Building a Life of Consequence

on May 8 | in President's Essay | by

Reimagining the Hollins Experience for the 21st Century Learner

Integrated and innovative opportunities will challenge our students to learn and grow holistically across traditional boundaries.

By President Pareena Lawrence

photo of President Lawrence with studentsLike the myriad trails winding through the Blue Ridge Mountains that surround our campus, Hollins students blaze their own paths of self-discovery that culminate in lifelong engagement with the world.

This adventurous spirit is the heart and soul of Hollins’ mission—and it is this same force that drives our new strategic plan, recently approved by our Board of Trustees.

Reimagining the Hollins experience for our students will help guide our beloved liberal arts university toward a stronger future. Meeting the needs of the 21st century learner begins by altering how we think about the majors we offer and the educational experiences that support our students. At Hollins, we have recently approved several new majors, minors, and concentrations.

  • A new data analytics minor is preparing our undergraduates to work in a data-driven world in which data scientists are being sought by every major company and organization. Students learn the cutting-edge, open-source software used by industries today.
  • Our redesigned business major emphasizes the development of women as leaders and innovators and features the new Institute for Entrepreneurial Learning, which focuses on developing an entrepreneurial outlook across all disciplines.
  • Establishing a major in public health provides our students with the opportunity to understand health issues from multidisciplinary perspectives—environmental, global, communications, business, science, analytics, policy, and more.
  • The addition of counseling as a concentration within the psychology major will better prepare students for graduate work in those fields, as well as increase student opportunities for skills development.
  • Building upon its concentration and minor in creative writing in addition to a Master of Fine Arts degree in the field, the Jackson Center for Creative Writing this academic year introduced an undergraduate major in creative writing. This strengthens our commitment to helping students develop ways of seeing and saying that are distinctly their own.

To help our students explore their options and personalize their journeys at Hollins and beyond, we have developed three new initiatives:

  • Launch for Life: Professional and Life Skills Development is a four-year program that will prepare students to enter the world of work and life with greater assurance and competence, as well as attitudes that foster resilience and well-being toward lifelong success. This includes the attributes the National Association of Colleges and Employers identifies as most sought by organizations, which Karen Cardozo, executive director of career development, lists in her essay. A major differentiator for the program is its focus on helping students navigate and overcome gender disparities in cultural and professional socialization and structures. Training in specific aspects of professional and leadership development will be offered, such as networking, negotiations, financial literacy, teamwork, time management, and workplace-relevant technology. The program also focuses on the other essential aspects of a growth mindset, cross-cultural fluency, and overall welfare. These broader orientations provide fuel to ensure our students can go the distance and overcome challenges in the classroom and in the workplace.
  • Experience Plus ensures that all Hollins students can engage in at least two high-impact experiential learning opportunities by the time they graduate. These include internships, study abroad, undergraduate research and creative work, leadership, experiential courses, and select on-campus employment opportunities. Featuring a varied and flexible format, Experience Plus allows students to pursue their chosen interests while cultivating breadth and exposure to experiential learning in different contexts.
  • Changes in both student populations and learning opportunities require us to rethink traditional student advising, which has largely been a matter of getting students into the right classes at the right times so that they can complete their degrees. Advising 360° is a student-centered approach that ensures our students take advantage of the many opportunities offered at Hollins and reach their personal and career aspirations. The purpose is to go beyond traversing academic requirements and help students find their way past obstacles that interfere with full engagement and inhibit degree completion. Under this new model, explained more fully by Dean of Academic Success Michael Gettings in the following article, students will have a team of advisors during their four years focused on their personal growth and development. The advisors will help ensure the achievement of two crucial goals: persistence to graduation and engagement in the rich array of learning experiences that position our students for success in college and beyond.

Launch for Life, Experience Plus, and Advising 360˚ involve all members of the Hollins community: parents, faculty, administrators, trustees, and alumnae/i. More than ever, I am excited to ask you to join me in creating a distinctive, vibrant educational and professional experience that will empower our students to lead Lives of Consequence.


Advising 360˚: Dedicated Mentoring

Advising teams work with students to promote on- and off-campus success.

By Michael Gettings

Photo of Michael GettingsWhat is Advising 360˚ and why is it important?
Today’s students have many educational choices, from residential colleges to fully online degree programs. In addition, this generation faces more challenges than ever before—financial struggles, family issues, health concerns, and more. For prospective students to understand why it’s so beneficial to attend a college like Hollins, they need to see the value of pursuing a degree on our campus, with its myriad offerings, both curricular and otherwise. And they need to know that they will have dedicated mentoring in navigating their options. We want students to craft their own meaningful Hollins experience, and to do that, all students will have an advisor who helps them think holistically about that experience.

To make the most of a Hollins education, students should not only pursue a major, minor, concentrations, or certificates, but they should consider study abroad, internships, and community-based learning, among other options. In addition, education at Hollins extends into campus employment, athletics, clubs, student government, outdoor activities, guest speakers, conferences, and much more.

We all know that life throws us curveballs and things don’t always go according to plan. The holistic advisor is there as a trusted resource when students encounter obstacles. Advisors are trained to provide expert referrals to any number of resources when students find they have needs, from academic tutoring to health support to financial aid advice to career development. The advisor’s role is to make sure the student knows where to go and who to talk to when needs arise.

Much of the focus on supporting student success is already baked into our culture. For generations, Hollins students and alumnae have testified that a professor or staff member helped them grow and succeed at just the right time. Advising 360 formally extends that kind of support to every student, from the time she first arrives on campus. It’s a model that fits us incredibly well.

How will it work?

These holistic advisors will begin with students during first-year orientation; their role is to get to know the students and understand their interests and goals. Select faculty members will serve in this advising role and will be specially trained and certified. They will have frequent contact with students during the first year in particular. After students declare their majors by the end of their sophomore year, they will primarily meet with their major advisor, as they do currently. The holistic advisor remains a member of a team that supports the student, and holistic advisors will be at commencement to celebrate the student’s accomplishments as they receive their degrees. Other members of the faculty and staff will serve on the advising team, as well as a student peer mentor who will work with the student from the beginning.

What will students gain?

Students will immediately gain a trusted source of support from the day they arrive at Hollins. More broadly, however, they will gain confidence in and connection to all that Hollins offers them, including advisors who will help them develop their own sense of agency, so they can make choices that help them reach their goals. Many current students are the first in their families to attend college, and any student may encounter challenges along the way that make pursuing goals difficult. In addition to ensuring support for those who may encounter challenges, the Advising 360 program recognizes that even strong students who arrive well prepared for the academic rigor at Hollins can still benefit from guidance and access to resources. Hollins is committed to the success of every student admitted to the university.

 What does success look like?

With Advising 360˚ in place, along with other new initiatives such as the life and career skills curriculum and Experience Plus, we imagine being able to better attract and retain students as they fully realize all that Hollins has to offer. More important, these initiatives will help students realize all that they are capable of—we envision students graduating with more confidence and a clearer sense of purpose because they have been charting their course at Hollins more intentionally from the start, and with a greater sense of cohort and community.\

Michael Gettings is dean of academic success.


Taking Inventory in the Present and Imagining the Future

Two innovative programs teach students how to be resilient in a world of disruptive change.

By Karen M. Cardozo

Photo of Karen CardozoToday, a career isn’t a single outcome or destination. It’s the journey itself. And what will students need for that lifelong trip? A sense of direction or purpose, navigational skills, and fuel. Together, the new four-year life skills and career development program and Experience Plus will stimulate creativity, build confidence, and spark enjoyment as students explore their interests, claim their aspirations, and acquire the competencies to achieve their goals.

How will the four-year life skills and career development program work?

Many colleges and universities recognize the need to better prepare students for changing careers and life in the 21st century. However, few have committed to a thoughtfully sequenced four-year platform that will help every student launch strong into the world. Our program is shaped by “bookends” as students enter and exit Hollins, with key checkpoints in the sophomore and junior years. The bookends are a first-year holistic advising cohort and a senior seminar closely aligned with our Advising 360 initiative, in which students will be encouraged to ask: Who am I and where am I going? That query looks both inward and outward; it takes inventory in the present while imagining the future. By engaging early and often with this question, students can be more intentional about designing lives of consequence at Hollins and beyond. They can dream big and figure out how to make their own unique contributions.

The program seeks to foster what the National Association of Colleges and Employers call the “NACE 8,” top competencies sought by employers: career management, communication (verbal and written), critical thinking, cross-cultural fluency, collaboration/teamwork, leadership, digital/information literacy, and professional work ethic. Hollins faculty, staff, students, and alumnae/i identified other key orientations: an agile or growth mindset, creativity and curiosity, self-care/well-being, and financial literacy, along with goal setting, prioritization, and time management.

Highlights of the 2019-20 programs include:

Year 1 – Fall advising sessions on goal setting, time management, and well-being basics support students during their transition to college. J-Term offers both time and programming to dive deeper into self-assessment and career exploration.

Year 2 – Sophomores explore the relationship between major and career. A “boot camp” in May teaches financial literacy by asking students to model the cost-benefit analysis of different career choices.

Year 3 – Juniors move toward “a summer that counts,” through a workshop series that helps them secure substantive high-impact experiences that will distinguish them in job or graduate school applications in their senior year (see Experience Plus, below).

Year 4 – Seniors take a Real World Launch course in which they engage in life design and pursue their ideal first destination after Hollins; they will also learn about many opportunities to actively network and engage in the alumnae association.

What is Experience Plus?

Hollins already offers a wide variety of experiential learning opportunities—leadership studies in the Batten Leadership Institute and student leadership positions; internships and on-campus employment; study abroad; community-based learning; and undergraduate research, including senior theses or other capstone projects. Experience Plus ensures that students have access to at least two of these experiences.

How will these programs leverage the Roanoke region?

Hollins’ new Institute for Entrepreneurial Learning is designed to foster dynamic interactions between the classroom and the growing community of innovators in the region. Moreover, an expanded C3 format this fall will include regional partners for industry-based networking; and each spring the HireHollins: Employer-Talent Showcase hosts regional organizations for a dynamic mix of networking, mentoring, and recruiting.

How can alumnae/i get involved?

There are many opportunities for alumnae/i to engage, from serving as a professional mentor to hosting internships or networking events in your region. We recommend that you sign up for Hollins’ Career Advising Network (CAN) and join Handshake: Career Network for College Students & Recent Grads ( as an employer so you can post internship and job opportunities. No one builds a life of consequence alone—we need all of you. We appreciate your commitment and support.

Karen Cardozo is executive director of career development. 


New Academic Programs

A redesigned business major has been approved and includes an entrepreneurship track and minor. A data analytics minor and a creative writing major have also been approved, and we have added clinical psychology and counseling as a concentration within the psychology major. During the spring semester, faculty approved a new major in public health. All new programs will launch in fall 2019.

New graduate programs are being explored in higher-demand areas in the health sciences, including speech-language pathology, addiction counseling, and medical social work. In addition, we will review existing graduate programs to assess market strengths and limitations and make informed decisions regarding strategic investments.

Comments are closed.

« »

Scroll to top