Hollins Professor Cited for Exemplary Teaching in Mathematics

Hollins University Professor of Mathematics Caren Diefenderfer is one of three U.S. educators named winners of the 2017 Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA).

Diefenderfer and fellow mathematics professors Janet Heine Barnett (Colorado State University – Pueblo) and Tevian Dray (Oregon State University) were cited for their teaching effectiveness, contributions to mathematics education, and influence outside their institutions.

“These educators exemplify the outstanding work of all our members, who demonstrate the MAA’s commitment to foster the next generation of mathematicians and elevate their potential,” said Francis Su, president of the MAA. “Their dedication to helping students see the history and interdisciplinary nature of mathematics, and to shaping the teaching of mathematics, is to be admired.”

Diefenderfer was recognized not only for inspiring her students in her classrooms and beyond, but also for developing and teaching interdisciplinary courses that help students develop communication skills. In the wider mathematical community, she has been a pioneer in Quantitative Literacy, a field of education whose goal is improving college students’ reasoning proficiency when using quantitative content.  A member of the Hollins faculty since 1977, she holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Diefenderfer, Barnett, and Dray were honored on January 5 in Atlanta at the Joint Mathematics Meetings, the world’s largest gathering of mathematicians.

The MAA is the largest professional society that focuses on mathematics accessible at the undergraduate level. Its members include university, college, and high school teachers; graduate and undergraduate students; pure and applied mathematicians; computer scientists; statisticians; and many others in academia, government, business, and industry. The mission of the MAA is “to advance the mathematical sciences, especially at the collegiate level.”

 

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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.


Works by Hollins Authors Highlight Amazon’s Best Books of the Year

Books by Associate Professor of English Elizabeth Poliner, Beth Macy M.A. ’93, and Lee Smith ’67 are among Amazon.com’s Top 100 Editors’ Picks for 2016.

As Close to Us as BreathingPoliner’s novel As Close to Us as Breathing was an Amazon Best Book for March 2016. The story of a close-knit Jewish family that strives to cope following a tragedy is “vivid, complex, and beautifully written,” said Edward P. Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Known World. “[It] brims with characters who leave an indelible impression on the mind and heart. Elizabeth Poliner is a wonderful talent and she should be read widely, and again and again.”

Published in October, Macy’s Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South is one of six books that have been selected in the Nonfiction category for the Kirkus Prize shortlist. Truevine has also been longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence and is a New York Times Book Review  Editors’ Choice. The Amazon Book Review called ita multi-layered story that will captivate, haunt, and challenge you.”Truevine

In Dimestore: A Writer’s Life, Smith recalls how she became a storyteller while growing up in the Appalachian South, and discusses what later convinced her to embrace her heritage. “Smith delivers a memoir that shines with a bright spirit, a generous heart and an entertaining knack for celebrating absurdity,” noted The New York Times Book Review. “Although Dimestore is constructed as a series of personal essays, it presents as full a sense of a life as any traditional narrative.”


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.