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 Professor Part of “Women Influencing the Arts” Celebration

LeeRay Costa, John P. Wheeler Professor of Anthropology and Gender and Women’s Studies at Hollins University, will present “Girls Rock Roanoke: Inclusivity and Transformation in Non-profit Arts Education” at the Women’s Center at Virginia Tech on Thursday, September 29, at 5:30 p.m. The event is sold out.

Costa will discuss the joys and challenges of transformative non-profit arts education through her experience leading Girls Rock Roanoke, an empowerment program for girls and gender non-conforming youth in Southwest Virginia.

The lecture is part of the Women Influencing the Arts speakers series, sponsored by the Women’s Center at Virginia Tech and the School of Performing Arts. According to the Women’s Center, the series “provides a space for women artists and arts leaders as well as their supporters to come together to discuss challenges, provide advice, and ultimately celebrate accomplishments. The goal is to foster honest and open dialogues in a productive environment. It is intended to be informative and also positive and inspirational: the series will celebrate women’s strength, perseverance, and tenacity through the personal stories of the speakers who participate.”

 

 


WSLS-TV Names Hollins Professor Ed Lynch Political Analyst

Hollins Professor of Political Science Ed Lynch is often tasked with explaining what the politicians are up to in an election year more confusing than most. Now, WSLS-TV 10, the NBC affiliate for Roanoke and southwestern Virginia, has assigned Lynch the job of official political analyst for its news broadcasts.

Lynch is no stranger to media events. Since his time on Capitol Hill in the 1980s, he has done thousands of interviews on television and radio and for the print media. Since moving to Roanoke, Lynch has become an invaluable source to area journalists, combining his real-life experience in the world of politics with his academic background, coupled with an unusually strong ability to explain complex matters in short sound bites.

Earlier this year, conversations with WSLS News Director Rick Moll and anchor John Carlin led to an arrangement in which Lynch provides political analysis exclusively for the station. He has provided commentary on the primary season, the many debates among the candidates, and the political conventions this summer. Along the way, he has seen the unexpected rise of Donald Trump, the surprisingly persistent campaign of Bernie Sanders, and the embrace of political activism by millions of new voters.

Moll gives Lynch high marks for his clarity and even-handedness. Viewers of WSLS have also reacted positively.

“The political process can be confusing for many, especially during a Presidential cycle like we have right now,” Moll said. “It’s our job in the media to break down the issues. We need to make sense of what’s happening and more importantly, how these issues impact our viewers. That’s where Ed Lynch comes in. We want to utilize his experience and background to take a hard look at local politics as well as what’s happening on the national scene. He has the ability to simplify the key issues and get to the root of what’s being discussed. We’re extremely happy to have him on our team.”

The repeated exposure on Roanoke television has made Lynch one of the most recognizable figures in the Roanoke Valley, and one of the most prominent public “faces” of Hollins University. Lynch said that he is often stopped by complete strangers, who compliment his analysis and ask questions. “I appreciate being asked my opinion,” Lynch said, “I just wish I had nicer things to say about the current campaign!”

This fall, Lynch will bring his expertise to the First Year Seminar program, teaching a class called “How to Be a President.” He rejects the notion that the shrill tone and personal attacks of the 2016 campaign are in any way unique or extreme. “Negative campaigning, including vicious personal attacks, goes back to the rivalry between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson,” he said, “and those were the first contested elections in American history.”

He added, “I feel the pain of those students dismayed at having to cast their first vote for president during a year when both candidates have such high negatives. My first time, I had to choose between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter!”

With the Virginia gubernatorial race set to kick off the moment the presidential race is decided, Lynch does not believe that his relationship with WSLS will end any time soon.


U.S. News: Hollins Boasts One of the Nation’s Lowest Student-Faculty Ratios

Hollins University is among the 21 liberal arts colleges in America with the lowest student-faculty ratios, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Hollins has eight students for each faculty member.

“Attending a college with a low student-to-faculty ratio can mean more personalized attention for students,” explained Jordan Friedman of U.S. News. “Prospective students looking to learn in a tight-knit classroom environment may want to consider U.S. liberal arts colleges instead of larger universities.”

U.S. News determined the top 21 schools based on data provided by the 222 National Liberal Arts Colleges ranked by the publication. “Student-faculty ratio is among the many factors U.S. News considers when ranking the Best Colleges,” Friedman said.

Joining Hollins in the top 21 are such prestigious institutions as Wellesley College, Williams College, Amherst College, Bryn Mawr College, Claremont McKenna College, Pomona College, Swathmore College, and Vassar College. The other Virginia schools on the list are the University of Richmond and Washington and Lee University.


Professor to Join Panel Discussion with Feminist Scholar, Cultural Critic bell hooks

LeeRay Costa, John P. Wheeler Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Anthropology at Hollins University, is among the scholars and practitioners who will be in dialogue with noted author and social activist bell hooks this week at Wisconsin’s St. Norbert College.

As part of the Cassandra Voss Center bell hooks Residency, Costa will participate in the panel discussion, “Becoming Mindful: Practices for Education & Life,” on Thursday, April 21. The conversation will inform the First-Year Seminar course Costa is teaching this fall at Hollins entitled, “bell hooks: rage, love, and creating beloved community.”

Honored as a leading public intellectual by The Atlantic Monthly and one of Utne Reader’s “100 Visionaries Who Could Change Your Life,” hooks has written nearly 40 books, including Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, which was named one of the “20 Most Influential Women’s Books of the Last 20 Years” by Publishers Weekly. Her scholarship has impacted multiple disciplines internationally, from sociology to religious studies to media communication. She is currently the Distinguished Professor in Residence in Appalachian Studies at Berea College.


Taubman’s Monster Art Rally Features Hollins Professor

Associate Professor of Art Jennifer Anderson is among the more than 30 local artists who will be making original works of art on-site during the Second Annual Monster Art Rally at Roanoke’s Taubman Museum of Art. The event takes place on Thursday, April 21, from 5 – 9 p.m.

The general public is invited to observe the artists’ creative processes and then participate in a “Luck-of-the-Draw” auction in which each piece goes to the bidder with the highest drawn card for the flat price of $50.

“Our aim is to persuade people in Southwest Virginia to think of themselves as art patrons,” said Stephanie Fallon ’08, M.F.A. ’12, adult education manager at the Taubman. “By holding an auction where the art goes not to the highest bidder but to the highest card drawn, we can keep an affordable price for each piece so that people who might ordinarily find an art auction too intimidating will feel encouraged to attend. Once bitten by the art-buying bug, we hope attendees will feel excited about connecting with and supporting local artists in our region.”

Anderson has been a member of the Hollins faculty since 2010 and was selected by the financial literacy website Nerd Scholar for its inaugural list of “40 Under 40: Professors Who Inspire.” Earlier this year, Hollins presented her with the Herta Freitag Faculty Legacy Award for her scholarly and creative accomplishments. Anderson’s art has been exhibited in venues across the United States as well as in Russia and South Korea, and was recently chosen for inclusion in the book Printmakers Today.

In addition to earning her M.F.A. from the University of Georgia, Anderson was an East Tennessee State University (ETSU) Honors College graduate. This month ETSU is welcoming her back to campus to serve as guest speaker at the university’s annual Academic Excellence Convocation.

 


Mellon Grant to Support Innovative Faculty Development Program

Hollins University has received a $100,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to invest in a 30-month pilot project entitled “Faculty Development to Advance Liberal Arts Education in the 21st Century.”

The project will commence on January 1, 2016, and is scheduled to be completed by June 30, 2018.

“This grant will enable Hollins to design a new faculty development program to address many of the challenges that our faculty face with current students, particularly in teaching critical thinking and writing,” Hollins President Nancy Gray explained. “The program will help Hollins faculty identify factors that interfere with student learning and critical thinking; develop new strategies to implement a ‘whole learner’ approach to education and strengthen students’ proficiency in critical writing; and use this knowledge to revise existing academic courses to better meet the needs of today’s students.”

Vice President for Academic Affairs Patricia Hammer will serve as the project’s principal investigator. She said that initial activities “will include identifying experts who will provide training for Hollins faculty during the 2016-17 academic year, and selecting 18 Mellon Fellows to participate in the new faculty development program during its inaugural year. With 18 Fellows to be selected each of two academic years, a total of at least 36 existing courses will be revised.”

Hammer is confident the project “will position Hollins to take a new approach to liberal arts education in the 21st century and demonstrate the enduring value of a liberal education.”

Gray added, “The proposed project will also provide a model for faculty development that can be replicated at other institutions.”

ABOUT THE ANDREW W. MELLON FOUNDATION

Founded in 1969, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies by supporting exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work.


Hollins Professor Wins Environmental Stewardship Book Honor

Children’s book author and illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba, an associate professor at Hollins University, has received a Green Earth Book Award Honor for her work, A Bird on Water Street.

The Green Earth Book Award is the first environmental stewardship book award in the nation for children’s and young adult books. Over 80 winning and honor books have been recognized since 2005. Each year, an expert jury selects books that best convey the message of environmental stewardship in the categories of Picture Book, Children’s Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, Children’s Nonfiction, and Young Adult Nonfiction.

“This book is ten years in the making and began when my husband and I moved to the North Georgia Mountains where the story takes place,” Dulemba wrote on her website. “We were invited to a town meeting where a scenic railway was being discussed. It was to be funded by one shipment of sulfuric acid per week from the then closed copper mine. Miners stood up like bent and gnarled trees in their flannel and denim, sharing heart-breaking stories of loss from the cancers believed to be caused by the mines. They made thinly veiled threats that the tracks would be sabotaged if plans moved forward. I sat in shock, wondering what I had stumbled into.

“The story chose me to write it that night. I did dozens of interviews with miners, families and residents of ‘The Red Hills’—a 50-square-mile area devoid of all vegetation from a century of poor copper mining practices. (Astronauts said they could see the devastation from the space shuttle.)

“Ten years later, the book is a testament to growing up in the moon-like, yet close-knit community in 1986, and the efforts toward reclamation which continue to this day. It’s a story of man’s impact on our environment, and hope for our future as better stewards of this Earth.”

Published by Little Pickle Press in the spring of 2014 and geared toward fourth through eighth graders, A Bird on Water Street has earned numerous other prestigious honors, including the 2014 National Book Festival Featured Title for Georgia; the eLit 2014 Gold Medal in the Environment/Ecology/Nature category; and the Academics’ Choice Award.

At Hollins, Dulemba teaches picture book design in both the certificate in children’s book illustration program and the Master of Fine Arts program in children’s book writing and illustrating.


Faculty Members Honored at Founder’s Day Convocation

Hollins University recognized Professor of Spanish Alison Ridley and Associate Professor of Communication Studies Vladimir Bratic with two of the institution’s highest awards during the annual Founder’s Day Convocation on February 19.

Ridley received the Roberta A. Stewart Service Award, which honors Hollins employees who demonstrate long-term service, loyalty to the university and its principles, and deep caring for students and colleagues. Stewart was a professor and administrator at Hollins for 40 years and the award was established in 1993.

Ridley joined the Hollins faculty in 1991 as an assistant professor of Spanish and went on to earn promotion to associate professor in 1997 and the rank of full professor in 2013. She has also served as both chair and clerk of the faculty, chair of her academic department, and director of general education at Hollins. In the latter role, she led the implementation and assessment in 2001 of a new general education program, “Education through Skills and Perspectives,” the first significant reform of general education at Hollins in more than 20 years.

In 2006, as dean of academic services, Ridley was instrumental in creating Hollins’ first-year seminar program. For her work on this initiative, she was selected two years later as one of the 10 Outstanding First-Year Student Advocates in the United States.

The Herta T. Freitag Faculty Legacy Award was presented to Bratic in recognition of his recent scholarly and creative accomplishments. These reflect the extraordinary academic standards set by Freitag, who served as professor of mathematics at Hollins from 1948 to 1971.

Since joining the Hollins faculty in 2006, Bratic has developed as distinguished body of scholarship on the impact of media in peace building. He has written five peer-reviewed journal articles, seven book chapters, and five other publications on this topic. He has also been working on a book that integrates all of his previous work into a unified study on the history of this field over the last three decades.

Bratic has been recognized both nationally and internationally for his expertise. He has worked for several years with the United States Institute for Peace in Washington, D.C., in an advisory capacity. Two years ago, he spent eight days in Israel and Palestine, visiting Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Jaffa, where he interacted with activists and legal experts. He gave a series of lectures on the Peace Boat, an anti-nuclear proliferation NGO. He has been invited to lecture at colleges and universities ranging from Virginia Tech, James Madison University, and Central Connecticut State University to Al Quds University in Palestine, Netanya Academic College in Israel, and Sarajevo University in Bosnia.


Hollins Professor Part of First Large U.S. Delegation to Visit Cuba Since Opening of Relations

LeeRay Costa, John P. Wheeler Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Anthropology at Hollins University, will be traveling to Cuba in February with a “super delegation” of 150 people to mark the recent thawing in U.S. – Cuba relations, particularly the easing of travel restrictions.

Hosted by the activist group CODEPINK and timed for Valentine’s Day, the “To Cuba with Love” delegation will include leaders from the peace and justice movements and the environmental, healthcare and LGBTQ communities, and representatives from Ferguson, Missouri, working on police accountability.

The delegation will meet with high-level government officials, visit members of the Cuban 5, who were recently released from U.S. prison, talk with doctors who combat Ebola in Africa, meet with entrepreneurs about the new business possibilities, and interact with local people about cultural, economic, environmental, educational, agricultural, and healthcare issues.

“I am thrilled to be part of this peace delegation, to have the opportunity to learn more about life in contemporary Cuba, and to talk with Cuban people,” said Costa. “As someone with scholarly interests in social change and social justice, I am particularly fascinated by Cuba’s unique political and social history. I am eager to understand Cuban perspectives on women’s and LGBT rights, race relations, environmental sustainability, and food justice.”

More information about the trip can be found at www.codepink.org/cuba.