Pareena Lawrence Inaugurated as Hollins University’s 12th President

Proclaiming that the “search for authentic purpose is ultimately what a Hollins education is all about and why I wanted to be a part of this mission,” Pareena G. Lawrence was officially installed as Hollins University’s 12th president on February 24.

“Since I arrived at Hollins, I have witnessed first-hand our unwavering dedication to making society a better place for all,” said Lawrence, who took office last July. “I have seen the ways in which we are intentionally developing and equipping future leaders, creators, policymakers, and citizens who understand their social responsibility and serve the communities in which they live.”

Lawrence’s inauguration celebrated the theme, “Living a Life of Consequence: Hollins Students Changing the World.” It encompassed a full day of events beginning with a panel discussion featuring Hollins alumnae who are making an impact in the sciences, law, community partnerships overseas, and the arts.

The inaugural ceremony, held in duPont Chapel, featured contributions from Hollins students, faculty, staff, and alumnae, along with dignitaries from local government, international business, and higher education:

  • The Reverend Dr. Cynthia Hale ’75, founder and senior pastor of Georgia’s Ray of Hope Christian Church, delivered the invocation.
  • Official greetings were presented by Student Government Association President Antonia Nagle ’18; Associate Professor of History and Faculty Chair Rachel Nuñez; Groundskeeper Isaiah Sweetenberg; Hollins Alumnae Association Board of Directors President Sarah Holland ’64; and Roanoke Mayor Sherman P. Lea Sr.
  • Indra K. Nooyi, chairman and chief executive of PepsiCo, was the keynote speaker. In addition to leading PepsiCo’s global food and beverage portfolio including 22 brands, Nooyi is the chief architect of Performance with Purpose, PepsiCo’s commitment to delivering sustained growth with a focus on making healthier products, protecting the planet, and empowering people.
  • Paula L. O’Loughlin, provost and dean of the faculty at Coe College, shared stories from her years-long friendship with Lawrence and her family.

In her inaugural address, Lawrence reflected upon her training as an economist and admitted that her discipline’s preference for “equations, statistics, and numbers” and aversion to “the questions of spirit and soul” were misguided.

“We were late to the realization that we don’t move the demand curve by moving the supply curve,” she explained. “We move the demand curve by moving the hearts and minds, the dreams and aspirations, of the people around us.”

Lawrence praised Hollins and other institutions that are grounded in the liberal arts for having “never lost sight of what is truly important. Together we have the responsibility to help challenge and educate our students so that they can understand their role in our larger society and become drivers of positive change within their sphere of influence.”

Lawrence concluded by reminding the audience, “We are called to a different sort of life, a life of noisy exuberance, a life of joy and a life of consequence, and life worth celebrating not because of financial success but because we can make a difference.

“I want you to join me to build the Hollins of tomorrow so that we can continue the noble purpose of educating women who lead lives of consequence.”

Prior to the inaugural ceremony, members of the class of 2018 placed a wreath on Front Quad to honor all who worked to establish Hollins in its early years.

“Today is not only the presidential inauguration but also the day that commemorates our founders,” Lawrence stated. She acknowledged Charles Lewis Cocke, whose 55 years of leadership ensured the institution’s survival, and the men and women of what was once known as the Oldfields Community, “some of whom worked as enslaved people until the end of the Civil War in 1865, built and maintained our campus facilities, and took care of Hollins students and faculty during her early days. Most did not choose this work of their own volition and their contributions remained unrecognized for far too long.” Lawrence welcomed the ceremony attendees who “descended from those who provided foundational contributions to our campus in her infancy.”

Another inauguration highlight was the awarding of an honorary degree to Elizabeth Hall McDonnell ’62. “With an enduring quality of quiet yet effective leadership and service, you have made an indelible impression on your alma mater and so many other educational and cultural institutions,” her citation read, noting “her extraordinary generosity in support of such initiatives as the restoration of the Hollins Theatre physical space, growing the theatre and playwriting programs, and renovating the Dana Science Building.”

 

View the inauguration ceremony in its entirety here

 


Hollins, Carilion Clinic, Turn the Page Partner to Promote Early Literacy

 

For Carilion Children’s youngest patients, this Thanksgiving came with a special treat – a newly republished Margaret Wise Brown book, and a pair of accomplished leaders (and moms) to read it to them.

Hollins President Pareena Lawrence and Carilion Clinic President and CEO Nancy Howell Agee spent their Thanksgiving morning reading to patients at Carilion Children’s. In addition to reading Brown’s perennial favorites Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny, the two leaders introduced the children to Four Fur Feet.

“We wanted to make this Thanksgiving just a little brighter for our patients and their families,” said Agee. “It’s difficult being in a hospital, and especially during a holiday. Brown’s books have been a comfort to children for many decades and our patients were pretty excited to hear Four Fur Feet.”

Thanks to a partnership between Carilion and the Roanoke-based non-profit Turn The Page, and another partnership between Turn The Page and Hollins, every child born at Carilion during the year will receive the book. Hollins, which is Brown’s alma mater, is the repository for hundreds of her manuscripts, and made the Four Fur Feet manuscript available to be published.

“We know that children who are read to early in life become better readers – better learners – as they grow,” said Lawrence. “I’m thrilled that our partners at Turn The Page have made it their mission to get books into the hands of the 3,000 babies born at Carilion every year.”

Turn The Page’s mission is to increase awareness of the benefits of reading with children from birth and to provide every child born in the Roanoke Valley with his or her own home library of books during the first three years of life.

“Reading aloud is a simple way for parents to help their children grow,” said Lauren Ellerman, founder and board member of Turn The Page. “The partnerships with Carilion and Hollins are helping us get great books like Brown’s into the hands of families in the region.”

Lawrence, Agee, and Turn The Page volunteers finished out the morning by visiting several units of the hospital, including labor and delivery, mother-baby, and southwest Virginia’s only Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and handing out the book to interested families.


President Lawrence’s Statement on DACA

Like many of you, I am deeply concerned by the announcement on Tuesday that in six months, the Trump administration intends to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

DACA beneficiaries may have been born elsewhere and are classified as undocumented immigrants, but most barely know the country of their birth. They came to America as children and have spent the majority of their lives here, often overcoming tremendous odds. They have only known the United States as their homeland. With their abilities and potential, they deserve the opportunity to fully integrate into our nation as productive citizens. Many have already made important contributions to our society as physicians, teachers, entrepreneurs, and business and community leaders. As a nation, we should not squander this universal wealth of talent and possibilities.

I echo the leaders of other institutions of higher learning in our region who have spoken out against ending DACA. As Radford University President Brian Hemphill stated, “It is the diverse experiences and backgrounds of all our students and their faculty that enrich the total educational experience, and ultimately benefits our society, our democracy and our economy.”

Higher education is still one of the fundamental ways the American dream is attainable. In my own life journey, higher education gave me the access to opportunities that I could only dream of. To our DACA beneficiaries at Hollins, I want you to know that the university supports and believes in you. And to everyone who advocates for DACA’s continuance, I encourage you to contact your senator or representative and share your opinion. Congress will be debating this program in the coming weeks and months and your voices will play a crucial role in their ultimate decision.

Pareena Lawrence
President

 

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President Lawrence Declares Hollins’ 176th Academic Year in Session

Pareena Lawrence led her first Opening Convocation as Hollins University’s 12th president, telling a capacity duPont Chapel audience that she brings a “deep commitment and passion for learning, transformation, and access and equity to opportunities to Hollins. I know I have a lot more listening to do, a lot to learn…and I am ready.”

Lawrence spoke before students, faculty, and staff on August 29, the eve of the beginning of the 2017-2018 academic year.

“As I stand here today,” Lawrence said, “I can reflect on my life’s journey to date and say that everything in my life – from my attending an all-girls school in India to my career teaching and working at residential liberal arts colleges to my research work, which included several undergraduate student researchers and focused on the intersection of women and the economy – all these experiences were preparing me for this extraordinary opportunity at Hollins.”

Lawrence called Hollins’ mission “compelling. While I was not a product of a liberal arts education, I spent 23 years teaching and working at two liberal arts institutions. I personally witnessed the power of a small residential liberal arts university and there is no other place I would rather be….I know first-hand the undivided time, attention, and mentoring that our faculty and staff devote to you, our students, to help you find and pursue your passion or your interests so that you can live a life of purpose and meaning.

“This is not a place that accepts passive education; we expect you to fully engage. At a place like Hollins, it is not just about what you can do with your degree. Universities should prepare you for a job, but that is only part of what we do. We play a central role in helping shape the next generation of citizens, leaders, thinkers, creators, and policy makers who understand their role in our larger society. That is ultimately what a Hollins education is all about, and why I wanted to be a part of this mission.”

Lawrence shared a translation of a Hindi poem by Achala Nagar “that has always inspired me, especially when times were really difficult and all I wanted to do was give up and give in.”

Just this once let me live my life on my own terms
According to my dreams and aspirations
Let me pen my own destiny no matter the consequences
Let the outcomes be determined by my own choices and mistakes
Just once let me live my life on my own terms
According to my own dreams and aspiration
Let me pen my own destiny

Other highlights of this year’s Opening Convocation included the presentation of class honors by Vice President of Academic Affairs Trish Hammer; remarks from Antonia Nagle ’18, president of the Student Government Association; and special music from members of the Hollins choirs. Following convocation, the class of 2018 observed First Step, where seniors take their first official steps onto Front Quad. Tradition maintains that seniors are the only students permitted to walk on the grass on Front Quad.

 

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President Lawrence’s Statement on Charlottesville

Hollins President Pareena Lawrence shared the following message today with students, faculty, and staff: 

To the campus community,

Like many of you, I reacted with shock, outrage, and sadness to the events that unfolded in Charlottesville this weekend.  I join with political and academic leaders from across the nation in condemning the bigotry and violence perpetrated by white-supremacist organizations. I also send my deepest condolences to the families of Heather Heyer and Virginia State Troopers Berke M.M. Bates and H. Jay Cullen, who tragically lost their lives on Saturday.

Hollins, like so many institutions of higher learning, embraces inclusivity and diversity. We promote free speech and a constructive and peaceful exchange of thought, whether there is consensus or disagreement.

It is incumbent upon all of us to avoid the danger of complacency when white nationalists and other extremists perpetuate racism and resort to violence. We must reaffirm by our actions as well as words that there is no place for either. As we prepare to begin Fall Term in a few weeks, let us take this opportunity –actively and purposefully –to set an example. Let us recommit ourselves to fostering an atmosphere of love, care, and compassion. Let us redouble our efforts to support one another and uphold civility, integrity, and social justice.

As I posted on Twitter last Saturday, “We are a proud nation that exemplifies multiracial and multiethnic democracy. We must stand together when any group takes that away from us.”

Pareena Lawrence
President

 

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