Dance Magazine Honors Iconic Dancer and Hollins Alumna Renee Robinson

reneerobinsonRenee Robinson, a principal dancer with New York’s renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) who earned her master of fine arts degree in dance this fall from Hollins University, is one of four artists to receive the 2012 Dance Magazine Award.

Robinson was honored at a ceremony December 3 in New York City along with Julie Kent, senior ballerina with the American Ballet Theatre; New York Times dance critic Anna Kisselgoff (who was a guest lecturer in Hollins’ master of fine arts program in dance from 2006 to 2008); and tap dancer Dianne Walker.

Each year, Dance Magazine recognizes leading members of the professional dance field who have made extraordinary contributions to the art form. Robinson joined the AAADT in 1981 and holds the longest tenure of any female member. In addition to Ailey, she has worked with such acclaimed choreographers as Lar Lubovitch, Jerome Robbins, Bill T. Jones, and Judith Jamison, who presented the award to Robinson at the event. Her televised performances include President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration, the Kennedy Center Awards, and the PBS special, “A Hymn for Alvin Ailey.” In 2003 she performed at a White House State Dinner honoring President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, and in 2008 she appeared in the first dance event hosted in the White House by First Lady Michelle Obama.

Robinson is perhaps best known as “the woman with the umbrella” in “Revelations,” considered Ailey’s “signature work” by The Washington Post in a February 2012 article.

“It is among the most popular and most performed works of modern dance,” the Post explains, “and millions of ballet fans around the world regard the woman with the umbrella with particular reverence.

“Renee Robinson.”

Originally from Washington, D.C., Robinson trained at the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet, attended the School of American Ballet, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and The Ailey School, and majored in dance at New York University.


“I Could Not Do Everything I Do If I Wasn’t at Hollins”

carmanThroughout most of her life, Hollins University senior Macy Carman has naturally blended leadership and sportsmanship. But lately, the environmental studies major from Billings, Montana, is going the extra mile to strengthen those inner qualities.

Carman first started taking riding lessons at the age of four and three years later became a member of Pony Club, a youth equestrian organization that serves more than 100,000 members in over 30 countries. “Pony Club is dedicated to developing young people as riders, leaders, team players, and teachers,” Carman says. “It focuses on responsibility and building good character as well as becoming good horsemen and women.”

In 2010, Carman was elected to the National Youth Board of the United States Pony Club (USPC). When the youth board chose her as chair in January 2012, she not only went on to design a campaign, appear on a radio show, and meet with groups of the British Pony Club, she was also nominated and elected to the USPC Board of Governors.

“That’s been the most exciting thing. Going in, I didn’t know how much I would be able to do as a youth member, but the rest of the members of the board have given me so much opportunity to have a real say.”

Carman’s dedication to her sport is a big reason why she’s earned such a prominent role in the USPC. After spending two years on the Hollins riding team, she decided to concentrate on three-day event riding, or eventing, one of the most demanding disciplines of equestrian competition. “Eventing is the triathlon of horse sports,” she explains. “The first day is dressage, where you ride a set of prescribed movements and are scored by a judge. The second day is cross-country, which is what eventing is best-known for – galloping over terrain and jumping natural or fixed obstacles. The final phase is show jumping, a course of stadium fences in an arena. It was originally designed as a test of discipline, bravery, and stamina for military horses.”

While Carman mostly competes during the summer months because of her academic responsibilities the rest of the year, training for eventing is a year-round job. “My horse is stabled about 15 minutes away from campus and we train six days a week. It’s an investment of time and financial resources, but it’s important for his fitness and my fitness.”

In addition, Carman has worked for international eventer and Pan American Games Gold Medalist Michael Pollard, and served as a groom for the U.S. eventing team during its trip to Holland during the fall of 2011.

Hollins’ Batten Leadership Institute has also had a profound influence. “I’ve always been classified as the leader, the Type A personality who took over group projects,” Carman notes. She admits to having been “a little dubious” at the outset about what the program could teach her. However, as a result of Batten, she says she has discovered the tremendous value in playing a supportive role. “I’ve learned to delegate, trust, and support others and realize that I don’t have to do everything, to look at a situation and not take over. It’s important to balance those things.”

One of the approaches Carman says she has learned in Batten that is helping her meet her responsibilities within the USPC is taking a “balcony perspective” when performing her board work. “It’s stepping back and saying, ‘What’s happening here?’ That’s fairly easy to do in the classroom but much harder when you’re in a situation with real results on the line. But just having the awareness of needing to look at the overall picture is really important. You have to look at how the board itself is functioning and what you need to change to get the results you want, rather than just focusing on the results themselves. Batten has helped me to prioritize and put the focus on the process rather than the product.”

While deeply committed to equestrian competition, the USPC, and the Batten Leadership Institute, Carman has still found time to serve at Hollins on the Senior Legacy Committee, the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, and in the Office of Admission. She also enjoyed what she calls a “life-changing” adventure, studying abroad her junior year in London and interning with the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management. The trip culminated with a solo trip to Scotland, where she hiked to the top of Arthur’s Seat, a dormant volcano that’s the highest point in Edinburgh. “It was the most liberating experience of my life. It’s given me a whole new perspective on who I want to be and where I want to go from here.”

Carman is now applying to architecture schools with the hope of embarking on a career in sustainable architecture. The encouragement she has received at Hollins has given her every confidence she will succeed.

“When I went to Holland last year, it was very short notice, just 48 hours, and it ended up I was gone eight days during midterms,” she recalls. “But my teachers, they knew me, they knew I could catch up, and they were so supportive. That’s the thing I love the most about Hollins, everyone wants to make it work. I could not do everything I do if I wasn’t at Hollins.”


Multiple Honors Propel Hollins into Spotlight at Region’s Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival

bellocq'sA Hollins Theatre original production, two of the university’s student playwrights, and three Hollins student actors have been recognized by the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF), a national theatre program dedicated to improving the quality of college theatre in the United States.

Hollins Theatre’s staging of Natasha Trethewey’s Bellocq’s Ophelia is one of five full productions from the southeastern United States chosen for performance at the Region IV KCACTF, which takes place February 5 – 9 at Darton College in Albany, Georgia. One of the productions will be selected to represent the region and compete for the top prize at the 45th annual national KCACTF in Washington, D.C., in April.

Bellocq’s Ophelia is based on the book of poetry by Trethewey, a 1991 graduate of Hollins’ master of arts program in English and creative writing, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for poetry, and the current Poet Laureate of the United States. Adapted by Associate Professor of Theatre Ernest Zulia, Associate Professor of English T.J. Anderson III, and Lexie Martin Mondot, a member of Hollins’ class of 2012, the play premiered at Hollins Theatre last February and was presented as a concert reading at The Kennedy Center’s 11th annual Page to Stage Festival of New Play Readings in September.

In addition, the KCACTF’s Region IV awarded its top playwriting honor to Meredith Dayna Levy, who graduated from Hollins last spring. Levy was recognized for her drama, Decision Height, which Hollins Theatre originally staged in October. The play will be presented as a concert reading at the Region IV KCACTF and as a full production at the festival in 2014. Decision Height has also been nominated for two major national prizes to be awarded at The Kennedy Center in April.

Kevin Ferguson, who along with Levy is currently a graduate student in the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University, had two of his original scripts selected for the regional festival as part of the Region IV National Playwriting Program. Follies a Deux and Losing Sight were chosen for the Ten-Minute Play and One-Act Play categories, respectively. Both will be presented in staged readings and will compete for the top prize for Short Plays at the national KCACTF this spring.

“Naturally, all of us in the theatre department are proud and excited to have our work receive such validation,” said Zulia. “It’s highly unusual that one university should win so many honors. As the Region IV chairman said, ‘It sort of looks like it’s going to be an all-Hollins festival!’”

Zulia also announced that three Hollins students, seniors Kaitlin Heath and Maria Latiolais and sophomore Russell Wilson, have been nominated to compete for the national Irene Ryan Acting Scholarships, which provide recognition, honor, and financial assistance to outstanding student performers wishing to pursue further education. Approximately 400 students vie for this prestigious acting award.

“This could not have come at a better time,” Zulia stated. “We now have fantastic, newly renovated facilities, and have earned a strong reputation for excellent productions, so we are poised to take the next steps to make Hollins a place where students want to come specifically to study theatre and playwriting on the undergraduate and graduate levels. This valuable recognition will definitely help advance the cause.”


Hollins Ranked Among the Nation’s “24 Colleges with the Best Professors”

dixonHollins University is among the country’s “25 Colleges with the Best Professors,” according to The Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP). Hollins also received this recognition in 2010.

The CCAP based its rankings on the evaluations found at RateMyProfessors.com. CBS Moneywatch reports, “The center generated its list by looking at the composite teaching scores that schools received via RateMyProfessors. The website has captured more than 15 million student ratings of college professors from schools across the country.”

Hollins is featured along with some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions, including the United States Military Academy, Carleton College, and Sewanee – The University of the South. In addition to Hollins, three other single-sex colleges are on the list (Wellesley College, Bryn Mawr College, and Wabash College). “Single-sex colleges routinely get high marks from their graduates,” CBS Moneywatch notes.

The complete list can be found here.

Founded in 2006 and based in Washington, D.C., the CCAP is an independent, not-for-profit research center that helps produce the annual college rankings for Forbes magazine.


Will Shutt MFA ’09 Receives Starred Review in Publisher’s Weekly

schuttPoet Will Schutt, who earned his MFA in creative writing from Hollins University in 2009 and went on to win the prestigious Yale Series of Younger Poets competition last year, has received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly for his first collection of poetry, Westerly, published by Yale University Press.

Publisher’s Weekly is widely considered to be “the bible of the book business” and publishes approximately 8,000 pre-publication book reviews each year.

The review of Westerly notes, “The latest winner of the venerable Yale Younger Poets Prize turns out to be terse, well-traveled, resolutely unfashionable, and, finally, wise,” and concludes, “everything in [Westerly] heralds a seriously important career.”

Schutt’s poems and translations appear in Agni, FIELD, Harvard Review, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. He has also received awards from the Academy of American Poets, the Stadler Center for Poetry, and the James Merrill House.


Hollins Named to 2013 Presidential Honor Roll for Community Service

honorFor the sixth time, Hollins University has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). By recognizing institutions that achieve meaningful, measureable outcomes in the communities they serve, the program annually highlights the role colleges and universities play in solving community problems and placing more students on a lifelong path of civic engagement.

The CNCS has administered the award since 2006. In addition to this year, Hollins was recognized in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012. (The President’s Honor Roll was not produced in 2011.)

“Communities are strengthened when we all come together, and we are encouraged that these institutions and their students have made service a priority,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Civic engagement should be a key component of every student’s education experience. Through reaching out to meet the needs of their neighbors, these students are deepening their impact, strengthening our democracy, and ultimately preparing themselves to be successful citizens.”

College students make a significant contribution to their communities through volunteering and service, according to the most recent Volunteering and Civic Life in America report. In 2012, 3.1 million college students dedicated more than 118 million hours of service across the country – a contribution valued at $2.5 billion.

Hollins offers students a number of ways to get actively involved with community service. For example, the annual Day of Service helps new students connect with the Roanoke Valley during their first week on campus. Students Helping Achieve Rewarding Experiences (SHARE) recruits and places student volunteers with a variety of community agencies and organizations. Sandusky Service House is a campus residence hall where students are required to perform at least ten hours of volunteer work each month and promote service activities on campus and in the community. And, for more than 20 years, the Jamaica Service Project has invited students to spend Spring Break helping an impoverished community in the island nation.

The CNCS is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, the Social Innovation Fund, and Volunteer Generation Fund, and leads President Obama’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve.

 


Kennedy Center Bestows National Recognition to Hollins Theatre, Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University

bellocq'sThe Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) honored a Hollins Theatre original production and two of the university’s student playwrights with national awards as part of its annual recognition of outstanding theatrical work by colleges and universities across the country.

Hollins Theatre’s staging of Natasha Trethewey’s Bellocq’s Ophelia received the equivalent of four silver medals, including “Distinguished Production of a New Work,” “Distinguished Performance and Production Ensemble,” “Distinguished Scenic Design,” and “Distinguished Choreography.” Bellocq’s Ophelia is based on the book of poetry by Trethewey, a 1991 graduate of Hollins’ master of arts program in English and creative writing, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for poetry, and the current Poet Laureate of the United States. Adapted by Associate Professor of Theatre Ernest Zulia, Associate Professor of English T.J. Anderson III, and Lexie Martin Mondot, a member of Hollins’ class of 2012, the play debuted at Hollins Theatre in February 2012. It was subsequently one of five full productions from the southeastern United States chosen for performance at the Region IV KCACTF, which was held in February of this year in Georgia.

Meredith Levy, who graduated from Hollins in 2012 and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University, won the National Partners of the American Theatre Playwriting Award, considered a gold medal, as well as the regional David Shelton Award for her original script, Decision Height, which premiered at Hollins Theatre last October.  The play was presented as a concert reading at this year’s Region IV KCACTF and will be staged as a full production at the festival in 2014.

Another graduate student in the Playwright’s Lab, Kevin Ferguson, was honored as a National Finalist for The John Cauble Award for Outstanding Short Play for his script, Losing Sight.

The awards will be officially presented at the national Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, which takes place April 17 – 20 in Washington, D.C.


Hollins Endowment Rises Despite Downward Swing Nationally

campusHollins University saw the value of its endowment grow over the past fiscal year in defiance of a declining trend overall among colleges and universities nationwide.

Hollins’ endowment rose 1.1 percent during the 2011-12 fiscal year from $152.7 million on July 1, 2011, to $154.4 million on June 30, 2012. As of December 31, 2012, Hollins’ endowment stood at $163.5 million.

The National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) – Commonfund Study of Endowments gathered data from 831 U.S. colleges and universities and found that their endowments generated an average return of  -0.3 percent for FY2012.

Hollins’ endowment has enjoyed robust gains in recent years despite the challenges presented by the country’s economic downturn in 2008. The university’s endowment ranked among the nation’s strongest in weathering the recession, and was by far the most important priority of the Campaign for Women Who Are Going Places, the largest comprehensive fundraising campaign in Hollins’ history, which began in 2002 (when the endowment stood at $85 million) and concluded in 2010 (with the endowment valued at $145 million).


Graduate Student’s Work Is Showcased at International Film Festival

susieA new film featuring the behind-the-camera talents of a student in the MFA program in screenwriting and film studies at Hollins will have its world premiere this month at the RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Susie’s Hope, co-written and produced by Dan A.R. Kelly, will be screened on Saturday, April 13 at 1 p.m. at the UNCSA Main Theater and on Tuesday, April 16 at 3 p.m. at the Hanesbrands Theater.

The film follows the true story of Donna and Susie Lawrence, the inspiration behind the passage of Susie’s Law, which stiffened the penalties for animal abuse in North Carolina. After surviving a pit bull attack, Donna adopts an abandoned pit bull mix, Susie, who suffered severe abuse at the hands of her former owner. Donna sees many parallels between the two as their wounds heal. With Susie by her side, Donna starts a grassroots campaign to change penalties for animal abusers in North Carolina. Susie’s Law was passed in 2010 by Governor Bev Purdue, who insisted Susie sign it with her paw print.

“When I first got in touch with Donna, I knew I had to help her tell her story,” said Kelly, who is creative director for Walk in the Park Pictures, a North Carolina-based production company. “Besides being very dramatic, the story hits close to home. Literally and figuratively – I remember when Susie’s Law passed and how our state pulled together over the issue. In fact, 23 of the 26 actors and 85 percent of our crew are North Carolina natives.”

Susie’s Hope stars Emmanuelle Vaugier, who has appeared in such television series as Lost Girl, The Mentalist, CSI:NY, and the Hallmark Channel movie, It’s Christmas, Carol! The film was shot during May 2012 in Winston-Salem and surrounding areas.

Kelly earned his BFA from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts for Film Directing in 2001. He has won awards and recognition from the Cannes International Film Festival, the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival, the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, and others. His career as an actor has included lead roles in many films, television programs, and commercials. He has also worked in film and television as an assistant director, casting associate, script supervisor, and editor.

 


Poole Takes Fourth in Open Equitation Over Fences at IHSA Nationals

pooleEmma Lane Poole ’13 captured fourth place today in Open Equitation Over Fences (Individual) at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) National Championships, under way at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg.

In addition to Hollins, riders from Skidmore College, Penn State University, Mount Holyoke College, Savannah College of Art and Design, Boston University, Miami University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and St. Andrews University competed in this category, which was won by Julia Mazzarella of Skidmore.

Poole qualified for IHSA Nationals on April 6 at the IHSA Zone 4 Finals held at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, North Carolina.

Photo above (from left to right): Hollins Riding Center Associate Director Liz Courter; seven-time ODAC Coach of the Year Sandy Gerald; Emma Lane Poole ’13; and Riding Center Director Nancy Peterson at the IHSA Zone 4 Finals on April 6.