As a Roanoke-based commuter student, Ambrielle Viney ’23 doesn’t live on the Hollins University campus. But that hasn’t impeded her ability to fully embrace or feel a close-knit kinship with the Hollins community throughout her undergraduate career. In fact, Viney’s love of Hollins and for supporting others inspired her to serve as one of the university’s orientation team leaders for three years.
Her passion for making Hollins, as she says, “feel like home” for new students has earned Viney the Outstanding Student Leadership Award for a four-year institution from Region VIII of the Association for Orientation, Transition, and Retention in Higher Education (NODA). According to a NODA press release, the award “is designed to give special recognition to students for their creativity, energy, enthusiasm, and outstanding abilities, which are the backbone of any successful campus programs.” Region VIII is comprised of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. As a regional winner, Viney will automatically be considered for national recognition at the NODA Annual Conference in Minneapolis in October.
After getting involved with orientation training and leadership as a student at Roanoke’s Community High School, Viney was determined to continue providing that kind of outreach at Hollins. “I just wanted to help out,” she explains. “New students are coming to a new place and that can be a scary thing: you’re separated from your parents and you don’t know anyone.”
Through experience, Viney says she has discovered “a friendly face goes far with helping new students. Just being there, urging them to open up and talk about themselves, and finding out what they like distracts them from homesickness and makes the transition easier.” In her time as an orientation team leader, she notes that she has also learned the importance of encouraging new students to stay on campus and engage in activities even though the temptation to return home may be strong, something she admits she considered herself when she started at Hollins even though she lives locally. “Whether they are residential students or commuters, I tell them, ‘You’re going to want to leave, you’re going to want to go home, but staying is key to becoming comfortable with living in this new environment. Believe it or not, you will look back and realize all the time you might have wasted going back home.”
The transformation new students undergo at Hollins is gratifying to Viney. “It doesn’t happen the same way every time and it’s unique to every student in their experience, but watching that transition happen is always amazing. You see students go from being shy and not wanting to do anything to ‘I’m doing such-and-such, I’m involved in this club, I feel comfortable here.’ Some of the students are even involved in the same activities that I am.”
And Viney, a business major who is concentrating in finance, has made it her mission to immerse herself in campus life from the beginning. In addition to serving as an orientation team leader, she is an ambassador for Hollins’ Office of Admission, treasurer for the class of 2023, and treasurer of the student organization ACCENT (Association of Countries, Cultures, Events, and National Traditions). She is also involved with Omicron Delta Kappa, the National Leadership Honor Society. She also works 20 to 25 hours a week at Lane Bryant in Roanoke’s Valley View Mall.
“Along with the sense of community here, I love the fact at that Hollins I can do so many different things,” she says. “If I had gone to another university I don’t know if I would have had the same opportunities that I’ve had here. It doesn’t seem like work or a challenge. Every activity in which I’m involved, I have my full energy in it, and I enjoy it.”
Following graduation this spring, Viney will be looking at ways she can apply her major and concentration to the job market and researching M.B.A. programs in Virginia. Initially, she’s thinking about seeking career opportunities in the Richmond, Virginia area or North Carolina, but “I see myself coming back to Roanoke. It will always be my home.”