Horizon Student Katrina Dodge ‘24 Reflects on Returning to College to Study Art

Horizon Student Katrina Dodge ‘24 Reflects on Returning to College to Study Art

Academics, Fine Arts, Testimonials

June 20, 2024

Horizon Student Katrina Dodge ‘24 Reflects on Returning to College to Study Art Katrina Dodge '24 with Children

Katrina Dodge ‘24 spent her 20s starting a family, waiting tables, and working odd jobs, never expecting to head back to school. “I was never ‘good at school’ and the whole world of higher education felt like it was not for me. I never thought much about going to college because there wasn’t anything I loved so much I’d go through school to do it.” Dodge enjoyed her work managing a coffee shop and staying home with her three daughters.

In 2017, Dodge became operations and marketing coordinator for the Bower Center for the Arts, a nonprofit in Bedford, Virginia. During her three years there, she fell in love with the arts’ power to create community and self-discovery. She assisted in grant writing and program creation for the center and interacted daily with the public. “I became obsessed with the idea that grown-ups have forgotten how to play, and art is not only play but an incredible tool we should all tap into more.”

“Bedroom,” a mixed-media collage from Katrina Dodge ’24’s senior thesis, Home, But with Stars in Her Eyes

When COVID-19 necessitated staffing cuts, Dodge’s colleague, Karen Nuzzo M.A.L.S. ’04, suggested she check out Hollins. “I didn’t know such a great school was nearby; the genuine focus on true belonging resonated with me, and I knew if I was ever going to go anywhere, it would be Hollins.” She quickly declared a studio art major and began meeting the psychology prerequisites for master’s programs in art therapy. “Using creativity to help people became the new dream. I had always been a creative person but didn’t have any technical training or skills.” When her first semester began in 2020, classes were virtual for Dodge and her daughters. They passed laptops around and tackled kindergarten, second grade, and first-year coursework together. When classes were in-person again, she faced a 45-minute commute and scheduling classes that ended by 2 p.m. so she could be back home to meet the school bus. While it has been a sacrifice of time with her children to go back to school, Dodge has enjoyed sharing the experience with them, showing them what’s possible and available for their futures. “They think Hollins is absolutely magical, and they’re right.”

From 2022-2024, Dodge worked for Hollins Alumnae/i Relations as management for Reunion, where she led a team of 20 students in preparation and execution of the huge event. Dodge brought a calming presence and a knack for handling the needs of many people at once; Director of Alumnae/i Events Tommi Ferguson says, “I couldn’t have done it without her.” As a Horizon commuter, becoming part of Reunion changed her sense of belonging to the campus by offering close community with students and alumnae/i, and being part of an on-campus experience otherwise not available. “I was consistently encouraged by the work ethic and heart the young students have and learned new things about Hollins every day. No matter what we went through, there is an understanding in this community of mutual respect and kindness. Hollins’ leadership guided me to work through any challenge with dignity and calm intelligence, a skill I will take with me forever.”

Dodge also says she enjoyed getting to know Gen-Z closely. “They are so funny, and there are interesting generational differences I understand better now. They are uniquely capable and smart.”

Katrina Dodge ’24: “Hollins’ leadership guided me to work through any challenge with dignity and calm intelligence, a skill I will take with me forever.”

For her senior thesis, Dodge created the mixed-media collage series Home, But with Stars in Her Eyes, which was exhibited at Hollins’ Eleanor D. Wilson Museum this spring. The driving inspiration for the work was the healing power of the arts on distress, and the constant pursuit of hope.

Dodge’s journey as a studio art major, she says, was made possible by the art department faculty, particularly Visiting Professor of Art Andrea Martens, Associate Professor of Art Elise Schweitzer, and Assistant Professor of Art Mary Zompetti. “Many people think they are not artists because they can only draw stick figures. It is a learned skill, like playing an instrument. But the value for the artist really lies within the actual artmaking process, not in the outcome.” Dodge says her professors encouraged the development of personal style, and the ability to verbalize meaning. “We have rich critiques where my peers gave insight I’d never thought of. That has been really fulfilling and validating as an artist.”

Dodge learned the term “corrective emotional experience” in her psychology studies and feels Hollins has provided this in her time here. “I have lived with overwhelming anxiety and ADHD my whole life, which is part of why coming back to school didn’t feel like an option. When Hollins says you belong, we mean it, and if you raise your hand for help, they will do everything to see you succeed.”

She adds, “I have learned that things that are hard are just practice for next time, we are always getting better. I learned that I bring value to the room I’m in, that I’m safe to be myself. I didn’t know that before I came here.”

Dodge was recognized at this spring’s Honors Convocation with the Evelyn Bradshaw Award for Excellence. She was a recipient of the Hollins Scholar Award, the Marsha Stevens Horizon Scholarship, the Alumnae/i Referral Scholarship, and the Manchester Art Grant. As an alumna, Dodge hopes to help the university’s efforts to serve the needs of non-traditional students by supporting the Horizon program. She encourages alumnae/i to continue suggesting Hollins to people unsure about going back to school.

Top Photo: Katrina Dodge ’24 is joined by her three daughters on Hollins’ Front Quad.