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.”


“I Have Found a New Home for Myself Here”

kelseydeforestHere is a transcript of the address delivered by SGA President Kelsey Deforest ’13 at the Family Weekend Worship Service on October 21, 2012, in duPont Chapel:

Thank you, Jenny [University Chaplain Jenny Call], for inviting me to speak today. As a first-year, I never would have expected to be speaking at a worship service as a senior, but during my time at Hollins I have found my spirituality and I have built a relationship with God.

For many of you, this is a time of transition. The parents in the room are figuring out how to live now that they are no longer full-time parents and students are figuring out how to live away from home. At times, life can unexpectedly or expectedly draw you away from the place that has always felt like home. Coming to college, even though you know it’s coming, can feel like an exile. However, if you act as the scripture suggests and hope in the plan of the higher power, this new place can become home. The more you lay down roots in this new place, the more it will come to be a home. Since coming to Hollins, I have found a new home for myself here, and in doing so I have gotten to know myself better and built a stronger relationship with God.

When I first came to Hollins, I was not worried about homesickness at all, but after a couple days here it bubbled up. Coming from Ohio, I was not sure how I felt about this place so far south, where people were friendly for no reason. With time, though, Hollins became home and became a place that I am completely in love with. My mother tells the story all the time of the first time I came back to Ohio from Hollins. Many of you have probably already heard it. At the end of Thanksgiving Break, I was excited to hit the road and told my mom that it was time for me to go home. Though the moment was bittersweet for her, because I no longer just saw Ohio as home, she also knew it meant I was in the right place. That transition didn’t happen overnight. It was a gradual process of laying down roots and settling in. Home can be found in so many places during these four years at Hollins—in the people you meet, the places you explore, the time you spend here, the purpose you learn, and within yourself as you grow here.

Home can be found in the people you meet at Hollins. In your classmates, you will find a mirror for your own experience. The homesickness you do not want to acknowledge in yourself you will see in them. In them, you can see the growth you cannot see in yourself. As Hollins becomes home for them, it will also become home for you. In the faculty and staff, you will find mentors and guides who will be with you for a lifetime. In many ways they will become quasi-parents at Hollins. When you cannot get a hold of your parents, there will be faculty or staff who will open up their offices for you to vent or cry. These relationships are the first support system for you at Hollins, until this place becomes home. They will help tide you over as you settle in.

The places you fall in love with at Hollins become holy through your experience with them. Alumnae talk about the feeling they have when they come back to campus. For them, it really is a homecoming and that feeling can be healing. Many times, they will drive through campus, not even stop, just drive, to feel that sense of home, again. Some of these places may become homey and holy through your time in them. I feel this way about the theatre. It is where I found my first Hollins family. The time and dedication I have put into the theatre have made it a home for me. When I walk in the doors, I feel the burdens fall from my shoulders. You will find similar homes in Pleasants, practice rooms in Presser, or even in the SGA office. Other places may feel holy when you first encounter them; a bench in Beale garden to reflect at, the top of the hill on the loop, or within the chapel itself. For me these places are the hot spots on campus. They are warm because of the hot springs and can be found by theatre, by Pleasants, and on back quad. The little places of happenstance warmth seem set out to improve your day. For me, they remind me of the moments in your life where you suddenly feel connected to and loved by God.

The four years you spend here can feel like an exile or they can become a home in your memory. In one of my courses this term, we read Abraham Heschel’s “The Sabbath,” which writes how time can be made holy through the thoughts you put into it and the time you set aside in it to build your relationship with God. These four years can become memories that will bring you that feeling of home after you’ve graduated. No matter where you are in the world, those memories will be something to fall back on. The traditions we have here can be spiritual experience as the community comes together. When you are standing at the top of Tinker Mountain, surrounded by other Hollins women, there is no way to feel disconnected from the community. In White Gift Service, the community comes together in the dark of winter to share warmth and joy together. During Founder’s Day, we celebrate the man whose mission ensured our time at Hollins today. For me, it is a form of thanksgiving. You can also find time in your busy schedule to make holy—to work on your relationship with God. In my own life, this time usually must happen before 7 am. While this may make you cringe, watching the sunrise over the mountains on a quiet campus gives me inner peace and the time to talk with God.

At Hollins, you will find a higher calling. This passion is a home you can take with you wherever you go.  Learning to love learning again is one of the best gifts you get out of your Hollins education. As you come to invest in your academics at Hollins, you are laying down roots in a very significant way. Deciding you love what you are studying will make Hollins home faster than anything else. At Hollins you also learn how to serve and how to want to be of service. This service may be in the traditional sense, with SHARE or on the Jamaica Service Trip. Even outside of these activities, all Hollins women learn to serve. They are always willing to be called upon by friends when they are needed. This continues long after graduation. This sense of passion and service will bring you closer to your higher power.

Ultimately, at Hollins, you will learn to carry your home with you because you will learn to feel at home in yourself. As I prepare to leave Hollins, I know that I will never feel that sense of exile, again. At Hollins, I have grown, become more confident, and come closer to God. Between those assets and my everlasting bonds with my Hollins sisters, I know that I am ready to go anywhere and do anything. In reflecting on the scripture, I can only think that this is what God wanted when he told his exiles to lay down roots and connect with their communities. Like the exiles, I have learned that home can really be anywhere.

I sincerely hope that Hollins already feels like home to you. If not, have patience, keep faith in God’s plan, and work to lay down roots. With time, the people you meet, places you find, time you spend, passion you discover, and self you develop will ensure that home is always with you.


Jackson Center for Creative Writing to Co-Sponsor Largest Literary Conference in North America

jacksoncenterThe Jackson Center for Creative Writing at Hollins University is joining the National Book Critics Circle, the National Endowment for the Arts, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, the Academy of American Poets, and a number of other prominent organizations in sponsoring the 2013 Annual Conference & Bookfair of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP).

The conference will take place March 6-9 in Boston,  highlighting over 1,900 authors, editors, teachers, and publishers and including 520 literary events. Eleven thousand people are expected to attend. Among the featured presenters are Nobel Laureates Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott, New York Times best-selling author Augusten Burroughs, two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Don DeLillo, Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder, and many others.

“We have never before assembled such an impressive range of distinguished authors,” said AWP Executive Director David Fenza. “We are excited that AWP’s conference continues to grow in prestige while we provide a growing audience for writers and publishers.”

The Jackson Center is the sole sponsor of the AWP’s bookfair, an annual showcase of over 600 exhibitors and the nation’s largest marketplace for independent literary presses and journals, creative writing programs, writing conferences and centers, and literary arts organizations.  The bookfair will run concurrent to the conference and is open to all registered conference attendees, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

The Jackson Center for Creative Writing is home to Hollins’ esteemed undergraduate and graduate writing programs, which have produced dozens of writers of national and international acclaim.

AWP’s mission is to foster literary achievement, advance the art of writing as essential to a good education, and serve the makers, teachers, students, and readers of contemporary writing. Founded in 1967, AWP supports nearly 50,000 writers, over 500 college and university creative writing programs, and 125 writers’ conferences and centers.


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.


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.


Hollins Students to Debate “Ethics and Social Media”

vficFive Hollins University students will participate in the 14th annual statewide collegiate Wells Fargo Ethics Bowl at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia, on February 10 and 11. The Hollins team, which features Carrie Boswell ’14, Megan Grosholz ’14, Safiya Kelly ’14,  Naomi Ruth Thompson ’14,  and Horizon student Amanda Stowell, will compete head-to-head against other highly qualified student teams from Virginia’s 15 leading independent colleges and universities, debating a variety of case studies highlighting ethical dilemmas.

The theme of this year’s event is “Ethics and Social Media.” Many notables from the business sector, law, education, finance, journalism, and other fields will listen to team presentations and offer reactions.

The Ethics Bowl program will commence with an opening session on Sunday, February 10 at 2:30 p.m. at Randolph College’s Wimberly Recital Hall, with the first matches scheduled for 3:30 p.m. in Smith and Main Halls. On Monday, February 11, rounds three and four will begin at 8:30 a.m. The final round of competition will take place at 11 a.m. in Wimberly Recital Hall. The winning team will be announced at 12:15 p.m. on Monday.

The public is invited to attend the match sessions free of charge.

The Wells Fargo Ethics Bowl is presented by the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC), a nonprofit fundraising partnership supporting the programs and students of  Bridgewater College, Emory & Henry College, Hampden-Sydney College, Hollins University, Lynchburg College, Mary Baldwin College, Marymount University, Randolph College, Randolph-Macon College, Roanoke College, Shenandoah University, Sweet Briar College, University of Richmond, Virginia Wesleyan College, and Washington & Lee University. For additional information on the VFIC, visit www.vfic.org.


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


Students Take the Initiative to Meet the Politician They’re Studying

politicianWhen her class began looking at possible presidential candidates for 2016, Elizabeth Trout ’17 had no idea she’d get the chance to arrange an actual meeting with the political figure she and a group of fellow students had decided to study. But that’s exactly what happened on October 16, when Trout, five other Hollins students, and Professor of Political Science Ed Lynch traveled to Charlottesville to introduce themselves to South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

Trout and two of the students who made the trip are enrolled in Lynch’s first-year seminar, “How to be a President,” which examines what goes on in a presidential campaign and in the first months of a presidential term. Students “adopt” a possible presidential candidate and take part in a number of hands-on, collaborative projects designed to capture the essence and the spirit of trying to become president. (In addition to Haley, students in this semester’s class could choose from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and Virginia Senator Mark Warner.)

When Trout, a political science major and a volunteer in the gubernatorial campaign of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, learned Haley would be appearing on behalf of Cuccinelli at a fundraising event in Charlottesville, she immediately recognized an opportunity to augment what her class group was studying in addition to meeting the candidate she supported.

“I talked with a few other girls and we really wanted to go,” she explained. “I emailed the woman who was in charge of that specific event and asked if a group of students could come, and she said yes.”

Lynch arranged transportation for a total of six students (including three Hollins students not enrolled in the class) and himself to attend, but emphasized that Trout took the lead on arranging the trip. “She learned of the event, arranged for Hollins students to get in for free, and gave me directions to the site.”

Trout admitted she and the other students were a little overwhelmed when they arrived at the event (“The six of us were just kind of wandering around, intimidated but excited at the same time”), so Lynch approached Haley and told her he had students in attendance who would like to meet her.

“Gov. Haley walked right over, shook all our hands, and we talked to her for a good while,” Trout recalled.

Trout said the students who attended the event are from across the political spectrum. “One tends to be more liberal but was interested in hearing what was said. Another was kind of on the fence as to who she is going to vote for” in the Virginia gubernatorial election on November 5.

Trout doesn’t know if Haley is seriously considering a run in 2016, but “I could definitely see her doing well as a national candidate. She’s very impressive.” She was also delighted that Cuccinelli noted in his remarks the presence of students from two schools – the University of Virginia and Hollins.


Playwright’s Lab Enjoys Banner Year in 2013

PlaywrightsLabHollins University is earning a stellar reputation nationally for the study of playwriting, thanks to a Master of Fine Arts program that is only in its sixth year.

Launched in 2007, the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University has to date generated roughly 250 productions of student-penned plays and nearly 140 readings at festivals and theatres across the United States. Thirty student plays have been published and student playwrights have garnered more than 60 honors and awards.

“A low-residency, six-week program designed to be completed in three to five summers was a radical approach to teaching playwriting, but the Playwright’s Lab has attracted a growing number of students who are rapidly gaining success and recognition in the profession,” said Program Director Todd Ristau.

Mark Bly, head of playwriting at Hunter College, described the Playwright’s Lab as “a real gem, a one-of-a-kind program. This is a hot bed of American playwriting,” while Robert Patrick, who has been called “America’s Most Produced Playwright,” said in a television interview, “These are real professionals training people to be real professionals.”

The past year alone offers ample evidence to support Bly and Patrick’s respective acclaim. In January, Playwright’s Lab students Meredith Levy ’12, M.F.A. ’15, and M.F.A. playwright Kevin Ferguson were both honored by the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF). Levy received the KCACTF Region IV’s top playwriting award for her drama, Decision Height, and Ferguson had two of his original scripts, Follies a Deux and Losing Sight, selected for the regional festival as part of the Region IV National Playwriting Program. They were chosen for the Ten-Minute Play and One-Act Play categories, respectively.

Follies a Deux was subsequently selected for performance at the second annual New Voices Playfest, held in April at the Atlantic Stage Theatre in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The event also featured the one-act play, The Place Between, by M.F.A. playwright Wendy-Marie Martin. In addition, the Atlantic Stage Theatre presented the world premiere of Ferguson’s drama, Child’s Play, last spring.

Other highlights from 2013:

  • Bo-Nita by Elizabeth Heffron M.F.A. ‘14, first read in public at the Hollins Playwright’s Festival, was produced by Portland Center Stage and Seattle Repertory Theatre for their respective 2013-14 seasons. In its review, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer stated, “Sometimes the stars align perfectly in the theater. The play is excellent, the directing crisp and the acting picture perfect.” Heffron’s comedy/drama, Mitzi’s Abortion, was Hollins Theatre’s fall production and played to sold-out audiences.
  • Jonathan Galvez M.F.A. ‘13 won the tenth annual New Jersey Playwrights Contest and was appointed guest artist by the University of Great Falls theatre department.
  • Neeley Gossett M.F.A. ‘12 was named a finalist in the 2013 Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition and her play, Roman Candle Summer, was staged at the Woodruff Arts Center’s Black Box Theatre in Atlanta. The play also had a reading at the Lark Play Development Center in Manhattan.
  • M.F.A. playwright Robert Plowman won the 2014 Charles M. Getchell New Play Award for his work, The Missing Link. His one-act “anti-play,” The Matador, was presented on Mill Mountain Theatre’s Waldron Stage in Roanoke.
  • Plays by Samantha Macher M.F.A. ‘12 (To the New Girl: Sound Advice for My Former Husband’s Wife or Mistress) and Royal Shirée M.F.A. ‘13 (Cat House) were published by Original Works.
  • In March, the SkyPilot Theatre Company in Los Angeles announced that of the 26 plays it had in development, ten were written by Playwright’s Lab alumni.

The Playwright’s Lab is closing the calendar year by creating two new certificate programs, one in new play writing and the other in new play performance.

“Exposure to actors and directors is vital for the development of playwrights and their work,” Ristau explained, “and it seemed an exciting challenge to come up with a community wherein playwrights, directors and actors could be brought together with specialized training in working on new plays without the expectations, expense and demand on resources that a full degree program would require.

“With the help of visiting faculty and other advisors, we’ve created something that will expand Hollins’ reputation and attract new students in a very exciting way.”


Hollins’ Class of 2013 Encouraged at 171st Commencement, “What is Wrong with the World Can be Fixed.”

2013_commencementEducator and humanitarian Johnnetta Cole told graduates, “You must not only believe that change can happen, you must be instruments for that change,” during Hollins University’s 171st Commencement Exercises on Sunday, May 19.

Hollins conferred 156 bachelor’s degrees and 61 master’s degrees during the ceremony, which commenced under cloudy skies on the university’s historic Front Quadrangle and persevered despite a steady shower that began roughly an hour into the program.

Cole, this year’s guest speaker, has enjoyed a distinguished career as an anthropologist, author, teacher, and college leader, during which she has been committed to achieving the goals of racial and gender equality. She made history in 1987 when she became the first African American woman to serve as president of Spelman College, a post she held for ten years. She then returned to teaching, spending three years as Emory University’s Presidential Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Women’s Studies, and African American Studies. In 2002, she was appointed president of Bennett College for Women, where she founded the Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity and Inclusion Institute, whose mission is to create, communicate, and continuously support the case for diversity and inclusion in the workplace through education, training, research, and publications. Currently, she is director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, the only national museum in the United States dedicated to the collection, exhibition, conservation, and study of the arts of Africa.

Cole reminded the class of 2013, “Here at Hollins University you have received a quality education. That means you have come to better understand the world, and you understand your responsibility to whatever you can to help make our world a better place.” She emphasized “the power of community service to transform lives and strengthen communities” and urged graduates to “act on the basic principle that doing for others is just the rent you must pay for your room on Earth.”

Cole cited Martin Luther King, Jr., and his philosophy on service (“Everybody can be great because anybody can serve”), and concluded with Sojourner Truth’s message to a gathering of 19th century suffragettes (“…if one woman, one day in a garden, could get the world turned upside down, then it seems to me that all the women in here can get it right side up again”).

“We are counting on you,” she told the graduates, “to be the kind of leaders that will help get the world right side up again.”

Following Cole’s address, Thomas Barron, chair of Hollins’ Board of Trustees, awarded her the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa in recognition of her personal and career accomplishments.

Four graduating seniors were honored during the ceremony for their academic achievements. Cara Jean Bailey, Jaclyn June Donnelly, Courtney Kathleen Flerlage, and Kailen Marie Kinsey each received the Faculty Award for Academic Excellence. Bailey, Donnelly, and Flerlage tied for the highest grade point average among this year’s graduates, which Kinsey had the second highest academic standing in the class of 2013.

The following awards were also presented at this year’s commencement:

  • The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, given by the New York Southern Society in memory of the founder, recognizes members of the campus community who have shown by daily living those qualities that evidence a spirit of love and helpfulness to other men and women. This year’s honorees are senior Melissa Amanda Jane Wilson and Celia McCormick, director of the Horizon program.
  • The Annie Terrill Bushnell Award, established by the late Mrs. William A. Anderson in memory of her mother, is presented to the senior who has evidenced the finest spirit of leadership during her days at Hollins. Bethany O’Neil is this year’s recipient.
  • The Jane Cocke Funkhouser Award, honoring a member of the class of 1911, recognizes a junior or senior who, in addition to being a good student, is pre-eminent in character. Senior Kelsey DeForest was presented this year’s award.
  • The Hollins University Teaching Award, supported by an endowment established by Mary Bernhardt Decker ’58 and her late husband, James DeWitt Becker, honors secondary school teachers who have devoted their lives to preparing students to achieve and excel in a higher education setting. Each year, Hollins seniors are invited to nominate the teachers who inspired them or contributed significantly to their intellectual and personal growth. This year’s winner, nominated by two graduating seniors, Elizabeth Hatcher and Molly Meador, is Tim Sauls, MALS ’09, English teacher and chair of the English department at Cave Spring High School in Roanoke County.