Hollins M.F.A. in Dance to Partner with The Forsythe Company, Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts

mfadanceBeginning in the summer of 2014, Hollins University’s master of fine arts (M.F.A.) program in dance will collaborate with one of the world’s leading dance companies and an internationally acclaimed German university of performing arts.

The M.F.A. program is partnering with renowned choreographer William Forsythe’s The Forsythe Company and the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts, both located in Frankfurt, Germany, to expand its students’ ability to engage with an international community.

“This new collaboration continues our history of innovative programming in research, education, and professional influence,” said Jeffery Bullock, program director. “We are committed to integrating our program with professional dance centers and metropolitan locations around the world.”

Hollins’ graduate program in dance offers a Year Residency Track, which is intended for recent graduates with an eye on the professional world of dance; a Low Residency – Two Summer Track, designed for mid-career artists, teachers, and dance professionals who must study in a limited time frame that accommodates their employment/performance schedule; and a Low Residency – Three Summer Track that serves emerging artists, teachers, and dance professionals. Previously, a course of European study was available only to students in the Year Residency Track, and the new alliances will enable Hollins to expand this experience to all students: They will spend five weeks on the Hollins campus and three weeks in Frankfurt.

Christopher Roman, former principal dancer with The Forsythe Company, will serve as the European study coordinator and will curate the three-week dance study and experience. He is a winner of the Faust Theatre Prize, Germany’s highest theatre honor, and has been a soloist and principal with ballet companies in Seattle, Miami, Montreal, and Philadelphia.

Ingo Diehl, professor and director of the contemporary dance program at the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts, will also work closely with the M.F.A. program.

“Using the resources of multiple institutions, our students and faculty are able to establish a unique community of committed artists and scholars who range in ages and experiences and are working to sustain their careers and deepen their relationship to dance,” Bullock said. “We are providing students with a wide range of opportunities and mentorships as well as exposure to other practitioners in the international dance field.”


Hollins Professor Infuses Medicine with Art at Virginia Tech Carilion Mini Medical

carilionJennifer Anderson, an assistant professor of art at Hollins University, is lending her expertise to a community outreach initiative sponsored by the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine: the institution’s first mini medical school.

The four-part event, “Anatomy for Artists and Other Curious Sorts,” is part of a series designed to engage area residents with the medical school by providing educational offerings “with a slight twist,” said Dr. David Trinkle, the school’s associate dean of community and culture and a Carilion Clinic physician, in a news release. “We won’t be tackling standard health topics in a standard way. With this first one, for example, we’ll be adding an artistic component. Participants who want to translate what they’re learning into art will be able to do so.

“The only prerequisites are a curious mind and a willing spirit.”

Anderson is the sole art professor taking part in the inaugural mini medical school and the only presenter not affiliated with the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute. She will discuss “The Human Form Through the History of Art” at the event’s second program on Tuesday, March 25. Artists from Hollins are participating in all four interactive sessions to provide mentorship in drawing.

“We want everyone to know we’re more than an isolated, self-contained school teaching future doctors,” Trinkle said. “We’re also here to serve this community.”


Hollins Celebrates Founder’s Day, ‘All-Steinway School’ Designation

foundersHollins University’s official recognition as an “All-Steinway School,” along with performances by Hollins students and faculty and a concert by an internationally acclaimed pianist, highlighted this year’s commemoration of Founder’s Day on February 20.

Founder’s Day celebrates the birth of Charles Lewis Cocke, who served as president of Hollins from 1846 until his death in 1901. Even though Cocke came to Hollins after its establishment in 1842, he is considered the school’s founder because the institution would not have survived without his leadership during financial crises, disease epidemics, the Civil War, and other challenges.

Each year, Founder’s Day begins with members of the senior class processing to the Cocke Family Cemetery, located on the southeast end of campus, and placing a wreath on Mr. Cocke’s grave. The senior class traditionally chooses a member of the campus community to accompany them to the cemetery, and the class of 2014 selected Associate Professor of English Julie Pfeiffer for the honor this year.

That afternoon, the annual Founder’s Day convocation in duPont Chapel showcased the musical talents of a number of Hollins students, including soloists Liz Valvano ’15 (bassoon), Birdie Trotter ’15 (flute), Jessica Newberne ’14 (piano), and Naomi Fukuda ’15 (piano), and the Hollins University Concert Choir.

Professor of Music Judith Cline delivered the Founder’s Day address and talked about Hollins’ ten-year initiative to meet the criteria of Steinway & Sons, the world’s foremost piano maker, to become an ”All-Steinway School.” The status reflects Hollins’ commitment to excellence by providing students, faculty, and guest artists with the best equipment possible for the study and performance of music. Worldwide, just over 160 conservatories, colleges and universities, and other schools of distinction have earned this designation.  Cline, a soprano, paid tribute to the founder of Steinway & Sons, Henry Steinway, with a rendition of Richard Strauss’s “Morgen!”

Associate Professor of English T.J. Anderson III also recognized Hollins’ All-Steinway designation at the convocation, performing his jazz poem, ”Prelude to a Kiss,” in dedication.

During her remarks, Hollins President Nancy Gray announced more celebratory news. The university is launching a new honors program in Fall 2014 that is fully endowed thanks to a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor. She also congratulated the Hollins student team that this month won the 15th annual statewide collegiate Wells Fargo Ethics Bowl. Tom Barron, chair of the Hollins Board of Trustees,  joined Gray in saluting the university’s physical plant staff with a citation recognizing their exceptional work to ensure the campus remained safe and accessible during the recent winter storm that brought 19 inches of snow to the Roanoke Valley.

Two individual members of the campus community were also honored at the convocation. Cline received the Herta Freitag Faculty Legacy Award, presented to a member of the faculty whose recent scholarly and creative accomplishments reflect the extraordinary academic standards set by Freitag, who served as professor of mathematics at Hollins from 1948 to 1971. The Roberta A. Stewart Service Award, granted each Founder’s Day to a Hollins employee who demonstrates long-term service, loyalty to the university, and deep caring for students and colleagues, was presented to Elise Roschen, assistant to the director at the Hollins Riding Center.

Founder’s Day activities concluded that evening with a special concert by pianist Alexander Schimpf, winner of the 2011 Cleveland International Piano Competition. Prior to his performance, Steinway & Sons representatives from New York City and Washington, D.C., officially presented the “All-Steinway School” plaque to Gray, Barron, and Cline (pictured above from left to right). Hollins  joins George Mason University, James Madison University, Radford University, and Episcopal High School in Alexandria as Virginia’s only “All-Steinway Schools.”

Founder’s Day has been commemorated at Hollins since 1898.


Michael Gettings on Healing Political and Cultural Divisions

haidtThe public is understandably weary of partisan demagoguery.  Virginia’s gubernatorial race was on the national stage this season, and the choice voters faced was framed in the familiar rhetoric of Republican vs. Democrat, Liberal vs. Conservative, Right vs. Left.  The effects of such political divisions are far-reaching, as last month’s congressional gridlock and subsequent government shutdown made all too clear.  The divisions we face aren’t merely political, either.  The so-called “culture wars” pit science against religion, the educated elite against the working class, the 99% against the 1%.  All of these divisions work to make consensus-building increasingly difficult.

Interestingly, one response to this polarization is coming from the field of social psychology.  In the past twenty years, researchers have come to learn quite a lot about how human beings respond to partisan issues.  It turns out that it is exceedingly rare that any of us responds to good reasoning.  Instead, we are primarily social and emotional creatures when it comes to the issues that divide us.  Faced with a tough issue like immigration reform, our positions are almost entirely determined by the thinking of our social ingroup and by how we emotionally respond to the issue.  Reasoned argument plays almost no role in our decision-making.

The renowned social psychologist Jonathan Haidt likens the situation to a rider atop an elephant.  Our rational minds can do little to steer the social and emotional behemoth underneath, and at best reason serves to carry out the aims already decided upon by our emotions.  The situation was described almost three centuries ago by the philosopher David Hume this way:  “Reason is, and ought only to be, slave of the passions.”

This might appear to be a pessimistic conclusion, but Haidt sees a path out.  In his bestselling recent book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (Vintage, 2012), Haidt describes his own research into the moral foundations of our thinking.  Looking at studies conducted over more than a decade and involving hundreds of thousands of test subjects, he and his colleagues have concluded that differences in how we think about moral values are at the heart of our divisions around politics and religion.  They identify five distinct dimensions of moral thinking, and political and cultural divisiveness over just about any issue can be understood in terms of how the various sides in a debate frame the issues in terms of different moral dimensions.

For example, liberals tend to frame almost all issues in terms of one dimension:  care and harm.  This dimension of moral thinking puts right and wrong in terms of our duties to care for others, particularly those who are worse off than ourselves, and frames public policy questions in terms of who might be benefitted or harmed.  To a lesser degree, liberals consider fairness and cheating important to our moral evaluations, and conservatives also think about morality in these terms, as well as about care and harm.  Unlike liberals, however, conservatives also tend to think in terms of loyalty and betrayal, and authority and subversion.  The loyalty/betrayal dimension places high value on positively contributing to one’s in-group and defending that group from outside threats, whereas the authority/subversion dimension considers respect for those in authority an important value.  Likewise, the sanctity/degradation dimension plays a role in the thinking of religious conservatives, in particular.  This dimension considers some bodily actions as “polluting” and places value on cleanliness and purity, especially as defined by religious precepts.

If ideological divides result in part from our different ways of thinking about moral values, where is the path out?  Haidt has some recommendations.  Those in the Roanoke area had a great opportunity to hear Haidt give a free public lecture at Hollins on November 4.  The core of his recommendation is this:  we need to surround ourselves with people who think differently than us, learn to relate to them and understand them.  This changes the elephant’s course, since it allows for connections on a social and emotional level.   Members of Congress should do this, but the lesson applies to each of us, in our daily lives, at work, at home, in our communities.  The goal isn’t consensus and agreement, but respect and understanding.  Whatever the outcome of any election, that will go a long way towards healing our divisions.


Hollins Launches Nation’s First Graduate Degree in Children’s Book Writing and Illustrating

bear In the summer of 2014, Hollins University is introducing a graduate degree in children’s book writing and illustrating, the first such program of its kind in the country.

An addition to Hollins’ summer Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) programs in the study and writing of children’s literature, and the university’s Certificate in Children’s Book Illustration, the new M.F.A. will enable students who want to both write and illustrate children’s books to earn a master’s degree with concentrated training in both disciplines.

“This degree represents a marriage of courses offered through the M.F.A. in children’s literature and the illustration courses offered for the Certificate in Children’s Book Illustration,” explained Ruth Sanderson, program co-director. “The program will run concurrently and in collaboration with those courses.”

Sanderson, who has illustrated more than 80 published children’s books since 1975, added that students will be required to complete 60 credits over a period of four to five summers.

“The programs offer a uniquely diverse community including faculty drawn from the ranks of leading writers, artists and scholars from the field of children’s literature,” she said. “Visits from a nationally known writer-in-residence and an exceptional array of speakers are featured, and there will also be an opportunity to take part in the annual student-organized Francelia Butler Conference on Children’s Literature.”

In their final semester, students will receive a review of their portfolio and personal feedback from an art director in a major New York publishing house.

“Hollins is the first school to establish this much-needed degree for people who want to both write and illustrate children’s books,” Sanderson noted.

The inaugural summer term for the M.F.A. in children’s book writing and illustrating will be held at Hollins starting June 23 and continuing through August 1, 2014. For more information, visit http://www.hollins.edu/grad/cbw/.

(Image above by Ashley Wolff, faculty member)


Hollins Students to Debate “Ethics and Health Care” at VFIC Ethics Bowl

vficFour Hollins University students are participating in The Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges’ (VFIC) 15th annual statewide collegiate Wells Fargo Ethics Bowl, February 9-10, at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va.

Hollins will compete head-to-head against other student teams from Virginia’s independent colleges and universities, debating a variety of case studies highlighting ethical dilemmas.The team’s faculty coordinator is Associate Professor of Philosophy James Downey.

Many notable personalities from business, law, education, finance, journalism, and other fields will listen to team presentations and offer reactions.

The Ethics Bowl will commence with an opening session on Sunday, Feburary 9, at 2:30 p.m. at Randolph-Macon College’s Blackwell Auditorium, with the first matches scheduled for for 3:30 p.m. in the Brock Commons and Estes Dining Hall. On Monday, February 10, rounds three and four will begin at 8:30 a.m. The final round of competition will take place at 11 a.m. in Blackwell Auditorium. Admission to the match sessions is free and open to the public. The winning team will be announced at 12:15 p.m. on Monday.

Founded in 1952, the VFIC is a nonprofit fundraising partnership supporting the programs and students of 15 leading independent colleges and universities in the commonwealth. In addition to Hollins, VFIC members include Bridgewater College, Emory & Henry College, Hampden-Sydney College, Lynchburg College, Mary Baldwin College, Marymount University, Randolph College, Randolph-Macon College, Roanoke College, Shenandoah University, Sweet Briar College, University of Richmond, Virginia Wesleyan College, and Washington and Lee University.


Hollins Captures Wells Fargo Ethics Bowl Title

vficA student team from Hollins University has won the 15th annual statewide collegiate Wells Fargo Ethics Bowl, held February 9-10 at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland.

The event is sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC).

Hollins competed head-to-head against other student teams from Virginia’s independent colleges and universities, debating a variety of case studies highlighting ethical dilemmas. The theme of this year’s event was “Ethics and Health Care.” Many notable personalities from business, law, education, finance, journalism, and other fields listened to team presentations and offered reactions.

Team members from Hollins included Morgan Blalock ’16,  Madchen Specht ’16, and Rory Keeley ’17. Associate Professor of Philosophy James Downey served as faculty coordinator.

Hollins first won three of its four Commonwealth Division matches, beating Washington and Lee University, Sweet Briar College, and Lynchburg College (the team’s lone loss was to Randolph College). Hollins and Sweet Briar shared 3-1 records to lead their division, but Hollins was awarded the tie-breaker for the division title as a result of defeating Sweet Briar head-to-head.

In the Ethics Bowl final, Hollins earned victory against Cardinal Division winner Bridgewater College. “Our team chose to defend a more difficult position that was probably not the one most people would agree with,” said Downey, “but they did a great  job of arguing that view and their presentation was sharp. The  judges clearly saw that.”

He added, “None of our team members had been to the Ethics Bowl before, and none were juniors or seniors. I am very proud of our Bowlers.”

Founded in 1952, the VFIC is a nonprofit fundraising partnership supporting the programs and students of 15 leading independent colleges and universities in the commonwealth. In addition to Hollins, VFIC members include Bridgewater College, Emory & Henry College, Hampden-Sydney College, Lynchburg College, Mary Baldwin College, Marymount University, Randolph College, Randolph-Macon College, Roanoke College, Shenandoah University, Sweet Briar College, University of Richmond, Virginia Wesleyan College, and Washington and Lee University.


French Embassy, The George Washington University Welcome Hollins to The Lafayette Debates

lafayetteTwo Hollins students were among ”the best and brightest student debaters”  at The Lafayette Debates, sponsored by the Embassy of France and The George Washington University, April 12 – 13 in Washington, D.C.

According to the event’s website, the debate tournament offers “an opportunity to engage with prominent international relations scholars and professionals on issues of political, social and cultural significance to citizens of not only the French Republic and the United States, but also the world.”

Hollins’ invitation to compete came on the heels of the university’s debate team winning the 15th annual statewide collegiate Wells Fargo Ethics Bowl, held in February at Randolph-Macon College.

“The executive who organizes The Lafayette Debates witnessed Hollins’ victory and was very impressed,” said Associate Professor of Philosophy James Downey, who serves as the team’s faculty coordinator.

Madchen Specht ’16 and Rory Keeley ’17  represented Hollins at the event, which focuses on addressing issues of great importance to both the United States and France as a way to encourage discourse and interaction between the two nations. The featured topic at this year’s debates was the impact of globalization on culture and cultural industries. Specifically, the objectives of the international agreement on cultural preservation, the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, were researched and debated by college and university students from both countries.

Hollins faced the United States Military Academy in the first round, and then defeated Hampden-Sydney College in the “Rivals Round” that pitted rival schools against one another (other matches in the round included Harvard-Yale and Army-Navy).  In subsequent rounds, Hollins took on Wake Forest and NYU.

Downey, Specht, and Keeley attended a reception hosted by the French Embassy on Saturday evening, April 12. “The Honorable Monsieur Francois Delatttre, France’s ambassador to the United States, spoke elegantly about  the history of France-U.S. relations,” Downey said. He added that Hollins will receive a letter of commendation from the French Embassy for participating in this year’s event.

”It was a wonderful experience for Hollins, and we are hoping it will turn into a permanent invitation to each year’s Lafayette Debates.”

The Lafayette Debates website states that “now, more than ever, a vigorous and respectful transatlantic dialogue is of the utmost importance not only to the citizens of the French Republic and the United States, but also the world.” The event traces its roots back to 1822, when The George Washington University debate team was founded as “The Enosinian Society.” Two years later, General Lafayette of France was received by the society, and George Washington Lafayette, his son, took part in a debate with society members. The Lafayettes were subsequently installed as honorary members and a bust of General Lafayette was placed in Enosinian Hall. To commemorate the occasion, a series called The Lafayette Debates was held. The event was recently revived by the French Embassy and The George Washington University.


New Honors Program Fosters Teamwork, Initiative

honorsTalented and motivated first- and second-year students at Hollins University who want to work extensively on interdisciplinary and collaborative projects of their own design now have that opportunity through the school’s new honors program, which launches in Fall Term 2014.

“We are thrilled to offer this program to our current and prospective students,” said Hollins President Nancy Gray. “It gives them the chance to explore special topics of interest through original work and encourages them to apply critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills beyond other curricular opportunities at Hollins.”

The honors program consists of a four-semester sequence of two-credit interdisciplinary seminars in which students join a small group of fellow scholars. First-year students work closely with two faculty members to identify engaging group projects and then plan, execute, communicate, and present results from those initiatives.

During their second year, students focus on individual projects while continuing to actively partner with faculty.

“I’m really looking forward to participating in the start of this program,” said Professor of Art Robert Sulkin, who co-directs the program with Associate Professor of Classical Studies Tina Salowey. “The opportunity to work with talented students and a valued colleague is the primary attraction and I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to design seminars that extend beyond traditional academic boundaries.”

“The timing is perfect for the introduction of this innovative honors program at Hollins,” added Salowey. “Experiential learning, student-driven research, and academic collaboration have long been a part of Hollins’ Short Term and First-Year Seminar programs. It will be a pleasure working with my art colleague to offer these experiences to a group of motivated students early in their Hollins careers with a focus on developing big ideas that will make a difference.”


Tinker Mountain Writers’ Workshop/Online Introduces New Eight-Week Session

tinkermtnHollins University’s Tinker Mountain Writers’ Workshop/Online (TMWW/O) is returning this fall with three new eight-week workshops to help writers of all abilities grow their craft through online learning.

TMWW/O’s Fall 2014 session takes place September 29 – November 22. It features noncredit workshops in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction that are designed for writers eager to produce new work on a flexible schedule. The workshops are taught by published professionals who are all graduates of Hollins’ nationally recognized creative writing program.

Program Director Luke Johnson is excited about the changes TMWW/O is introducing with the fall session and their benefit to enrollees.

“We’ve reduced the duration of the workshops from ten weeks to eight based on feedback we received from our community of writers,” he explains. “We’ve also reduced the cost of the workshops from $750 to $500.”

Johnson adds that the workshops have been restructured to further enable participants to enjoy “lively conversation and immediate feedback.” He notes that enrollment for each workshop will continue to be limited to 15 students to ensure students can fully engage with faculty and fellow writers.

TMWW/O will offer the following workshops this fall:

  • Making Poems. Writing new poems is the goal of this workshop taught by Will Schutt, winner of the prestigious Yale Series of Younger Poets award. It will include formal writing exercises. Students will have ample opportunity to share and discuss their writing with their peers, and address questions of craft with the instructor. Participants will also read and consider works by contemporary American poets.
  • Writing Your Life: Creative Nonfiction. Students will read the writing of acclaimed creative nonfiction writers such as Annie Dillard and produce their own personal narratives. Participants will discover their own writing and each other’s while fostering a community centered on careful observation, critical encouragement, and crafting compelling stories. This workshop is taught by Luke Johnson, TMWW/O program director and author of the 2011 poetry collection, After the Ark.
  • Forays in Storytelling: Elements of Short Fiction. Part reading, part writing, and all investigation, this workshop will explore what makes a good story. Led by Michael Overa, who has taught writing throughout the Seattle area and whose work has appeared in the Portland Review, Quiet, Pindeldyboz and the Denver Syntax, among others, Forays in Storytelling will challenge students to write and discuss original short fiction beyond their self-imposed boundaries.

“By connecting writers across the country,” Johnson says, “we hope to allow the writing and sharing of creative work to continue well after each session has ended. With an emphasis on voice, form, and metaphor, our goal is to help you become a better writer.”

The deadline for registering for the TMWW/O Fall 2014 session is September 22.