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First-year seminar instructors

John Bohland

Jennifer Anderson, Assistant Professor, Art

Although she grew up in the Southeast, Jennifer D. Anderson spent time in the Midwest and Los Angeles before coming home to Hollins. She is a practicing studio artist with an M.F.A. from the University of Georgia, and her artwork is replete with labor-intensive obsessions. Jennifer meticulously cuts paper, wood, and metal to create art that reflects on life’s vulnerable nature with a gentle assertion of memory. These pieces have been exhibited in venues across the United States and abroad, as well as in publications as diverse as Tricycle and The Carolina Quarterly. When not making art, she does yoga, hikes Read Mountain regularly, works on her home, and makes a mean homemade pizza.

John Forsman

Vladimir Bratic, Assistant Professor, Communication Studies

Professor Bratic came to Hollins in the fall of 2006 after receiving his Ph.D. in mass communication from Ohio University. Prior to coming to the United States, Professor Bratic lived in the Czech Republic where he graduated from the Faculty of Pedagogy and Philosophy at the Palacky University. He is originally from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he began his research on the role of the media in conflict and peace. He has published journal articles and teaches about how media can help promote peaceful transformation of violent conflict across the world.

Caren Diefenderfer

Caren Diefenderfer, Professor, Mathematics

Caren Diefenderfer received her A.B. from Dartmouth College and her Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She encourages students to travel to "mathland" to be creative, solve problems, and experience the joys of n-dimensions. She sees patterns everywhere and is an avid fan of knitting, crocheting, and cross-stitching. Diefenderfer has performed with the Bahama Mamas, a female steel drum band and plays a rockin' "Brown Eyed Girl"” She also loves classical music and sings with her church choir. She enjoys travel and has been in 49 states. Can you help her find a mathematical or musical "gig" in Mississippi so she can notch her last state?

Amy Gerber-Stroh, Associate Professor, Film

Amy Gerber-Stroh received her B.A. in film at Pennsylvania State University and her M.F.A. in film/video from the California Institute of the Arts. Amy has a passion for all aspects of filmmaking but especially loves directing and producing her own documentaries. Amy's films have won honors at numerous film festivals and professional venues, including Edinburgh International Film Festival, Mill Valley Film Festival, Film Forum, Los Angeles, and Women in the Director's Chair, Chicago. Amy also directed films for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from 1993 to 1996. She has gained significant professional film experience in Hollywood while working on 12 major motion pictures including The Mask of Zorro (Columbia Pictures), Goldeneye (MGM), Afterglow (Sony Pictures Classics), Tank Girl (United Artists) and Angels in the Outfield (Disney). She is currently collaborating on a PBS series about trees and the environment. When she is not teaching and filming, Amy squeezes in family time, badminton, fly fishing, motorcycling, playing viola, and listening to Radio Lab on WNYC.

Michael Gettings, Associate Professor, Philosophy

Michael Gettings is a former physics undergraduate who morphed into a philosopher, receiving his Ph.D. in 1999 from the University of California, Santa Barbara and joining Hollins in the same year. His love of philosophy knows no bounds, which inspires his students, but can annoy his wife if it's too early in the morning. He knows every episode of The Simpsons and sometimes publishes papers on philosophy and pop culture from The Sopranos to the Grateful Dead to The Daily Show. He's passionate about symbolic logic and aspires to transform students into logicophiles as well. Outside the classroom, he sometimes pretends he's an indie rock critic and enjoys the kind of jazz that can clear a room. He loves to run with his dog, hike the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains with his family, and play with his two kids.

Bill Krause, Assistant Professor, Music

Bill Krause has lived in western Virginia for nearly 20 years, developing a deep respect for the region's music that so aptly conveys every aspect of life in the Appalachian Mountains. His extensive training as a musicologist and guitarist position him well to be both a researcher and performer of this unique American musical tradition. It is his hope that students who venture down "The Crooked Road" will share his enthusiasm as the journey reveals a rich cultural treasure that is to be protected and nurtured. Professor Krause received his Ph.D. in musicology from Washington University in St. Louis and master's in classical guitar performance from the University of Southern California. At Hollins he serves as assistant professor of music, teaching music history and arts administration.

Joe Leedom

Joe Leedom, Professor, History

Joe Leedom grew up amid the wilds of southern California and the rich urban environment of Wyoming before attending the University of Wyoming as an undergraduate and receiving his Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Barbara. His research interests lay in the areas of medieval law and society, but he’s recently turned to Roman persecution (as a research field, not a hobby) and early Christian history. He has been at Hollins now for an undisclosed number of decades, where he teaches a variety of courses on mostly old stuff.

Tiffany Pempek

Tiffany Pempek, Assistant Professor, Psychology

Tiffany Pempek's desire to help children with developmental and emotional problems led her to the University of Dayton in Ohio, where she received a B.S. in psychology and an M.A. in clinical psychology. When she learned that developmental psychologists were helping millions of children at once by conducting research to inform the creation of educational television programs like Sesame Street and Blue's Clues, she switched fields and pursued a Ph.D. in developmental psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Today, her research focuses on understanding how infants and toddlers make sense of digital media, from television to touchscreens. With a passion for applying psychological research to enhance individuals' lives, she is particularly excited about the new field of positive psychology, which uses research-based interventions to help individuals thrive. When she's not thinking about psychology, Tiffany enjoys spending time with her husband and their two sons.

Julie Pfeiffer

Julie Pfeiffer, Professor, English

Julie Pfeiffer is Associate Professor of English and a member of the Gender and Women’s Studies Council. She received her B.A. from Carleton College and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut. While writing her dissertation on Charlotte Brontë, she had her first two children and began to learn how to balance the joys and struggles of teaching and scholarship with those of family life. Those early years of writing about theory while reading bedtime stories shaped her career, and she continues to think about the ways literature and the academic life affect how we approach birth, parenting, and health care. She arrived at Hollins – her dream job – in 1997, where she teaches courses on children's literature, British literature, and women writers. Her research investigates the ways gender structure is exposed and reinforced through literary texts; her current project looks at 19th-century novels for girls. She lives in Salem, VA, with her family (including two very large dogs). Her interests include playing cards with her sons, helping families with birth and breastfeeding, and CrossFit.

Liz Poliner

Liz Poliner, Assistant Professor, English

Liz Poliner came to Hollins to teach creative writing in 2008 after a long stint in Washington, D.C. where she received her M.F.A. in creative writing from American University. She also has as J.D. from the University of Virginia and a B.A. from Bowdoin College. She's been writing poetry and fiction since she was a young girl. One of her earliest stories is called "Pinky with the Floppy Ears," about a small, pink elephant. Besides writing (and reading), she enjoys cooking, playing her flute, and practicing meditation.

Christina Salowey

Alison Ridley, Professor, Spanish

Alison Ridley grew up in England, Norway, France, and Venezuela, but she completed her university studies in the United States. She received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in Spanish from Michigan State University where she specialized in the literature of the Golden Age. Her current research interests include Spanish drama and contemporary Latin American literature. Since arriving at Hollins in 1991, she has taught language, culture, and literature courses, as well as Business Spanish and a Short Term service-learning course on Appalachia. She has led two Short Term trips to Mexico and Costa Rica and is passionate about introducing students to different cultures, languages, and ways of life. When not at work, she enjoys reading, gardening, hiking, working out, eating chocolate, and spending time with her husband, Mark

Annette Sampon-Nicolas

Annette Sampon-Nicolas, Professor, French

Annette Sampon-Nicolas, professor of French; Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison. She teaches courses on Francophone cultures, French children’s literature, nature, global food studies, and French gastronomy. Born in the French-speaking region of Belgium, she lived in France, Portugal, Québec, Wisconsin, and California before moving to Virginia. Her fascination with food and cooking stems from an early age when she would join her mother in the kitchen and help prepare gourmet meals for family and friends. With her father, a master gardener, she learned to cultivate French leeks, Belgian endives, grapes, and a multitude of vegetables. Cooking soon became her avocation. Her cooking experiences expanded when she worked at Château de Beusdael in Belgium as chef for a summer camp. Like Chef Louis, singing and dancing, she happily cooked "les poissons, les poissons," in this case, small fish caught in the château's moat by cub scouts! In France, she frequently cooked for friends' dinner parties, and she helped put herself through graduate school working as the chef of La Maison Française at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She loves making homemade French fries, though admittedly, they are of Belgian origin, just like the best chocolate! Recently, she has been getting interested in molecular gastronomy and new culinary techniques but is devoted to the pure essence of ingredients. She can whip any vegetables up into a delightful soup and when stressed, bakes bread. Like French chefs, she cooks au pif, by instinct regarding proportions. She holds a special place in her heart for fresh baguette slathered in exquisite butter and anything with dark Belgian chocolate. In Virginia, she loves preparing gourmet meals with her family and watching Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, No Reservations and The Taste.