First-Year Students Attend Virginia Law Audit Project Announcement

Hollins University students Elizabeth Barker ’26 and Jay Garcia ’26 visited the State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia, for the launch of the Virginia Law Audit Project (VLAP) by the Virginia Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW).

VLAP is a crowd-sourced, nonpartisan, statewide initiative in which state statutes, administrative code, and the Virginia Constitution are reviewed. The mission is to identify all forms of discrimination (racial, gender, age, religious, disability, housing, employment, etc.) and propose legislative amendments to further equity in the language and substance of the law. This spring, Virginia’s NOW chapter will partner with students, law schools, nonprofits, and law firms across the commonwealth to develop and recommend these statutory updates.

Assistant Professor of Political Science and Gender and Women’s Studies Courtney Chenette, who is part of VLAP’s development and legal research coordinating team, is teaching courses this spring at Hollins that will collaboratively support the project.

“I’m committed to equipping our students to make immediate contributions to law and government,” she explained. “VLAP is an experiential learning opportunity for students to apply their legal research skills beyond the classroom as scholars, practitioners, and changemakers.”

Barker and Garcia were both in the Fall Term 2022 first-year seminar and January 2023 Short Term course “Trial and Error,” which Chenette teaches in conjunction with Roanoke City Circuit Court Judge David Carson. The class introduces students to substantive areas of law and the procedures of trial advocacy and includes sessions at the Roanoke City Courthouse.

This spring, Chenette’s classes and pre-law and advocacy students will review code sections based on NOW’s research criteria.

“I’m very excited to offer the opportunity for Hollins students to use their academic research skills to modernize the commonwealth’s laws and advance gender equity,” she said.

In addition to Hollins, the University of Virginia School of Law; George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government, Gender and Policy Center; the League of Women Voters; and the American Association of University Women are among the institutions and organizations to date that are championing VLAP.


Photo caption: (Left to right) Jay Garcia ’26; Lisa Sales, president of the Virginia Chapter of NOW; and Elizabeth Barker ’26.

Hollins Initiative to Grow Region’s Dual Enrollment Teaching Capacity Boosted by $428,000 in Federal Funds

Hollins University has received $428,000 in federal government funding to enhance dual enrollment offerings for high school students in the Roanoke Valley region.

The appropriation is part of $200 million in funding secured by U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine for community projects in Virginia that is included in legislation signed by President Joe Biden to fund the government through Fiscal Year 2023.

“Dual enrollment courses make higher education more accessible and affordable for many of Virginia’s students, and it’s important that our schools have access to the qualified workforce they need to offer them,” Kaine said. “I am glad this funding will support Hollins University in expanding access to graduate studies for teachers in the Roanoke Valley to further their educations, qualify them to teach dual enrollment courses, and better serve students in the region.”

The Hollins project, which will be coordinated with Roanoke’s Virginia Western Community College, is designed to support the development of a new program for educators in Roanoke City Public Schools, Roanoke County Public Schools, and Botetourt County Public Schools who seek to complete graduate-level coursework in English, history, mathematics, or art in order to build dual enrollment teaching capacity and opportunities.

“In an increasingly complex world, education matters. Given the need for investment in advanced manufacturing, technology and communications, healthcare, and other industries that require advanced degrees, the Roanoke Valley is eager to produce more students prepared to complete bachelor’s degrees,” said Steven Laymon, vice president for graduate and continuing studies at Hollins. He cited that just 22 to 26% of Roanoke Valley residents have completed a bachelor’s degree compared to 37% statewide and 32% nationally.

“Available research suggests that dual enrollment can improve postsecondary success, boosting the number of students who graduate with two- and four-year degrees,” Laymon added. “This investment in building a new partnership to prepare local high schools to offer dual degrees will speed progress toward closing the educational achievement gap between the Roanoke Valley and the rest of the commonwealth.”

Lorraine Lange, Hollins’ director of graduate education programs, emphasized the area’s considerable need for more skilled teachers who can help dual enrollment students navigate the challenges of college-level learning. “The Roanoke region simply does not have enough teachers to teach dual enrollment courses. Only 78 dual enrollment courses were offered across the region in the spring of 2022, a steep decline from the 106 courses offered in the fall of 2018. This deprived hundreds of high schools of the opportunity to begin the work of accumulating college credits while in high school.”

Hollins’ Master of Arts in Teaching and the online Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning programs will serve as key components of the dual enrollment capacity project. “We also feature a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS), which, being entirely online, gives us immense flexibility in allowing us to offer a variety of graduate-level coursework in the arts and sciences,” Lange said, noting that dual enrollment teachers in Virginia must have a master’s degree and at least 18 hours of coursework in the relevant subject area. “We have a close relationship with Virginia Western and have partnered with them to produce courses to prepare high school teachers in the region to teach dual enrollment courses.”

Hollins will use the funding from Congress to pay all tuition costs to enroll 45 teachers from Roanoke area high schools in graduate-level courses in the coming year and will supply them with iPads and smart keyboards so that they can store lessons and content to make future planning easier.

“The result will be an acceleration in the preparation of high school teachers to offer dual enrollment courses, permitting students to earn college credit from Virginia Western Community College while finishing high school,” Laymon said.

Local public school system leaders are applauding the dual enrollment initiative. “The idea of using the interdisciplinary concentration in Hollins’ MALS program to allow high school teachers to get the required graduate hours is inspiring,” said Roanoke City Public Schools Superintendent Verletta White, while Jonathan Russ, superintendent of Botetourt County Public Schools, stated he believes “the option of offering accelerated courses, allowing teachers to complete the required credit hours in a more efficient fashion, will encourage more teachers to enroll.” Roanoke County Public Schools Superintendent Ken Nicely said, “We appreciate the opportunity to work with Hollins University to develop a solution to address this important need.”

Elizabeth Wilmer, vice president of academic and student affairs at Virginia Western Community College, expressed gratitude for how funding for the project will “enlarge the number of teachers who can enroll without paying the cost of study out of their own pocket,” and overall, “make this promising proposal a reality.”

The Hollins dual enrollment initiative builds upon efforts Lange and Wilmer spearheaded in 2021 to begin offering online graduate classes in English, history, and mathematics to help teachers throughout the Roanoke Valley and across Virginia qualify to teach dual enrollment courses. Teachers from as far away as Henry County and Richmond took advantage of the online courses for dual enrollment certification.

“Hollins University is proud to be a partner and a resource in the Roanoke Valley community,” said Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton. “This project reflects our commitment to education, both higher education and the critical work of K-12. We are honored to be on this journey with our local educational colleagues.”



Hollins Sophomore Explores Link Between Music and Mood in PBS NewsHour Segment

After she began playing the cello as a fourth-grader, Brigitte Bonsu ’25 became fascinated with music’s healing power. As a high school senior, she decided to pursue a position with the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL), and as part of her application she was asked to submit a 90-second video on a topic of her choosing.

“I focused on music and mental health,” she recalled, “and after I was accepted into SRL, they wanted to continue looking into that idea.”

Working with producer Eli Kintisch, Bonsu and segment cohost John Barnes (an undergraduate at the University of Virginia) interviewed experts, explored the latest research, and reflected on their own personal musical odysseys. They created a five-minute-plus story on the link between music and our moods that premiered online in the PBS NewsHour Classroom on September 16 and was broadcast nationally October 24 on PBS NewsHour as part of CANVAS, the newscast’s arts and culture series.

Bonsu, Barnes, and Kintisch started putting the piece together at the end of Summer 2021. “So, throughout my first year at Hollins, that’s really when I was working on it,” Bonsu explained. The result is a lively, entertaining, and informative story punctuated with humor and animation. As cohosts, Bonsu and Barnes have an engaging rapport that underscores how much the project resonated with them.

“John plays guitar, but he didn’t actually pick it up until his senior year in high school. He was self-taught,” Bonsu said. “The fact that he went from not having traditional lessons to performing now in band, that shows how you can get to the point where this hobby can really become a part of you in a way where you can just express yourself.”

Bonsu hopes viewers come away from the segment understanding that virtuosity and perfection are not prerequisites for enjoying music’s benefits. “Sometimes when we look at music, we think we can’t touch it unless we meet particular criteria or reach certain heights. Anyone can connect with music. You can always play or listen to it. We can use music in our daily lives and it can help us during distressing times.”

Playing the cello, Bonsu said, not only helps her stay disciplined, but also offers her a creative space that ensures a healthy balance with her academic responsibilities. “When I began in fourth grade, I didn’t expect to keep pursuing it to this point. But, I’ve grown really close to it. I’ve made learning and performing my own thing.”

Bonsu recently declared English as her major and intends to keep playing the cello throughout her undergraduate career. For the upcoming January Short Term, she is seeking a Diplomatic and Consular Services Retired Archives internship in Washington, D.C., focusing on equity and inclusivity. After Hollins, she wants to pursue graduate school in both English and music and eventually become a professor and a writer. Wherever her plans take her, she is certain what she learned from working with SRL will continue to be impactful.

“One thing I took away from SRL is that there are different ways to use what we already know and the skills we already have to create something very accessible and relatable to give back to the world. I never thought I could make a video about music and mental health, see it published, and have it help others. I really do like how a lot of people have been able to connect to it.”



Theatre Department Launches Series of Community Projects

Members of the Hollins theatre department are expanding their skills beyond the stage. Students and faculty have collaborated to develop and execute a series of theatre-based service projects as a way to support the greater Roanoke community.

In September, props crafting students created baskets and other displays to hold raffle items for an Ursula’s Cafe fundraiser. A recently opened nonprofit organization in downtown Roanoke, Ursula’s Cafe is a pay-what-you-can restaurant that offers food to all, regardless of anyone’s ability to pay. Last month, costuming students held a workshop where they made children’s Halloween costumes for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southwest Virginia. Future projects in the works include a partnership between stagecraft students and Habitat for Humanity.

Theatre Department Baskets
Props crafting students created baskets and other displays to hold raffle items in support of a fundraising initiative for Ursula’s Cafe.

“Since transitioning into the department chair position, much of my conversation with the faculty has been around ways to develop holistic theatre makers who understand the value of the transferrable skills theatre education provides,” said Wendy-Marie Martin, assistant professor of theatre. “One day we were talking about how ego so often pervades creative work and were contemplating how to provide our students with opportunities to practice humility. A lightbulb went off in all of us and the idea to combine transferable theatrical skills with service to the Roanoke community was born.”

Sara Clark ’25 came up with the idea for the costuming project.

“I come from a low-income family and growing up, I helped out with my local Boys and Girls Clubs and knew a lot of the kids who were in it,” Clark said. “Right after our major meeting, I decided I wanted to lead a project where I made costumes for kids at the Boys and Girls Clubs who might not have the opportunity to get one they want.”

To get started, Clark and Suellen DaCosta Coelho, visiting assistant professor of theater, met with kids at the Boys and Girls Club and asked what types of costumes they wanted. “I love kids, and I love seeing that look on their face when they see something that’s been specifically made for them,” Clark said. “We’re doing the actual costume-making as a workshop. That way anyone from campus, even people without sewing experience, can get involved — use the hot glue gun or attach sticky gemstones to fabric, things like that.”

Clark’s contact at the local Boys and Girls Clubs was Bryan Hancock, a youth development leader who also has a background in theatre and has participated in Hollins productions. “It’s important for kids to know that the arts are important, and that there are opportunities for them in the arts,” he said. “Kids aspire to do different things, and I view this project as a way to expose them to something new and teach them what their imaginations are capable of.”

The project also serves as a full-circle moment for Clark and her own memories of her childhood imagination. She first developed interest in costume design when her middle school offered a variety of intramural theatre classes. “Granted, these intramurals were $60 each, because our school was so underfunded, and it took a lot to convince my family that this was something I wanted to do. But I signed up, and it was totally worth it.”

“By supporting these kids in their imagination and embracing their creativity, I hope this will be something they look back on and then decide they want to give back in the same way,” Clark concluded. “I want to create an experience and artifact that is long-lasting for these kids.”

Top photo: Costuming students make children’s Halloween costumes for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southwest Virginia.


Marin Harrington is a graduate assistant in Hollins’ marketing and communications department. She is pursuing her M.F.A. in creative writing at the university.

At Ignite Retreat, First-Year Students Embrace How to Create Change

Students from a Hollins University first-year seminar recently immersed themselves in a community of changemakers at a gathering sponsored by an organization dedicated to inspiring young people.

Members of the “Ask Not What Your Community Can Do for You: Sustainability and Social Innovation” class traveled to Black Mountain, North Carolina, to take part in the Ignite Retreat. Hosted by the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation, which for nearly 90 years has sought to “ignite the good and place service to others above self-interest,” the weekend event offered college students the chance to learn how to become social entrepreneurs and spark change in their communities.

The retreat complemented the goals of the “Sustainability and Social Innovation” course, which is taught by Assistant Professor of Education Teri Wagner in collaboration with Student Success Leader Abigail Phillips ’25. The seminar upholds stewardship as the heart of sustainability and social innovation and emphasizes that the concept can be applied not only to the environment and nature, but also to economics, health, information, theology, cultural resources, and more.

“This class explores ways to address those issues as they present themselves in our local community,” Wagner said. “Students are challenged to develop innovative solutions to complex problems by applying design thinking principles while working in multidisciplinary, collaborative teams.”

Wagner noted that students in the class also learn about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 interconnected objectives whose stated mission is to provide “a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.”

“They choose a goal that holds personal significance to them and explore ways to address issues in our local community related to that SDG.” Wagner explained. “We utilize the design process while working in multidisciplinary, collaborative teams to develop innovative projects to address these complex problems.”

Ignite Retreat Attendees
The Ignite Retreat welcomed undergraduates from colleges and universities across the southeastern U.S.

The Ignite Retreat gave attendees the opportunity to tackle projects, gain insight into possible career options, and do a deep dive into issues they are passionate about. The three-day program was divided into three tracks intended to “meet each participant where they’re at and help them get where they want to go next.” These included:

  • Personal Track: Facilitated better understanding of an individual’s skills and passions while growing confidence and delving into the mindset of a social entrepreneur.
  • Problem Track: Designed for those who want to address a particular issue or problem but aren’t sure how to be a part of solutions.
  • Project Track: Helped students who are ready to begin working on a specific project, venture, or campus initiative they’ve been considering.

In addition to networking with undergraduates from colleges and universities from across the southeastern U.S., Hollins students received one-to-one mentoring from coaches who have launched nonprofit organizations or other social ventures and enjoyed an array of hands-on workshops.

The first-year seminar program at Hollins is intended to improve student learning at a critical early stage in undergraduate education, offer a unique class bonding experience based on academic excellence, and introduce students to a number of general education skills and perspectives. All of the seminars share the same scholastic goals, allowing students to participate in a common learning experience in their first term at Hollins. All first-time, first-year students must enroll in a first-year seminar in the fall term. The instructor/advisor for each first-year seminar is assisted by a student success leader, an upper-class student mentor who attends the seminar, helps students with advising, and answers academic questions.









Hollins, Roanoke College Present 2022 Kendig Awards 

The Perry F. Kendig Awards, which celebrate the people and organizations that support excellence in the arts in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, were presented during a ceremony at Hollins University on October 11. 

The awards are co-sponsored by Hollins University and Roanoke College, and they are awarded annually in three categories: Individual Artist, Arts and Cultural Organization, and Individual or Business Arts supporter. Recipients are selected from a group of nominees who live or work in the counties of Roanoke, Botetourt, and Franklin, the cities of Roanoke and Salem, or the town of Vinton. The awards are named for the late Perry F. Kendig, who served as president of Roanoke College and was an avid supporter and patron of the arts. 

“Roanoke College is happy to again join with Hollins University to present these Kendig Awards, and it is our privilege to carry on the tradition of this event in President Kendig’s name,” said Roanoke College President Frank Shushok Jr., who joined Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton to present the awards. 

This year’s nominees were Seth Davis, resident musical director at Mill Mountain Theatre; Michael Hemphill, founder and host of the inspirational Blue Ridge PBS and YouTube show “Buzz4Good”; Michael Mansfield, an actor and director who has worked with multiple local arts organizations; Douglas Jackson, arts and culture coordinator for the city of Roanoke; Sandra Meythaler, executive director of Roanoke Ballet Theatre; and the Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir. 

The 2022 Kendig Award winners are: 

Individual Artist Award 

The recipient of the Individual Artist Award for 2022 was Seth Davis, Mill Mountain Theatre’s resident music director. For nearly a decade, Davis has inspired more than 4,000 children and teenagers by helping them find joy and fulfillment through music. His students develop leadership and talents they can apply to their studies and future careers. “Teaching is Seth Davis’ passion; music is his language,” said one of the nominators. 

Through his work at Mill Mountain, Davis has challenged and encouraged children through conservatory classes and stage productions. “I really love what music can do to increase a child’s confidence,” Davis has said. “Students come to us not sure where they even fit in life. Teaching is an opportunity to provide that sense of belonging through music.”  

At the ceremony on Tuesday, Davis said he was pleasantly surprised by the recognition. 

“I’m grateful for the chance to work with kids and folks of all ages on something that brings them so much joy,” he said, “and it is mutual, because it also brings me joy.” 

Arts and Cultural Organization Award 

The Arts and Cultural Organization Award was presented to The Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir (RVCC). For 35 years, RVCC has met the needs of young people across the Roanoke Valley, providing an artistic and in-depth study of voice in a choral setting. The choir currently has 130 singers aged seven to 18. It is divided into a “Little Singers” group for children ages 4-6, three training choirs, and a concert choir. Children move up through the groups as their development and aptitude deepens.  

Weekly rehearsals culminate in community performances that help students develop vocal techniques, confidence, leadership and teamwork. Each choir participates in an annual regional, state, national or international honor performance, giving the students an opportunity to travel. The choir also collaborates on performances with professional organizations such as the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra and Opera Roanoke. Susan Smith, chairwoman of the RVCC Board of Directors, accepted the award on behalf of the choir. 

“We are proud to have served the Roanoke Valley as a world-class choral program for 36 years,” Smith said. “If you know, you know: There is no sound quite like the choral sound of children’s voices.” 

Individual or Business Arts Supporter Award 

The Individual or Business Arts Supporter Award was presented to Douglas Jackson, arts and culture coordinator for the city of Roanoke and capacity development specialist for the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. Jackson is a long-serving and faithful ally of the arts in Virginia’s Blue Ridge who is invested in finding ways to make the arts compelling and accessible to all. He has done that through community initiatives such as BOOK CITY and Roanoke’s Year of the Artist.  

“Doug’s belief in the power of the arts to strengthen community in all its diversity, and to build trusting relationships, is contagious,” a nominator said.  

Roanoke’s Year of the Artist, Jackson’s recent effort to secure and distribute funding for the arts, has empowered and validated the existing creative community and has helped to bridge the gap between working artists, arts organizations, and city government. Beginning in 2013, Jackson helped create the Parks and the Arts program, which brought the best of Roanoke’s arts and culture experiences to neighborhood parks and community centers.  

“The arts are how I was able to get involved in Roanoke and feel a part of the community,” Jackson said. “The arts can give us agency.”  

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 Kendig Awards program was established in 1985 and presented annually by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge through 2012. Hollins and Roanoke College have now partnered for 10 years to bestow the honors. Kendig’s sons, Bill Kendig, a 1980 graduate of Roanoke College, and John Kendig, attended Tuesday’s event to represent their family. 

“We so appreciate the fact that Roanoke College and Hollins University honor Dad with that award,” John Kendig said. “He would love to be here. He would be in his element.”  


Photo caption (from left to right): Roanoke College President Frank Shushok Jr.; Michael Mansfield, actor/director; Sandra Meythaler, executive director of Roanoke Ballet Theatre; Seth Davis, resident music director at Mill Mountain Theatre; Susan Smith, executive director of the Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir Board of Directors; Douglas Jackson, arts and culture coordinator for the city of Roanoke and capacity development specialist for the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development; Michael Hemphill, founder and host of the Blue Ridge PBS and YouTube show “Buzz4Good”; and Hollins University President Mary Dana Hinton.


“My Journey Back Home”: Savannah Scott ’22 Returns to Alaska to Serve in the CDC’s Public Health Associate Program

Growing up in Fairbanks, Alaska, Savannah Scott ’22 saw how factors ranging from poverty and housing insecurity to the lack of sexual health education for young people profoundly impacted the health of her community. As she entered her senior year in high school, she felt such a call to action to address those issues that she sought dual enrollment at the University of Alaska – Fairbanks. “I wanted to learn how I could address those social determinants and best reduce the disparities I was seeing,” she explained.

Scott believed that studying pre-medical sciences on the undergraduate level and then going on to medical school to become a physician was the best route to realizing a career meeting community health needs. But when she arrived at Hollins University in the fall of 2019, Associate Professor of History Rachel Nuñez recommended that she might want to look into a new academic program the university was launching that year.

“Professor Nuñez suggested I enroll in the Introduction to Public Health course,” Scott recalled. “She thought I’d be a great fit, but if not, I could certainly continue on the pre-med track. I took it, and I fell in love.”

As a public health major, Scott enjoyed three significant internship opportunities. First, she worked with the Child Health Investment Partnership of Roanoke Valley, which promotes the health of medically underserved children in the area. “Through them, I was able to shadow community health nurses as well as research and outreach. It solidified my interest in learning more about the public health field.”

Working with Myriah LeGaux ’15, Scott also interned at Taking Aim at Cancer in Louisiana, a statewide initiative whose goal is to improve cancer outcomes. “That’s where I became interested in and was able to focus on chronic disease,” she said. “In a number of Louisiana parishes, there is a high incidence, especially with underserved minority populations. “I was really inspired to see how health care and public policy directly affect the health of the Louisiana community.”

Her third internship, with the Roanoke City Health Department, was coordinated by Dr. Cynthia Morrow, director of the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts and formerly a visiting professor of public health at Hollins. “This confirmed my desire to work on the frontlines of public health and learn more about health care policy,” Scott said. “With state and regional epidemiologists, we drafted an outbreak report to promote a recommended health care policy to increase prevention and lower the risk of Hepatitis A transmission in the Roanoke community.”

Prior to graduating from Hollins last year, Scott earned acceptance to all six of the Master of Public Health programs to which she applied. But during the application process, “I realized I wanted to get more solid work experience before I got more knowledge.” She connected with Diane Hall ’88, a senior health scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, who in turn put her in touch with a CDC official. “I told him I wanted to work on the frontlines of public health but had limited experience, and he said, ‘Why don’t you give our Public Health Associate Program a shot?’”

The CDC’s Public Health Associate Program (PHAP) is designed to give recent college graduates who seek a career in public health the opportunity to work with professionals in an array of public health settings, including state, tribal, local, and territorial public health agencies and nongovernmental organizations. Since it began in 2007, the two-year paid training program has placed more than 1,650 public health associates across 49 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories, and most go on to serve in positions in public health organizations: In 2021, 80% of PHAP graduates accepted jobs in public health.

Savannah Scott '22
Through the CDC’s Public Health Associate Program, Savannah Scott ’22 will work with the Tanana Chiefs Conference, an Alaska Native nonprofit organization.

With thousands of applicants each year for an average of between 300 and 400 positions, Scott noted that the selection process is rigorous. “Once your initial application is chosen, you’re required to submit personal statements and preferences about the specialties in which you want to work and where you want to be located. Once you get past that stage, you interview with some of the supervisors. Then, you are matched with a host site supervisor.”

Scott admitted she was “initially nervous about the application process, especially since it was my senior year and I wanted to make sure that my classes were going smoothly. Plus, people apply every year with different levels of experience, some with master’s degrees and some just graduating like me. I was grateful to Assistant Professor of Public Health Abubakarr Jalloh for his guidance and mentorship, and to Assistant Professor of History Christopher Florio, who helped me prepare for my interviews.”

For Scott, acceptance into PHAP has become “my journey back home”: She is returning to Fairbanks, where she lived for more than a decade (her father was stationed at Eielson Air Force Base there and returned to the area upon his retirement from military service). Beginning in October, she will serve with the Tanana Chiefs Conference, an Alaska Native nonprofit dedicated to meeting the health and social service needs of tribal members and beneficiaries throughout the region.

“I’ll be focusing on the quality of current policies related to health care services, and if needed, change and improve them to best fit the needs and desires of the people,” she explained. “I am looking to gain experience working directly with the community. In my internships at Hollins, I got bits and pieces of seeing how the work we created impacted those we served, but now on an ongoing basis I’ll be able go out and interview people and get their direct feedback on how our initiatives are affecting them. That’s the goal of public health – we are here to serve the health of the public.”

Scott said she is looking forward to “being a sponge, ready to absorb all the information they’re willing to provide for me” in two particular areas. “I want to learn more about collecting data on the transmission of chronic and communicable diseases, and also how to create a dialogue that builds comfort and trust with the population we’re serving.”

With an interest in ultimately becoming a chronic disease epidemiologist, Scott is considering pursuing an MD/Master of Public Health program after she completes the PHAP. However, she emphasized that all options are on the table.

“At this point, I’m really just diving deep into this assignment and allowing it to inform my next steps. I want to have an open mind, because during this program I might come across a great opportunity that I never would have otherwise thought of.”

Whatever the future brings for her, Scott is confident that right now, “I’m following my heart. My passion for public health has allowed me to come full circle, starting in Alaska and ending in Alaska.”

Aspiring Attorney Kori Silence ’25: “I Hope to Uplift Marginalized Voices in My Legal Journey”

Kori Silence ’25 was one of approximately 30 students competitively selected from across the country to take part in the University of Oregon Law School’s LSAC PLUS pre-law summer program this year. Participants engaged in digital legal learning for four weeks and received LSAT and application support and a stipend.

“As an aspiring attorney, I feel immense gratitude for the opportunity I received from the University of Oregon,” Silence said. “My peers and professors challenged me to grow as a legal scholar and advocate. Thanks to the program, I know that a legal career is my end goal.”

She added, “As a queer student from a limited income background, I am excited to be the first in my family to attend law school, and I hope to uplift and amplify marginalized voices in my legal journey.”

Of her studies across the Hollins curriculum, Silence reflected that “theatre has helped me realize the intersections between art and advocacy, especially since law and theatre are both about the stories of people.” She hopes for more opportunities to “continu[e] to tell stories in the courtroom and on the stage.”

Assistant Professor of Political Science and Gender and Women’s Studies and Pre-Law Academic Advisor Courtney Chenette is impressed with Silence’s ability to “translate coursework in Spanish, government, theater, and performance seamlessly into community building and advocacy,” which she witnessed in her U.S. Government classroom and during the sophomore’s first-year January Short Term internship with the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation. Silence researched neighborhood history and supported the organization’s community partnerships with the Roanoke Higher Education Center, Roanoke Public Library, and NewCity Development.

“Professor Chenette has been my cheerleader ever since I happened to meet her during orientation, and I wouldn’t have applied for an internship without her guidance,” Silence noted. Through her J-term in the Roanoke community, she noted that she found “determination to join the changemakers of the future.”

This fall, Silence is serving as a Student Success Leader at Hollins. She mentors Visiting Lecturer in Theatre Ami Trowell’s first-year improv theatre students to inspire their pursuit of similar opportunities.

Hollins Partners with Local School Divisions to Help Close the Teacher Shortage Gap

“The teacher shortage in America has hit crisis levels – and school officials everywhere are scrambling to ensure that, as students return to classrooms, someone will be there to educate them.”

That’s the alarming assessment from an August 3 story in The Washington Post detailing the deficit of educators in classrooms across the country. “I have never seen it this bad,” Dan Domenech, executive director of the School Superintendents Association, said in the article. “Right now it’s number one on the list of issues that are concerning school districts…necessity is the mother of invention, and hard-pressed districts are going to have to come up with some solutions.”

Virginia is not immune to the critical teacher shortage and its profound impact. “Last October, the Virginia Department of Education’s staffing and vacancy report listed more than 2,500 unfilled teaching positions across the state, and some divisions also reported a spike in departures at the end of the most current school year,” the Virginia Mercury reported last month.

In response to the crisis, “Hollins University is working with local school divisions to close the teacher shortage gap in the Roanoke region,” said Lorraine Lange, director of the Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning (MATL), and Master of Arts in Liberal Studies programs at Hollins.

Roanoke City Public Schools (RCPS) has joined with the Hollins Education Program to help teachers who hold a nonrenewable, three-year provisional license fulfill the requirements for full teaching licensure. Fall Term 2022 represents the second semester of the initiative.

“Hollins has been an invaluable partner to RCPS, tailoring instruction to our teachers’ needs so they in turn have the skills and knowledge to meet the needs of our students,” noted RCPS Superintendent Verletta White. “Coursework is completed in a cohort with other RCPS teachers, which allows them to build a community of support while learning and on the job. This is invaluable as we work to attract and retain highly qualified educators in our school division.”

White said that the initiative is grant funded to ensure “there are no economic barriers to receiving teacher certification.”

Hollins is also collaborating with North Cross School in Roanoke to help a cohort of their teachers earn a graduate degree as part of their professional development. The teachers are working toward completing the MATL; the North Cross program will see its first graduate this fall (third grade teacher Amy Hanson) with more teachers expected to earn their MATL degrees in May 2023.

“Students in the program have the opportunity to work with accomplished faculty in the areas essential in today’s continually changing landscape of PreK-12 education: writing, inquiry, instructional design, assessment, leadership, technology, and contemporary issues in education,” Lange said.

Victor Lamas, assistant head of academics at North Cross, explained that the school’s partnership with Hollins “has allowed us to offer a rigorous MATL program and degree at a very affordable price for many of our teachers. It is one of the best professional development opportunities we have for our faculty.”

In 2021, Virginia Western Community College notified Lange that no instructors were available to teach mathematics in the dual enrollment (DE) program at Daleville’s Lord Botetourt High School (LBHS). (DE enables LBHS students to earn credits at Virginia Western while completing their high school graduation requirements.) In response, Hollins began offering online graduate classes to help teachers at LBHS and throughout Virginia qualify to teach DE classes. To date, five mathematics teachers in the commonwealth have earned eligibility.

LBHS teacher Jimmy Yager completed his certification to teach DE last year and recalled, “Hollins was overwhelmingly helpful as I sought this additional certification. I found the flexibility to be a great plus. The self-paced learning and instructor availability were extremely beneficial, and I valued the focused approach of a stand-alone path for DE certification.”

He added, “There has been a great need for dual enrollment teachers in our district and I am extremely grateful for the efforts of Hollins to help.”

“We are proud to help teachers,” Lange said, “but the real winners are the students.”

Lorraine Lange talks with WSLS 10, WDBJ 7 about Hollins’ collaborations with local school divisions.



Coordinating Her Community’s First Multicultural Festival, Lilibeth Arzate ’25 Is Helping Underrepresented Groups Feel Seen and Heard

Located in southeastern North Carolina, Sampson County and the City of Clinton (the county seat) boast an array of cultures and peoples. When Clinton’s Planning and Development Department envisioned celebrating this rich diversity by organizing the city and county’s first-ever multicultural festival, the planning director called upon a local resident and Hollins University sophomore to lead the initiative.

Lilibeth Arzate ’25, who intends to major in political science, served as the Planning and Development Department’s summer intern this year, an opportunity that came about after she became a Simple Gifts Scholarship recipient. The scholarship is awarded to high school seniors in Clinton and Sampson County “who graduate in the top 25% of their class, exemplify academic achievement and excellence, and demonstrate outstanding character and leadership.”

“I told my scholarship coordinator of my interest in doing something in local government and she recommended me to the planning director for the internship this summer,” she explained. When Arzate began work in May, her supervisor immediately sought her opinion regarding the festival idea and “I thought it sounded great. She said, ‘I want your job this summer to be to get started on that.’” Arzate also played a key role in meetings involving her department and other City of Clinton officials, but “75% of my internship was laying the groundwork for this festival.”

From the beginning, Arzate said she “wanted to focus on the main cultures and races in Sampson County. The white Americans are the most common, but there are also Black Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans – there is a Coharie Tribe in our county. I did the best I could to reach out to every single part of each culture and/or race. I held multiple meetings and got great feedback.”

Arzate was struck by what she heard from two constituencies in particular. “I am Hispanic, so I found it easier to contact Hispanic organizations and people. They want this festival, but when we told them the location was going to be in front of the courthouse, they said, ‘I’m not going to go there.’ A large undocumented community exists here and they have a fear of anything to do with the government. We don’t want this group of people to shy away from learning about all the other cultures present in Sampson County, but they’re scared to go out. I didn’t realize that such a large quantity of people has that fear, or how it impacts people’s everyday lives on such a scale.”

Meeting with the Coharie tribe, Arzate learned that “they don’t feel like their presence is portrayed enough in local government. One person told me, ‘Whenever you tell people that Native Americans are here, they don’t believe you. That’s the main reason why I want to do this festival, to let people know we’re present in Sampson County and we deserve a voice.’”

Arzate said the dialogues in which she has engaged “have expanded my empathy for underrepresented groups in my community. I really want people here to learn about each other. And just possibly, that will help every one of the citizens in Sampson County live in harmony. There are a lot of issues going on right now that divide everybody, and maybe if we do this, we get people to see the humanity in each other.” Despite some of the concerns that were expressed, she said the groups all emphasized to her that “they felt seen, they felt heard, and agreed this was a great idea. They said this multicultural festival is going to show the rest of the world that we are growing together.”

The City of Clinton is planning to hold the inaugural multicultural festival on the first Saturday of May 2024. “We want to take our time to make sure we do things right the first time,” Arzate said in explaining the lengthy process. The event will feature ethnic foods (“I’ve spoken to multiple people and downtown businesses about being food vendors”), music and entertainment representing each culture (“We’re going to have a lot of dancers and performers from the Coharie tribe, for example”), and arts and crafts (“I have an aunt who does culture garments and she said she will be coming”). Even though Hollins’ spring term will still be in session in early May, Arzate stressed there is no way she won’t be in attendance. “I will be there even if I have to take three days away from Hollins,” she smiled. “I hope my professors don’t mind!”

Arzate will be interning for the Clinton Planning and Development Department again next summer, but she also wants to continue her work on the multicultural festival remotely from Hollins during the 2022-23 academic year. “I’m really proud of what I’ve been doing here in Clinton,” she said. “I never thought I would be in charge of bringing something like this to my community.” Her long-term plans include completing a paralegal certificate program after earning her political science degree and eventually becoming an immigration attorney.

“Who knows, life might lead me to being in Congress one day. Once you have that power, you can do great things. But I’d like to start off by coming back to Sampson County and working for our local government. I don’t see a lot of resources for immigrants here and I would like to be that help for the undocumented community.”