Student Brings Advocacy to Va. Board for People with Disabilities

For some time, Alexus Smith ’19 has sought to foster greater awareness of the issues that people with disabilities face. Now, she will be taking her interest in activism to a statewide level, thanks to her appointment by Gov. Terry McAuliffe to the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities (VBPD).

 

Smith will serve a four-year term and will be eligible for reappointment.

“The board works for the benefit of individuals with DD (developmental disabilities) and their families to identify needs and help develop policies, programs, and services that will meet these needs in a manner that respects dignity and independence,” says VBPD Executive Director Heidi Lawyer. “A key aspect of our work is to advise the Governor, legislators, and government agencies on public policy issues as well as on how to develop programs and services for people with DD that will eliminate barriers to full inclusion in all facets of community life.”

Alexus Smith '19
“Advocacy is vital to disability culture and my life as a disabled woman.” – Alexus Smith ’19

“Advocacy is vital to disability culture and my life as a disabled woman,” says Smith, an English major from South Boston, Virginia. “The rights of my people will always be one of my many passions along with my love for English and literature. I hope I can use my degree and skills as part of my advocacy work.”

Smith’s journey to VBPD membership began in 2013. “I was a student in the Youth Leadership Forum (YLF), a board-sponsored training program that focuses on post-high school transition, self-advocacy, goal setting, self-acceptance, and job-related skills such as resume writing,” she explains. As a YLF alumna, she was invited to apply this year for one of the openings on the board. Her application and others were reviewed by the director of the VBPD. Recommendations were then made to the Governor, who has the final say on appointments.

Smith wants to achieve a number of goals during her board membership. “I hope to gain a better understanding of disability policy so that I can advocate more effectively for the needs of people like myself. There are many factors that make up the lifestyles, access to resources, and emotional well-being of people with disabilities, and I want to address this issue.”

Smith adds that she plans to draw upon her experiences as a student, mentor, awareness event planner, and writer to introduce new ideas to the board. “Compassion, openness, a strong voice, and attention to detail are at the core of my leadership style and I am excited to bring those attributes forward to benefit the board’s mission.”


Alumna Successfully Fights for Bill to Combat Opioid Addiction

New Hampshire is one of many states across the nation that is desperately seeking ways to battle a burgeoning epidemic of drug addiction. Thanks in large measure to the advocacy of a licensed acupuncturist and Hollins alumna, treatment providers now have a powerful new tool in their arsenal.

Elizabeth Ropp ’99, who lives in Manchester and has been a practicing acupuncturist for 10 years, fought for passage of House Bill 575, which permits recovery and mental health professionals in New Hampshire to use ear acupuncture to treat addicts.

“That might sound strange, but it works,” Ropp wrote last March in an opinion piece for the Concord Monitor. “Acupuncture can be a safe, cheap and effective tool to help people in all stages of addiction recovery. It can help soothe the symptoms of withdrawal, reduce cravings, and ease anxiety or trauma that can lead people to use drugs in the first place.”

She concluded, “New Hampshire is first-in-the-nation for death by fentanyl overdose. This is a problem that touches all of us. We need to open up as many pathways to recovery as possible. We are all in this together, and together we can get through this.”

According to Ropp, HB 575 allows for both licensed and non-licensed addiction recovery and mental health workers to be trained and certified in ear acupuncture, “a simple procedure that involves placing five tiny needles in specific points around the outer ear. The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association has trained more than 10,000 health professionals across the country in this practice.”

Ropp and others effectively lobbied state senators and representatives from both political parties on the benefits of ear acupuncture and the steps necessary to make it affordable and eliminate unnecessary administrative costs. The bill became law on July 1.

“We could be trendsetters for the nation,” Ropp told the New Hampshire Union Leader in June. “With this bill, we have more flexibility, we have seen the mistakes other states have made in setting this up and learned from them.”

 

Photo Caption: Elizabeth Ropp ’99 (right) with New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu on the day House Bill 575 was passed into law.

 

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Hollins, Roanoke College Name Kendig Award Winners for 2017

The late John Sailer, the Grandin Theatre Foundation, and Judy and Joel Tenzer have been honored with this year’s Perry F. Kendig Arts and Culture Awards.

Co-sponsored by Hollins University and Roanoke College, the Kendig Awards program has recognized distinction in arts and culture in the Roanoke Valley for more than 30 years. Awards are presented in each of the following categories: Individual Artist, Arts and Cultural Organization, and Individual or Business Arts Supporter.

Sailer, who died in 2015, is this year’s Individual Artist award recipient. With an M.F.A. in scene and lighting design from the University of Oklahoma, he first came to Roanoke in 1981 to work at what was then called Mill Mountain Playhouse. Sailer soon became the “go to” set and lighting designer in the Roanoke Valley, mounting sets for Mill Mountain Theatre, Opera Roanoke, Hollins University, Roanoke Ballet Theatre, Patrick Henry High School, Opera on the James, and others. Ernie Zulia, director of the Hollins Theatre Institute, said of Sailer, “He had an imagination that could create a world for a play that was not only beautiful but dynamic. He had a real gift.” Sailer’s wife Rachel accepted the award on his behalf.

The Grandin Theatre Foundation received the Kendig Award in the Arts and Cultural Organization category.  In addition to its role as a neighborhood economic and cultural anchor offering a movie theatre, art gallery, and gathering place, the Grandin has been successful in supporting educational outreach within the community at large. Over 20 schools attended programs at the Grandin last year, and the facility has collaborated with local organizations and non-profits to present films that stimulate conversation on important issues. The newest educational outreach program is the Grandin Theatre Film Lab, an after school program for high school students interested in the cinematic arts who want to learn the process of filmmaking from screenwriting to production to editing.

The Kendig Award in the Individual or Business Arts Supporter category was presented to Judy and Joel Tenzer. For more than four decades, the Tenzers have distinguished themselves with their devotion to and patronage of the arts in the Roanoke Valley. They have served on the boards of such organizations as the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, the Taubman Museum of Art, the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge, and Mill Mountain Theatre. “They have built relationships and networks of people to join them in collecting art, attending performances, and supporting cultural organizations,” said Roanoke College President Mike Maxey. “The Tenzers are leading by example and their long-standing commitment has truly enhanced the quality of life in our region.”

Named for the late Perry F. Kendig, who served as president of Roanoke College and was an avid supporter and patron of the arts, the Kendig Awards program was established in 1985 and presented annually by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge through 2012. Hollins and Roanoke College first partnered the following year to bestow the honors, and congratulate the 2017 winners.

 


Hollins, Roanoke College Welcome Nominations for the 2017 Perry F. Kendig Awards

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2017 Perry F. Kendig Arts and Culture Awards, which recognize individuals, businesses, and organizations in the Roanoke Valley that provide exemplary leadership in or support for the arts.

The deadline for nominations is Friday, July 28. Nomination forms and other information are available at https://kendig.press.hollins.edu/.

Hollins University and Roanoke College have cosponsored the awards since 2013. Roanoke College will host the 2017 Kendig Awards presentation on Thursday, September 28, 5:30 p.m. in Olin Hall Galleries.

Three Kendig Awards will be presented this year, one in each of the following categories:

  • Individual Artist (in all disciplines – dance, literature, music, media arts, visual arts, and theatre)
  • Arts and/or Cultural Organization
  • Individual or Business Supporter

Individuals, businesses, and organizations from the Roanoke region (which includes the counties of Botetourt, Franklin, and Roanoke, the cities of Roanoke and Salem, and the town of Vinton) are eligible, as are past Kendig Award recipients from 1985 – 2012.

Named for the late Perry F. Kendig, who served as president of Roanoke College and was an avid supporter and patron of the arts, the awards were presented by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge for 27 years.


First-Year Student Is Crowned Miss Teen Virginia United States

Monica Osborne ’20 will be advocating for locally sourced food and the importance of good childhood nutrition as the new Miss Teen Virginia United States.

Osborne, who hails from Independence, Virginia, won the crown at Roanoke’s Dumas Center on April 8.

As part of her reign, Osborne will be promoting her platform, “Buy Local, Eat Local, Be Local.” She created the initiative in 2013 by partnering with area farmers and farmers markets in southwest Virginia.

“My parents are farmers so every day I see the value of supporting local agriculture and the local economy,” Osborne explains.

Among her duties as Miss Teen Virginia United States, Osborne says she is most looking forward to traveling across the commonwealth to visit elementary schools. “It’s very important to teach children early on in their lives how vital it is to make healthy eating choices.”

This July, Osborne will compete for the title of Miss Teen United States in Orlando, Florida.

 

Photo credit: Goodwin Photography

 

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Students, Faculty Give Flight to “Roanoke Wings” Art Installation

Hollins University students led by Associate Professor of Art Jennifer Anderson have constructed a new public art installation in downtown Roanoke.

“Roanoke Wings” is located in Market Square and features three sets of wings, each with their own unique design that ties into the history, charm, and people of Roanoke. The installation is free and accessible to anyone walking through downtown. Visitors will be invited to take pictures standing behind each Roanoke Wing and share them on social media with the hashtag #roanokewings. They are also encouraged to look closely and experience all that can be seen within these unique pieces of art.

“This project has been a crucial part of a public art class that I am teaching this semester,” Anderson said. “It’s given students the unique opportunity to create something that can be shared with the greater Roanoke community. Our goal was for the project to be colorful, engaging, and educational. And of course, we can’t wait to see the images that appear online.”

“Roanoke Wings” will remain on display through January 6, 2017, and is the result of a collaboration between Hollins, Downtown Roanoke, Inc., and the Roanoke Arts Commission. The installation is the first in a series of planned public art projects in downtown Roanoke.


Hollins Soccer Shares a Holiday Treat with RAMS Students

In what has become an annual tradition, the Hollins University soccer team recently led an afternoon of learning and fun with students at the Roanoke Academy for Math and Science (RAMS).

Head Coach Robin Ramirez and team members taught the fundamentals of soccer and played the game with the youngsters. After sharing a snack, players read to the students as part of their “Fun Friday.”

A statement on the RAMS webpage noted, “The willingness of [the] Hollins University soccer team, head coach, and RAMS staff to make this a reality is rewarding and inspiring for all those involved. We at Roanoke Academy for Math and Science truly appreciate the women’s team [taking] time to spend with our children. To connect with them in a variety of settings is a testament to [their] ability to become a source of inspiration and serve as role models.”

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Hollins Faculty Foster Empowerment at MEPI Student Leaders Institute

Their roles were very different. But, as part of the U.S. – Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) Student Leaders Institute this summer, communication studies professors Jill Weber and Vladimir Bratic shared a common goal: promoting peace through collaboration and an exchange of ideas.

Funded by the U.S. Department of State, MEPI offers support to groups and individuals seeking to bring positive change to the Middle East and North Africa. It’s designed to help the people of that region increase opportunity and enhance fundamental human rights. The Student Leaders program is one of MEPI’s signature projects, bringing roughly 120 undergraduate students each year from Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, and West Bank/Gaza to the United States for an intensive six-week program.

Up to six U.S. academic institutions annually host the Student Leaders program. One of them, the University of Delaware, asked Weber to serve as both the opening and closing speaker, and Bratic to draw from his expertise in media and peace for a lecture presentation.

“My discussions were about time management, project management, and practical skills I’m focusing on in the class I teach on communication and well-being,” Weber said. She noted that she is launching a new business whose foundation is empowerment and social activism, “and I was asked to talk about that because many of these students are involved in organizations with that edge of changing their society.”

Weber urged students to embrace “the growth mindset instead of the fixed mindset. The idea of a fixed mindset is, don’t take risks. ‘I am smart, I was born smart, and anything that potentially challenges that notion of myself is scary. Any attempt to change that is something I’m going to stand away from.’

“Someone with a growth mindset focuses more on progress and development. They believe that attitudes, skills, talents, abilities, etc., can change over time. Research tells us that people with a growth mindset get higher grades and have higher levels of achievement.”

Weber believes embodying the growth mindset dramatically enhanced her own experience. “I owned my ignorance in terms of understanding Islam and Muslim traditions. I became the student and they became the teachers and that was wonderful. I made that conscious effort to come in and say, ‘There’s a lot I don’t know, and I know I don’t know, so if I’m saying something wrong or if I have a misperception, let me know.’ This was not to put the responsibility on them to educate me, but rather to let them know that I was going to ask them questions that were going to seem totally stupid, and I was okay with that. I learned a lot. In fact, I don’t know who learned more from being there.”

While Weber’s approach was to enthuse, motivate, and “power them up,” Bratic challenged the students’ ideas “about their own societies and the role of peace there. There’s this conventional way of thinking that is usually taken for granted. Whenever I sense that, my teaching focuses on pulling the chair out from underneath that. You say something controversial to get a reaction.”

When Bratic suggested to the students that the United States Army could be an agent for peace, the students responded negatively. “They could not wrap their minds around that. They see the U.S. role in Iraq as a huge failure,” he recalled.

The stage was set for a thought-provoking debate. He went on to explain to the students that “once the U.S. Army occupied Iraq, it was in their best interest to have a very specific kind of peace, not one that is interested in justice, but one that stops violent outbreaks. In the literature this is known as ‘negative peace.’ It literally means ‘cease fire.’ It doesn’t take care of the underlying causes of conflict or right the wrongs, but it is a precondition.”

By the end of Bratic’s lecture, he said some of the students remained unmoved by his argument, but others understood that “you need to be able to open yourself to the possibility that there is another option, another answer. So my teaching is to probe, to keep your eyes open and say your learning is not finished.”

Weber said it has been gratifying to bring examples from the Student Leaders Institute back to the classroom at Hollins. “I’m able to say, ‘While we have the rhetoric that divides us and suggests that we are so different, when you start to chip away at that, you can really see our similarities. They’re passionate just like we’re passionate, and they’re students just like you’re students.’”


Hollins, Roanoke College Announce Perry F. Kendig Award Winners for 2016

Local arts advocate Ginger Poole, the Taubman Museum of Art, and the Roanoke Women’s Foundation have been honored with this year’s Perry F. Kendig Arts and Culture Awards.

The awards were presented during a ceremony at Hollins University on September 14.

Co-sponsored by Hollins University and Roanoke College, the Kendig Awards program has recognized distinction in arts and culture in the Roanoke Valley for more than 30 years. Awards are presented in each of the following categories: Individual Artist, Arts and Cultural Organization, and Individual or Business Arts Supporter.

Poole is this year’s Individual Artist award recipient. Her dedicated work as an actor, choreographer, director, educator, and collaborator has helped reinvent Mill Mountain Theatre and ensure its continued vibrancy as a professional regional theatre. She is also an active volunteer in her community through her service on the boards of the Burton Center of Performing Arts and the Virginia Commission of the Arts Review Panel.

The Taubman Museum of Art received the Kendig Award in the Arts and Cultural Organization category.  With a vision to “inspire new perspectives” and a mission to “bring people and art together for discovery, learning, and enjoyment,” the Taubman is “committed to exhibitions, programs, and experiences that inspire, enrich, and promote creativity in all walks of life and in business.” The Taubman has helped expand the rich culture of the Roanoke region through innovative use of exhibition spaces, collaborations with other nonprofits in the area, and an array of events and programming.

The Kendig Award in the Individual or Business Arts Supporter category was presented to the Roanoke Women’s Foundation. Over its first 11 years of philanthropy, the Foundation has granted nearly $2.5 million to arts and cultural organizations such as Mill Mountain Theatre, Roanoke Children’s Theatre, the Jefferson Center Music Lab, the Grandin Theatre Foundation, and WVTF Radio, among others. This funding has enabled these organizations to update equipment, expand programming, and improve outreach and availability of arts and cultural opportunities in the community.

Named for the late Perry F. Kendig, who served as president of Roanoke College and was an avid supporter and patron of the arts, the Kendig Awards program was established in 1985 and presented annually by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge through 2012. Hollins and Roanoke College first partnered the following year to bestow the honors, and congratulate the 2016 winners.


Hollins, Roanoke College Announce Perry F. Kendig Award Nominees

Fourteen artists and arts advocates are among the nominees for the 2016 Perry F. Kendig Arts and Culture Awards.

Co-sponsored by Hollins University and Roanoke College, the Kendig Awards program recognizes exemplary individuals, businesses, and organizations in the Roanoke Valley that support excellence in the arts.

This year’s winners will be announced at a special awards ceremony to be held at Hollins University on Wednesday, September 14, at 5:30 p.m.

Here are the nominees for the 2016 Kendig Awards (one award will be presented in each category):

Arts and Cultural Organization

  • Science Museum of Western Virginia
    The museum has dedicated itself to making science and technology more accessible, igniting life-long learning, and engaging in community outreach.
  • Taubman Museum of Art
    The Taubman is a vibrant fine arts museum that attracts diverse audiences and provides exceptional visitor experiences.
  • Attic Theatre
    The theatre is recognized for its family-friendly programming and pricing, community value-oriented mission, and an annual showcase of five productions each year.
  • Fleda A. Ring Artworks
    Ring strives to bring people of various backgrounds together and features innovative, curated exhibitions of new local work.

 Individual Artist

  • Ed Bordett
    Bordett has been a staple of the arts in the Roanoke Valley through his work establishing the Roanoke City Open Studio tour and a studio tour in Botetourt County.
  • Ginger Poole
    Poole’s work as an actor, choreographer, director, educator, and collaborator have helped reinvent Mill Mountain Theatre, and ensured its continued vibrancy as a professional regional theatre.
  • Eric Fitzpatrick
    Fitzpatrick is renowned for his work as a painter, sculptor, lecturer, supporter, and leader of the arts in the Roanoke Valley.
  • Beth Macy and Tom Landon
    Through written and visual works of storytelling, Macy and Landon have brought cultural awareness to the community, both individually and together.
  • Richard Cummins
    Cummins served with distinction for 37 years as the organist, music director, and fine arts director at Greene Memorial United Methodist Church in downtown Roanoke.

Individual or Business Arts Supporter

  • The Roanoke Women’s Foundation
    The foundation is recognized for its support of the arts, particularly with grants to Mill Mountain Theatre, Roanoke Children’s Theatre, and the Jefferson Center Music Lab.
  • Barbara Dickinson
    Among her many contributions to the art world in the Roanoke Valley, Dickinson founded the Sidewalk Arts Show and supported many aspects of the Fine Arts Center.
  • Jack Avis
    Avis helped Mill Mountain Theatre bounce back after financial struggles and helped restructure MMT’s debt with a sound business plan.
  • Friendship Foundation
    The foundation consistently funds organizations and events that enhance arts and culture in the Roanoke Valley.
  • Bev Fitzpatrick
    Through his work as executive director of the Virginia Transportation Museum, attendance from local, national, and international visitors has more than tripled.

Named for the late Perry F. Kendig, who served as president of Roanoke College and was an avid supporter and patron of the arts, the Kendig Awards were established in 1985 and presented annually by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge through 2012. Hollins and Roanoke College first partnered the following year to bestow the honors, and congratulate the 2016 slate of distinguished nominees.

For more information about the Kendig Awards, visit http://kendig.press.hollins.edu/.