Natasha Trethewey M.A. ’91 Named Mississippi Poet Laureate

tretheweyHollins alumna and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey has been named Mississippi’s poet laureate by Gov. Haley Barbour. Her duties will include reading from her work at meetings, seminars and conferences throughout Mississippi as a way to advance the literary arts in the Magnolia State.

“It’s an honor to have been named poet laureate of my native state – the place that made me a writer – and I am delighted to serve the citizens of Mississippi by promoting our rich and ongoing cultural and literary traditions,” Trethewey said in an article in The Sun Herald newspaper in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Trethewey is a native of Gulfport and earned her Master of Arts degree in English and creative writing from Hollins in 1991. She won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2007 for her collection, Native Guard, which pays tribute to African American soldiers who were stationed near the city during the Civil War. She has garnered numerous other prestigious writing awards such as the inaugural 1999 Cave Canem poetry prize, the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize in 2001 and 2003, and the 2008 Mississippi Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts for Poetry.

“She has received national and international for her poetry that is, often, a tribute to the state of Mississippi, and more specifically, the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” Barbour told The Sun Herald.

Trethewey is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University in Atlanta, and will serve as the Louis D. Rubin Writer-in-Residence at Hollins in 2012. The Hollins Theatre is staging an adaptation of her book of poems, Bellocq’s Ophelia, February 15-19.


R. H. W. Dillard, Wilson Museum Honored by Arts Council of the Blue Ridge

dillardProfessor of English R.H.W. Dillard (pictured) and the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University are among this year’s winners of the Perry F. Kendig Award for Outstanding Support of the Arts, presented by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge.

Dillard received the Kendig Award for Outstanding Literary Artist. He has taught at Hollins since 1964 and was named Virginia Professor of the Year in 1987. Other accolades include the O.B. Hardison, Jr., Poetry Prize from the Folger Shakespeare Library; the Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature; and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Fellowship of Southern Writers (which also presented him with the Hanes Prize for Poetry) and the Virginia Writers Club.  He is the author of 14 books — seven books of poems, two novels, one book of shorter fiction, two critical monographs, and two translations of classical dramas.

The Arts Council honored the Wilson Museum with the Kendig Award for Outstanding Arts & Cultural Organization. Located on the first floor of the Richard Wetherill Visual Arts Center, the museum is a premier arts destination in the Roanoke Valley featuring the work of internationally renowned artists, emerging figures, and regional names. It features three interconnected galleries totaling approximately 4,000 square feet of exhibition space. Through the generosity of a grant from Roanoke County, the museum houses a dedicated permanent Collection and Educational Resource Center, which is available to students, teachers, and other patrons who are interested in furthering their study of art in the museum’s permanent collection. It also functions as a small educational center for groups and classes, providing a forum for discussion, workshops, and projects based on exhibitions.

Named for the late Roanoke Valley arts patron and a former president of Roanoke College, the Perry F. Kendig Award was established in 1985 to recognize examples of support, involvement, accomplishment in the arts, and to inform the community about significant contributions to the arts in the region. The awards are chosen by a committee of community volunteers based on nominations from the general public. A reception and award ceremony will be held at the Taubman Museum of Art in May.


Hollins Student Hopes to Blend Dance and Physical Therapy to Help Others

chaniceAnyone who tears two of the four major knee ligaments can face a long and often painful road to recovery. But for an aspiring dancer, such an injury is especially devastating because it calls into question when, if ever, they will be able to fully recapture their ability to perform.

Chanice Holmes ’15 faced this dilemma during the summer before her senior year in high school. The Hollins University sophomore and life-long dancer from New Orleans tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) in June 2010 while playing basketball, just as she was preparing to choreograph and join three other performers in staging a dance piece as her senior thesis.

“The doctors told me I would need six to 12 months to heal and return to dancing, and I said ‘No, I need to be back dancing so I can be in my piece.’ I was so determined to do that,” Holmes recalls. Remarkably, after having surgery that July, she returned to dancing in November.

Holmes credits her experience rehabilitating her knee not only with getting her on her feet and performing by her self-imposed deadline, but also with influencing her education and career path.

“The physical therapist who treated me kept saying, ‘You can do this, you can do this.’ She motivated me so much. After that, I decided I wanted to combine dance with physical therapy to help others. The two go hand-in-hand as far as learning different muscles and how they work and how they can stop functioning if you do a certain move the wrong way or if you don’t stretch as much as you should.”

A Hollins admission counselor’s visit to her high school was critical in Holmes’ decision to enroll at the university in the fall of 2011 to pursue a double major in biology and dance. “She told me about the dance program, which of course interested me. But the  options Hollins offers during January Short Term (J-Term) and the chance to travel anywhere I wanted to go through the study abroad program also caught my attention, as did the Batten Leadership Institute. I never visited the campus until I got here, but I fell in love with it as soon as I arrived.”

In her first year at Hollins, Holmes took immediate advantage of J-Term opportunities. Associate Professor of Dance Jeffery Bullock helped arrange for her to dance with the renowned American Dance Festival at the Alvin Ailey dance studio in New York City during the first two weeks of January 2012. She then spent the last half of the month interning at a physical therapy clinic in New Orleans. Last spring, she also got to travel and pursue another of her passions, volunteer service, by participating in Hollins’ Jamaica Service Project, which takes place each year during Spring Recess.

Another milestone for Holmes last spring was winning the first scholarship pageants she had ever entered, both sponsored by the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship. By excelling in  the interview and talent competitions, she won the Miss Teenage Daughters of the Promise state contest in Louisiana in April, and then went on in June to capture the Miss Teenage Daughters of the Promise International title in Atlanta, where she was also selected as Miss Congeniality by her fellow contestants and voted Most Elegant and Most Influential.

During her reign, Holmes says she is promoting her youth outreach platform as often as possible, beginning by talking to Sunday School classes at her home church, Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church in New Orleans.

“I am speaking to my peers and those younger than me about avoiding the distractions from the media and other sources that divert us from what we need to doing as far as going to college, getting a degree, and prospering,” she explains. “No matter what, you can do all things you set your mind to do.”

Holmes is hoping again this academic year to devote half of her J-Term to dance and half to something related to her biology major, and she already has at least one specific goal in mind for herself after graduation.

“I want to start a non-profit organization for kids to get them interested in science through dance. A lot of kids say they don’t like science because it’s boring, but if you approach it with them from a different perspective, maybe that will open their minds.”


Hollins Research Featured in New Book by Leading Authority on Treating Mood, Sleep Problems

chronotherapyA Hollins University research study focusing on the treatment of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is highlighted in an acclaimed new book that offers clinically proven ways to improve your mood and help you get a good night’s sleep.

Chronotherapy: Resetting Your Inner Clock to Boost Mood, Alertness, and Quality Sleep is co-authored by Michael Terman, Ph.D., director of the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at Columbia University Medical Center. Terman and his work have been featured on NBC’s The Today Show and NPR’s All Things Considered as well as in The New York Times and Psychology Today, and Chronotherapy is earning praise from clinicians for the scientific insights and treatments it shares. Josephine Arendt, Ph.D., M.D., a chronobiologist and endocrinologist, calls it “essential reading for anyone with persistent sleep problems” and Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D., author of Winter Blues and Transcendence, says, “Chronotherapy is a timely and valuable book, packed with information that can help just about anybody.”

Chronotherapy cites a two-year investigation by faculty members and students from Hollins’ departments of psychology, biology, and physics into the effects of negative air ions on SAD, blood oxygen, and pulse rate. Professors Randall Flory, Bonnie Bowers, Morgan Wilson, Rebecca Beach, and Marshall Bartlett, and psychology majors Chesley Ammerman ’13, Rachel Cohen ’12, Kristen Jones ’11, Katherine Rediske ’11, Lauren Staley ’11, and Gennesis Zuleta ’13 found that “exposure to high-density negative ions is more effective in alleviating the symptoms of SAD (depression, irritability, social withdrawal, daytime fatigue, and loss of concentration) than is exposure to low or near-zero levels of negative air ions,” corroborating previous studies conducted by Flory and colleagues in 2010 and Terman in the 1990s.

The book profiles a Hollins student who participated in one of the study’s clinical trials. The student said she had always struggled during the winter months with a lack of energy and motivation and was asked by Flory to take part after he reviewed her score on a campus-wide SAD survey.

The student spent an hour each morning sitting in front of an ion generator and after the sessions, “I had this energy….I didn’t feel like sleeping in class.” She quit using the device after the study ended and the following winter once again began experiencing the same energy deficit. Despite being “a poor graduate student,” she bought an ionizer.  “I wouldn’t have spent a hundred and fifty to two hundred dollars on it if I didn’t think it worked. I felt I had really seen the results. I use it in the winter all the time….I don’t see how I wouldn’t use it as I go on….”

In the preface to the book, Terman and co-author Ian McMahan, Ph.D., state, “We are grateful to many colleagues who collaborated in research and offered their insights for our book,” including Flory.

Chronotherapy is published by the Penguin Group.


Hollins Ranked Among the Nation’s “24 Colleges with the Best Professors”

dixonHollins University is among the country’s “25 Colleges with the Best Professors,” according to The Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP). Hollins also received this recognition in 2010.

The CCAP based its rankings on the evaluations found at RateMyProfessors.com. CBS Moneywatch reports, “The center generated its list by looking at the composite teaching scores that schools received via RateMyProfessors. The website has captured more than 15 million student ratings of college professors from schools across the country.”

Hollins is featured along with some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions, including the United States Military Academy, Carleton College, and Sewanee – The University of the South. In addition to Hollins, three other single-sex colleges are on the list (Wellesley College, Bryn Mawr College, and Wabash College). “Single-sex colleges routinely get high marks from their graduates,” CBS Moneywatch notes.

The complete list can be found here.

Founded in 2006 and based in Washington, D.C., the CCAP is an independent, not-for-profit research center that helps produce the annual college rankings for Forbes magazine.


Karen McElmurray Selected as Hollins’ Writer-in-Residence for 2014

mcelmurrayAward-winning fiction and creative nonfiction author Karen Salyer McElmurray has been named the 2014 Louis D. Rubin, Jr., Writer-in-Residence at Hollins University.

McElmurray’s memoir, Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother’s Journey, won the Associated Writers and Writing Programs Award in Creative Nonfiction and was listed as a “Notable Book” by the National Book Critics Circle. Her other works include the novels Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven, a recipient of the Lillie Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing, and The Motel of the Stars, which was nominated for the Weatherford Award for Fiction, earned Lit Life’s “Novel of the Year” citation, was Oxford American magazine’s “Critics Choice,” and was part of the Linda Bruckheimer Series in Fiction from Sarabande Books. She has also received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Kentucky Foundation for Women.

McElmurray is currently completing a novel entitled Wanting Inez, and is editing a collection of essays called Writing Into the Forbidden, to be published by Ohio University Press in 2014.

McElmurray holds a Master of Arts degree in creative writing from Hollins as well as a Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction writing from the University of Virginia and a doctorate from the University of Georgia, where she studied American literature and fiction writing. She is a member of the faculty in the Master of Fine Arts programs at Murray State University and West Virginia Wesleyan College, and previously taught at Georgia College and State University, Berry College, and Lynchburg College.

Hollins established its writer-in-residence program in 1961. The university paid tribute to Rubin, who founded the university’s creative writing program and enjoyed a distinguished career as a professor, publisher, and author, by naming the residency in his honor in 2000. Through the years, the program has welcomed Nobel Prize winners William Golding and Derek Walcott; two Pulitzer Prize recipients, current U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey and Henry Taylor, both Hollins alumni; former Virginia Poet Laureate Kelly Cherry; and acclaimed authors Flannery O’Connor, Robert Penn Warren, and Eudora Welty


Michael Gettings on Healing Political and Cultural Divisions

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

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

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

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

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

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


Art Professor Jennifer Anderson Launches Taubman Museum’s New Mural Wall Program

andersonAssociate Professor of Art Jennifer Anderson is inaugurating a new mural wall program at Roanoke’s Taubman Museum of Art with the creation of her work, Resolute Understandings of Fragile Things.

The piece will be on display May 31 – September 6 on the patio mural wall across from Norah’s Café in the museum and along Norfolk Avenue.

For the mural project, Anderson will hand cut intricate stencils that will be printed on the retaining wall outside Norah’s. Using elements around the museum as inspiration, the mural will present the tenacious relationship between the natural and man-made environment as the mural itself functions as a “wall paper” with a pattern similar to those found in the formal dining rooms of Victorian homes.

Anderson is collaborating with students from Hollins and Ferrum College, who will contribute their own elements to the mural and assist with its installation.

Jennifer D. Anderson: Resolute Understandings of Fragile Things will be created as part of the programming for the Taubman Museum of Art’s annual Sidewalk Art Show. Anderson and the students from Hollins and Ferrum will add the final elements to the mural on May 31, the day of the show.

The Taubman Museum of Art is located at 110 Salem Avenue, SE, in downtown Roanoke.


Professor Jeanne Larsen to Participate in Unique Ancient Greece Seminar on the “Odyssey”

larsenHollins Professor of English Jeanne Larsen is one of a select group of faculty members nationwide invited to participate in an Ancient Greece in the Modern Classroom seminar on the Odyssey.

The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and the Center for Hellenic Studies chose Larsen and 19 other faculty members from a pool of 66 nominees for “The Odyssey,” which takes place July 22 – 26 at the Center for Hellenic Studies’ Washington, D.C., campus. Gregory Nagy, Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and professor of comparative literature at Harvard University, and Kenneth Scott Morrell, associate professor of Greek and Roman studies at Rhodes College, will lead the seminar, which is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“Strengthening the teaching of the classics at colleges and universities is of critical importance,” said CIC President Richard Ekman. “The number of institutions that nominated faculty members to participate in the seminar is most impressive, and we believe that Jeanne Larsen will play a strong role in the seminar.”

“I gave Jeanne my highest recommendation for this because of her capacity for learning and for transmitting her enthusiasm for literature,” added Patricia Hammer, Hollins’ vice president for academic affairs. “Her commitment to the life of the mind is evident.”

Designed for non-specialists, the seminar will address the challenge of keeping alive in undergraduate education classical texts such as the Iliad, Odyssey, Homeric Hymns, poetry of Hesiod, and Histories of Herodotus that a generation ago were read and understood by every college graduate.

This seminar will offer an opportunity to examine the many dimensions of the Odyssey in its various historical contexts and explore how the poem (to be read in translation) can be studied in courses that address a variety of literatures and disciplines. Participants will study diverse topics that range from the exchange of luxury goods to the adjudication of disputes arising from athletic contests. Along with providing information and background for understanding Homeric poetry in its ancient contexts, the seminar will devote a substantial portion of each day to reading and analyzing the poem itself.


Carrie Brown Named Finalist for the Library of Virginia’s 2014 Fiction Award

brownDistinguished Visiting Professor of Creative Writing Carrie Brown’s most recent novel, The Last First Day, is one of three finalists for the Library of Virginia’s 2014 Emyl Jenkins Sexton Literary Award for Fiction.

The library calls The Last First Day  ”an exquisitely written story of abiding love.” Kirkus Reviews describes the novel as “bittersweet with nostalgia, surprisingly sensual and sharply nuanced in its depiction of the strains and rewards that shape any long marriage.”

Brown previously won the Library of Virginia’s fiction prize in 2001 for The Hatbox Baby and in 2005 for Confinement. Her 2008 novel, The Rope Walk, was a finalist for the award.

The Emyl Jenkins Sexton Literary Award for Fiction will be announced on Saturday, October 18, at the 17th Annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards Celebration Honoring Virginia Authors and Friends.