Hollins Answers the Call to Help Fill “Elijah’s Backpack”

elijahThe Hollins University campus community donated 530 food items in support of the Elijah’s Backpack Food Drive, held October 10 – 17.

Sponsored by Roanoke’s St. Philip Lutheran Church, Elijah’s Backpack provides local children with healthy meals when their families struggle to do so. Officials at Mountain View and Burlington elementary schools in Roanoke County select students on the basis of need to receive a selection of individual serving-sized breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack items in their backpacks each Friday afternoon.

The chaplain’s office at Hollins placed donation boxes in Moody Dining Hall and duPont Chapel and collected cereal, fruit cups, soup, oatmeal, juices, macaroni and cheese, apple sauce, granola bars, and many other nutritious food items. Donations were still arriving at the chapel as University Chaplain Jenny Call and student volunteers prepared to transport the goods to St. Philip on the afternoon of October 17.

 “I am always overwhelmed by the generosity of Hollins’ students, faculty and staff, and how they give of their time and resources to help others,” said Call. “Through the food collection drive we are able to support 42 students in need at two local elementary schools. We are honored to partner with the wonderful ministry that Elijah’s Backpack offers to our community.”

In addition to food items, the Elijah’s Backpack program welcomes financial gifts as well as volunteers to help pack and deliver backpacks on a weekly basis. For more information, contact Pastor Kelly Derrick at (540) 366-7046 or pastorkelly@stphiliplutheran.net.

Playwright’s Lab’s New Works Initiative Builds Artistic, Economic Partnerships Locally and Nationwide

PlaywrightsLabFrom Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York City to Burlington, Vermont, and here in Roanoke, the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University is developing an impressive number of new stage productions by emerging student writers, thanks to a collaborative program described as “re-inventing Off-Off-Broadway.”

The New Works Initiative of the Playwright’s Lab was established in 2008 and has already helped provide production assistance and travel costs for dozens of student readings and productions in legitimate theatres nationally and locally. It enables student writers to work with guest professional directors and offers support for them to work as actors, dramaturgs, and designers on plays by prominent guest writers associated with the Playwright’s Lab such as Lucy Thurber, recipient of the first Gary Bonasorte Memorial Prize for Playwriting; television writer and playwright Jeff Goode; and Obie Award-winner W. David Hancock.

“We have been able to bring more than 70 top-tier artists to Roanoke to work with our students and build an energized, enthusiastic audience for new plays,” says Todd Ristau, program director of the Playwright’s Lab. “It is the perfect place to develop new work that can go on to productions in major theatre centers.” For example, The Arctic Circle and a Recipe for Swedish Pancakes, written by Playwright’s Lab student Samantha Macher, was produced at Roanoke’s Mill Mountain Theatre and then transferred with the original cast to the Playwright’s Horizon Studios in Manhattan.

“We’ve mounted more than 25 full productions of plays associated with our program, and we’ve staged dozens of readings, presented special touring events and workshops by nationally known theatre artists, and provided support for our students who are creating their own new companies and doing new work all over the country.”

Ristau notes that in many cases the biggest barrier to producing new work is finding adequate funding to cover the production and travel costs. However, he emphasizes that “the Playwright’s Lab feels it is an important part of our mission to sponsor our student writers when opportunities to realize their work on stage arise. That’s why we have established a separate fund for the sole purpose of offsetting costs associated with the production and presentation of plays by or involving our students,” a fund that depends largely on individual donors as well as local businesses and area arts organizations.

“It’s mutually beneficial,” he explains. “In exchange for financially supporting the work that we’re doing, businesses and organizations get exposure to a growing demographic of hip, smart, vocal audiences. The relationships we forge therefore have a profound cultural and economic impact on our community.” In addition, Ristau says these associations are helping make Roanoke more and more of “an ignition point” for new work that creates strong connections with the international theatre scene.

“Building partnerships like this and creating opportunities for the success they afford our students is nothing short of revolutionary.”

The Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University will present The Matador, “a one-act anti-play” by Robert Plowman and directed by Todd Ristau, on the Waldron Stage of Roanoke’s Mill Mountain Theatre February 6 – 10.

President Gray Joins Other College Leaders in Calling for Tougher Gun Control Laws

guncontrolHollins University President Nancy Oliver Gray has joined more than 160 college and university leaders from across the nation in signing an open letter urging the President and Congress to take immediate action on gun control.

“As educators and parents,” the letter says, “we come together to ask our elected representatives to act collectively on behalf of our children by enacting rational gun safety measures, including:

  • Ensuring the safety of our communities by opposing legislation allowing guns on our campuses and in our classrooms.
  • Ending the gun show loophole, which allows for the purchase of guns from unlicensed sellers without a criminal background check
  • Reinstating the ban on military-style semi-automatic assault weapons along with high-capacity ammunition magazines
  • Requiring consumer safety standards for all guns, such as safety locks, access prevention laws, and regulations to identify, prevent and correct manufacturing defects”


Hollins Hosts Fear 2 Freedom Event to Help Sexual Assault Survivors

Hollinfreedoms University students are partnering with the nonprofit organization Fear 2 Freedom and Carilion Clinic to aid those who have been sexually assaulted or abused.

Students will gather on Tuesday, February 19, at 6:30 p.m. in Moody Student Center to prepare aftercare kits, which will subsequently be given to sexual assault victims receiving forensic exams at Carilion Clinic hospitals. The packages will contain toiletries such toothbrushes, hairbrushes, and washcloths, and clothing intended to replace personal effects that are held for evidence. The items will be donated by the students themselves.

Fear 2 Freedom was founded in 2011 by Rosemary Trible, wife of Christopher Newport University President and former U.S. Senator Paul Trible. Her 2010 book, Fear to Freedom, tells the story of her rape at gunpoint in 1975, her recovery, and how she has reached out to others who have experienced a similar trauma.

“The ‘2’ in Fear 2 Freedom is for the fact that every two minutes, someone is sexually assaulted in America,” she explained in a 2011 interview with the Newport News Daily Press. “It is through my own dark road of pain that I have become so passionate about helping victims and fighting against abuse.”

Members of the Hollins Student Government Association Senate will be dedicating their regular Tuesday evening meeting to this community outreach activity, and Rosemary Trible will be in attendance.

(Photo courtesy VCU University Relations)

Hollins Named to 2013 Presidential Honor Roll for Community Service

honorFor the sixth time, Hollins University has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). By recognizing institutions that achieve meaningful, measureable outcomes in the communities they serve, the program annually highlights the role colleges and universities play in solving community problems and placing more students on a lifelong path of civic engagement.

The CNCS has administered the award since 2006. In addition to this year, Hollins was recognized in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012. (The President’s Honor Roll was not produced in 2011.)

“Communities are strengthened when we all come together, and we are encouraged that these institutions and their students have made service a priority,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Civic engagement should be a key component of every student’s education experience. Through reaching out to meet the needs of their neighbors, these students are deepening their impact, strengthening our democracy, and ultimately preparing themselves to be successful citizens.”

College students make a significant contribution to their communities through volunteering and service, according to the most recent Volunteering and Civic Life in America report. In 2012, 3.1 million college students dedicated more than 118 million hours of service across the country – a contribution valued at $2.5 billion.

Hollins offers students a number of ways to get actively involved with community service. For example, the annual Day of Service helps new students connect with the Roanoke Valley during their first week on campus. Students Helping Achieve Rewarding Experiences (SHARE) recruits and places student volunteers with a variety of community agencies and organizations. Sandusky Service House is a campus residence hall where students are required to perform at least ten hours of volunteer work each month and promote service activities on campus and in the community. And, for more than 20 years, the Jamaica Service Project has invited students to spend Spring Break helping an impoverished community in the island nation.

The CNCS is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, the Social Innovation Fund, and Volunteer Generation Fund, and leads President Obama’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve.


Hollins Professor Infuses Medicine with Art at Virginia Tech Carilion Mini Medical

carilionJennifer Anderson, an assistant professor of art at Hollins University, is lending her expertise to a community outreach initiative sponsored by the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine: the institution’s first mini medical school.

The four-part event, “Anatomy for Artists and Other Curious Sorts,” is part of a series designed to engage area residents with the medical school by providing educational offerings “with a slight twist,” said Dr. David Trinkle, the school’s associate dean of community and culture and a Carilion Clinic physician, in a news release. “We won’t be tackling standard health topics in a standard way. With this first one, for example, we’ll be adding an artistic component. Participants who want to translate what they’re learning into art will be able to do so.

“The only prerequisites are a curious mind and a willing spirit.”

Anderson is the sole art professor taking part in the inaugural mini medical school and the only presenter not affiliated with the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute. She will discuss “The Human Form Through the History of Art” at the event’s second program on Tuesday, March 25. Artists from Hollins are participating in all four interactive sessions to provide mentorship in drawing.

“We want everyone to know we’re more than an isolated, self-contained school teaching future doctors,” Trinkle said. “We’re also here to serve this community.”

Hollins, Roanoke College Announce Perry F. Kendig Award Winners for 2013

Perry F. KendigA painter and promoter of the arts for the past 50 years, a businessman who provided local artists with affordable studio space, and the area’s only professional theatre designed just for children, have been named the winners of  this year’s Perry F. Kendig Arts and Culture Awards.

Co-sponsored by Hollins University and Roanoke College, the Kendig Awards recognize distinction in arts and culture in the Roanoke Valley. Individuals, businesses, and organizations from the Roanoke Valley region (which includes the counties of Botetourt, Franklin, and Roanoke, the cities of Roanoke and Salem, and the town of Vinton) are eligible, as are any past Kendig Award recipients. Hollins University and Roanoke College employees and programs are not eligible. Awards are presented in each of the following categories: Individual Artist, Individual or Business Supporter, and Arts and Culture Organization.

Harriet Stokes, whose large and colorful canvases can be found in public venues and private homes throughout the Valley, is this year’s Individual Artist award recipient. A Salem resident who recently celebrated her 99th birthday, Stokes was one of the originators of Art in the Alley and has been an exhibitor in Roanoke’s Annual Sidewalk Art Show for 54 of the competition’s 55 years. She was also a strong advocate for the Roanoke City Schools’ art program when it was threatened by budget cuts. In an essay for The Roanoke Times, Dorsey Taylor, owner of LinDor Arts in downtown Roanoke, called Stokes “the grande dame of the arts” and noted, “Through her efforts, she has shaped the friendliness of the art community to embrace one another rather than see us all fall to self-promotion.”

Richard Kurshan, who for a decade made two floors of studio space available to many local artists at Studios on the Square on Roanoke’s West Campbell Avenue, is the winner in the Individual or Business Supporter category. “I will always be grateful to Richard for enabling me to have a downtown Roanoke studio space at a price I could afford for 10 years,” said Susan Jamison, whose work has been exhibited in museums and galleries nationwide. “Having this space has enabled me to create countless works, establish my career, and feel grounded as a working artist.”

In the Arts and Culture Organization category, the Roanoke Children’s Theatre (RCT), whose mission is to offer quality theatre education and entertainment for kids, their families, and their schools with year-round productions and programming, is this year’s awardee. RCT provides more than 4,500 programming hours to 17,000 youth each year, and since opening in 2008, RCT’s productions, educational outreach programming, and theatre education classes have reached more than 56,000. Recently, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy recognized RCT’s “RCT4TEENS” program, which focuses on relevant and challenging issues youth face, and in 2011 RCT received the Roanoke City School Board’s Award of Recognition for its efforts to address bullying among sixth-graders in the Roanoke Valley.

Stokes, Kurshan, and the RCT will be officially honored at The Perry F. Kendig Arts and Culture Awards presentation on Sunday, November 3, from 4 – 5:30 p.m. in Roanoke College’s Colket Center Wortmann Ballroom. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Laura Rawlings at (540) 375-2088 or rawlings@roanoke.edu.

Children’s Literature Students Volunteer to Help Young Ethiopians “Eager for English”

EthiopianProjectStudents in Hollins University’s graduate programs in children’s literature have shared their talents with an international partnership designed to help bring English fluency to children in the African nation of Ethiopia.

Facilitated by Peace Corps Ethiopia, the project’s student authors each wrote an age-appropriate creative short story about 500 words in length. The stories were illustrated by Ethiopian artists and published in various regions of the country to supplement English language instruction in grades four through eight.

Peace Corps Ethiopia’s Amanda Sutker came up with the idea of matching her fellow education volunteers in Ethiopia with talented writers in America to develop stories for classroom and community reading programs. “While most English teachers and learners in Ethiopia lack the fluency necessary for effective English communication, they generally share the same sentiment: ‘We’re eager to improve our English,’” she explains. “What’s lacking within the Ethiopian education system is learning tools to catalyze skill development.”

Sutker majored in English with an emphasis in creative writing at South Carolina’s Presbyterian College, and knew of many graduate programs specializing in children’s literature. To find the best one to approach for volunteer writers, she consulted her creative writing advisor, who suggested Hollins.

“I emailed Amanda [Cockrell, director of Hollins’ M.A. and M.F.A. programs in children’s literature] in December 2012 to see if Hollins would be interested in partnering with us,” she recalls, “and after that things blossomed.”

Cockrell contacted student writers in the children’s literature program to gauge their interest in volunteering for the project. More than 20 graduate students agreed to take part, including Adeana Lopez, who Cockrell subsequently nominated to coordinate the Hollins effort.

“The response didn’t surprise me at all because Hollins people are simply that way,” Lopez says, adding that when a second email request was sent to recruit three additional writers, 37 people responded the same day.

Once the goal of enlisting writers was met, the project’s next step was connecting the authors with the Peace Corps Ethiopia volunteers. They shared local information such as common names, crops, holidays, environmental landmarks, and unique cultural practices, which in turn enabled the writers to produce engaging and culturally relevant English literature unique to Ethiopian communities. Writing was completed in September 2013 and story illustration was wrapped up two months later. In February 2014, the stories were printed and the compilation was distributed to schools throughout the country.

“Because the illustrations and publishing were completed in Ethiopia, all cash flow for the project occurred locally,” Sutker notes. “There were four separate editions of the book, one for each region (Tigray, Amhara, Southern Nations, and Oromia) that participated in the project. Five hundred copies of each of the four editions, a total of 2,000 books, were printed. The books were then evenly distributed to more than 200 Peace Corps volunteers stationed around the country to share with local primary school libraries and community centers.”

“This was a fulfilling, worthwhile project, and a chance for our graduate students to explore some writing outside of what might be their normal range,” Lopez says. “Many of them are already teachers, which helped them, and they received the input they needed to write a good story that meets the needs of these

Hollins, Roanoke College Announce Perry F. Kendig Award Winners for 2014

kendigLocal artist and Hollins University Professor of Art Emeritus Bill White, Mill Mountain Theatre, Member One Federal Credit Union, and the Roanoke Arts Commission have been honored with this year’s Perry F. Kendig Arts and Culture Awards.

The awards were presented during a ceremony at Hollins on September 30.

Co-sponsored by Hollins and Roanoke College, the Kendig Awards recognize distinction in arts and culture in the Roanoke Valley. Awards are presented in each of the following categories: Individual Artist, Individual or Business Supporter, and Arts and Culture Organization.

Also highlighting the ceremony was the presentation of the Harriett Stokes Memorial Award, a special award this year that commemorates the life and work of the Salem artist who was called the “grande dame of art in the valley” by LinDor gallery owner Dorsey Taylor. Stokes, who passed away in May, was one of the originators of Art in the Alley and was an exhibitor at Roanoke’s Annual Sidewalk Art Show for more than 50 years. Last October, she received the Kendig Award in the Individual Artist category.

White, a painter, educator, leader, and facilitator who has contributed to the arts in Roanoke for decades, is this year’s Individual Artist award recipient. He has earned acclaim for his artistic technique, his commitment to teaching, and his organization of exhibits at local museums.

Mill Mountain Theatre, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, was recognized in the Arts and Cultural Organization category. Despite challenges during its half-century of existence, MMT has succeeded through tenacity and perseverance. At the same time, it has given back to the community through education and partnerships with other arts organizations.

The Kendig Award for Individual or Business Supporter was presented to Member One Credit Union. Member One provides financial support for arts and culture in the Roanoke Valley, along with leadership, volunteer initiatives, and business practices.

The Roanoke Arts Commission received the Harriett Stokes Memorial Award. This all-volunteer body has worked to support and lead the development of arts and culture in Roanoke, developing the nationally recognized Park and Arts program and overseeing funding for local arts and cultural organizations.

Named for the late Perry F. Kendig, who served as president of Roanoke College and was an avid supporter and patron of the arts, the Kendig Awards were established in 1985 and presented annually by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge through 2012. Hollins and Roanoke College first partnered last year to bestow the honors, and congratulate the 2014 winners.