Be inspired by these profiles of recent graduates, who made the most of their time at Hollins and used those experiences to lead them to the next step.
By Jeff Hodges M.A.L.S. ’11
The Power of Internships
At age 14, Samantha “Sami” Makseyn ’19 faced the biggest challenge of her young life. Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, she spent 11 days in a coma and missed nine weeks of school. The experience transformed her into a force for change. Passionate about healthcare advocacy, she helped found a nonprofit organization for youth advocacy in politics and legislation when she was just 18. Before she turned 21, she had already worked in both American and international government.
Hollins’ Signature Internship Program made much of her achievement possible, she says. “My choice in college was influenced by the fact that I later wanted to go on to law school, but internships intimidated me. How was I going to take time during a semester to do an internship? They’re not paid, so how would I live somewhere? With Hollins and the January Short Term, I was able to do an internship, receive a stipend, have housing provided, and not miss any school.”
Makseyn completed three Signature Internships, all in Washington, D.C.: with the office of U.S. Senator Al Franken, the nonprofit Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the American Healthcare Association. Studying abroad in London her junior year, she interned with a member of Parliament, Virendra Sharma, whose constituency is largely Indian and Southeast Asian.
Makseyn augmented her real-world experience, and honed her public speaking, multitasking, research, and debating skills, by participating in Model United Nations (MUN) and Model Arab League (MAL). At MUN and MAL conferences, she encountered “crisis simulations—and you have to figure out how to deal with them,” she explains. “I learned how to find my voice.”
With a likely focus on healthcare law, Makseyn is attending George Washington University Law School. Concurrently, she plans to complete a master’s degree in public health. “Eventually, I want to work in politics,” she says, “so I want to be well-versed in healthcare policies.”
Sense of Adventure
To illustrate his daughter’s fearlessness, Lillian “Lilly” Potter ’19 says her dad loves to tell the story of her childhood trip to India for a family wedding. “We encountered a cobra charmer, and I just went and tried to pet the cobra. Fortunately, my dad got me away in time.”
At Hollins, her curiosity and sense of adventure continued to flourish. She devoted January Short Terms to traveling in Japan and Greece and spent full semesters studying abroad in London and Paris. She completed internships with Peace Boat US in New York City; the Diplomatic and Consular Officers Retired in Washington, D.C.; and the Nursing Times in London.
“It’s a testament to Hollins and its flexibility that I was able to fit in so much,” Potter says. “The school made each of these experiences possible. I don’t hear from my friends at other schools that they receive the same support to participate in these kinds of extracurricular opportunities.”
A double major in English and international studies, Potter was drawn to Hollins because she knew that the university “makes good writers, and good writers seek out Hollins.” She took classes in philosophy, gender and women’s studies, statistical analysis, “and a lot of French” in addition to the coursework in her majors. She also earned a certificate in leadership studies from the Batten Leadership Institute. “That was one of the strongest pulls of Hollins for me. I didn’t see women-centered leadership development courses at other universities.”
Potter is attending William & Mary Law School. “It’s a really good fusion of my love of English and rhetoric and my desire to get out there and do something positive in the world. I’m interested in human rights law, and I’d like to live internationally and work in either the nonprofit or foreign service sectors.”
The Music of Poetry
When deciding on a college, Yitazba Largo-Anderson ’19 turned to her family for advice. “My dad is a professor and my mom is a librarian, and they value education,” she explains. “They urged me to go to a liberal arts school because they knew it would help me round out who I am as a person.”
The campus beauty and “a really strong creative writing program” are what drew her to Hollins, after living most of her life in Phoenix, Arizona. “I came here not knowing what I wanted to study. I’m interested in so many things,” she says. After taking classes in several disciplines, she chose to major in English with a concentration in multicultural literature and a minor in social justice.
She describes her Hollins experience as “finding the power of my voice. Poetry to me is not only something you read or that’s visual. It’s also very sensory. I love doing music with my poetry.”
Her talent for expression evolved when she took voice lessons at Hollins. An experience in the theatre department helped her overcome her shyness. “I want to speak my poetry more now in public, and instead of just submitting my work for publication, I’d like to get into slam poetry,” she says.
She has a fellowship this year at the College of William and Mary’s Swem Library, working with its Project Outreach initiative on making inclusivity and diversity more prevalent in academic research. She then hopes to attend law school and focus on some aspect of Native American law (her roots are Scotch-Irish and Diné, the Navajo Nation’s preferred name, which translates to “of the people”). “I’d like to get an M.F.A. in creative writing after law school and eventually teach Native American voice through poetry in conjunction with Native American studies,” she says.
A Woman You Should Know
She describes it as “kind of a running joke” between herself and the Office of Admission, but no one can say Mary Daley ’19 wasn’t diligent in researching Hollins before enrolling. “I first found Hollins during my sophomore year of high school when I was just starting to look at colleges, and I visited about once a month for the rest of the time I was in high school.” She also took the Hollinsummer creative writing course.
“Coming into Hollins, I was looking at combining art and psychology and becoming an art therapist,” she explains, “but ultimately I decided this wasn’t what I wanted to do. During the first semester of my sophomore year, I took a class in every department on campus in which I was interested. I fell in love with [Professor of Practice-Business] Karen Messer-Bourgoin’s [’84] marketing class. I even did my own marketing research projects for fun.”
In addition to honing her photography skills through an internship with Boyd-Pearman Photography (co-owned by Amy Cavanaugh Pearman ’97), Daley served as a student chaplain. She discovered a creative way to boost students’ spirits, one that landed her a spot on the website Women You Should Know. She made bottle-cap pins “with inspirational messages and handed them out to students. It was a simple way of saying, ‘Here’s a little something to brighten your day and remind you that you’re loved and you’re important.’”
Daley developed an interest in business-to-consumer marketing after a Signature Internship with Atlanta-based Scout, an advertising agency that focuses on healthcare and consumer goods. Last fall she started a master’s degree program in marketing at Vanderbilt University.
When biology major Ciera Morris ’19 wanted to challenge herself by completing a voluntary senior thesis, she sought a project that would reflect her interest in infectious disease research as it relates to public health. Collaborating with biology professors Elizabeth Gleim ’06 and Morgan Wilson, she found the perfect vehicle: exploring tick ecology in Southwest Virginia and its possible connection to the risk of Lyme disease.
“Given there are a lot of public health implications in regard to tick research, working with Dr. Gleim and Dr. Wilson was the best option for me,” Morris says. “We decided my project should focus on species composition and the abundance and phenology of ticks in Southwest Virginia to better comprehend disease ecology in the Roanoke Valley. This included understanding what tick species are present and what times of the year they are active.”
“Her project has been incredibly intensive, involving a year of monthly field collections of ticks at sites all over the Roanoke Valley,” Gleim explains. “She collected almost 20,000 ticks and did a lot of lab work, too.”
Morris’s research, along with a Signature Internship with the nonprofit organization Climate Central, earned her a two-year post-baccalaureate fellowship at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana. The facility is part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a division of the National Institutes of Health, where she’ll “be looking at how pathogens are transmitted to hosts, and how disease development occurs out of that. I’m excited because I think it’s going to be a good transition from dealing with tick ecology to viral research in general.”
After completing her fellowship, Morris expects to go on to graduate school and pursue either a master’s degree or a Ph.D., focusing on infectious disease.
Meaghan Harrington ’19 once believed her inability to focus on one interest or a single area of study reflected poorly upon her. “In a lot of places, there’s really no space to be indecisive,” she says. “It’s viewed as a negative thing.”
But at Hollins, Harrington could immerse herself in an environment that encourages exploration and self-discovery. “Meaghan is what I’d describe as a ‘big thinker,’” says Associate Professor of History Rachel Nunez. “She really exemplifies the power of a liberal arts education to help students find new ways of thinking and being.”
Ultimately, Harrington double majored in history and classical studies, but she continued to embrace topics she found compelling. For example, a class in dance helped inform her choice to write her senior history thesis about the rhetoric of Mormon women on the female body in the late 19th century.
Interested in archaeology since grade school, Harrington spent six weeks in the summer of 2017 doing hands-on fieldwork at the annual Archaeological Field School in Jamestown, Virginia, site of the first permanent English settlement in North America.
Field excavation drew Harrington back to Jamestown last summer for an internship designed to help “demystify archaeology.” She helped conduct research on the Angela Project, an effort to explore the life and landscape of one of the first recorded Africans brought to English North America in slavery. “I’m excited to contribute to the creation of more diverse stories about the past,” Harrington says.
She used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to collect data at the site. “With this software-based technology, you can create maps and three-dimensional images,” she explains. “It’s the perfect way to visualize everything in which I’m interested.
“I’m probably going to graduate school at some point,” she says, “but in the meantime I think I will spend a couple of years in the field using GIS. The creativity in that work will certainly help me to define my future interests.”
Making It Happen
As a student at Roanoke’s Virginia Western Community College, April Arnold ’19 wasn’t certain a four-year degree was in her future. Her mom was raising Arnold’s four younger siblings (three of whom were actually cousins who were adopted after their own mother died) when she suffered an accident that left her on disability. Arnold had to take on significant responsibility in helping care for her family.
“I was thinking I wouldn’t transfer to a four-year college like I had planned,” she recalls. “I was in Virginia Western’s early childhood program and figured that with a two-year degree, I could get a job working in childcare right out of school.”
While attending a college fair with her sister, Arnold first heard about Hollins’ Horizon program for adult women. “A few weeks later I came to a meeting to learn more, and something clicked. I met these amazing Horizon students and said, ‘I have to be here.’”
Thus began Arnold’s two years at Hollins and a remarkable balance of meeting family obligations while attending the university as a full-time student, majoring in psychology.
Arnold credits faculty and “my Horizon sisters” for helping her make it all happen. “Luckily, my teachers knew and worked with me. [Professor of Psychology] Bonnie Bowers, my advisor, is the most amazing person ever.”
Arnold excelled academically, earning induction into Pinnacle, a national honor society for nontraditional students that seeks to support leadership and scholarship.
Graduating, Arnold says, was “bittersweet” because she wasn’t quite ready to leave her Hollins friends. “On the other hand, I’m very excited to have my diploma. It’s 40 percent for me, 60 percent for [my family]. I know I’ve made all of them proud, and I’ve shown my younger siblings that even with all the stresses and hardships, anything is possible.”
To read longer versions of these stories, go to www.hollins.edu/news.
Jeff Hodges is director of public relations.
Photos by Sharon Meador