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The Green and Gold of

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Hollins Hollins Magazine Vol. 71, No. 4 April - June 2021 EDITOR Billy Faires, executive director of marketing and communications ADVISORY BOARD President Mary Dana Hinton, Vice President for External Relations Suzy Mink ’74, Associate Vice President for Alumnae/i Engagement and Strategic Initiatives Lauren Sells Walker ’04, Director of Public Relations Jeff Hodges M.A.L.S. ’11 CLASS LETTERS EDITORS Olivia Body ’08, Leah Abraham DESIGNERS Sarah Sprigings, David Hodge Anstey Hodge Advertising Group, Roanoke, VA PRINTER Progress Printing, Lynchburg, VA Hollins (USPS 247/440) is published quarterly by Hollins University, Roanoke, VA 24020. Entered as Periodicals Postage Paid at Roanoke, VA. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Hollins, Hollins University, Box 9688, Roanoke, VA 24020 or call (800) TINKER1. The articles and class letters in Hollins do not necessarily represent the official policies of Hollins University, nor are they always the opinions of the editor. Hollins University does not discriminate in admission because of sexual orientation, race, color, national or ethnic origin, disability, genetic information, veteran status, marital status, age, political beliefs, religion, and/or pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, and maintains a nondiscriminatory policy throughout its operation. For more information, contact Melissa Yot, assistant dean of students for education/Title IX coordinator, at (540) 362-6069 or Questions, comments, corrections, or story ideas may be sent to:

Content s 2

A Letter from President Mary Dana Hinton


The Green and Gold of Ossabaw Island Three Hollins women and their connection to 26,000 acres that inspire artists, scientists, and historians. By Beth JoJack ’98


Braving the Raging Writing Waters in a Beat-Up Inner Tube By Sarah Achenbach ’88


Voyages of Enlightenment Faculty Achievements Underscore the Power of the Liberal Arts at Hollins


Eight Years in the Making

D E P A R T M E N T S 3

In the Loop


Focus on Philanthropy


Class Letters

Magazine Editor Hollins University Box 9657 Roanoke, VA 24020

Cover photo: Elizabeth DuBose ’89 by Robert Cooper


Visit the online version of Hollins magazine at




he Hollins community made a decision last fall. We decided to trust one another, to lock arms, and to be successful. Our intentional decision to choose community and to choose hope reminds me of a quote from Maria Popova: “In its passivity and resignation, cynicism is a hardening, a calcification of the soul. Hope is a stretching of its ligaments, a limber reach for something greater.”

If ever there was a time for cynicism, 2020 would have been the year. While we all could have been cynical, we took the harder path, the less clear path, the path for transformation, and we trod forward, even when our path was dim. We chose one another and this community. We chose hope. So, what did hope look like at Hollins this year? Hope looked like the Culture of Care. Over the summer, we developed the phrase “Culture of Care” that became our mantra this year. Mutual accountability and collective responsibility were our guideposts for every decision. We embraced the Culture of Care —  dwelling, learning, and teaching under challenging conditions — whether on campus or off. As a community, we helped our students understand the power of our collective action and enabled our entire community to work together to ensure we thrived. There is a very practical side to these actions. Over the course of this year, we administered 5,500 COVID-19 tests and documented only two residential cases. We proved that a dedicated, committed group could accomplish anything. Hope looked like pedagogical excellence as we learned new ways of teaching and learning. Some of which will linger beyond COVID-19 and allow us to better support student learning. Hope looked like a virtual J-Term

enriched by the presence of students, faculty, and staff, and a spring term highlighted by the Student Performance and Research Conference, the 63rd Annual Science Seminar, the 25th anniversary of our Art History Senior Symposium, and student exhibits and theses. Hope looked like actively engaging with issues of inclusion within and outside our classrooms — both on and off our campus. We sat with discomfort during Leading EDJ and are so grateful for the many alumnae/i who participated in the day. We recognized the work we need to do as individuals and as a community to make Hollins more inclusive. We brought the light of hope to the dimmest moments of the year. Hope looked like learning together in January and February and imagining a path forward. As we embraced our Imagination Campaign (see Page 10), over 50 proposals emerged from our community to help find a sustainable and thriving path forward. I’m excited about the programs we are planning because they signal that this hope, which guided and motivated our community this year, is not momentary. It can and will carry us forward. Hope looked like reaching out to students and helping them feel seen, heard, and valued. We also did this with prospective students, conducting thousands of individual visits and tours, face-to-face and virtually. Some of you reached out to prospective students, helping us achieve one of our largest classes in recent memory. Hope looked like inviting key new people into our community and creating the structures and relationships needed to support them, enabling them to thrive. We were, without equivocation, purveyors of hope this year. Hope allowed us to turn a corner institutionally as we looked out for the well-being of one another individually. And the results have been outstanding. So, we

Rory Sanson Boitnott ’19

Dear Hollins University community,

now decide how we move forward. Do we resume prior, perhaps more comfortable ways, or do we commit to the success we had this year and continue the momentum, the optimism, and the hope? Alice Walker instructed, “Look closely at the present you are constructing; it should look like the future you are dreaming.” We constructed a community that was based on hope, compassion, mutual accountability, and collective responsibility. Please remember that what we constructed this year was quite extraordinary. We built and dwelled in an optimistic, courageous hope that helped each of us individually, and all of us collectively, create the future about which we dream. As we cross the threshold into our lives post-pandemic, I ask you to continue walking with us, and choosing hope, as we build the future we dream of. Levavi Oculos, Mary Dana Hinton President

A version of this message was shared with the campus community of faculty, staff, and students in May. 2 Hollins






Hollins University Welcomes Three New Leaders


resident Mary Dana Hinton has announced the appointment of Laura A. McLary, Ph.D., as Nora Kizer Bell Provost, the university’s chief academic officer; Nakeshia N. Williams, Ph.D., as vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion; and Steven E. Laymon, Ph.D., as vice president for graduate programs and continuing studies. McLary comes to Hollins from the University of Portland in Oregon, where she first joined the faculty in 1999 as an assistant professor of German. She was promoted to associate professor in 2003 and full professor in 2015. The following year, McLary became academic associate dean for the university’s College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), where she worked closely with the dean on issues ranging from strategic priorities and budgeting to communication and personnel. In July 2020, she was named interim dean for CAS, which is the largest academic unit at the University of Portland with 15 departments, nearly 250 full- and part-time faculty, and over 1,300 student majors. She guided CAS last fall through the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring excellent teaching in a remote environment while advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and racial justice goals. “Laura is a creative and proactive problem-solver who leads with compassion and courage,” said Hinton. “She will be a dynamic and gifted collaborator with a variety of constituencies across our campus.” Hinton added that McLary will focus on strengthening Hollins’ position as one of the nation’s premier liberal arts colleges for women at the undergraduate level, and

as an exemplary provider of coeducational graduate programs. Williams previously served as an associate professor in the educator preparation department in the College of Education at North Carolina A&T State University. During her tenure, she taught diversity courses to undergraduate and graduate students. These classes were grounded in the interaction of equity, access, and achievement as they pertain to the academic, social-emotional, and identity development of P-20 (preschool through higher education) individuals. She has served as a campus gender and equity faculty leader as well as an advisor to several student organizations. A licensed professional counselor for over 12 years, she has written numerous published articles and book chapters highlighting her research on equity and access in P-20; culturally responsive teaching; academic and global identities of minority students; socioemotional experiences of P-20 students; and teacher preparation programs at minorityserving institutions. “Nakeshia will provide the leadership to ensure we are continuously striving for an improved and more inclusive and equitable campus environment,” Hinton noted. “She will connect with students, faculty, and staff to provide programming and create new opportunities for deep, sustained, and institution-wide inclusive engagement and experiences. We look forward to her leadership in crafting practices and policies that foster belonging and are reflective of our loftiest ideals as expressed in our mission as an inclusive liberal arts community.”

Hollins welcomes Laymon from the University of Virginia’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, where he has worked in several key capacities since 2014. As associate dean for academic programs and services, he was responsible for development, management, and evaluation of two undergraduate degree programs; business and professional certificates; design and expansion of corporate training and outreach; and management of noncredit programs offered by the school. He worked with staff to engineer improvements in long-term sustainability by enhancing enrollment, improving operational efficiency, and creating new programs when he served for three years as the school’s interim dean. And, as associate professor and associate dean of academic affairs, he taught face-to-face and online courses in social sciences, leadership, and political science; managed academic programs; and created strategies to improve the quality of instruction. Prior to his service at UVA, Laymon spent nearly a decade as associate dean for graduate and professional programs in the University of Chicago’s Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies. “In addition to supporting our current programs, Steven will create innovative new graduate, certificate, and not-for-credit programs that will meet adult learners’ interests while upholding Hollins’ liberal arts mission,” Hinton said. “He will help grow the university’s national and international reputation in graduate education and continuing studies.”

Spring 2021 3


Loop “The Beginning of a Return to Normal” Hollins Makes Plans for Fall 2021


ollins has announced the initial measures the university plans to put into effect regarding campus life when classes resume this fall. Students will be expected to be in residence for the 2021-22 academic year, courses will be taught in person, and vaccination for COVID-19 will be required for all campus community members. “In many respects, we foresee the beginning of a return to normal while maintaining our focus on the health and well-being of our community,” said President Mary Dana Hinton. Hollins is continuing to explore how it will adapt for the 2021-22 academic year its Culture of Care, which has guided the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020. “We anticipate there will still be CDC and Virginia Department of Health requirements related to physical distancing, especially in our indoor spaces, and masks may continue to be required in certain situations or environments,” Hinton noted. “Our overall goal, however, is to return as much as possible to the regular campus schedule and interactive community we knew at Hollins prior to the pandemic.” Reinstating the residential requirement for undergraduate students, which was suspended during 2020-21, “will promote regular, in-person contact with others in the Hollins community and allow us to provide the best educational setting possible,” said Hinton. “Possible exceptions to this requirement will be considered based on complexities and barriers related to international travel and for certain specific medical conditions.”

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At the same time, Hinton explained, “we know that in-person instruction and interaction between professors and classmates provides the richest educational benefits for our students. As such, and in keeping with prepandemic practice, courses will be taught in person, with many incorporating some of the technological enhancements learned over the current academic year.” She said that Hollins recognizes the benefits of online instruction “when it can be delivered with pedagogical excellence. As such, we are considering supporting a limited number of requests for courses that could be delivered virtually.” Hinton emphasized that the vaccination of students, faculty, and staff is critical to the university’s ability to continue meeting its highest priority since the pandemic began —  maintaining the health and well-being of all members of the campus community. “With the availability of safe and effective vaccines, many at Hollins are already or will soon be vaccinated. Within this context, and in support of being in residence with an active university community, all students and employees will be required to provide proof of full vaccination in order to return to campus in the fall.” She added that exemptions for medical/disabilityrelated or religious reasons may be requested. Hollins is looking ahead to resuming competition for its athletic teams this fall in accordance with NCAA, ODAC, and public health guidance. The university is also planning to move toward a more regular slate of activities, performances, and events that will meet public health protocols and support a healthy environment on campus.

Princeton Review: Hollins Is Among Nation’s Top Colleges for Alumni Networking, Internships, Value


ollins nationally has the #5 Best Alumni Network (Private Schools) and is 12th among the Best Schools for Internships (Private Schools), according to The Princeton Review’s Best Value Colleges for 2021. The Best Alumni Network rankings are based on students’ ratings of alumni activity and visibility on campus, while the Best Schools for Internships are determined by students’ ratings of accessibility of internship placement at their school. The education services company also selected Hollins as one of the nation’s top 200 colleges “for students seeking a superb education at an affordable price.” The Princeton Review chose its Best Value Colleges based on data the company collected from its surveys of administrators at more than 650 colleges in 2019-20. The company also factored in data from its surveys of students attending the schools as well as surveys of alumni about their starting and mid-career salaries and job satisfaction figures. In all, The Princeton Review crunched more than 40 data points to tally return-on-investment ratings of the colleges that determined its selection of the 200 schools for 2021. Topics covered everything from academics, cost, and financial aid to graduation rates, student debt, alumni salaries, and job satisfaction. “The schools we name as our Best Value Colleges comprise only just over one percent of the nation’s four-year colleges,” noted Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s editor-in-chief. “They are distinctive in their programs, size, region, and type, yet they are similar in three areas. Every school we selected offers outstanding academics, generous financial aid and/or a relative low cost of attendance, and stellar career services. We salute Hollins University for these exceptional offerings and recommend it highly to college applicants and parents.”


Loop Standardized Test-Optional Policy Becomes Permanent


ollins faculty have approved the permanent adoption of a test-optional admission policy for domestic students. ACT and SAT scores will no longer be required when applying for admission. “Hollins strongly endorses a studentcentered, holistic approach to admission,” said Ashley Browning, vice president for enrollment management. She noted that if a prospective first-year student chooses to submit ACT or SAT scores, Hollins will continue to consider them as part of the student’s total application. However, “the absence of standardized test scores will not disadvantage any domestic student’s application for admission.” Michael Gettings, dean of academic success, stated that the case for a testoptional admission policy is strong. “Students of color and students with fewer resources, both low-income and firstgeneration, tend to be disadvantaged by standardized test requirements, either

because of the cost of the test, lack of access to test prep services, lower-resource schools, or other factors. National data indicate that students from these groups earn lower SAT scores, and are thus disproportionately represented among groups with lower scores.” Gettings explained that even though few students have to date entered Hollins without test scores, “our analysis indicates that students with lower test scores historically perform well, with respect to Hollins GPA and graduation rates, nearly the same as the overall student population.” Hollins assesses many aspects of a student’s application to determine their academic preparedness for the university. This includes the high school transcript; course rigor; Advanced Placement, Dual Enrollment, International Baccalaureate and other advanced coursework; GPA; class rank; required essay; and recommendations. “These are all good indicators that allow

the Office of Admission to judge academic readiness,” said Gettings, “and again, our data show that these are reliable predictors of academic success at Hollins.” Browning added that Hollins’ decision reflects a broader trend in higher education. “Many schools have gone test-optional during the global pandemic, and many are making that change permanent in order to make the application process more equitable for students from all backgrounds.” Last August, Hollins joined more than 500 college and university members of the National Association for College Admission Counseling in confirming that students would not be penalized for the absence of a standardized test score for admission in Fall 2021. The policy was intended to alleviate uncertainty for students and families as they weighed concerns about the safety of going to test centers or the feasibility of testing from home due to COVID-19.

Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away Captures 2021 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature


ewbery Medalist and New York Times bestselling author Meg Medina is the winner of the sixth annual Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature. Medina will receive an engraved medal and a $1,000 cash prize for Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away, a story of friendship and change illustrated by Sonia Sánchez and published by Candlewick Press. “Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away is all at once poignant and hopeful, poetic but utterly child-centered,” the judges for this year’s prize stated. “From the moment you meet the moving truck ‘with its mouth wide open’ you know you’re in their world — these nearly twin mejor amigas who are having to say goodbye. Medina and Sánchez make the experience — even the really sad parts — sing.” Medina’s other books include Merci Suárez Changes Gears, the 2019 John Newbery Medal winner; Burn Baby Burn, long-listed for the 2016 National Book Award; and The Girl Who Could Silence the

Wind, a 2012 Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year. Hollins established the Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature as a way to pay tribute to one of its bestknown alumnae and one of America’s most beloved children’s authors. The cash prizes are made possible by an endowed fund created by James Rockefeller, Brown’s fiancé at the time of her death. “The Margaret Wise Brown Prize is one of the few children’s book awards that has a cash prize attached,” said Lisa Rowe Fraustino, director of the graduate programs in children’s literature at Hollins. The engraved medal presented to the winners was conceived by award-winning sculptor, painter, and Hollins alumna Betty Branch ’79, M.A.L.S. ’87 of Roanoke.

Spring 2021 5


Loop “I Was Home but Still Getting This Incredible Opportunity”: Students Earn Career Experience Through Remote Internships


ormally, each year, many Hollins students spend their January Short Term living and working in New York City, Washington, D.C., or other locations around the country as part of the university’s Signature Internship Program. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors may apply for an array of internships offered by alumnae in various fields. In addition to gaining valuable career experience, students receive academic credit and a $300 stipend, and housing is often provided. But in 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic presented a significant and unprecedented challenge to the program: How could students safely and successfully complete an internship at a time when social distancing, travel restrictions, and other protocols limiting personal contact are essential in mitigating the spread of the virus? The Hollins University Center for Career Development and Life Design, bolstered by the support of alumnae and nearly 30 organizations, developed a viable and dynamic alternative. “We realized early on that our students would have to engage in remote internships this year, so we provided best practices and other information to employers to help them build a framework. We knew this idea would be as new to our employers as it was for us,” said Center for Career Development and Life Design Coordinator Amber Becke. “We converted the majority of our existing internship employers, and even had quite a few organizations host multiple students during January. We were also pleased to reactivate some employers that we hadn’t partnered with in a few years.” Forty-two students were placed in remote signature internships this January, working in technology, legislation, publishing, research, and marketing and communications. The Center for Career Development and Life Design readied them for what to expect. “We provide orientation sessions each year, but this year we put particular focus on remote work practices and preparation for the remote world,” Becke explained. “Prior to Short Term we regularly checked in with each of them to make 6 Hollins

sure they were comfortable with interning remotely and to assure them that we were here to support them throughout the month.” Biology majors Mylah Johnson ’21 and Hana Olof ’22 were both seeking to build their medical research experience. While their remote internships kept them out of the labs at their respective employers, they were still able to participate in important work. “I did so much, and it was nice to be in a constantly changing environment, because that’s the way medical research goes,” said Johnson. She interned with Michelle Watt ’93 at San Antonio-based Vascular Perfusion Solutions, which is working on a device to help transplanted organs last longer outside the body. “I helped present to the entire team of engineers, researchers, and CEOs a newly published scientific article that offered suggestions for their own research. I was also able to prepare some histology data for them. They sent me pictures of cells, and I took measurements of those pictures with my laptop. Some of the data I gathered will support their research paper, and I will get co-authorship on it.” Olof interned with Atlanta Botanical Garden, which emphasizes plant conservation education and research. “I worked with seed banking and micropropagation (the multiplication and/or regeneration of plant material for transfer to the field),” she said. “It’s different from the field I’m used to, and I wanted to challenge myself and get to know more about why seed banking is needed. I wanted to learn how to design and conduct research.” Olof performed research “on the shelf life of temperate versus tropical orchid seeds. It was fun to see how to organize data and do a statistical analysis in an actual scenario. It strengthened my interest in research.” Her work potentially will contribute to improvements in seed storage at Atlanta Botanical Garden. Another facet of Olof’s internship is that she completed it half a world away in her home country of Ethiopia. “My supervisor was kind enough to take the time


difference into consideration. We would always meet online at 10 a.m. (Eastern Time), which was 6 p.m. back home.” At the outset, her other concern was whether she could count on having a reliable internet connection throughout the month, “but it was more stable than I expected. On the days that it didn’t work for me, I would just go to an internet café or a hotel nearby and do my Zoom calls there.” While Johnson and Olof knew going into their internships that they want to pursue medical research after graduating from Hollins, Molly Ward ’22, who is double-majoring in history and art history, saw her Short Term experience as a crucial step in discovering where she wants to go in her career. Ward interned with the White House Historical Association’s marketing and communications department. “I applied for this internship not knowing anything about the field, and just wanting to see if it would potentially be something I would like to do after graduation, and I think it is,” she said. “I had a great experience.” Ward researched the career of President Lyndon Johnson. She also performed a website review to find historical and grammatical errors and identify sections where the text could be improved. “This was awesome because I had no previous experience working on the back end of websites. I became very fluent in using a CMS (content management system).” Despite not being able to be physically present at American Rivers in Washington, D.C., biology major Camryn Anderson ’21 still felt like she was very much a part of their team. “They welcomed me from day one as if I had worked for them for years. I was doing equity research on dam removal and restoring areas for impoverished or minority groups, and I was interviewing staff to learn about their experiences out in the field. Every single employee saw the interviews as a chance just to talk with me, to find out what I was doing, how they could help me, and who they could connect me with. I was at home but I was still getting this really incredible opportunity.”


Loop 63rd Annual Science Seminar Highlights Student Research English and political science major Claire Ross ’23 echoed the emphasis on collaboration in the office of Virginia State Senator Jennifer Boysko ’89. “The size of the team was perfect for me. It was Sen. Boysko herself, my supervisor, another legislative aide, and two other interns. I was remote, but I still got to work handson with legislation. I wrote press conference statements, media releases, and statements for committees to help pass bills.” For Ming McDonald ’22, a communication studies major, her remote work with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia this January has ably complemented her previous internships in helping her stand out while seeking future opportunities. “I was called about a possible summer internship, and I talked about the PR experience I’ve had through the Signature Internship Program. The people I spoke with were blown away with the amount of experience that I have from being a student at Hollins and the number of internships you can get here.” She added, “I feel very confident that when I get my first job out of college and begin my career, it won’t be nearly as scary as it could have been because of the experience Hollins has offered.” Center for Career Development and Life Design Director Christine Harriger believes a mix of face-to-face and remote internships holds promise for the future. “With, say, laboratory work, you need to be in person, but other activities can be done in a hybrid fashion. You can save on expenses and still deliver valuable career preparation.” In addition, Harriger is grateful for the collaborations that helped make the remote internship approach a success. “We could not offer these kinds of opportunities without our fabulous hosts and our super-engaged alumnae. And we’re really proud of how well students responded to this format. They represented us really well. This is what makes Hollins Hollins.”


ollins showcased dynamic projects conducted during the 2020-21 academic year by the university’s science and mathematics students at the 63rd Annual Science Seminar, April 5 - 8. The four-day virtual meeting celebrated scientific research and inquiry through: • Student research presentations in both oral and poster formats • Separate student/faculty panels exploring research in biology/ environmental science, chemistry/ physics, mathematics/statistics/ computer science, and psychology • An alumnae panel focused on research in STEM fields • A keynote address “Though we have been pressed by the pandemic, we have continued in our quest to expand our mathematical and scientific understanding of the world around us,” said Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Renee Godard. The seminar’s first day featured sessions considering the process and value of doing STEM research. During “Conversations about Research with Students of Science and Math,” student panelists discussed how they found research opportunities, described what lessons they learned and skills they gained during their research, and explained how this has prepared them for their future. “A Conversation with STEMinist Alumnae in Research” was led by recent Hollins alumnae who are actively pursuing careers in research in psychology, environmental science, biomedical technology, and chemistry. On April 6, the Science Seminar highlighted research in biology/environmental science and mathematics/ statistics. “Exploring Research in Biology and Environmental Science” featured biology and environmental science faculty and students discussing their ongoing projects. Then, faculty and senior majors in the department of

mathematics, statistics, and computer science talked about “Exploring Research in Math, Statistics, and Data Science.” A “Senior Research Presentations” session highlighted two Hollins seniors engaged in research projects at the intersection of biology, environmental science, and mathematics/statistics. The Science Seminar’s third day was devoted to research in chemistry/

physics and psychology. “Exploring Research in Chemistry and Physics” featured chemistry and physics faculty in a conversation about their areas of research, followed by separate discussions with students presenting research posters. “Exploring Research in Psychology” focused on faculty research, student research posters, and various research opportunities for students. A second “Senior Research Presentations” session showcased two seniors’ projects in chemistry and psychology. The 63rd Annual Science Seminar concluded on April 8 with a keynote presentation by Susan Campbell, Ph.D., an assistant professor of animal and poultry sciences at Virginia Tech.

Spring 2021 7


Loop Decision Height Revival Celebrates Ten Years of the Award-Winning Drama


h my God, what am I going to write?” This was the question nagging then-junior Meredith Dayna Levy ’12, M.F.A. ’18, while she was studying abroad in London during the spring of 2011. For her senior honors thesis, the theatre major knew she wanted to write a play, one with an all-female cast that would allow her “to practically use the actors I knew on campus and also speak to my experience as a college student.” What she didn’t know was, what exactly was the play going to be about? “I was beating myself up about it,” Levy recalled.

per tradition. I thought, ‘This is something Hollins students are going to understand. We’re all about wacky traditions.’” But on a deeper level, Levy’s initial research told her that “even though I knew nothing about planes, the military, or physics, I decided this was a community that my audience of students and I could understand.” Thus began Levy’s work on what would become the play Decision Height. The drama would have its Hollins Theatre Main Stage premiere in the fall of 2012, subsequently capture honors from the prestigious Kennedy Center American

All that changed when Levy learned that in 2009, the Congressional Gold Medal had been awarded to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), the first women ever to fly American military aircraft. Created in World War II to fly noncombat military missions in the U.S., the WASP program logged more than 60 million miles and flew virtually every kind of aircraft operated by the Army Air Force. Levy subsequently found a newspaper article about one of the pilots after she had flown her first solo flight. “Her friends had dumped her into this wishing well

College Theater Festival, and go on to be produced at high schools, colleges, and community theatres nationally. In April, Hollins Theatre gave Decision Height its first revival via a virtual staging. Decision Height follows six women who arrive at a Texas base for nine months of training before moving on to active duty. “We witness how their relationships develop and the ways in which they learn new things about themselves and each other, what motivates them and what gives them purpose and strength,” Levy explained.

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Professor Emeritus of Theatre Ernie Zulia, who was Levy’s advisor when she was an undergraduate, remembers when she first approached him prior to the 2011-12 academic year about writing a play as her honors thesis. “Not only was it sitting down and creating characters and dialogue,” Zulia said, “it also required intense research in order to do it authentically.” Levy discovered an online collection of primary research materials compiled by Nancy Parrish, whose mother, Odean “Deanie” Bishop Parrish, was part of the WASP program. “I spent the summer after I came back from London just eating this stuff up. So many of the events in the play came out of that research and brought those stories to life. It can be intimidating when you’re faced with so many real people. How do you fictionalize it? You want to get every detail right.” So Levy devoted the fall of 2011 to “doing draft after draft after draft.” Friends took part in readings “just trying to get the words out so that I could hear the play and determine what was missing or confusing. With each draft I took a further step away from the history and leaned more on my own lived experience and putting my own emotional truth into the play amongst all the historical framework.” “When a play progresses to a certain point,” Zulia said, “it’s important to get it up on its feet so the playwright can see the play they’ve written.” In February 2012, Decision Height went into rehearsals for its production that spring in Hollins’ Upstairs Studio Theatre, a venue designed for trying out new works. The staging “was received with such enthusiasm,” Zulia said. “People were in tears and talking about what an impact this play had on them.” After graduating in 2012, Levy enrolled in Hollins’ M.F.A. in playwriting program. Zulia told her if she spent that summer working on rewrites, he would put Decision Height on Hollins Theatre’s Main Stage. She continued adding new elements to the play with support from Zulia, Director of the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins Todd Ristau, and Bob Moss, a member of the



Playwright’s Lab faculty who has been called a “living legend of Off-Off Broadway.” For Decision Height’s Main Stage production that October, Zulia invited representatives from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) Region IV, a program dedicated to improving the quality of college theatre in the U.S. In January 2013, KCACTF’s Region IV awarded its top playwriting honor to Levy. A year later, Hollins and Roanoke’s Mill Mountain Theatre hosted the 2014 Region IV KCATCF and featured Decision Height as the opening event. “There were spontaneous standing ovations,” Zulia said. “The Kennedy Center representatives selected Decision Height as the top new play of the year, and the top production of a play that season.” Decision Height has since reached broader audiences. Levy gets particular satisfaction from seeing it staged at colleges. “If it’s a single-sex environment, the actors are so excited — ‘This is me and my friends, this is our community.’ I expected that, but I’m also delighted when I go to big state schools and the women say, ‘There are so few parts for us in so many of the main stage productions. I’ve never viewed any of my peers as friends when we’re competing for the same five parts. To do an all-female production, I feel like I’ve built a new family.’ Hearing these students talk about how they had discovered this new way of being in community with women, that it didn’t have to be adversarial or competitive, was gratifying.” Zulia sees the Decision Height revival as a logical continuation of Hollins Theatre’s Legacy Series, which began a decade ago as a way to bring literary pieces by Hollins writers to the stage. “Our playwriting program is a big part of our legacy, along with our creative writing program,’” Zulia explained. “Some students came to me last year and asked, ‘When do we get to perform Decision Height?’, and it seemed like a good idea —  let’s give our current students the opportunity to be a part of it. Its historical setting and themes are timeless.”

“It’s a Book That’s Very Close to Me”: Professor Jessie van Eerden Talks About Her Award-Winning Latest Work, Call It Horses

van Eerden


hen it comes to writing, some projects are well worth the wait. Author and Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing Jessie van Eerden certainly understands that. Call It Horses, her third novel and fourth book and the winner of the 2019 Dzanc Books Prize, was eight years in the making. “I didn’t work on it eight years consistently,” laughed van Eerden. “There were a lot of other things in that time, but this book took a lot of reimagining.” Call It Horses revolves around three women —  niece, aunt, and artist stowaway — and the 1990 road trip that this improbable trio takes from West Virginia to New Mexico. Experimenting with the book’s structure, van Eerden first tried out a narrative poetry sequence, then a more traditional first-person plot, before finally settling on the current epistolary form (i.e., told through letters). “I think the joy of publishing a book is seeing something that you’ve labored over come to fruition,” said van Eerden about the long process of writing Call It Horses. “To complete that circuit with readers, that circuit of something that’s lived in your head for so long, it’s pleasurable no matter what.”

In the end, all that hard work paid off for van Eerden. In 2019, she was named the winner of the coveted Dzanc Books Prize for Call It Horses — the manuscript was selected from a pool of hundreds —  a win that resulted in Dzanc Books publishing Call It Horses. Flash forward a year and a half, and now van Eerden is out promoting her new novel. “It’s exciting because it’s a book that’s very close to me,” she said. “I’m always interested in letting my characters go out in the world and meet other people.” Indeed, the novel does hit close to home for van Eerden. Call It Horses starts in Caudell, West Virginia, a small rural town reminiscent of van Eerden’s own upbringing in that same state. “It is interesting, my relationship to place with respect to my fiction,” she said. “I feel that there’s the physical landscape of where I grew up, and also the spiritual landscape: of the community of people and the tiny church and the ways that people interacted and cared for each other.” In Call It Horses, those two landscapes inform both van Eerden’s fictional Appalachian world as well as the quasi-spiritual journey out West undertaken by the three central characters. Van Eerden is already working on her fifth book, a return to nonfiction and essay portraiture, a form that won her the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award for her 2017 portrait essay collection, The Long Weeping. “I’m planning on peering into some portraits of biblical women,” she said. “[I’m] doing a lot of excavation of biblical myth alongside more memoiristic material of my own narrative life —  looking into the philosophical realm of human responsibility and human freedom, and the relationship between those two poles of existence.”

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Philanthropy Hollins Raises $8.8 Million For New Imagination Campaign BY JEFF DINGLER


lbert Einstein once famously said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” This year, Hollins has certainly put that idea to the test with its new Imagination Campaign, an effort to invest in bold new projects at Hollins while also reimagining and expanding critical components of the university’s mission to its students and alumnae/i. The campaign, which kicked off in December 2020, has already raised an impressive $8.8 million from generous and committed donors. In response to an invitation to apply for grants, 52 proposals were submitted by faculty and staff for new revenue-generat-

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ing projects to help create a thriving and sustainable future for the institution. “It is a privilege to learn about our community’s hopes, aspirations, and passions,” said Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton. “To be able to secure the resources of our closest friends and donors to invest in our future is a statement of trust and belief in every community member and our mission.” Proposals submitted to the Imagination Campaign had to be mission-aligned, produce revenue for the school, and also support one of four areas of focus outlined in the campaign: Liberal Arts, Student

Experience, Hollins’ Market Position, and Beyond Hollins, a category comprising programs that create pathways to increase enrollment and engage more broadly with the Roanoke Valley community. Below is a by-the-numbers overview of the process from the spring. A more thorough reporting of all approved proposals —  including those currently categorized as “conditionally approved” or “revise and resubmit” — will be announced later this year and included in the winter issue of Hollins magazine.


Philanthropy Donors And Alumnae Help Create New $500,000 Scholarship Honoring Chemistry Professor Sandra Boatman BY JEFF DINGLER


hough the college experience may last only a few years, many professors leave a lifelong impression on their students. That’s the case for retired Hollins Professor Sandra Boatman, who taught chemistry at the university for more than half a century from 1967 to 2018. This year, in honor of Boatman’s impressive legacy, former students and friends of the chemistry professor established the Sandra Boatman Endowed Scholarship Fund, a $500,000 financial aid award for undergraduate students majoring or minoring in chemistry/biochemistry. “Sandy was completely devoted to Hollins and to her students, inspiring them to love chemistry,” said Suzy Mink ’74, vice president for external relations at Hollins. “She spent her entire career at Hollins, inspiring generations of students to love the sciences, and chemistry in particular.” To Mink’s point, Boatman had such a lasting impact at Hollins that when news of her retirement broke in 2018, tributes poured in from alumnae and former students, many of whom had become chemists, physicians, and professors or chairs of chemistry. One of Boatman’s students, Mary Beth Hatten ’71, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in May 2017. A former Boatman student originally proposed the idea of the scholarship and provided funding for half of it. Around the time of Boatman’s retirement, this Hollins alumna and donor, who wished to remain anonymous, reached out to the university wanting to create a fully endowed scholarship honoring Boatman. In an act of extraordinary generosity, this donor even offered to pay half of the scholarship amount ($250,000) if the university could raise the other half. Other fans of Sandy Boatman joined in, helping to fully endow the scholarship. Thanks to the generosity and initiative of the Hollins community, the Sandra Boatman Endowed Scholarship Fund will soon be available to students. Once ready, the new Boatman fund will provide one or more full scholarships to future potential candidates. Donors and other interested parties will also be able to add additional money to the fund. “I’ve always admired Sandy’s sharp intellect and her goodspirited nature,” said Professor of Chemistry Dan Derringer, who in June completed a two-year run as interim vice president for academic affairs. “She stands as a fine example of what it means to be a great role model and mentor. As a role model, she inspired those of us who knew her — colleagues and students alike — to work hard, to have high standards, and to be professional. As a mentor, she guided us, challenged us, motivated us, and supported us in all our endeavors.”

Sharon L. Meador

Jeff Dingler is a current creative writing M.F.A. student and marketing intern.

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The Green and Gold of

Ossabaw Island

Three Hollins women and their connection to 26,000 acres that inspire artists, scientists, and historians. BY BETH JOJACK ’98

O Photos by Robert Cooper unless otherwise specified.

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n Ossabaw Island, it’s possible to imagine a wild world, one where humans do not exist. Nestled off the coast of Georgia, Ossabaw offers 26,000 acres of pristine maritime forest, salt marshes, and dunelined beaches. Here, Spanish moss clings to live oaks. Mother sea turtles climb out of the ocean, dig holes with their back flippers, and deposit eggs before returning to the sea. Great blue herons nest in cabbage palms as American alligators bask in the sun — doing their part to intimidate the raccoons who would otherwise happily dine on the wading birds’ eggs. Unlike so many of the barrier islands along the East Coast, Ossabaw Island isn’t littered with towering condo buildings or a bridge connecting to the mainland. Instead, it is now owned by the state of Georgia and available to students,

teachers, artists, scientists, and others who yearn to experience the mystery of Ossabaw. This is no accident. It’s the result of the efforts of many determined Americans—a list that includes: Eleanor Torrey “Sandy” West, who inherited the island from her wealthy parents; the longtime president of The Coca-Cola Company, Robert W. Woodruff; Sandy West’s friend, former President Jimmy Carter; many dedicated officials from the state of Georgia; and — key for our tale— two determined Hollins alumnae, Patricia Thrower Barmeyer ’68 and Elizabeth DuBose ’89. “For a long time Ossabaw was viewed as — and was — a place you couldn’t get to,” Barmeyer says. “It was mysterious and private and you couldn’t go to Ossabaw unless you knew somebody who could get you there. But we have created opportunities so that anybody who wants to go can experience this wonderful island.”

Photo courtesy of the Ossabaw Island Foundation

Photo courtesy of the Ossabaw Island Foundation

Patricia Thrower Barmeyer ’68: Dogged negotiator


atricia Barmeyer ’68 worked as an assistant attorney general for the state of Georgia for 17 years. During her tenure, she did everything from working to ensure Georgia’s beaches and tidelands belonged to the public to arguing a state boundary dispute in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Another career highlight: Barmeyer —  who studied history at Hollins before going to Harvard Law School — spent two years negotiating with Sandy West to make Ossabaw Island the state of Georgia’s first acquisition under the Heritage Trust Act. The Act protects sites with “unique natural characteristics, special historical significance, or particular recreational value” from development. Rising property taxes and the enormous cost of running the island had forced West and her relatives who shared ownership of the island to consider selling. But West was determined not to let Ossabaw become another Hilton Head.

“She wasn’t entirely happy giving up her island, of course, but she had decided she was going to do it,” Barmeyer says of West, who died in January on her 108th birthday. “At the same time, she was retaining a life estate in the Main House and would continue to live there, and naturally she wanted things on Ossabaw to continue the way she had always done them.” Barmeyer and West, usually through her lawyers, endured protracted discussions over the fate of the island’s nonnative animals, including cattle, horses, donkeys, and hogs, all brought to the island by various visitors over its long history. “All of those hooved animals were very destructive to the dunes,” Barmeyer explained. Officials with the state of Georgia wanted to ensure hunters would be allowed to come to the island to shoot hogs and deer. West, an animal lover, blanched at the idea. “So those tensions led to some of the long negotiations that we had,” Barmeyer says.

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West was a tough dealmaker. “She was a fierce advocate who was comfortable negotiating with governors and talking to presidents,” says Barmeyer, who now serves as a member of Hollins’ Board of Trustees. By 1978, the state managed to finalize a deal with West and her family. Robert Woodruff, the Coke magnate and an outdoorsman, gave $4 million of his own money, to which the state added $4 million from taxpayer coffers to purchase Ossabaw — a price that was about half the property’s assessed worth. The deal guaranteed the island could only be used for natural, scientific, and cultural study, along with research and educational programs, and that the island’s ecosystems had to be preserved —  no bridge to the mainland, no airstrip. The day the deal was signed stands out amid her distinguished legal career, Barmeyer admits. “It was very gratifying.” Her work for Ossabaw didn’t end there.

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In 1990, Barmeyer moved to the private law firm of King & Spalding. One day, a senior partner called her to a conference room to meet with a man who wanted to create a nonprofit public foundation to look after the island. “He introduced me and said, ‘OK, Patricia will help you,’ Barmeyer recalls. “And then he left, and so I started helping the foundation.” She never stopped. Barmeyer, now a senior counsel in King & Spalding’s environmental practice group, has cycled on and off the board of the Ossabaw Island Foundation. She also serves as the foundation’s legal advisor. She does it, Barmeyer says, out of a genuine love for the island. “My idea of the most wonderful experience in the world,” she says, “is to be on a barrier island beach and look up and down to the horizon in both directions and not see anybody.”

DuBose and Barmeyer

Photo courtesy of the Ossabaw Island Foundation

Photo courtesy of the Ossabaw Island Foundation

Elizabeth DuBose ’89: Champion of Ossabaw


lizabeth DuBose first stepped on Ossabaw Island in 1990. A student working on her master’s degree in historic preservation at the Savannah College of Art and Design, DuBose visited the island as part of a field trip for an architecture class. There, she toured the Torrey-West Main House (circa 1926) and listened as West held court about the island’s recent history. The trip made an impression. “I was intrigued by this magical island that not many people had heard of, that did not have a regularly scheduled ferry,” DuBose says. “There were some hurdles to get to it, and that made it almost mystical in a way.” By the mid-1990s, DuBose found herself thinking about Ossabaw once again when she saw a newspaper classified ad hiring a director for the Ossabaw Island Foundation. “I had this vision that I would go to this wild, romantic place every day to work,” DuBose explains.

By that time, DuBose had already put together a solid resume. Olivia Evans Alison ’78, then a curator for Savannah’s Telfair Museums, hired DuBose as an assistant while she was still in graduate school. Next, DuBose went to work as a neighborhood coordinator for the city of Savannah. Several years into that job, DuBose was ready for a new challenge. She applied for the Ossabaw position. Later, DuBose learned over 400 people had sent in resumes. “Obviously, I never even heard anything,” she says. A couple of years later, though, DuBose received a call from a friend in Atlanta. While shopping, he had happened to meet the chair of the Ossabaw Island Foundation, and she needed help. Turns out, the director the foundation hired hadn’t stayed very long. Was DuBose interested in throwing her hat in the ring? Absolutely. DuBose, who majored in American studies at Hollins, got the job and

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Selden Frissell ’23

Elizabeth DuBose leads a walking tour of the island.

quickly learned she would be spending the bulk of her time not on Ossabaw but in the foundation’s office, which was then tucked away in the basement of a Savannah donor’s home. Right from the start, DuBose had a full plate. Most urgently, the foundation owed several outside organizations reports detailing how the foundation had spent grant money. “I had to do forensics and look at the check stubs and try to figure out where did the money go and what was it used for and write these reports,” she says. “So that was a good nonprofit trial-by-fire.” That was only the start of challenges DuBose would face over the course of her 22-year career working, first as coordinator and then as executive director, for the Ossabaw Island Foundation. Over the years, DuBose has overseen the installation of a wireless network, data collection towers, and a weather station on Ossabaw. She’s helped thousands of visitors coordinate trips to the

island. She’s managed the stabilization or restoration of 10 historic buildings. DuBose’s background in historical preservation has saved the foundation thousands of dollars. “She singlehandedly runs the restoration of the historic buildings,” Barmeyer says. Of all her accomplishments as director, DuBose is proudest, she says, of overseeing the restoration of Ossabaw’s three slave cabins, built sometime between the 1820s and 1840s out of tabby, a mixture of oyster shells, lime, sand, and water. Victor Thompson, Ph.D., an archaeologist at the University of Georgia, regularly brings students to Ossabaw. As the years have passed, DuBose has earned his respect as someone who has a genuine interest in the island’s history. “She has a deep appreciation not just for the big broader ecology of Ossabaw and the Georgia coast, but for the deep stories that it has to tell,” he says. For sure, DuBose is quick to tell Ossabaw newcomers about the history of

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the people who inhabited the island before West’s mother and father purchased it in 1924. She talks of the migratory North American tribes who wintered on the island by harvesting shellfish, the enslaved people who lived on Ossabaw prior to the Civil War, and their children and grandchildren who later lived there as tenant farmers. Regularly, the foundation hosts a gathering for the descendants of Ossabaw Island. “It’s a great occasion for sharing stories of life on Ossabaw,” DuBose says. West was famous for hosting intellectual salons with artists, writers, scientists, and other intellectuals at Ossabaw. Her famous guests included Ralph Ellison, Margaret Atwood, and Hollins’ own Annie Dillard ’67, M.A. ’68. The Ossabaw Island Foundation has continued that tradition. Today, the island regularly hosts writing retreats and events for artists, as well as trips for students, educators, and scientists. DuBose often greets visitors personally. She is constantly puzzling

through the logistics of getting things on and off the island. DuBose figures she spends about a fourth of each year working on Ossabaw. “She does everything from strategy to picking up the dirty towels and taking them to the laundry to be washed,” Barmeyer says. “She is a nuts and bolts person but also keeps her eye on the big picture and the vision of Ossabaw.” Caring for Ossabaw has definitely been a family affair. Mark Frissell, DuBose’s husband, who also studied historic preservation at SCAD, frequently travels to the island to help his wife. He lends his expert skills in carpentry and renovation to the myriad of on-island tasks. Before DuBose’s daughter Selden Frissell ’23 left home to go to Hollins (following in the footsteps of her mother and her grandmother Kathryn “Kathy” Allen Standard ’63), she basically grew up on the island. One of Selden’s favorite memories of Ossabaw is begging her parents to buy

her a five-pound bag of carrots to take there. “I’d bring those, and I’d have all the donkeys following me around because I was the keeper of the carrots,” she says. Frissell, who’s majoring in French and studio art at Hollins, feels she has learned a lot about leadership just watching her mom care for Ossabaw for all these years. As an example she points to the 2020 legislative season, when a member of the Georgia House of Representatives introduced a bill that would have allowed the state to sell up to 15 acres of land protected under the Heritage Trust Act, which would include land on Ossabaw. “She was relentless about that,” Selden Frissell says. “She’s a little bit like a dog with a bone. When she’s on to something, you can’t tear her away.” The bill died in the state senate — no doubt, in part, due to DuBose’s advocacy. These days, DuBose has stayed busy trying to figure out how to navigate fundraising during an unprecedented pandemic (since she couldn’t host events

on the island, she launched a program allowing Ossabaw lovers to “adopt” the island’s few remaining miniature Sicilian donkeys). She’s also working with the board to figure out what to do with the Torrey-West Main House, where West lived until her poor health prompted her to leave the island in 2016. After all these years, DuBose has never felt tempted to look for a different job. On Ossabaw, there are always new challenges and new adventures. “The longer I’ve been out here, the more intriguing it is,” DuBose says. “Because, I think, we are continuing to learn from the island. Ossabaw reveals herself in a very mysterious way. As time goes on, it’s true, she reveals more and more.” Beth (Jones) JoJack ’98 is a freelance writer who lives in Roanoke.

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Braving the Raging Writing Waters in a Beat-Up Inner Tube BY SARAH ACHENBACH ’88

hat first sentence was probably the hardest one I’ve written in the past 33 years. I have decades of reasons why it took me so long to write it, but those excuses ran out this past January. I had registered for Hollins’ January virtual Tinker Mountain Writers’ Workshop (TMWW) Winter Recharge program — my first creative writing seminar since graduating in 1988. Held January 29-31 through Zoom because of the pandemic, participation required 15-20 pre-submitted pages of my work in progress. The course I had selected — The Middle Place Manuscript Workshop for Fiction Writers, Memoirists, and Essayists — best fit my chosen genre of humor writing, but I wasn’t anywhere near the middle. All I had were ideas, a sentence or two scribbled on ATM receipts, and the quiet dream of being what I considered a real writer. Ironically, I make a living writing. As a freelance writer, I write articles and blog posts for magazines and nonprofits. It’s rewarding work, but the ideas I convey are someone else’s. For years, I dreamed of going to the annual TMWW. I pictured myself in seminars, sipping iced tea at a reading in the Green Drawing Room, or talking about character arcs while rocking on the porch of Main. But work deadlines, summer camp carpool, and other excuses kept me home. Why, you may wonder, if I truly wanted to write, did I let life get in the way? I don’t have a good answer. But when I received the email about the virtual TMWW Winter Recharge (or “Charge,” in my case), I knew it was time to get out of my own way. I am a veteran of many Hollins writing seminars as an undergraduate. I loved gathering with other writers in Pleasants or the Bradley conference room with my photocopies of everyone’s submissions, some pencils, and a can of Tab. Professors guided us through constructive, sometimes piercing peer critiques. While I often left a bit bruised, I always had a stronger draft and a better sense of my voice as a writer. On Friday, January 29, as the first TMWW session was about to start,

I channeled those past Hollins seminars. I told my family to be quiet — my office shares a wall with my high schooler’s drum set — and clicked on the Zoom link. I hoped that the workshop’s moderator, Barbara Jones, executive editor at Henry Holt & Company, had a lot of Richard Dillard, Cathy Hankla ’80, M.A. ’82, Jeanne Larsen M.A. ’72, and the late, ever-so-great Eric Trethewey in her. (Spoiler alert: she did.) Having read my fellow writers’ work, I felt I knew a little bit about them, but seeing their native habitats in the Zoom tiles (Vicky’s landscape paintings, Larry’s houseplants, Barbara’s home office in Manhattan) created an immediate bond I wasn’t expecting. Throughout the weekend’s four sessions, we tracked a snowstorm moving up the East Coast with camera pans of what was happening outside our respective

quickly we were in synch. “Was it that we knew how little time we had — only one weekend?” she wrote in a recent email. “I’m not sure. But the mutual respect, honesty, and thoughtfulness among the participants helped everyone’s work.” My work was the last to be reviewed. The kids next door threw snowballs outside my office window while I scribbled notes. It no longer mattered how many decades it took to get here. Or how nervous I was. Or that all I had was 15 double-spaced pages. With each comment, my sentences and paragraphs were shifting into something that I could never have seen on my own. Later, I asked Jamie Snead M.A.L.S. ’18, the other Hollins alumna in my workshop, about her experience for her first writing seminar. Like me, she found the cheerleading as beneficial as suggestions on text organization or

“We talked about how our craft was faring on the water. Other boats glided gracefully … I was pushing a beat-up inner tube into the current and tugging at my water wings.” windows. We reminded each other to unmute. We smiled when cats, dogs, or spouses bringing tea suddenly appeared on camera. Using Barbara’s boating metaphor for the writing process, we talked about how our craft was faring on the water. Other boats glided gracefully. For God’s sake, Larry was steering the final book in his historical fiction trilogy into port. I was pushing a beat-up inner tube into the current and tugging at my water wings. No matter. We became the kind of tribe forged when writers bare their souls. We asked questions and shared suggestions. We took turns in “the soundproof box” (on mute) while others critiqued our work. Barbara recalls how

word choice. “When I’m having a ‘Why am I doing this?’ kind of day, I hear all your voices in my head saying, ‘Keep going,’” she says. After my critique that snowy Sunday afternoon, we said our goodbyes and promised to keep in touch (and we have). I gathered my coffee cups and shut off my laptop. Laundry and life were beckoning. And just as I had decades ago when I cut through the quiet of Front Quad after my writing seminar, notes and warm soda can in hand, I knew where I needed to go and was excited for the words to follow. Sarah Achenbach ’88 is a freelance writer living in Baltimore.

Experience the Tinker Mountain Writers’ Workshop Virtual Winter Recharge

F EBRUA RY 5-6, 2022

Summer Residential Session J U N E 1 2 -1 7, 2 0 2 2

Open to writers of all levels and genres, the Tinker Mountain Writers’ Workshop now offers its traditional one-week summer session as well as a new Virtual Winter Recharge weekend session. Manuscript and write-now workshops offer opportunities for manuscript reviews or generating new work. The summer workshops include craft talks, readings, and social sessions providing plenty of interaction, ideas, and support, as well as a one-on-one conference with a faculty mentor. A list of workshops, details, fees, and more information on how to register will be coming soon and added to the TMWW site at, or you can visit by scanning the QR code:

Contact: Chris Powell, director, special programming, Hollins University,

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Faculty Achievements Underscore the Power of the Liberal Arts at Hollins B Y J E F F H O D G E S M . A . L . S . ’ 11

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One way to understand and appreciate the value of the Hollins experience is to delve into the accomplishments of faculty across academic disciplines. Professors who are authors, filmmakers, social researchers, and natural scientists are presenting just the latest examples of how they are creating compelling new work and conducting innovative projects designed to broaden minds and promote the betterment of society — exactly what a liberal arts education was intended to do.

T.J. Anderson III Writing Poetry as a Musical Score


he latest literary stop on what Professor of English and Creative Writing T.J. Anderson III calls his life’s “artistic journey, a journey that is rooted in African American culture and American culture” is Devonte Travels the Sorry Route (Omnidawn Publishing). The collection of poems is presented in four parts, and Anderson’s process for making those divisions aligns with his perception of the poem as a musical score. “I’ll print out all of my poems and lay every piece of paper on the floor. Then, I’ll walk around and read them. I’ll see what fits, what’s developing in terms of a narrative and musicality. I’m orchestrating things in terms of how I hear them sounding and putting them into a particular order.” Writing the poems that would ultimately become Anderson’s fourth volume of poetry stemmed from seeing a painting by Brian Counihan called “The Sorry Route.” Anderson was intrigued by the work’s two dominant

figures — one man in a tri-cornered hat and another who appears to be in shackles — and the way the painting evoked colonialism. “These poems embodied this voice of a character who called himself ‘Dickerson,’” Anderson recalled. “I began to see that I was working on a series.” Anderson subsequently made the pivotal decision to change the main character’s name to “Devonte.” “‘Dickerson’ has a harshness to it, so at first I was going to call the character ‘Dante’ as an allusion to The Inferno. I chose ‘Devonte’ instead because it not only alluded to ‘Dante’ but it also was a distinctly African American name and certainly sounded more poetic than ‘Dickerson.’ At the same time, I realized there was a young man by that name who was a victim of police violence.” In the series, Anderson said, Devonte “traverses time. His sense of identity is cut by historical events so much that there becomes no discernable separation of past and present. I’m responding to the painting and shifts of identity within the African American cultural and historical narrative. Devonte inhabits multiple dimensions. In several poems, he encounters history on both a macro and micro level that doesn’t solely apply to dates and images. Devonte resists and straddles all those attempts of containment by society.” At his core, Devonte is an artist for whom jazz is a profound force, “a spiritual connection that goes beyond consumptive entertainment and appreciation,” Anderson explained. “The idea of music — tonal sounds, tonal vibrations — what it does to the body, and how it can affect one’s ability to be in multiple places and multiple times, that’s of interest to me.” Anderson is comfortable with readers approaching his work differently from his own interpretation of it and even missing the allusions he makes. “I don’t necessarily feel the need to ‘get’ something at first reading. It’s important to go back and sit with something, and maybe 20 years from now you might say, ‘Oh, that’s what that line meant. I get it now.’ And that’s fine. The process for me, the process of literature, is an organic process.”

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Amy Gerber-Stroh Filmmaking from an Artist’s Point of View


ssociate Professor of Film Amy Gerber-Stroh has accrued nearly 40 years as a professional filmmaker and nearly three decades teaching film in higher education. For her, immersion in both vocations is the key to success and fulfillment. “Teaching learners of all ages and abilities has been rewarding. It has made me a better filmmaker, much more so than if I were balancing filmmaking and (the demands of) Hollywood,” she said. Gerber-Stroh laid her foundations at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). “It’s a school that shaped me in terms of experimental directing and trying different things from an artist’s point of view rather than a consumer point of view.” In 2000, Gerber-Stroh launched her own production company and began producing her own short films, documentary features, and animation projects. After joining the Hollins faculty in 2007, her challenge was to balance filmmaking with her new passion for teaching. “I sort of rotate between longer and shorter pieces,” she explained. “Shorts can take a couple of years. Feature-length projects for independent filmmakers take anywhere from four to eight years. The reason is, if you’re not backed by a major production company, the money trickles in. You’re getting grant money, maybe you’re getting people who are investing in your films, or you’re getting GoFundMe campaigns going. Thanks 24 Hollins

Rory Sanson Boitnott ’19

to Hollins, I received seed money for my current project.” Gerber-Stroh has addressed a variety of subjects in her films. Public Memory (2004) explores the meanings and motivations of American memorials. The Truth About Trees: A Natural and Human History (2015) is a three-part documentary for PBS made in collaboration with the James Agee Film Project. Do Cell Towers Dream of Morse Code? (2019), which imagines the possibilities if cell towers actually developed consciousness, won the Silver Award for Experimental Works at the 2020 University Film and Video Conference, and also earned acclaim at the Miami International Sci-Fi Film Festival and Chicago’s International Art House Film Festival. But the greatest source of inspiration and material has come from both sides of Gerber-Stroh’s own family. In My Grandfather Was a Nazi Scientist: Opa, von Braun and Operation Paperclip (2011), she uncovers the secret past

of Dr. Eduard Gerber, who was among hundreds of Nazi scientists brought to the United States after World War II through a classified and controversial government program. She’s currently writing, directing, and producing a hybrid documentary called Hope of Escape, which tells the story of how her forebears escaped slavery. As production has ramped up, meaningful opportunities have arisen for Hollins undergraduates. Film major Anja Holland ’21 served as one of Gerber-Stroh’s research fellows on the project. “Anja has helped me with historical research, finding scholars, developing a production schedule, and looking for locations.” Gerber-Stroh devoted her spring term sabbatical to working on Hope of Escape. “It was a great time for me to dig into my roots and tell the story. How many filmmakers get the chance to make ‘profiles in courage’ of family members they’re proudest of in the whole world?”

Jennifer Turner Examining Racial Socialization and Black Motherhood


s part of her dissertation, “#BlackMamasMatter: The Significance of Motherhood and Mothering for Low-Income Black Single Mothers,” Assistant Professor of Sociology Jennifer Turner documented the hopes and concerns these moms had for their children. “It’s important that we talk about what it means to be Black in the United States and how that impacts Black mothers and Black motherhood,” Turner said. Recent statistics demonstrate why Black mothers fear for their children. The journal Pediatrics reported in 2020 that Black children, especially those between the ages of 12 and 17, were six times more likely to be shot to death by police than white children. In her research, Turner sought to learn more about how low-income Black single mothers talk to their children about race. “Racial socialization is a significant component of Black parenthood. Primarily, Black mothers are doing this work, and these conversations begin with their children at a young age. It’s talking with them about how to interact with police and also teaching them how to interact with educators and other authority figures in the hope that their children will not be subject to racist stereotypes and/or violence.” According to Turner, previous studies of low-income Black single mothers have looked primarily at problems these

women experience, how they view and navigate motherhood generally, and/or the resources upon which they draw. “So I focused on mothering from the perspective of low-income Black single mothers and what it means to them to be a mother. I also studied their parenting practices. I illustrated the work they do every day to negotiate their challenges to teach their children about issues they deem important.” During 2017, Turner interviewed 21 mothers from Virginia who participate in, or had previously taken part in, Social Services benefit programs. These mothers often face increased scrutiny and are stigmatized for seeking out food stamps and other social welfare services. “The mothers in my research often invoke ‘respectability politics’ when racially socializing their children, which is an attempt to counter negative stereotypes of Black people as poor, lazy, and uneducated by emphasizing middle class values of hard work, education, dressing tidily, using proper

English, and respecting authority figures. This seems to be more about helping their children surpass their current class status and avoid becoming targets of racism, specifically racist state violence, and also to help them ultimately have a better life than what they currently have.” Turner believes that this study “enhances our understanding of racial socialization by illuminating how race, class, and gender are interconnected in influencing low-income Black single mothers.” She is currently working with a Hollins student on a paper that spotlights the racial socialization of Black girls. “Black girls and women face disproportionate threats of becoming victims of domestic or intimate partner violence, and threats of sexual assault at the hands of police officers. I’m interested in the role that racial gendered socialization can play in helping Black girls avoid or deal with these threats, and how Black mothers are talking to them.”

Spring 2021 25


Finding Ways to Stop Tick-Borne Diseases

26 Hollins

Nancy Evelyn

Elizabeth Gleim

ssistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Elizabeth Gleim ’06 is a disease ecologist who is known by a lot of people who are familiar with her work as simply the “Tick Lady.” “There are three main areas on which my research questions focus,” she explained. “The first is identifying ways to better control and prevent tick-borne diseases, especially in the human population but also in domestic animals. I also do a lot of work in vector and disease dynamics. The other piece is trying to better understand how humans are affecting tick-borne disease risk with their actions and behaviors, and then understanding environmental drivers of disease risk.” Over the past 18 months, Gleim has focused on studying the impact of a process known as “prescribed fire” on the risk of tick-borne disease, which was published in the July 10, 2019, edition of Scientific Reports. For years, prescribed fire has been used to successfully manage forests, grasslands, wetlands, and other types of landscapes. Gleim’s findings led her to consider

whether prescribed fire could specifically reduce the risk of Lyme disease, which recently has become common everywhere in the Northeast and has begun to spread to other parts of the country. “By 2017, the western region of Virginia was at the leading edge of what would probably be considered a Lyme endemic area with a distinct hotspot developing in Southwest Virginia,” Gleim said. She, Professor of Biology Morgan Wilson, and then-senior Ciera Morris ’19 set out to understand black-legged tick dynamics in the region, particularly in Southwest Virginia. Using some of the groundwork laid by Morris and Shravani Chitineni ’21, and in collaboration with Gleim, University of Richmond Professor Joey Brinkerhoff, and Hollins Professor of Biology Rebecca Beach, Leemu Jackson ’20 performed her senior honors thesis last year doing a genetic analysis to compare Roanokearea black-legged tick populations to those elsewhere to verify whether migration was occurring. “We discovered a really high genetic diversity here in the Roanoke area, more so than what we’re seeing in the eastern part of the state,” Gleim said. “This does not definitively prove that ticks are migrating into Virginia, but it certainly provides some evidence to support that hypothesis.” Another factor that Gleim believes may be contributing to the prevalence of Lyme in the Roanoke Valley involves human dynamics. “In a lot of urban or suburbanized areas, people don’t spend a lot of time outside. But that’s simply not the case here. We have an outdoorcentered lifestyle, so there’s a large number of people who are spending a lot of time outdoors in an ideal tick habitat.” The “Tick Lady” emphasizes there is still much work to be done. “Shravani picked up where Ciera and Leemu left off and worked on a Lyme simulation model with an ecological mathematician at Old Dominion University and myself. Down the line, we may begin to examine other tick species and pathogens in addition to further exploring questing, the behavior with which ticks get on an animal or a human.” Jeff Hodges is director of public relations.

Kate Lydon, Well Fed Farm: Dutch Belted Cattle.

Eight Years in the Making 56 Hollins



ate Lydon ’21 entered Hollins as a first-year student in the fall of 2013 along with twin sister Maura ’17. Originally from Texas, the sisters had spent several teenage years in Germany before returning stateside for their senior year in high school in Franklin County, Virginia. Unable to make the financial commitment of taking out more loans to complete her degree on time, Kate decided to hit the pause button after her third semester. She had been working at the riding center as a student and was offered to work full time, and she took a class or two on the side as a perk, but she thought her hopes for a college degree were gone. As she learned and understood more about the tuition assistance program

available, she realized a degree was still possible. “I decided to begin seeking a degree as a Horizon student in 2018 with a goal of finishing in two years,” she said, “but I pushed it to three so I could take some more art classes along the way.” Kate remained connected to the campus community both through her full-time work at the riding center and through her love of music. She took music classes, participated in the Appalachian Music Ensemble and the choir, and occasionally accompanied students for their vocal performances on her violin. “I came to Hollins with some classical training on the violin, but now it’s more often I’m playing the fiddle,” she said. The debt Kate had racked up in her first year and a half of college is now fully paid. She graduated in May with the rest of the class of 2021, completely debt-free.



had a lot of time—more time than most—to think about what I wanted to do for my senior project,” Kate said. “I’m passionate about a lot of things, but I didn’t necessarily feel educated enough on many of those issues to make a confident artistic statement about them.” She found her focus in a topic she grew up learning and talking about: endangered livestock breeds. Having grown up on a farm where animals were bred and raised, most memorably working with Irish Dexter cattle, Kate and Maura were aware that many livestock breeds are threatened or critically endangered and even went to shows working to educate people about the issue. “These breeds don’t do as well in mass-production industrial settings because they don’t grow or mature the fastest or produce the most,” she said. “They do, however, have attributes they have developed over hundreds of years to allow them to thrive in different environments with less management. Small farmers across the country have realized the benefits of these attributes and are fighting to keep these breeds alive and to inform people of their amazing nature.” Once those memories came into the picture, she knew it was the opportunity she’d sought. Kate based her series on a set of images sent to her by farmers in the Livestock Breed Conservancy.

Kate Lydon, Buckhill Homestead Farm: Gloucestershire Old Spots.



lways a lover of relief printmaking, Kate was introduced to trace monotyping in classes with former Hollins Associate Professor Jennifer Anderson Printz and Susan Lichtman, who served as the Frances Niederer Artist-in-Residence in 2017. Tip Toland, the 2016 Artist-in-Residence, had also inspired Kate in how she “celebrated the human condition without the veneer.” “The hatch work is something I’ve always been attracted to, and I stumbled upon the use of red and blue line while working through an idea midway through my project,” she said. “I fell in love, as it reminded me of the red reveal hidden messages and 3D puzzles I loved so much as a kid.”

We were recently named the

THANK YOU to our

#5 Alumni Network

awesome alumnae/i volunteers

(by Princeton Review) for the second year in a row! Our volunteers supported us in four categories:

28 alumnae/i participated virtually in

eight different sessions,


40 students

were referred to Hollins through alumnae!

sharing their career journey with students

Five alumnae/i volunteer leaders mobilized their

networks to support our students during their virtual (remote) signature internship, recruiting over 65 alumnae/i to participate in various panels or as a mentor to a student during the month



fundraising volunteers

helped us raise over $153,000 on Giving Tuesday 2020 and $197,000 on Day of Giving 2021

alumnae/i engagement

20 225

alumnae/i served as

presenters for our various Virtual Event Series, including Hollins Happy Hours


J-Term support


connected during the pandemic.




who have helped us remain

alumnae/i participated in our January “Random Acts of Kindness,” sending friendly notes to current students during their time away from campus

134 75

alumnae/i volunteers

helped support Virtual Reunion 2021 by connecting and engaging with their classmates

class reporters

kept classmates connected during a pandemic

Profile for Hollins University

Hollins University Alumnae Magazine, Spring 2021 Issue  

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