In the Loop: Summer 2019

on September 4 | in Homepage, In the Loop | by

“Keep on defeating those mountains”

Advice from commencement speaker Shireen Lewis

Shireen Lewis at Hollins' CommencementDuring the 177th commencement exercises on May 26 EduSeed Executive Director Shireen K. Lewis encouraged the class of 2019 to take the power of sisterhood into the world and “create a truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive community for all women.”

Lewis, who has devoted more than 20 years to mentoring and coaching women and girls, leads EduSeed’s efforts to promote education in historically disadvantaged and underserved communities. She also founded the organization’s SisterMentors program, which supports learning among women and girls of color.

A graduate of Douglass College, a women’s college at Rutgers University, Lewis cited the continuing importance and value of women’s colleges today and “their desire to create something new, something different, something that is more just.” Referencing  Hollins’ Tinker Day tradition, she proclaimed, “Nobody can say that Hollins women don’t know how to defeat a mountain. So keep on defeating those mountains, Hollins women! Let’s imagine and build together a world where we listen to all women when they speak the truth. Let’s imagine and build together a world where not just a few women are free, but all women are free—free from all kinds of harm.”

Photo by Sharon Meador


Setting their sights on Nationals

Winning rider and coach set high goals

Caitlin Sheffer with riding medalsCall Caitlyn Sheffer ’22 a “barn rat” and she’ll consider it a badge of honor. To her and other student-athletes in the riding program, the moniker reflects commitment and determination, attributes that helped Sheffer earn a spot in May at the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) Nationals in Syracuse, New York. She finished fifth in Open Equitation on the Flat and seventh in Open Equitation Over Fences.

Qualifying for Nationals was a pleasant surprise for the York, Pennsylvania, native. Although she thought her first year of collegiate riding would be a period of transition (she has ridden competitively since age seven), she didn’t expect to go to Nationals the spring term of her first year. “I had accumulated enough points to qualify for IHSA Regionals and realized Nationals was a possibility,” she says.

“I met with Sherri [West, head riding coach], Liz [Courter, associate director of riding], and Elise [Roschen, manager/assistant to the director of riding] and said, ‘How can we make it happen?’ If you want something, they will do everything they can to help you get there.”

A trip to Nationals entailed everything from extra lessons at 6 a.m. to gym workouts with her teammates. It also required stellar performances at both the IHSA Regional and Zone horse shows. “You must finish first or second at Regionals to go to Zones, and then at Zones, you must earn first or second place again.” Sheffer excelled at both events, capturing first in Open Equitation on the Flat and reserve champion in Open Equitation Over Fences at the Zone 4, Region 2 Championships in March, and in April repeating those achievements at the Zone 4 Finals.

Sheffer and West returned from Syracuse with next year’s goal: having the entire team qualify for Nationals. To succeed, Sheffer hopes to “get all our horses performing to the max. If that’s the case, then our riders who practice on them will have a better chance.” Individually, her focus in 2020 will be on qualifying for the Cacchione Cup, one of the highest honors in college equestrian competition.

Sheffer loves winning, but her lifelong passion for riding is based on something more enduring, a philosophy that will serve her well as she pursues a career as a professional trainer one day. “Even if I don’t get recognition after a phenomenal round, I will still be happy,” she explains. “Someone will ask, ‘Did you win?’ and I’ll say, ‘No, it was just really good!’ I love knowing that the horse is comfortable, happy, and going at their best, and I’ve done all I can. It’s really satisfying.”


Faculty news

Hiring and promotion announcements

Tenure-track appointments:

Courtney Chenette ’09, political science

Courtney Chenette, faculty memberChenette, a political science and gender and women’s studies major at Hollins, earned her J.D. at Pace Law School and practiced law in New York City. She returned to Hollins as a visiting lecturer for 2018-19 and was honored by the class of 2019 with the Senior Class Faculty Award. She began her advocacy as a New York University Revson LSPIN Fellow, representing teenage dating and domestic violence survivors. As a civil rights attorney, Chenette litigated, trained, and counseled clients on novel constitutional questions involving government power and administration, policing, education, employment, and discrimination. She teaches constitutional law and political science courses on civil rights; voting rights; the judiciary; and race, class, gender, sexuality, and the law. Chenette also serves Hollins as a pre-law advisor.

Christopher M. Florio, history

Christopher Florio, facultyFlorio received his B.A. from the University of Richmond in 2009 and his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2016. Before coming to Hollins, he was a Mellon Research Fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at Columbia University.

Florio’s teaching and research interests include the history of slavery and emancipation, the history of capitalism, intellectual and cultural history, African American history, and the history of the U.S. and the world. He is at work on a book manuscript titled Poor Freedom: The Problem of Poverty in an Age of Slave Emancipation, under contract with Yale University Press. An article stemming from his current research, “From Poverty to Slavery: Abolitionists, Overseers, and the Global Struggle for Labor in India,” received the Louis Pelzer Memorial Award from the Organization of American Historians and was published in the Journal of American History in March 2016.

Caroline Mann, psychology

Caroline Mann, facultyMann earned her clinical psychology from the University of Tennessee in 2010 and has worked in both clinical and academic settings since that time. She served as assistant professor at Brevard College, Randolph College, and Meredith College. Her passion for teaching and lifelong learning was sparked by her liberal arts education at UNC-Asheville. She has published and presented numerous studies on the topics of mental illness stigma, implicit bias, and empathy-based interventions to reduce prejudice. She served as a post-doctoral fellow and licensed psychologist at Appalachian State University’s Counseling Center, where she specialized in working with clients around LGBTQ or cultural issues, trauma, and interpersonal difficulties. At Hollins, Mann will focus on establishing a clinical/counseling track within the major.

Jennifer Turner, sociology

Jennifer Turner, facultyTurner received her B.S. degree in sociology from James Madison University in 2010, her M.A. (and a graduate certificate in women’s studies) from Old Dominion University in 2013, and her Ph.D. (and a graduate certificate in women’s and gender studies) in sociology from Virginia Tech in 2019. Her research focuses on the intersection of race, class, and gender in the lives of low-income African American single mothers.


Jessie van Eerden, creative writing

Jessie Van Eerden, facultyVan Eerden is the author of two novels, Glorybound, winner of the Foreword Editor’s Choice Fiction Prize, and My Radio Radio, as well as the portrait essay collection The Long Weeping, winner of the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award. Her work has appeared in Best American Spiritual Writing, Oxford American, Willow Springs, Image, Blackbird, and other magazines, and in several anthologies, including The River Teeth Reader and Walk Till the Dogs Get Mean: Meditations on the Forbidden from Contemporary Appalachia. She received the Gulf Coast Prize in Nonfiction, the Milton Fellowship, and a Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Fellowship. Van Eerden holds an M.F.A. in nonfiction from the University of Iowa and directed the low-residency M.F.A. program at West Virginia Wesleyan College.

Tenure and promotion:

Elise Schweitzer, associate professor of art

Elise Schweitzer, facultyI believe that painting is just about the best thing anyone can do with her time. When I’m working at an easel I am alive to the world around me, more aware of light, form, and color. At Hollins I teach painting and drawing, technique and theory, and also patience, perseverance, and new methods for interacting with the world around us.

Beginning drawing and painting students start by working from life, but learning to draw or paint isn’t just about making realistic images, it’s about changing how we see. Try to draw a portrait and you’ll recognize just how complicated our noses are. Paint a shadow on Tinker Mountain in the fall, and you’ll see sunlight in a whole new way. Draw a shadow or mix a color and you’ll understand and remember that nose or that sunny afternoon.

Making artwork can bring to light connections and convergences. During Short Term trips to Italy, I teach students to draw on location everywhere, from cathedrals to neighborhood cafes. Drawing in her sketchbook, a student can camp out in front of Botticelli’s painting of Venus for an hour and really look at the painting, at the glints of gold in the water and all the flowers flying through the air. She might start to wonder, Doesn’t Venus look like that other Botticelli painting of Simonetta Vespucci? Is she related to Amerigo Vespucci? The one who made the maps of America? Incredible!

Daniel Derringer, professor of chemistry

Dan Derringer, facultyDan Derringer received degrees in chemistry from Kalamazoo College (B.A.) and Purdue University (Ph.D.). Helping students learn is one of his preeminent joys. In addition to teaching courses for chemistry majors, he has taught a variety of courses for nonmajors, including The Chemistry of Art and Archaeology; Chemistry and Cooking; Contribution of Science to Global Issues; and Earth Science, Leadership, and Expedition Behavior. One of his favorite courses for nonmajors is Learning Navigation Skills, which draws heavily on his experiences as a hiker, a scuba diver, and an airplane pilot. As a researcher, Derringer makes and characterizes compounds of transition metals. At present he and his student assistants are investigating the structural, spectroscopic, and electrochemical properties of several new compounds they have synthesized. He believes the best way for students to put into practice the theories they learn in the classroom is to involve them in laboratory research. Derringer is a firm believer in the liberal arts, especially the emphasis it places on lifelong learning. He is enrolled in a master’s-level course in philosophy. He says this course is teaching him to be a better thinker, a quality he knows he can pass on to his own students. When he is not teaching or taking classes, he is spending time with his family.

Morgan Wilson, professor of biology

Morgan Wilson, facultyThe son of a biologist and naturalist, Wilson received degrees in biology from Hampden-Sydney College (B.S.), Virginia Tech (M.S.), and the University of Mississippi (Ph.D.). He enjoys studying and teaching about how things work biologically—physiological and behavioral mechanisms, to be exact—especially in organisms in their natural environment. He teaches courses in Hollins’ biology and environmental studies programs, including human physiology, ornithology, human anatomy, invertebrate zoology, and human biology. He and Hollins biologist Renee Godard frequently lead Short Term trips to St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands to explore marine diversity in the Caribbean, environmental concerns, and cultural history. With Hollins biologist Elizabeth Gleim ’06 and students, he explores tick ecology in Southwest Virginia and its possible connection to the risk of Lyme disease. Other research has taken him to the edge of the Arctic, the Appalachian Mountains, the Mississippi Delta, and the prairie pothole region of North Dakota. He has published various articles on topics ranging from the migration of the blue-winged teal to the causes of stress in male yellow warblers breeding at high latitudes. Put him in nature, be it a marsh, meadow, or mountain, and he is a happy man. In his spare time, he enjoys fly fishing, canoeing, trail running, waterfowling, bow hunting, hiking, and spending time with his family.


Open eyes and heart

Student art and writing enliven public transportation

Art by Bus project

In April, the university joined RIDE Solutions, the Roanoke Arts Commission, and the Greater Roanoke Transit Company in presenting the annual Art by Bus and Writer by Bus programs, which this year showcase the talents of Hollins undergraduate and graduate students.

JM Lamb

JM Lamb in front of her work “Wishes,” chosen for the Art by Bus program

“Wishes,” by Horizon student JM Lamb, was chosen to be displayed on half of a Valley Metro bus. Lucy Marcus, who is pursuing an M.F.A. in creative writing, was selected as this year’s Writer by Bus. She rode various buses throughout last spring to produce literary works about her experiences, the people she met, and the neighborhoods she visited. Her chronicles can be followed on the Writer by Bus Facebook page. Marcus’ final works will appear on the RIDE Solutions webpage this fall.

Lucy Marcus

This year’s Writer by Bus, Lucy Marcus

Artist Lamb’s intention “was to create an image that invokes memories and feelings that instill joy, transcending age, race, and cultural differences, as well as socioeconomic class inequalities. … When most of us think of dandelion seed ‘puffs,’ we can mentally scroll back to childhood and the hours spent stalking the yard for an intact ‘puff’ to blow in the wind. The thought of this playful task produces a smile on most of our faces.”

Marcus noted, “I feel very lucky to live here, where our city workers and elected officials who do the difficult and vital work of keeping the transit circulating also create such rich programming to integrate and support the arts. I look forward to riding and writing with my eyes and heart open.”

Photos by Mary Daley ’19


Google Applied Computing Series coming to campus

Hollins one of 11 colleges selected

Google has selected Hollins to be a partner institution to implement its Applied Computing Series, an initiative focusing on computer science education. Associate Professors of Mathematics Julie Clark and Steve Wassell spearheaded the effort to bring the program to Hollins, one of only 11 colleges and universities nationally that have been accepted this year.

Semester-long Applied Computing courses will be offered to students who haven’t previously had the opportunity to study computer science or data science.

“Google and we see these courses as appropriate for students of all majors who are interested in applying data science techniques to their fields of study,” says Clark.

Google administers the course content and platform for free. Clark and Wassell took part in faculty training this summer. Google’s Applied Computing I, offered this fall, introduces students to computer science through an easy-to-learn programming language called Python. The course emphasizes such skills as problem solving; data analysis; design, implementation, testing, and analysis of algorithms and programs; formulating problems; thinking creatively about solutions; and expressing solutions clearly.

Google’s Applied Computing II, launching in spring 2020, explores the topic “How to Think Like a Data Scientist.” The course is designed to help students make informed, data-based decisions with machine learning in combination with tools such as spreadsheets, Structured Query Language (SQL), and Python.




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