Juniors Awarded Prestigious Gilman International Scholarship

Jasmine Carter ’19 and Alexus Smith ’19 have been named winners of the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which will enable them to study abroad this spring.

Both students are part of a group selected from a pool of nearly 3,000 applicants to receive this highly competitive award. Carter and Smith are heading to the United Kingdom for Spring Term and will be participating in the Hollins Abroad – London program. Smith will be blogging about her experience as a disabled traveler and interviewing disabled Londoners.

Jasmine Carter
Jasmine Carter ’19

The Gilman Scholarship Program encourages students to study and intern in a diverse array of countries and world regions. Since its inception in 2001 by the Institute of International Education, the program has been successful in supporting students who have been historically underrepresented in education abroad. The scholarship is named after the late congressman Benjamin A. Gilman from New York, who served in the House of Representatives for 30 years, chaired the House Foreign Relations Committee, and supported the establishment of the program by the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000.

Alexus Smith '19
Alexus Smith ’19

 

 

 

“Study abroad is a special experience for every student who participates,” Gilman said. “Living and learning in a vastly different environment of another nation not only exposes our students to alternate views, but also adds an enriching social and cultural experience. It also provides our students with the opportunity to return home with a deeper understanding of their place in the world, encouraging them to be a contributor, rather than a spectator in the international community.”


From Campus to the Persian Gulf to Cuba, a Hollins Junior Earns a Worldly Education

Hanna Strauss ’19 has embraced the notion of “global citizen” in a way few other college students have experienced.

During the summer following her first year at Hollins, Strauss spent eight weeks in Oman studying Arabic at the Center for International Learning in Muscat, the country’s capital. Last April, the National Council on U.S. – Arab Relations (NCUSAR) awarded her a fellowship to participate in a week-long visit to Qatar. Strauss is now preparing to spend her entire 2018 Spring Term in Cuba through an intensive program in which only two other Hollins students have ever participated.

“I was raised in a way that enabled me to appreciate other peoples’ cultures,” explained Strauss, who is double majoring in Spanish and political science. Embodying that understanding began at an early age: She took part in a Model United Nations program in middle school, an endeavor that took her to conferences at the UN itself in New York City.

“I was privileged to have that opportunity and decided to take it forward,” she recalled, and in addition to her two study trips to the Persian Gulf region in as many years, she has been actively involved in NCUSAR’s Model Arab League Conferences, particularly the Appalachia Regional Model Arab League (ARMAL) conference held annually at Hollins. ARMAL brings together college and high school students to learn firsthand what it is like to put themselves in the shoes of real-life Arab diplomats and other foreign affairs practitioners. Students act as representatives from Arabic-speaking countries ranging from Morocco to Iraq.

During each of the past two years, Strauss has served as the conference’s secretary-general, meaning responsibility for the event’s success has sat squarely on her shoulders. When she took on the project for the first time last year, she said she “had had some previous general experience with organizing, but I didn’t have any knowledge of what had come before with planning this particular conference. I went in pretty much completely blind last year.” Nevertheless, Professor of Political Science Ed Lynch was impressed with her dedication and enthusiasm and asked her to serve as secretary-general again when ARMAL returned to Hollins this November. He said his trust was well placed.

“Hanna performed well above and beyond the call of duty in preparing for the conference,” he stated. “In advance, she held weekly meetings to go over the rules and procedures, arranged practice debates, and created her own web page of directions, information, and best practices for council chairs.”

Strauss also established a paperless format, instituting a system that enabled conference chairs to submit resolutions to her through Google Docs and other platforms. She recruited help with running documents and checking on participants, “which made our conference just a little bit more prestigious,” and worked closely with Hollins food service provider Meriwether Godsey to provide meals and snacks, noting that “they made everything run really smoothly.”

“I took on a lot more this year, but I went in very confident,” she reflected.

Lynch believes a major factor in the achievement of this year’s ARMAL conference was Strauss’s work last spring in reactivating the Model UN/Model Arab League Club at Hollins, an organization that had been dormant on campus for roughly ten years.

“This revival, while done with my support and good wishes, was wholly a student-led initiative, from writing the club’s constitution to successfully petitioning the Student Government Association Senate,” Lynch said.

“I had thought about bringing the club back since my first semester at Hollins, and my fellowship to Qatar was the catalyst,” said Strauss. “We have a Model UN class here at Hollins, but I really wanted to supplement that.” The Model UN/Model Arab League Club now boasts more than 30 members and provided crucial support to the ARMAL conference, such as workers to assist Strauss with operations and funding for refreshments.

This year’s ARMAL welcomed 92 students from five colleges, two high schools, and one middle school, including 12 Hollins students. Delegates discussed a wide range of issues concerning the Middle East and North Africa, including changes in U.S. policy, efforts to alleviate poverty and isolation, and dealing with regional civil wars. Three Hollins students won awards: Samantha Makseyn ’19 was named Outstanding Delegate to the Political Affairs Council; Reilly Swennes ’20 was recognized as Outstanding Delegate to the Joint Defense Council; and Katie Grandelli ’20 was awarded Distinguished Chair for her work leading the Council on Palestinian Affairs.

Strauss, who is president of Hollins’ junior class, is pleased at the cohesiveness that is resulting from the Model UN/Model Arab League Club’s resurrection. “I wanted to make it like a family, more Hollins-y. I hope this will perpetuate after I graduate.” Down the road, she is “thinking about law school,” but for now she is relishing the many opportunities she’s enjoyed and continues to anticipate as a Hollins student.

“Just like being at Hollins has made me a better person, experiences such as traveling to the Middle East have rounded me out. They add something significant to you and your personality.”

 

 

 

 


Hollins Sophomore Earns Second Study Trip to Persian Gulf Region

The National Council on U.S. – Arab Relations (NCUSAR) has awarded Hanna Strauss ’19 a fellowship to participate in a week-long study trip to Qatar, one of the seven Arab states that border the Persian Gulf.

Strauss’ visit to Qatar is scheduled for April 21 – 28. She will immerse herself in the country’s culture, society, and economics, and learn more about government priorities, concerns, and needs as they pertain to U.S. – Qatari relations and Qatar’s role in regional and world affairs.

This is Strauss’ second study abroad experience in the Persian Gulf region in as many years. Last summer, she spent an intensive eight-week period in Oman studying Arabic at the Center for International Learning in Muscat, the country’s capital.

“I’m excited to discover the distinctions in Arabic dialect between Oman and Qatar,” Strauss said. “I’m also ready to learn about Doha, the capital of Qatar, and the differences it has with Muscat.”

In Qatar, Strauss will be part of a delegation accompanied by two NCUSAR escorts and various Qatari officials. She will be introduced to a broad range of government and business representatives, academics, policymakers, specialists, and student peers, as well as traditional and modern Qatari culture and life.

Strauss is actively involved in NCUSAR’s Model Arab League conferences, especially the Appalachian Model Arab League conference held annually at Hollins. Most recently, she and Hayley Harrington ’19 won the Outstanding Delegation Award representing Palestine at the Southeast Regional Model Arab League conference, held March 10 – 12 at Converse College in South Carolina.

“Next year, as part of this fellowship, I’ll be working to bring events and outreach opportunities to Hollins,” Strauss said. “I will be implementing most of my efforts through Model UN and the Model Arab League Club, which will be started this semester.”

 

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Hollins Students Set Goal to Master Arabic this Summer

Two Hollins University first-year students are heading overseas this summer to engage in one of the biggest challenges of their academic careers: becoming adept in the Arabic language.

Dade Hundertmark ’19 of Cary, North Carolina, is spending six weeks in intensive study at the Arab-American Language Institute in Meknes, Morocco (AALIM). “In today’s complex world, Arabic has become a key and critical language in the effort to achieve worldwide peace and understanding,” the institute’s website states. “At AALIM, we strive to convey the fundamental beauty of the language while responding to the practical communication needs of today’s students, who may plan work in diplomacy, government, NGOs, or private business.”

Strauss
Strauss

Hanna Strauss ’19 of Keswick, Virginia, is tackling a grueling schedule of Arabic classes and practice sessions over a seven-week period at the Center for International Learning (CIL) in Muscat, Oman. The CIL is Muscat’s oldest language learning center and uses a “total immersion” method to give students as much proficiency in Arabic as possible in a short period of time. Formal learning sessions are supplemented by excursions to other parts of Oman so that CIL students are given ample opportunity to put their new language skills to the test.

 Hundertmark
Hundertmark

Hundertmark and Strauss first heard of the programs through their participation in the Model Arab League last fall at Hollins. The conference was sponsored in part by the National Council on U.S. – Arab Relations (NCUSAR), which has an ongoing relationship with both the AALIM and the CIL.

Hundertmark’s interest in Arabic stems from her desire to apply the study of law and business ethics to work in Africa. “Since Arabic is the most prominent spoken language in the area, it seems a good idea to study the language,” she explained. Hundertmark’s family has a connection with Morocco: Her grandfather was stationed in Meknes during World War II and she grew up with stories about it. “The city is over 1,000 years old. It has all this history and I want to be there to see it, to feel it, to touch it.”

Strauss said the supportive and encouraging atmosphere at Hollins inspired her to apply to a program that involves living and learning in Oman, a country very different from the United States. “My time at Hollins makes me feel that all things are possible. Being here just naturally creates opportunities to do things I had never thought of before. I never felt I was doing this alone.”

Even though the CIL program will very demanding, Strauss is eager to begin. “Arabic is a growing language. It’s the language of an important part of the world.”

Professor of Political Science Ed Lynch, who brought the Model Arab League to Hollins, said Oman is one of the most important countries in the Middle East, but one that is not well-known to Americans. He visited Oman last summer on a trip sponsored by NCUSAR.

“Oman is one of the safest countries in the world,” he noted. “The people of Oman have a very welcoming attitude towards Americans, and have a lot of curiosity about our country.” He pointed out that Condé Nast Traveler recently listed Oman as one of the globe’s top travel destinations.

Lynch added that he is delighted about having “two of my most enthusiastic Model Arab League participants excited enough and dedicated enough to take this huge step in their education.”


Sophomore Receives Distinguished Student Researcher Award

The School for Field Studies (SFS) has recognized Lan Nguyen ’18 with its Distinguished Student Researcher Award, honoring the work she completed at the SFS Center for Mekong Studies in Cambodia during the fall of 2015.

Each semester, SFS faculty nominate one student from their Center who has demonstrated exceptional skill and care in contributing to the Center’s research agenda, as evidenced by their Directed Research paper, oral presentations, and approach to the research project.

“The award recognizes not only excellence and diligence in research, but also teamwork and leadership shown during the semester,” said SFS Dean of Academic Programs Mark Seifert. “Of those nominated students, only a few are selected to receive the Distinguished Student Researcher Award.”

Seifert noted that Nguyen’s Directed Research paper, “Morphology and niche partitioning of fish assemblage in the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve – a case study in Prek Toal core area,” “provides a sound foundation for future research at the SFS Center for Mekong Studies.”

In her nomination, SFS Research Advisor Chouly Ou stated that the Hollins sophomore was “passionate about [her] research topic and [was] proactive, diligent, and efficient…[and] exhibited strong leadership skills, particularly in the area of cultural and community engagement.”

With the award, the double-major in environmental science and economics is also eligible for a small stipend to help offset costs incurred if she presents her research at a conference this next academic year.

Nguyen is the second Hollins student to be honored with the Distinguished Student Researcher Award in the past six months. Kayla Deur ’16 was recognized last September for the research she conducted during the spring of 2015 at the Center for Mekong Studies.

SFS creates transformative study abroad experiences through field-based learning and research. Its educational programs explore the human and ecological dimensions of the complex environmental problems faced by its local partners, contributing to sustainable solutions in the places where people live and work. The SFS community is part of a growing network of individuals and institutions committed to environmental stewardship.


An Important Update Regarding the Terrorist Attacks in Paris

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Paris as they deal with the aftermath of the horrific terrorist attacks that occurred Friday night. 

Since the news broke of the attacks, we have been in close, constant contact with the director of the Hollins Abroad – Paris program. We are grateful to report that all eight of our students who are studying there this semester are safe and accounted for, and we are coordinating communication between them and their families.

To the best of our knowledge, our alumnae who reside in Paris are safe.

Hollins alumnae and staff, including President Gray, and members of our 1842 Society were in Paris earlier this week to celebrate 100-plus years of our Hollins Abroad programs. They had traveled on to London a couple of days before the attacks and are safe. 

We are focused now on ensuring our students’ continued safety and security. The recommendations of U.S. and French authorities will be instrumental in our actions moving forward. 

We will share more information as it becomes available. 

 


Senior Receives Distinguished Student Researcher Award

In recognition of the exceptional environmental research she performed while studying abroad during the spring of 2015, The School for Field Studies (SFS) has presented its Distinguished Student Researcher Award to Kayla Deur ’16. She was recognized for the research project she conducted at the SFS Center for Mekong Studies in Cambodia.

Each year, the SFS honors a student from the Center who has demonstrated extraordinary skill in contributing to the Center’s research agenda, as evidenced by their Directed Research (DR) paper, oral presentations, and approach to the research project. The award not only cites excellence and diligence in research, but also teamwork and leadership shown during the semester. Outcomes of the projects provide information and recommendations to community members and other stakeholders on critical, local environmental issues.

Deur explored the usage of traditional medicine on a household level, as well as how traditional knowledge is being transmitted cross-generationally and spatially across village domains. According to Lisa Granese, SFS vice president for enrollment and institutional relations, “Her work provides a sound foundation for future research at the Center, and Professor Lisa Arensen, Deur’s DR advisor, comments that her project ‘is an impressive example of undergraduate research.'” Through her work, Deur contributed to a growing list of plants that were indicated as medicinally important by locals.

SFS creates transformative study abroad experiences through field-based learning and research. Its educational programs explore the human and ecological dimensions of the complex environmental problems faced by its local partners, contributing to sustainable solutions in the places where people live and work. The SFS community is part of a growing network of individuals and institutions committed to environmental stewardship.


Senior One of Only Ten Students Nationwide to Receive Saudi Arabia Exchange Fellowship

Hollins University senior Pavithra Suresh has been awarded a Saudi Arabia Exchange Fellowship/Malone Fellowship by the National Council on U.S. – Arab Relations (NCUSAR), a non-profit, non-governmental, educational organization dedicated to improving American understanding of the Arab world.

The fellowship provides an all-expenses-paid study trip to Saudi Arabia between December 26, 2015 and January 6, 2016. During the subsequent 2016 fellowship year, Suresh and other fellows will engage in a variety of activities in order to share their new-found knowledge of Saudi Arabia with the American public.

Hollins Professor of Political Science Ed Lynch, who recommended Suresh for the fellowship, noted that “only ten students nationwide are selected for this exceptional learning opportunity each year. Pavithra will be a great representative of Hollins University.”

Applicants must have previously participated in Model Arab League, NCUSAR’s flagship student leadership development program that is similar to Model United Nations. Suresh was a member of the Hollins delegation that took part in the Southeast Regional Model Arab League at Converse College in March. She and teammate Emily Garcia ’18 were named Best Delegation for their work on the Palestinian Affairs Council

Hollins is hosting the Appalachia Regional Model Arab League, November 6 – 8. The conference is open to high school as well as college and university students.


Junior Year Abroad Programs Will Remain at Sweet Briar College

Hollins University President Nancy Gray and Sweet Briar College President Phillip Stone have announced an agreement to transition Sweet Briar’s Junior Year Abroad programs in France and Spain (JYF and JYS) back to their original home.

The agreement is effective immediately.

Hollins agreed to serve as the host institution for JYF and JYS after Sweet Briar’s previous Board of Directors voted in late February to close the college at the end of August 2015. Since that time, Stone said, “Hollins has invested a significant amount of financial and human resources to prevent any gaps in maintaining these highly respected programs. Indeed, these programs are strongly positioned for continued success.”

In accepting responsibility for JYF and JYS, Hollins agreed that if Sweet Briar stayed open, the programs would return to the college. At the request of Sweet Briar, Gray and her administration agreed to continue hosting both programs until Sweet Briar’s new board and administration felt the college was ready to resume their operation.

Stone recently informed Hollins that Sweet Briar is prepared to run the programs this year. He said he and Gray will work closely to ensure no disruption in service to students enrolled in the programs.

“The friendship and support of President Gray and Hollins throughout this difficult time have been extraordinary,” Stone said. “To keep JYF and JYS from being lost in the planned closing of Sweet Briar, Hollins went to great expense and trouble. I am truly grateful for this and the many other actions Hollins took to help Sweet Briar and its students and faculty when it appeared our school would be closing.

“I hope our close relationship will continue for many years.”

Gray emphasized that there was never a question about Hollins stepping in to help.

“We appreciate the special, longstanding friendship we have with Sweet Briar,” she said. “Like so many others, we were very sad at the prospect of the closing of our sister school. We wanted to help in any way we could.

“We join all of Sweet Briar’s friends in supporting the decision to remain open. Our two schools will work closely together in the coming days to smoothly transition JYF and JYS back to Sweet Briar. And, we are both committed to finding ways to work together in the future.”

For more information about Sweet Briar’s Junior Year Abroad programs, visit the JYF website at jyf.sbc.edu and JYS at jys.sbc.edu.