From the President

on July 7 | in President's Essay | by

Dear Hollins University Community,

The Hollins community made a decision last fall. We decided to trust one another, to lock arms, and to be successful. Our intentional decision to choose community and to choose hope reminds me of a quote from Maria Popova: 

“In its passivity and resignation, cynicism is a hardening,
a calcification of the soul.
Hope is a stretching of its ligaments,
a limber reach for something greater.”

If ever there was a time for cynicism, 2020 would have been the year. While we all could have been cynical, we took the harder path, the less clear path, the path for transformation, and we trod forward, even when our path was dim. We chose one another and this community. We chose hope. So, what did hope look like at Hollins this year?

President Mary Dana Hinton

Photo by Rory Sanson Boitnott ’19

Hope looked like the Culture of Care. Over the summer, we developed the phrase “Culture of Care” that became our mantra this year. Mutual accountability and collective responsibility were our guideposts for every decision. We embraced the Culture of Care — dwelling, learning, and teaching under challenging conditions — whether on campus or off. As a community, we helped our students understand the power of our collective action and enabled our entire community to work together to ensure we thrived.

There is a very practical side to these actions. Over the course of this year, we administered 5,500 COVID-19 tests and documented only two residential cases. We proved that a dedicated, committed group could accomplish anything.

Hope looked like pedagogical excellence as we learned new ways of teaching and learning. Some of which will linger beyond COVID-19 and allow us to better support student learning.

Hope looked like a virtual J-Term enriched by the presence of students, faculty, and staff, and a spring term highlighted by the Student Performance and Research Conference, the 63rd Annual Science Seminar, the 25th anniversary of our Art History Senior Symposium, and student exhibits and theses.

Hope looked like actively engaging with issues of inclusion within and outside our classrooms — both on and off our campus. We sat with discomfort during Leading EDJ and are so grateful for the many alumnae/i who participated in the day. We recognized the work we need to do as individuals and as a community to make Hollins more inclusive. We brought the light of hope to the dimmest moments of the year.

Hope looked like learning together in January and February and imagining a path forward. As we embraced our Imagination Campaign (see Page 10), over 50 proposals emerged from our community to help find a sustainable and thriving path forward. I’m excited about the programs we are planning because they signal that this hope, which guided and motivated our community this year, is not momentary. It can and will carry us forward.

Hope looked like reaching out to students and helping them feel seen, heard, and valued. We also did this with prospective students, conducting thousands of individual visits and tours, face-to-face and virtually. Some of you reached out to prospective students, helping us achieve one of our largest classes in recent memory.

Hope looked like inviting key new people into our community and creating the structures and relationships needed to support them, enabling them to thrive.

We were, without equivocation, purveyors of hope this year. Hope allowed us to turn a corner institutionally as we looked out for the well-being of one another individually. And the results have been outstanding. So, we now decide how we move forward. Do we resume prior, perhaps more comfortable ways, or do we commit to the success we had this year and continue the momentum, the optimism, and the hope?

Alice Walker instructed, “Look closely at the present you are constructing; it should look like the future you are dreaming.”

We constructed a community that was based on hope, compassion, mutual accountability, and collective responsibility. Please remember that what we constructed this year was quite extraordinary. We built and dwelled in an optimistic, courageous hope that helped each of us individually, and all of us collectively, create the future about which we dream.

As we cross the threshold into our lives post-pandemic, I ask you to continue walking with us, and choosing hope, as we build the future we dream of.

Levavi Oculos,

Mary Dana Hinton
President

A version of this message was shared with the campus community of faculty, staff, and students in May.

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