The Greenhouse Effect

Photo of Liz Gleim in field

I still remember the day vividly.

It was a beautiful spring day—sunny with a few white, cottony clouds dotting a bright blue sky. My heart rate quickened as we came to the stop light on Williamson Road waiting to turn into campus; the HOLLINS sign standing stoically on the corner, ushering us onwards. Once we turned into campus, the majestic Cromer Bergman Alumnae House greeted us and we turned right, following the sign pointing towards admissions. We began climbing the great hill towards the library, the view of campus obscured by the road itself; Tinker Mountain serving as a backdrop. First, the chapel’s steeple peeked over the top of the hill, followed by the bright red roof of the then brand-new Wyndham Robertson Library. Finally, it was all revealed: the gorgeous Hollins campus sprawled out below us. I was a young high school student on the hunt for a college to attend and this was my very first trip to Hollins. Yet in that moment, I knew I had found my school. I knew that this would be my home.

As a young teenage girl visiting campus that day, I couldn’t even fathom the fantastic people, wonderful memories, and unbelievable opportunities that I would experience during my four years at Hollins: going abroad and living in and performing research in the rainforests of Australia, interning at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, or realizing that I wanted to pursue a career in academia. On that bright, sunny, spring day, I didn’t even know that I wanted those things. Indeed, Hollins didn’t just help me achieve my dreams, it helped form them. Yet what I still didn’t know was that one day I would be back not just as an alum, but as a faculty member helping the next generation to realize and achieve their own dreams.

Indeed in the fall of 2016, I was elated to start my new job here at Hollins as an assistant professor of biology and environmental studies. I knew how impactful my own professors had been on me as a student in helping me to find my path. Thus, the opportunity to do the same for my own students now was and is incredibly exciting and humbling. I heard it once said that Hollins is to women what a greenhouse is to a plant (now teaching Plant Biology I particularly like this analogy!). The greenhouse provides a sheltered, ideal environment for a seedling to grow just as Hollins provides a safe, supportive environment for women to learn and grow as individuals. In the greenhouse, the seedling establishes its roots and grows strong so that when it’s transplanted out in the world it can truly thrive.

It’s absolutely amazing to now be a part of that support system to our students and to have the opportunity to see them all thrive. And even though they must eventually leave this safe “greenhouse” that is Hollins, the experiences and the discoveries they made about themselves and the world around them can never be taken away. They will forever be transformed.

Liz Gleim ‘06
Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies