The Princeton Review Features Hollins in “The Best 379 Colleges”

reviewEducation services company The Princeton Review has named Hollins University one of the nation’s best undergraduate colleges and universities in the 2015 edition of its flagship college guide, The Best 379 Colleges.

Only about 15 percent of America’s 2,500 four-year colleges and only four colleges outside the U.S. are profiled in the book.

“Hollins offers outstanding academics, which is the chief reason we selected it for the book,” says Rob Franek, senior vice president and publisher at The Princeton Review and author of The Best 379 Colleges. “We base our choices primarily on data we obtain in our annual surveys of administrators at these schools and at hundreds of other colleges. We take into account input we get from our staff, our 27-member National College Counselor Advisory Board, our personal visits to schools, and the sizable amount of feedback we get from our surveys of students attending these schools. We also work to maintain a wide representation of colleges in the book by region, size, selectivity, and character.”

Students surveyed for Hollins’ profile report that they “adore the school” and describe themselves as “empowered, enthusiastic,” “worldly, aware,” “strong, and confident.”

“The friends we make here are still going to be our sisters long after we have gone out into the world to accomplish what our experience at Hollins gave us the courage to do,” explains one student.

Hollins faculty also received accolades. “Professors pour so much into their students,” says a studio art major. They “want to hear from their students” and “are always more than willing to help.”

The Princeton Review’s school profiles in The Best 379 Colleges are posted at PrincetonReview.com.


Swimmers Achieve Scholar All American Status

swimThe Hollins University swim team has earned Team Scholar All American Honors for the 2014 spring semester from the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA).

The CSCAA presents the Team Scholar All American award to college and university swimming and diving teams who have achieved a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

The swim team’s student-athletes were similarly recognized for their academic achievements during the 2013 spring semester.

The team kicks off its 2014-15 season at the Converse All Women’s Invitational, October 10-11.

Founded in 1922, the CSCAA is a professional organization of college swimming and diving coaches dedicated to serving and providing leadership for the advancement of the sport of swimming at the collegiate level.


With Family as Inspiration, Maria Roncal ’15 Uses Hollins Education to Empower Herself, Others

roncalGrowing up in Peru, Maria Roncal ’15 was taught a valuable lesson by her family: personal empowerment would come only if she took responsibility for getting the education she always wanted.

That advice sustained Roncal after she moved to Northern Virginia twenty years ago as a stay-at-home mom with three young children. To support them, she subsequently had to enter the workforce, but the higher education that eluded her in Peru gradually became a reality in this country when she began enrolling in courses at a local community college.

Today, Roncal is thriving at Hollins University with a goal after graduation of becoming a nurse. The hard work and commitment she has displayed as a double-major in biology and Spanish were recognized recently by the Roanoke Valley Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), which awarded her a $1,500 Non-traditional Scholarship.

“I have been encouraged and guided by people whose unselfishness has supported and inspired me,” Roncal wrote in her scholarship application essay. “I want to give of myself as others have given to my family and me.”

Roncal’s journey to Hollins began as she juggled community college classes with her job. “It was hard and I really wanted to do it [go to school] full-time,” she recalled. Through an Internet search, her son-in-law discovered Hollins’ Horizon program, which is dedicated to serving adult women who are entering a four-year college for the first time, or returning after an interruption in their education. “I was amazed,” she said. “The place looked so beautiful on the website and I told my son-in-law I’d like to go visit.”

She arranged a meeting with Celia McCormick, then-director of Horizon, and “fell in love with the campus. Just talking with Celia made me believe I could do it.”

Nevertheless, when she enrolled at Hollins in the spring of 2012, Roncal knew it would be a difficult step for her. Her children, now adults, all resided in the Washington, D.C., area, and she had no friends or relatives in Roanoke. She credits her son-in-law for helping her find the courage to give Hollins a chance. “I was really scared, but my son-in-law – he’s my angel.” Then and now, she said, “he motivates me.”

Other than forgetting to bring a pencil with her on the first day of her first mathematics class (“My professor said, ‘No problem,’ and gave me two or three.”), Roncal adjusted well to life at Hollins. A typical day begins at 8 a.m. and often doesn’t end until ten at night, but she enjoys campus life. She and her fellow Horizon students “have a great bond. They became my family.” Roncal works as a student assistant in the Horizon office and is also active with Hollins’ Office of Cultural and Community Engagement, where occasionally she gets to immerse herself  in one of her favorite activities, cooking, when she prepares meals for students.

Roncal believes her biology and Spanish majors complement one another. She told the AAUW, “I want to be able to help sick people get better, taking care of an individual’s physical, emotional, psychological, intellectual, social and spiritual needs. Also, I want to be able to educate people on how to prevent illnesses. With my degree in Spanish and as a health care professional, I will be able to reach out to the Hispanic community while acknowledging and respecting their differences.

“I aspire to be a role model for minorities and especially women. I enjoy talking with women about my own experiences and the struggles I have had to overcome to make a living.”

Roncal has just four more classes to complete for her biology degree. She will take one of those courses at Virginia Western Community College this summer and the remaining three at Hollins in the spring of 2015. This fall, she will finish her Spanish major while studying abroad in Seville, Spain – another dream come true for her.

While Roncal is justifiably delighted with her accomplishments as a Hollins student, her greatest pride is reserved for her three children, who have embraced her passion for education. Just twelve, eight, and three years old, respectively, when they arrived in the United States, they all went on to attend Vanderbilt University on full scholarships. The oldest, a daughter, is an electrical engineer who is returning to school to become a physician. Her son, the middle child, is also an electrical engineer who is now completing his M.B.A. The youngest, a second daughter, majored in neuroscience in college and has begun a master’s program in public health.

Roncal is also extremely grateful to her mother, sister, and four brothers. “They are always watching after my needs,” she said, citing their financial support in particular.

“Empowering people through education is a big task that will help make a better world and eradicate injustice,” Roncal stated in her AAUW scholarship application. “The more educated people become, the less likely they are to feel like they are facing discrimination and prejudice. Being able to get well-paying jobs while doing something they love gives people a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in their lives.”


Hollins Featured in “The Princeton Review’s Guide to 332 Green Colleges: 2014 Edition”

PrintThe Princeton Review has named Hollins University one of the United States and Canada’s most environmentally responsible colleges in the fifth annual edition of their Guide to 332 Green Colleges.

The guide was created in partnership with the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council.

Schools were selected based on a survey conducted in 2013 of administrators at hundreds of four-year colleges to measure their commitment to the environment and to sustainability. The institutional survey included questions about course offerings, campus infrastructure, activities, and career preparation.

“Hollins University has been leading the sustainability charge for quite some time,” the guide states, citing Hollins’ geothermal well field at Tinker Hall and 2.6-kilowatt solar facility as well as the annual energy challenge to reduce electricity and water usage in residence halls. The guide also notes that Hollins became a charter signatory in 2007 of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, “and aims to become totally carbon neutral by 2040.”

“We are pleased to recommend Hollins to the many students seeking colleges that practice and promote environmentally responsible choices and practices,” said Rob Franek, senior vice president and publisher at The Princeton Review.

A free download of The Princeton Review’s Guide to 332 Green Colleges: 2014 Edition is available here.


Whitewater Races Capture Third at ACA National Championships

ACAA team of student canoeists and kayakers from Hollins University took on competitors from three other colleges and universities and paddled to a third-place finish at the annual American Canoe Association (ACA) Collegiate Race Series National Championships, held March 29-30 on the Tuckaseegee River in Dillsboro, North Carolina.

In the Women’s Championship division, Hollins faced eventual winner Warren Wilson College, runner-up Albion College, and the University of Virginia. Team members included Tegan Harcourt ’17, Jessica Michael ‘17, Valerie Harrison ‘17, Jentry Campbell ’15, and Ashleigh Mae Leas.

The event’s whitewater races were held on a section of the Tuckaseegee River called the Tuck Gorge. This section includes several major rapids: Railroad (class II), Prudential Rock (II+), and Double Drop (II+).

Founded in 1880, the ACA is a national organization serving the broader paddling public by providing education related to all aspects of paddling; stewardship support to help protect paddling environments; and sanctioning of programs and events to promote paddlesport competition and recreation. The ACA sponsors over 4,300 events each year, including 200 races.


Alexandra Trower ’86 Honored by International Women’s Media Foundation

trowerCalling her a “trailblazer who excels in defining the progressing role of women in business, while demonstrating outstanding commitments to responsible and innovative leadership,” the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) has recognized Alexandra Trower ’86 with its second annual Corporate Leadership Award.

Trower is executive vice president of global communications at The Estée Lauder Companies, Inc. She got  involved with the IWMF 15 years ago when she learned of the organization’s mission to protect female journalists who report important stories about human rights, the environment, and other major issues worldwide. She took up the cause of bringing to light the global dangers female journalists face, and was instrumental in getting Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase, respectively the nation’s leading financial institution and one of the world’s leading financial services firms, to support the IWMF as National Presenting Sponsors . In 2012, she became one of the first non-journalists to be invited to join the IWMF’s Board of Directors, and this year began her tenure as the board’s vice chairman.

In announcing the award, the IWMF noted, “Alexandra Trower isn’t just a strong female leader who appreciates and understands the importance of female leadership in our business world, but someone who believes the citizens and beneficiaries of a democratic society play a crucial role in preserving the essential tenets of free speech around the world.”

The IWMF will officially honor Trower on October 22.


Art Professor Jennifer Anderson Is Among the “40 Under 40: Professors Who Inspire”

andersonNerdScholar, a financial literacy website for students that empowers them to make smart financial choices, has selected Assistant Professor of Art Jennifer Anderson for its inaugural list of “40 Under 40: Professors Who Inspire.”

According to the website, “These 40 inspirational professors were nominated based on their ability to captivate and engage students in the classroom, desire to interact with students outside of class, and collaborate on research projects. Nominations were collected through student and faculty recommendations, articles such as The Princeton Review’s Best Professors list, and other pieces highlighting universities with outstanding professors, supplemented by crowd-sourced review sites such as RateMyProfessors and CourseRank.”

Anderson, who will receive tenure and promotion to associate professor on July 1, is one of three professors from colleges and universities in Virginia to make the list (the College of William and Mary and Virginia Tech are also represented).

Anderson’s profile and the complete list of honorees can be found here.


Lindsey Narmour ’15 Earns Full Scholarship to Study at Oxford this Summer

narmourSince childhood, Lindsey Narmour ’15 has wanted to study at the oldest university in the English-speaking world. This June, the Hollins University English major and Ferrum, Virginia, resident is realizing that dream.

Named a British Universities Summer Scholar (BUSS) for 2014, Narmour has been awarded an all-expense-paid scholarship by the English-Speaking Union (ESU) to spend three weeks enrolled in two major seminars, Critical Reading and Shakespeare on Stage and Screen, at England’s University of Oxford, one of the world’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning.

“I was familiar with the ESU and their goal of promoting the English language between cultures and in different countries,” Narmour explains. In December 2013, she learned of the BUSS scholarship program sponsored by the ESU’s Virginia chapter, which is open to college and university juniors in the commonwealth. She applied the following month “just to see what would happen.”

Based on her grade point average, a statement of purpose explaining why she wanted to study at Oxford and what she hoped to gain from her experience, and letters of reference attesting to her character and qualifications, Narmour was invited for an interview with the ESU chapter in Richmond. Shortly thereafter, she was offered the scholarship.

“To have this opportunity now while I’m an undergraduate is remarkable and I’m very thankful for it,” she says. “Getting immersion in a place where English literature had its genesis and to be with professors whose perspective might be different than what I’ve encountered in the U.S. would enable me to have a broader range of experience with the English language and a keener understanding of it.”

Narmour transferred to Hollins last fall from Virginia Western Community College in Roanoke. “I had been looking at Hollins since high school – the English program was a huge pull for me. I had talked to and corresponded with some of the professors beforehand about the sorts of things I would be able to do if I were to go to Hollins. I found that everything they said is quite true as far as the strength of the English department. The caliber of professors here is quite wonderful.”

One of those faculty members, Professor of English Marilyn Moriarty, is Narmour’s advisor and also helped her with the scholarship application.

“The English-Speaking Union has as its mission the celebration of English as a shared language to foster global understanding and goodwill by providing educational and cultural opportunities for students, educators, and members,” Moriarty says. “I’m delighted that Lindsey was selected by the committee in a competitive process that will enable her to attend summer school at Oxford. Engaged, self-motivated, and knowledgeable, she is the kind of student who makes the most of every educational opportunity.”

After completing her undergraduate degree, Narmour plans to pursue both a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in English. Eventually, she would like to study full-time at Oxford or at least perform an independent study there.

“My aim right now is to become a professor and specialize in medieval literature. I’m looking into teaching in a different country at the university level – I’d love to live in England and possibly teach at Oxford. At the same time, I’d certainly be interested in teaching here in Virginia. If I could, I’d love to teach at Hollins or Virginia Western.”

In the meantime, Narmour is excited to make the most out of her time in Oxford this summer and is currently exploring opportunities to do research outside of the classroom and possibly travel in the area. “I’d really like to visit the Bodleian Library, which is England’s equivalent to the Library of Congress. I hope to pursue a senior thesis next year and I’d like to collect materials that will aid me later on. So, this scholarship has come at a very opportune time.”


Mary-Carmen Webb ’15 Experiences “the Most Freeing Feeling I’ve Ever Had” through Hollins Dance

webbDuring a sometimes challenging transition from dancer to choreographer, Mary-Carmen Webb ’15 understandably might have been skeptical if someone had predicted her work would someday be showcased at a renowned regional dance festival. Nevertheless, Webb would go on to create an original piece, I met you in a kitchen, which was selected for the Gala Performance at the American College Dance Festival (ACDF) 2014 Mid-Atlantic Conference. The event was held in March at the George Mason University School of Dance in Fairfax.

“When I started choreographing, I had a lot of conflict with myself,” the Hollins junior from Roanoke recalls. “‘Will people like this? Is this pleasing? Will it be received well?’ I wrestled with that for a long time until I figured out that in order for me to be able to choreograph, I really have to be inside myself and accept how I move is not necessarily how other people see me moving. What people think of me is not how I really am, what I can really do.”

Before she went to college, Webb already had a decade of experience as a ballet dancer. But during rehearsals for a performance with the Roanoke Ballet Theatre, she worked with four dancers from Hollins who, she says, opened her eyes to new possibilities.

“I had always taken ballet and I was trying to find a different movement style I would enjoy. When I met them, it was exactly what I wanted and it piqued my interest a lot.” One of the dancers urged her to apply to Hollins; it ultimately became her first choice among the colleges and universities she was exploring.

“Hollins Dance is unlike anything else I have experienced. I took classes at other colleges and found them to be very competitive. [At Hollins] it’s like a family, they’re very welcoming. They all want to see you make it. They really encourage you to be the best you can be and take responsibility for your own education. It’s nice not to have someone pushing you and telling you where you should go. They have confidence in you.”

Webb says got the idea for I met you in a kitchen from reading about “viewing the dancing body as an x-ray. I then made up a few gestures for a transparent body.” The piece subsequently evolved into three sections with three dancers where “the first half of it, I had different gestures where it seemed we had our own form of communication and were inside of a different world, but it was something you could tell we had always been used to. The second half was really about dislocating that body from its original language, its history, and where it had been before.

“The piece as a whole is very bittersweet and has a sense of mortality to it. It’s also about relationships because that always finds its way into my work somehow.”

Webb guided kitchen through several informal performances last fall to get feedback from faculty and students. Associate Professor of Dance Jeffery Bullock and Instructor of Dance HeJin Jang then chose it to be shown at the annual Fall Dance Works in December, and later recommended it for the 2014 ACDF regional conference, even though officially, the piece didn’t have an ending.

“The ACDF contract required that we rehearse three hours every week just so they could see we were continuing to work on it,” Webb says. “It was really helpful for me because I don’t have very long rehearsals. Having to do three hours was like, ‘My gosh, what are we going to do?’ I split it up over two, sometimes three days, and I would actually have 30 to 45 minutes to myself in the studio before I would ask the girls [Caitlyn Lewis ‘17 and Molly McCambridge ‘14] to come in and rehearse. That helped me push myself to find the endpoint for that dance.”

At the ACDF regional conference, Webb, Lewis, and McCambridge danced first before a panel of adjudicators, who would select the works that would be featured at the Gala Performance. “Each night they have a feedback session where they talk about what they saw, what they think needs work, what they liked. It was very exciting, but the newness of it was kind of nerve wracking,” Webb explains. “When we were backstage right before we were about to go on to perform, I was like, ‘You know what, girls? Even if we mess up, it’s okay. I’m just really happy we are here.’ I wasn’t even thinking about the Gala – ‘I’m probably not going to get chosen, but I’m going to use the opportunity I have to perform to empower my work.’”

That philosophy would serve Webb and her fellow dancers well. Technical problems impacted the audio of the two recorded songs that are essential to the piece, and the end of the dance had to be performed in silence. Undaunted, they continued their routine.

“I was so proud to have those girls dancing with me. I wouldn’t have wanted anybody else. They essentially said, ‘We’re not going to have any music, it’s not going to be the full effect, but we’re just going to work it.’ And they danced their little hearts out.

“I was scared to go to feedback because I thought they were going to tear apart the fact that all my music cues were messed up. But, they didn’t say anything about them. One of the adjudicators said, ‘I liked how you faded in the music and then it faded out again.’ That wasn’t supposed to happen!”

The adjudicators went on to say many other great things about kitchen and selected it for the Gala Performance the next evening.

“I told the girls, ‘I’m just so happy we get to perform this again and perform it in the way it should be performed,’” Webb says. “For me, it was probably the most freeing feeling I’ve ever had, being able to perform again in front of an audience and knowing there was something in my work the adjudicators wanted to see again.”

Webb is continuing to take her work into some wonderfully unexpected places.

“The piece I’m working on right now is actually for my biology class, ‘Plants and People.’ We were assigned a research paper relating plants to something that interests us, and I figured, ‘Oh, I might as well do it to dance.’ The professor agreed, so I’m going to create a dance, film it, and present it in class. It’s probably the most I’ve researched one of my ideas, so I’m reading a lot about the human body as a biological being.

“I’m inspired by different things. But, I think it’s because I’m so visual that I’m often inspired by things I see versus an idea in my head.”


Hollins Professor Wins Faulkner-Wisdom Competition Award

Marilyn MoriartyHollins University Professor of English Marilyn Moriarty is the winner of the 2014 William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition Award in the Essay category.

Moriarty was honored for her essay, “Swerves.” Her novel-in-progress, The Book of Rivers and Cities, was also a finalist in this year’s Faulkner – Wisdom Competition.

Open to all writing in English, the competition is sponsored annually by The Pirate’s Alley Society, Inc., a non-profit literary and educational organization. Named for Nobel Laureate William Faulkner and literary scholar and collector William B. Wisdom of New Orleans, the competition is for previously unpublished work in the following categories: Novel, Novella, Book-Length Non-Fiction, Short Story, Novel-in-Progress, Essay, Poetry, and Short Story by a High School Student.

Poet, essayist, and literary editor Jane Satterfield, who judged the Essay category, said, “A compelling pilgrimage through the mysteries and histories that bloodlines, literature, and kinship bequeath to us, ‘Swerves’ reminds us of the heady work it takes to situate ourselves in time and place. Engaging tough questions about inheritance and nationality, this eloquent and skillful essay brings to readers a clear-sighted vision and the confident measures of a riveting, necessary voice.”

Moriarty has taught at Hollins since 1992. She received her Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Irvine, and her B.A. and M.A. from the University of Florida. Her book publications include Moses Unchained, which won the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (A.W.P.) prize in creative nonfiction, and Writing Science through Critical Thinking, a textbook. Her fiction and nonfiction have been published in The Antioch Review, The Kenyon Review, Quarterly West, and elsewhere.

Moriarty and the other winners and finalists in this year’s competition will be recognized at the Faulkner Society’s Black Tie Annual Meeting on November 23 in New Orleans.