By Interim President Nancy Oliver Gray
From infrastructure enhancements and robust fiscal health to academic progress and career development initiatives, the university is primed for continued success.
Since my return to campus as interim president for the 2019-20 academic year, I have had the pleasure of experiencing on a daily basis how Hollins continues to be such a remarkable place to live, learn, and work. I am inspired by the many important ways in which our students, faculty, staff, graduates, trustees, and friends of the university are ensuring that we fulfill our educational mission through a position of strength that will enable us to thrive for years to come.
Phase I of the new student apartment village symbolizes our momentum and optimism. Seeing this initial $4 million investment come to fruition last fall, and witnessing the immediate and profound gratitude for the new apartments from the students who have become their first residents, increases our desire to raise the remaining $1.1 million needed in gift funds to complete Phase II of the project. The village construction further advances our record in recent years of improving an array of campus facilities that includes the $3 million renewal of the Hollins Theatre, the $3 million renovation of the Hill Houses, and the $6.5 million update of the Dana Science Building.
A solid financial foundation underpins this success. At the end of the last fiscal year, our endowment stood at $182.7 million. Over the past 10 years, we have raised an average of $13 million in gifts annually to support that endowment, along with our annual fund and capital projects. And we have operated with no debt during that same time period. In this competitive and challenging time in higher education, this financial foundation gives us an important advantage.
The quality of our students is notable. Our incoming first-year class boasted an average GPA of 3.7 and average ACT and SAT scores of 26 and 1180, respectively. We are also pleased with the diversity of our student body. Approximately 37 percent of our first-year domestic students identify as African American, Asian, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific, or biracial. Last fall, we enrolled the largest group of incoming international students in our history, hailing from the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Congo, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Rwanda, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam.
Hollins continues to enhance academic programs. We have introduced new major and minor programs in public health. We are one of only 11 colleges and universities across the nation selected by Google this year to partner on its Applied Computing Series, an initiative focusing on computer science education. To help prepare professionals who meet the ever-growing demand for mental health services, our psychology major has established a new concentration in clinical and counseling skills. Revisions of the general education program and student advising are also underway. 0ur master’s programs are garnering well-deserved acclaim. For example, a recent Roanoke Times editorial noted that “over the past decade, Hollins has quietly established itself as a national theatre powerhouse. … Last year, students and faculty at the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins won 12 awards from a prestigious annual festival at the Kennedy Center—akin to, say, Virginia Tech winning a major bowl game 12 times over.” Promising new possibilities in graduate studies are also currently under consideration.
Our experiential learning opportunities, including career development, are burgeoning. Students have increased opportunities to study abroad, complete undergraduate research, earn the certificate in the Batten Leadership Institute, and participate in the new Entrepreneurial Learning Institute. The expansion of our annual Career Connection Conference (C3) to two days last fall typifies our concerted effort to prepare students for lifelong professional success. Three out of every four members of the class of 2019 completed internships, and half completed more than one. The breadth and scope of our internship opportunities and their geographic diversity continue to build. At the same time, students are engaging more than ever with our Career Center, which is promoting new in-person and online workshops that cover job search, resume and interview preparation, workplace etiquette, and other important topics. The Career Center is also collaborating with Handshake, a career management system that connects students with Fortune 500 companies and hundreds of other organizations for jobs and internships, and this March will present the second annual HireHollins: Employer-Talent Showcase, which features a dynamic mix of mentoring, networking, and recruiting.
As our search for a new president proceeds, I am confident that the individual who becomes our next leader will be taking the reins of a vibrant, forward-thinking, results-oriented institution that is meeting the challenges of higher education head-on. I thank all of you who remain devoted to this crucial work and to keeping Hollins among the vanguard of the nation’s outstanding liberal arts universities.
Photo by Rory Sanson ’19