When she was making up her mind on a college destination, Egypt Matthews ’23 knew she wanted to attend a small school, but initially, a historically women’s college was not on her radar. Her interest was piqued, however, after she received an email from Hollins.
“It looked like fun, but I still had some questions. So, in the spring of my senior year in high school I came to campus for an Admitted Students Day event to see everything,” she recalls.
Matthews was accompanied by her mother and her sister, with whom she is very close. “They were walking around campus saying, ‘I can see you here, and I can see you here.” That made the decision really easy, and on that day, I committed to coming to Hollins.”
Having some experience with a business program at a technical school near her home in the Fayetteville, North Carolina, area as well as a passion for English, Matthews planned from the outset of her undergraduate career to double major in English literature with a concentration in creative writing and general business. The encouragement she’s received from faculty in both departments has been one of the factors that assured her she made the right choices for herself.
“I’ve become close with [Professor of Creative Writing] Pauline Kaldas and appreciate the teachings of [Professor of English] T.J. Anderson,” she says. “They’ve been very supportive.”
In the business department, Matthews praises Associate Professor of Economics Pablo Hernandez and Visiting Associate Professor of Business Rathin Basu (“They have been very influential in my time here”) and says she has enjoyed immensely the classes she’s taken with Assistant Professor of Business Lucas Long. “I’m sure he cracks up every time he sees my name on the class roster because I’m excited about different things and I always have tons of questions.”
While at Hollins, Matthews says, “I’ve fallen in love with creative nonfiction,” and that along with her deep ties to her family has become the inspiration for her senior honors thesis. “It focuses on my life in comparison with the lives of my mother, my grandmother, and sister,” she explains. “I circle back and forth between all of our stories, and I work in some fictional ties as well.”
Matthews has structured her thesis based on a rainbow, “but I’ve changed it to represent Black and Brown experiences in relation to my family and me. Just as there are seven colors, I have seven different chapters. There are stories about our growing up and how we became the women we are today, and there are poems paired with letters I’ve written to either my mother, my grandmother, or my sister. I hope to publish it in the fall.”
Seeking to give back to the Hollins community, Matthews has engaged in impactful initiatives. She spent her January Short Term this year working with Vice President for Student Success, Well-Being, and Belonging Nakeshia Williams on strategic planning for the university. “I compiled data to see how we can become a more inclusive and welcoming campus for new students and to help ensure students stay after they enroll.”
She’s also become active in a number of clubs and organizations such as the Black Student Union, and the experience has been nothing short of transformational for her. “My first year at Hollins I was nervous and homesick, but I got involved with different events and by my sophomore year I was actually planning those events.”
Matthews’ sophomore year is also notable for her because that is when started working as a resident assistant (RA). She has particularly enjoyed working with first-year students. “They have so many questions and it is so rewarding to be a resource and support them.” She sees her role as that of a “big sister. I have juniors coming up to me now telling me they remember me as their RA, so that’s a full-circle moment for me. To see them grow and move on to different halls and specialty housing, it’s really special.”
At Hollins’ 181st Commencement Exercises on May 21, the university recognized Matthews’ dedication to the campus community by presenting her with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Student Award, which honors a senior who has shown by daily living those qualities that evince a love and helpfulness to other men and women.
Matthews says she’s looking forward to a relaxing summer back home. Then, she plans to become a substitute teacher and teaching assistant in the Cumberland County, North Carolina, area. “After taking a gap semester, I hope to pursue a master’s degree in education to teach in either a public or private school. I really love kindergarten and that age group, so that’s where I might end up, but we’ll see.”
Marveling at the transformation she has undergone over the past four years, Matthews says, “I’ve realized the power of my voice. I used to be someone who didn’t necessarily speak up in classes and kind of lived on the sidelines. I’m more willing now to go for the things I want.” She also says she’s learned the importance of a work/life balance. “You don’t have to earn rest. You can get burned out quite easily and you have to take things one step at a time. I worry less now because I know everything is going to be okay and things will fall into place. You just have to keep going, focus on what you want to do, and make sure your heart is in everything.”