Normalee Ash ’00 is so enthusiastic about persuading her students to consider Hollins that she jokes, “I have a male student who plans to apply and come to Hollins in drag in order to attend.”
Ash teaches at Annandale High School in Fairfax County, Virginia, and she has made it her mission to share the difference Hollins has made in her life and the transformative impact the university can have on others.
“I graduated a young woman full of self-confidence, ready to change the world and make it better in any way I could,” she explains. “When I talk to others about their college years, their experience does not compare.”
To find students she believes would succeed at Hollins, Ash says she first looks for young women who are academically strong but not necessarily “A” students. “I seek students who are passionate about learning, who like to study and explore new things. I then look for two different types of girls: those who are strong-willed, well-spoken leaders, and those who need help in those areas. The first group is what Hollins needs, the new generation of woman leaders who will take the campus by storm. The second group needs Hollins, a safe environment that will help them grow into the young women they can be, a place where they can find themselves. Both types are a good fit.”
Ash touts the Hollins attributes she cherishes most, including J-Term (“Amazing opportunities come from the internships and classes taken that month”), study abroad (“Students love how Hollins enables affordable academic travel”), and leadership training (“Hollins gives students leadership roles and allows them to make mistakes and adjust; they can use those skills later in life”). She praises the Hollins faculty: “My professors all knew and cared about me, and made sure I did what I needed to achieve my goals.” And she talks about the sense of community on campus and “how the young women there take care of each other.”
Over the years, Ash estimates 15 of her students have shown real interest in Hollins and six have enrolled. “Having students say they are so glad they chose Hollins because they love it there is all the validation I need.”
This year, she’s hopeful two members of Annandale’s senior class will enroll. “I had a student who visited Hollins over the summer. She said, ‘It was just as magical as you said it was!’ It’s good to know Hollins’ enchantment is alive and well.”
Ash advises other Hollins alumnae in the teaching profession that keeping Hollins materials in the classroom “is a great conversation starter” but “modeling your own essence really draws students to you. When young women see confidence, professionalism and satisfaction in older women, it makes them curious. They want to know about you, and for me the Hollins experience is part of who I am. Telling students about Hollins becomes easy. Encouraging students to visit is key. Once they see the campus, they’ll know if it’s for them.”
To refer a student, go to the online form.
Jeff Hodges is director of public relations.