorations that we did together into grief. In so many ways she’s the heart of this project.

“I also want to thank Natalie for her performance; Kendall (the show’s original stage manager), who filled in as an actor; and Megan, who took over as stage manager. I am incredibly proud of all of them.”

“Of course we were bummed to not have Rachel with us,” Cope-Levy adds, “but her team demonstrated how important it is for theatre artists to be interdisciplinary – and how well Hollins prepares us for that.”

The Artistic Home, an entity designed by Nelson and Hollins Theatre Chair Ernie Zulia, is a major force behind the success of the two plays. “It supports recent Hollins grads through their first years in the professional theatre community by offering them connections with more established alumnae and current students. At the same time, they make exciting new theatre,” Nelson explains. “The WTF is a perfect example of the kind of work The Artistic Home does. There were several generations of Hollins family in collaboration – current Hollins students worked alongside Hollins professors and alumnae of the theatre program. This kind of cross-generation pollinating creates a team that mutually supports the growth of our young professional alumnae and enriches the education and professional experience of current Hollins students.”

“I physically felt my heart burst in witnessing The Artistic Home’s manifestation in these two back-to-back productions,” Cope-Levy says. “I also want to acknowledge the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins for its ardent support of She Made Space from our early workshops all the way through to this fringe festival tour.”

Nelson notes that “writing a play is often an isolating experience,” but her ties to Hollins ensure she doesn’t feel alone during the process. “I know I have the support of a community, and that I’m not writing into a vacuum. Events like this festival always remind me that the Hollins community is so much bigger than just the campus. It really does stretch around the world.”

 

Top Photo: Meredith Cope-Levy ’12, M.F.A. ’18 performs She Made Space, which she wrote. 


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.

 


Gift To Wilson Museum’s Permanent Collection Honors Hollins Staff Member

An anonymous donor has made possible a gift to the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum in tribute to a longtime Hollins employee.

Alex Trower ’86, chair of the Hollins University Board of Trustees, announced that two paintings would be added to the museum’s permanent collection “to honor the wonderful work and deep commitment of our own Brook Dickson.” Dickson, who serves as executive assistant to the president and secretary for the Board of Trustees, is retiring from Hollins on June 30.

“Recognizing Brook’s extraordinary contribution to Hollins,” Trower explained, “the donor worked with Jenine Culligan, director of the museum, to select artwork she believed Brook would admire.”

The first piece, by artist/naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian, is from Metamorphosis of the Insects of Suraname, printed in 1705. “Throughout her life, Merian observed, sketched, wrote about, and beautifully portrayed the life cycles of insects, especially caterpillars and butterflies,” Trower said. “Between Art and Science: Maria Sibylla Merian was an exhibit at the Wilson Museum in the fall of 2016, and Brook was very interested in this work.”

The second painting is “Siena” by Alison Hall, who graduated from Hollins in 2001. She served as visiting assistant professor of art, painting, and drawing at the university from 2005 – 2013 and also directed Hollins’ summer study abroad program in Todi, Italy.

“Hall’s practice is rooted in ritual, meditation, and repetition,” Trower noted. “Her works are captivating in their formal complexity and subtlety. From a distance, her paintings may appear like monochrome color-field works. On a closer look, the paintings reveal unfathomable intricate geometric patterns as light plays across the surface.”

Dickson graduated from Hollins in 1995 and joined the school’s staff that same year. “Over the years she has truly inspired all of us who have been fortunate to know her as a co-worker and a friend,” said Hollins President Pareena Lawrence. Along with serving seven presidents and the Board of Trustees, and supporting the development of four strategic plans, Dickson oversaw planning for an array of campus events ranging from Hollins’ transition from a college to a university, presidential inaugurations, and the 175th anniversary celebration, to the restoration of Beale Garden, bringing distinguished speakers to campus, and organizing with Roanoke College the annual Perry F. Kendig Awards, which honor the quality and diversity of arts and culture in the Roanoke Valley. She has also helped advance the university’s environmental initiatives, grow connections within the Roanoke community, and steward major donors.

“Throughout her 24 years here, Brook has personified steady leadership in the president’s office,” Lawrence added. “Content to work behind the scenes, she exemplifies quiet dignity and unshakable perseverance. She will be deeply missed.”

 

Photo (left to right): Suzy Mink ’74, vice president for external relations; Kerry Edmonds, vice president for finance and administration; Brook Dickson ’95, executive assistant to the president and secretary for the Hollins University Board of Trustees; Kurt Navratil, Dickson’s husband; and Laura Jane Ramsburg, assistant director of the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum, with the two paintings given in Dickson’s honor to the Wilson Museum’s permanent collection.


Andolyn Medina ’16 to Sing National Anthem at Black History Month Gala

Andolyn Medina ’16, whose vocal talents have earned her National Anthem performances before President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, the Miss America Pageant, and a Washington Wizards NBA game, is about to add another special event to her impressive resume.

Medina has been selected to sing the National Anthem at the 19th Annual Virginia Black History Month Gala, which takes place Saturday, February 23, at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner Hotel in McLean, Virginia.

“Andolyn has a long and distinguished career of community service, leadership, and educational success,” said Bill Jones, president of the Virginia Black History Month Association. “It is my distinct honor to welcome her to the gala and we look forward to her performance.”

After graduating cum laude from Hollins with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a minor in music, Medina went on to complete her master’s degree in forensic psychology at The George Washington University, where she is currently a doctoral student in the clinical psychology program. She is also the reigning Miss Piedmont Region 2018.

Medina has displayed a passion for volunteer work since the age of four, logging more than 7,500 service hours. In 2013, she received Congressional recognition and the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding and invaluable community service. She has earned the Presidential Gold Award, the Miss America Community Service Award, and the Wells Fargo Community Service Award. She also received a Proclamation from the City of Roanoke, Virginia, declaring March 7, 2016, as “Andolyn Medina Day.”

 

 

 


“Help Wanted – Female”: Hollins Alumna’s New York Times Op-Ed Reflects on Pivotal Point in the Women’s Movement

Turning to the classified ads section of the nation’s top daily newspaper to find job openings under the headings “Help Wanted – Male” and “Help Wanted – Female” would be jarring to us today. But, The New York Times actually listed career opportunities in this manner until just 50 years ago this week, when the 1964 Civil Rights Act and growing public backlash convinced the paper to simply use the term “Help Wanted.”

Wyndham Robertson ’58 puts the spotlight on this little-remembered but nevertheless significant milestone in her op-ed piece, “The Long Shadow of ‘Help Wanted – Female,’” which on November 29 was fittingly published by the Times.

Robertson, who went on to enjoy a distinguished career as an editor and writer at Fortune magazine after graduating from Hollins, recalls believing that bringing a new sensibility to classified job ads would help women rise above the low-paying, so-called “Gal Friday” positions that dominated the “Help Wanted – Female” section.

“Before classified ads went unisex, women had no established path to high-level jobs,” she writes. “At the time I thought this would be a game changer for women, and of course, it was – to a point.”

She notes that “change came very slowly” over the years. While at Fortune in the late 1970s, she looked at more than a thousand of the nation’s largest corporations to find women who were among each company’s three highest-paid employees; she discovered just ten.

Yet, Robertson remained optimistic. “I took the upbeat and not uncommon position that once more women were ‘in the pipeline’…executive suites would be teeming with women.”

Thus, Robertson is mystified that in 2018, “life at the top of large American corporations still seems so overwhelmingly male,” with women representing only five percent of all CEOs on the Fortune 500. “There must be a reason for this weak showing,” she concludes, “but access to the pipeline, we can now safely say, isn’t it.”

“Wyndham’s thoughtful essay underscores that our commitment to developing women who build lives of consequence has never been more essential,” says Hollins President Pareena Lawrence. “As an institution with undergraduate programs for women, our work is cut out for us. We must continue to prepare women to lead in all sectors of society with renewed urgency.  Our innovative emphasis on leadership, life skills, and professional development along with new investments in business and entrepreneurship will give our students the foundation to fulfill the promise inherent in those unisex classified ads five decades ago.”

Alexandra Trower ’86, chair of the Hollins Board of Trustees and vice president, global communications at The Estée Lauder Companies, adds that Robertson’s op-ed is “a timely and important reminder that there are a great many glass ceilings left to be shattered. Hollins is uniquely positioned to empower its students to confront and overcome those barriers in the years to come.”

Photo: Wyndham Robertson ’58 at Fortune magazine, 1974. Credit: Barbara J. Little


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 Wednesday, November 14 at 3:30 p.m.


Hollins Mourns Loss of Alumna Who Persevered Against Gender Bias

Ann Branigar Hopkins ’65, whose landmark 1980s legal case paved the way for expanding protections to prevent workplace discrimination, passed away June 23.

Despite a stellar record of job performance, Hopkins’s employer, Price Waterhouse, denied partnership to her in 1982 because, as Forbes magazine reports, she refused “to behave in a more stereotypically-feminine manner.” She sued for discrimination, and the subsequent seven-year litigation battle went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins was decided in her favor by a 6 – 3 vote.

“With its ruling in her case,” The New York Times notes, “the Supreme Court established that discrimination based on gender stereotyping was indeed barred by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In his lead opinion, Justice William Brennan wrote, ‘An employer who objects to aggressiveness in women but whose positions require this trait places women in an intolerable and impermissible Catch-22: out of a job if they behave aggressively and out of a job if they don’t’.” The Washington Post adds, “It was the first time the court ruled that gender stereotyping was a form of discrimination.”

Forbes concludes that “glass ceiling discrimination remains a stubborn obstacle across corporate America. But progress continues to be made in diversifying executive positions and Ann Hopkins deserves our profound appreciation for her role in making this happen.”

The Hollins Digital Commons contains a gallery for finding guides to a collection of papers related to the Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins Supreme Court case. It includes numerous newspaper and periodical articles that document Hopkins’ journey from beginning to end; court transcripts; personal and professional correspondence; materials related to her 1996 memoir, So Ordered: Making Partner the Hard Way; a scrapbook album; and other papers. For more information, contact Beth Harris at bharris@hollins.edu.

 

 

 

 


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.


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.

 

 

 

 


Junior Joins Forces with a 2009 Graduate to Make History Rock in Paris

Two remarkable qualities of a Hollins education are the opportunities for real-world experience that alumnae champion for current undergraduates, and the wide range of study abroad options that the university fosters around the globe.

Throughout this academic year, Liza Davis ’19 is enjoying the best of both worlds. The double-major in communication studies and French is living in Paris and interning with Imerys Carbonates, an international company that mines, transforms, and creates functional minerals for a variety of applications from plastics, paints, and film to pharmaceuticals and even calcium fortifications for orange juice and toothpaste. Davis’s internship doesn’t consist of menial tasks: She serves as the manager and content creator for an important social media campaign called “History Rocks in Paris.”

“Our main goal is to show some of the many places where you can find carbonates in Paris,” Davis explains. “Carbonates are minerals found in the earth and three of the most common forms that Imerys works with are marble, chalk, and limestone.

“Paris has tons of carbonates. For example, there are thousands of marble statues and buildings and there are also limestone tunnels that crisscross the whole city. Minerals are a difficult product to make relatable to regular people, so what better way to make carbonates interesting than to talk about them in relation to Paris.”

The catalyst behind Davis’s internship is Lauren Dale ’09, who serves as a global communications strategist for Imerys. She transferred to the company’s Paris headquarters nearly two years ago after working in Imerys’s Atlanta office for two and a half years.

Lauren Dale '09
Lauren Dale ’09 is a global communications strategist with Imerys Carbonates in Paris.

“As the beneficiary of two competitive J-term internships hosted by alumnae, I have always been open to having a Hollins student as an intern,” she says. “I know the educational culture from which a Hollins woman is grown. My liberal arts degrees (she double-majored in communication studies and theatre) really rounded out my thinking process and Hollins gave me the courage to take risks – something that has paid off in my career. I would take a Hollins intern or employee in a heartbeat.”

Davis is specifically creating, delivering, and managing Instagram content around the “History Rocks” concept. “She is actively contributing to the development of this new (to our business) communications platform and campaign by developing the campaign overview, target subjects and content, hashtags and audience connection mechanisms, and of course, helping track the analytics,” Dale says. “In addition, she is working on a couple of other projects during her internship, adding ideas and providing support for some of our new engagements with her fresh young eyes. She is also, of course, bringing some American female diversity to a very French, masculine company!”

“I have done research on everything from who’s buried in the Pantheon to what kind of sealants hold the windows together in the Louis Vuitton Foundation,” Davis adds. “I’ve also looked at how social media campaigns can benefit companies like Imerys Carbonates. I am so excited about this campaign.”

Davis’s enthusiasm extends to the way of living she’s discovered in Paris. “This city constantly surprises me. Some of the stereotypes are true: French people do walk down the street carrying four or more baguettes at once! But others are false, such as the notion that Parisians aren’t friendly. One of the most striking things about these people, and something that really reminds me of Hollins, is the profound depth of their relationships. The French believe in truly meaningful bonds that last lifetimes, and it has touched me deeply to see the same kind of strong connections that I have found at Hollins in a city as big as Paris.”

Davis is quick to express her gratitude to Dale. “Being in this position for a longer time has allowed me to settle into a work routine and handle more long-term projects. I’ve been able to see what goes into the life of someone working internationally in the communications field, and that alone has been incredibly valuable for me. I’ve also been able to see the real-world applications of what I am studying, and that gives me guidance in my work at Hollins. I am so lucky to know that I will be walking away from this internship with projects done that I am proud of and that I can use in the future, and that’s all thanks to Lauren. On my first day, she sat down with me to make sure that I was going to get what I wanted out of this internship. Working with someone like her has definitely shown me the importance of taking initiative and helping others see the value in my work.”

In an interesting postscript, Dale shares that Hollins’s ties with the work of Imerys Carbonates go beyond her employment and Davis’s internship with the company. “I’m not sure what mineral comprises the Hollins Rock, but all those layers of paint on it probably have carbonates in them. Tinker Mountain, which we of course hike up on Tinker Day, is made of limestone. And Hollins sits on the Athens Shale, a blue-black limestone deposit that dates back 250 million years.

“Hollins women have been learning and creating history alongside our very own calcium carbonates for years!”

To see Davis’s work on the History Rocks in Paris campaign, visit @imeryscarbonates on Instagram.