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.


Professor’s Study Suggests Background TV Harms Toddlers’ Language Development

pempekA new study co-authored by a Hollins University professor indicates that the presence of background television adversely impacts the development of children’s language skills.

Assistant Professor of Psychology Tiffany Pempek and fellow researchers Heather Kirkorian and Daniel Anderson conducted the study, “The Effects of Background Television on the Quantity and Quality of Child-directed Speech by Parents,” which was published in the Journal of Children and Media June 11. Parents of toddlers aged 12, 24, and 36 months were observed interacting with their children while they played during a 60-minute session. For half of that time, a TV program consisting of content designed for older children and adults played in the background. While the TV was on, the quantity of words and phrases spoken as well as the number of new words spoken by the parents was lower than when the TV was off.

Given that child language development and language used by parents are fundamentally linked, the study suggests that prolonged exposure to background TV has a negative influence. Since American children under 24 months have been found to watch an average of 5.5 hours of background TV per day, the effect may be significant.

“Our new results, along with past research finding negative effects of background TV on young children’s play and parent-child interaction, provide evidence that adult-directed TV content should be avoided for infants and toddlers whenever possible,” said Pempek. “Although it is impractical and probably not desirable for parents to play with their young child all the time, children do benefit greatly from active involvement by parents during play. Ideally, parents should play with their child without the distraction of TV in the background.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics continues to warn against media exposure for children under two years of age. While foreground media exposure has been the focus of previous guidelines, the potential harm as well of background exposure, a form of media which parents may not be aware has any effect on their child at all, is now noted by recent reports.

Read the full article online here.

The Journal of Children and Media is published by the Taylor & Francis Group, one of the world’s leading publishers of scholarly journals, books, ebooks, and reference works.


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.


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.