Hollins Partners with Nairobi’s Kenyatta University to Create Study Abroad, Internship Opportunities

Hollins University is working with one of Kenya’s leading universities to offer students experiential learning options in Africa.

With support from the U.S. Department of State’s Increase and Diversify Education Abroad for U.S. Students (IDEAS) Program, Hollins and Kenyatta University (KU) in Nairobi are launching a faculty-led study abroad program in gender and women’s studies (GWS) and public health during the 2024 January Short Term. The two schools are also creating internship opportunities for availability beginning in the 2024-25 academic year and exploring a possible articulation agreement with KU’s Master of Public Health program. They have even set in motion plans for Hollins students to go on safari at Nairobi National Park (Nairobi is the only city in the world with an actual animal preserve located within its environs).

Hollins Delegation KU Faculty
In Nairobi, the Hollins delegation met with faculty members from KU’s humanities and social sciences department, including Gender and Development Studies Lecturer and Chairperson Pacificah Okemwa and Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences Richard Wafula.

“Hollins’ collaboration with KU is our sole partnership in Africa, which in turn is critical for providing our students with a diversity of study abroad experiences in terms of location and disciplines,” explained Assistant Professor of Public Health Abubakarr Jalloh. “Partnering with KU means our students can gain practical field experience on cross-cultural issues related to GWS and public health. In addition, this partnership will enhance career readiness for GWS and public health students through the establishment of international internships with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Nairobi.”

Jalloh, Director of International Programs Ramona Kirsch, and Assistant Professor of Sociology Jennifer Turner made up the Hollins delegation that traveled to Nairobi and the KU campus in June to finalize a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the institutions. The Hollins team met with KU’s international programs staff and faculty from the university’s humanities and social sciences department, as well as with the director of KU’s Women’s Economic Empowerment Hub, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The delegation also visited potential internship sites including the Port Health Authority at Nairobi’s Wilson Airport.

Hollins Delegation KU Internship Site
Visiting the Port Health Authority at Nairobi’s Wilson Airport, the Hollins team was accompanied by Isabell Kingori (second from right), who teaches in KU’s School of Public Health and was Hollins’ Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence last year. They consulted with Port Health Officer-in-Charge Florence Muriithi (third from right) and a KU student intern (third from left).

The MOU, which has an initial term of five years, details four general areas of cooperation between Hollins and KU:

  • Academic Partnerships (scholarships, international seminars and conferences, program support, and/or facilities for students and employees as an element of a degree or program of each partner)
  • Research and Innovation Partnerships (joint grant proposal writing, research, innovation, and support for the development of knowledge)
  • Community Outreach Partnerships (community-based participatory research, community service, community-wide health improvement, community/economic development, environmental justice, legal aid clinics, and business literacy education)
  • Utility Partnerships (access to utility capabilities, including unique technology, specialized equipment, facilities, and training or knowledge, which can be used to support a range of activities including education, research, and development)

Kirsch noted, “In addition to establishing a partnership to provide our GWS and public health students opportunities for study and internships abroad, our long-term plan with KU is to develop an exchange program to benefit both Hollins and KU students as well as to create joint faculty research projects and teaching exchanges. There are many potential directions with this partnership and Hollins will work with KU to nurture these directions in both depth and breadth.”

With its main campus located on more than 1,000 acres, KU is home to some of the world’s top scholars, researchers, and experts in diverse fields. Offering undergraduate, master’s, and Ph.D. programming, KU emphasizes providing practical, hands-on knowledge and skills training in a nurturing environment.


Top Photo (from left to right): Assistant Professor of Sociology Jennifer Turner; Women’s Economic Empowerment Hub Director Judith Ndombi Waudo; Director of International Programs Ramona Kirsch; and Assistant Professor of Public Health Abubakarr Jalloh



Aspiring Attorney Kori Silence ’25: “I Hope to Uplift Marginalized Voices in My Legal Journey”

Kori Silence ’25 was one of approximately 30 students competitively selected from across the country to take part in the University of Oregon Law School’s LSAC PLUS pre-law summer program this year. Participants engaged in digital legal learning for four weeks and received LSAT and application support and a stipend.

“As an aspiring attorney, I feel immense gratitude for the opportunity I received from the University of Oregon,” Silence said. “My peers and professors challenged me to grow as a legal scholar and advocate. Thanks to the program, I know that a legal career is my end goal.”

She added, “As a queer student from a limited income background, I am excited to be the first in my family to attend law school, and I hope to uplift and amplify marginalized voices in my legal journey.”

Of her studies across the Hollins curriculum, Silence reflected that “theatre has helped me realize the intersections between art and advocacy, especially since law and theatre are both about the stories of people.” She hopes for more opportunities to “continu[e] to tell stories in the courtroom and on the stage.”

Assistant Professor of Political Science and Gender and Women’s Studies and Pre-Law Academic Advisor Courtney Chenette is impressed with Silence’s ability to “translate coursework in Spanish, government, theater, and performance seamlessly into community building and advocacy,” which she witnessed in her U.S. Government classroom and during the sophomore’s first-year January Short Term internship with the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation. Silence researched neighborhood history and supported the organization’s community partnerships with the Roanoke Higher Education Center, Roanoke Public Library, and NewCity Development.

“Professor Chenette has been my cheerleader ever since I happened to meet her during orientation, and I wouldn’t have applied for an internship without her guidance,” Silence noted. Through her J-term in the Roanoke community, she noted that she found “determination to join the changemakers of the future.”

This fall, Silence is serving as a Student Success Leader at Hollins. She mentors Visiting Lecturer in Theatre Ami Trowell’s first-year improv theatre students to inspire their pursuit of similar opportunities.

Virginia Journal of Public Health Features Research Directed by Hollins Professor

Two research projects led by a Hollins University professor have been published by the official journal of the Virginia Public Health Association.

“Learning Modalities and Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Literature Review,” a paper coauthored by Assistant Professor of Public Health Abubakarr Jalloh and Annie Morgan ’22, and “Examining the [Social] Determinants of Health Among Immigrant and Refugee Families: Lessons Learned from the Field,” a poster presentation by Jalloh, appear in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of the peer-reviewed Virginia Journal of Public Health.

“Learning Modalities and Mental Health During COVID-19” grew out of Jalloh and Morgan’s faculty-student research fellowship at Hollins in 2021. With an emphasis on Virginia, they looked at the potential impact of learning modalities (in person/face-to-face, virtual/online, or a hybrid of the two) during the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of K-12 students between March 2020 and May 2021. The authors examined 39 data sources, including health and educational sources from two government agencies and three school districts in southwest Virginia.

“The literature reviewed for this study suggests a possible link between some learning modalities and K-12 students’ mental health during the pandemic,” the authors conclude. “While virtual instruction was more likely to lead to negative mental or emotional health (including anxiety, depression, sense of helplessness, isolation, and others), the literature implies a possible link between in-person learning and positive mental health for students, which may be attributed to social interaction and receiving mental health services at school. Hybrid learning has been the least studied of all learning modalities. [It] may be a critical component in addressing the gaps described with virtual and in-person instruction.”

Jalloh and Morgan say their study’s findings should be interpreted “with caution because they are not based on a correlational research design, and thus cannot establish a relationship between any particular learning modality and mental health outcomes. More research is needed in Virginia and across the country to foster our understanding of the potential impact of different learning modalities…in order to come up with recommendations on best practices with a focus on addressing students’ mental health.”

“Examining the [Social] Determinants of Health Among Immigrant and Refugee Families: Lessons Learned from the Field” reflects Jalloh’s extensive background working with immigrant/refugee families, students, and out-of-school youth from diverse ethnicities and nationalities. He drew upon his first-hand experience with migrant agricultural workers across Iowa and his collaborative endeavors with healthcare providers in bridging the gap that often emerges due to sociocultural differences between migrant families and local healthcare providers.

“These families frequently move across the U.S. in search of agricultural work,” Jalloh explains in the poster presentation’s abstract. “This migration exposes them to a myriad of challenges and opportunities related to social determinants of health.”

Jalloh cites the language barrier; deficits in insurance, transportation, and information about how and where to access essential social services; and confusion regarding medical and dental bills as some of the primary obstacles faced by migrant agricultural workers in Iowa. Still, most migrant workers in the state reported gains they had made regarding income, improved educational options for their children, a greater ability to support families back home with money, and meeting new people from different places and learning about other cultures.

“Understanding the social determinants of health that impact the lives of migrant agricultural workers and families would help tailor public health interventions, policies, and social services to address the unique challenges experienced by this underserved population,” Jalloh noted. “For example, providing affordable housing and better working conditions are critical to improve their livelihoods and health outcomes.” He stresses the need for further studies of migrant workers’ experiences to better understand their needs.




Jacquelyne Abe ’24 Prepares for a Public Health Career with Healthcare Workforce Internship, Major Conference Presentation

Since arriving on campus two years ago, Jacquelyne Abe ’24 has enjoyed a transformative Hollins experience.

She has embraced two majors she never considered before coming to the university, and they have sparked her interest in becoming, in the parlance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a “disease detective.” She just completed a summer internship with the government agency responsible for collecting and measuring data on Virginia’s healthcare workforce, and this fall at a prestigious conference, she will present a paper based on research she conducted during that internship.

Jacquelyne hails from the Ivory Coast in West Africa, and her academic odyssey began in high school when, through the U.S. Embassy in the city of Abidjan, she connected with EducationUSA. The network, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, provides guidance on accredited American colleges and universities to prospective students in more than 175 countries. An EducationUSA representative “thought a women’s college would be perfect for me,” she said. “She knew that I liked family and being close to people, and she believed I would thrive in that setting over a big university.”

After doing some exploration, Jacquelyne chose to apply to Hollins and was accepted. During her first year, she discovered and “fell in love with public health,” and then was pleasantly surprised to learn that “I could double major in the U.S. So, I decided to see what else I could be doing.” Ultimately, she realized that environmental science and public health would be “the perfect combination for me.”

While the EducationUSA network encouraged her to pursue a women’s college, the Hollins alumnae network helped lead Jacquelyne to the summer internship that would have a profound impact on her academic and career development. Through Rebecca Smith ’04, a senior adjudication specialist with the Virginia Department of Health Professions (DHP), Assistant Professor of Public Health Abubakarr Jalloh learned of an opportunity with the DHP’s Healthcare Workforce Data Center. Located in Henrico, DHP licenses and regulates over 380,000 healthcare practitioners across 62 professions in the commonwealth, and the Healthcare Workforce Data Center regularly assesses workforce supply and demand issues among those licensed practitioners.

When Jalloh shared the internship with a class she was taking last semester, Jacquelyne said she “thought it sounded really interesting and I wanted to dive into it. I needed to find out if this was something that would be good for me and my future career. It was time for me to experience something instead of just thinking I might like it.”

Supervised by Yetty Shobo, director of the Healthcare Workforce Data Center, Jacquelyne immersed herself in multiple projects over 10 weeks, most notably the dashboard tools that, according to the center, “inform students, policymakers, program designers, healthcare practitioners, and the general public about issues related to Virginia’s healthcare workforce.” During Jacquelyne’s internship, the center received a data request from Shillpa Naavaal, a board-certified dental public health and health services researcher with Virginia Commonwealth University’s Philips Institute for Oral Health Research.

“Dr. Naavaal was interested in seeing how the oral healthcare workforce evolved from 2013 to 2021, and I researched the data and prepared graphs,” Jacquelyne explained. “We saw significant disparities in race and gender, issues that needed to be addressed in order to achieve better health outcomes.”

Shobo was so impressed with Jacquelyne’s work that she encouraged her submit an abstract to the Southern Demographic Association (SDA), a scientific and educational organization composed of demography and population studies professionals. The SDA accepted Jacquelyne’s abstract, “Uncovering Racial/Ethnic Gaps in a State Oral Healthcare Workforce,” for presentation at the 2022 SDA Annual Meeting, which will be held October 17-19 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Jacquelyne is excited to represent Hollins at the conference and see her project showcased. But she is equally proud of what else she has gained through her summer internship. “It helped me improve my skills and enabled me to grow as a person. I made a lot of mistakes, but Dr. Shobo said, ‘That’s okay, we’re here to learn from each other.’ And I thought, ‘You have a Ph.D. and I haven’t even graduated from college, and you say you want to learn from me?’ Her humility taught me to be humble, to understand that you don’t have to know everything. You just have to put your heart in what you do.”

This year, Jacquelyne is hoping to participate in “Ecuador: A Bio-cultural Journey on the Equator,” a January Short Term course that will offer Hollins students the chance to spend two weeks immersing themselves in one of the most biologically and culturally rich countries on Earth. She is confident that exploring the biological and cultural diversity of the Andean highlands and the Amazon jungle will further prepare her to pursue a Master of Science degree in epidemiology, “the science part of public health,” after she finishes her undergraduate career.

“I really see myself doing something in research and looking at the distribution of a disease across a population. I want to find out what happened and why so you can address the problem and prevent new incidences.” Still, as she demonstrated when she first enrolled at Hollins, Jacquelyne is leaving the door open to other possibilities.

“For my future career I can do anything I want, and if I change my mind tomorrow, I know it’s okay. I just have to put in the work and believe in myself.”

Hollins Partners with Local School Divisions to Help Close the Teacher Shortage Gap

“The teacher shortage in America has hit crisis levels – and school officials everywhere are scrambling to ensure that, as students return to classrooms, someone will be there to educate them.”

That’s the alarming assessment from an August 3 story in The Washington Post detailing the deficit of educators in classrooms across the country. “I have never seen it this bad,” Dan Domenech, executive director of the School Superintendents Association, said in the article. “Right now it’s number one on the list of issues that are concerning school districts…necessity is the mother of invention, and hard-pressed districts are going to have to come up with some solutions.”

Virginia is not immune to the critical teacher shortage and its profound impact. “Last October, the Virginia Department of Education’s staffing and vacancy report listed more than 2,500 unfilled teaching positions across the state, and some divisions also reported a spike in departures at the end of the most current school year,” the Virginia Mercury reported last month.

In response to the crisis, “Hollins University is working with local school divisions to close the teacher shortage gap in the Roanoke region,” said Lorraine Lange, director of the Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning (MATL), and Master of Arts in Liberal Studies programs at Hollins.

Roanoke City Public Schools (RCPS) has joined with the Hollins Education Program to help teachers who hold a nonrenewable, three-year provisional license fulfill the requirements for full teaching licensure. Fall Term 2022 represents the second semester of the initiative.

“Hollins has been an invaluable partner to RCPS, tailoring instruction to our teachers’ needs so they in turn have the skills and knowledge to meet the needs of our students,” noted RCPS Superintendent Verletta White. “Coursework is completed in a cohort with other RCPS teachers, which allows them to build a community of support while learning and on the job. This is invaluable as we work to attract and retain highly qualified educators in our school division.”

White said that the initiative is grant funded to ensure “there are no economic barriers to receiving teacher certification.”

Hollins is also collaborating with North Cross School in Roanoke to help a cohort of their teachers earn a graduate degree as part of their professional development. The teachers are working toward completing the MATL; the North Cross program will see its first graduate this fall (third grade teacher Amy Hanson) with more teachers expected to earn their MATL degrees in May 2023.

“Students in the program have the opportunity to work with accomplished faculty in the areas essential in today’s continually changing landscape of PreK-12 education: writing, inquiry, instructional design, assessment, leadership, technology, and contemporary issues in education,” Lange said.

Victor Lamas, assistant head of academics at North Cross, explained that the school’s partnership with Hollins “has allowed us to offer a rigorous MATL program and degree at a very affordable price for many of our teachers. It is one of the best professional development opportunities we have for our faculty.”

In 2021, Virginia Western Community College notified Lange that no instructors were available to teach mathematics in the dual enrollment (DE) program at Daleville’s Lord Botetourt High School (LBHS). (DE enables LBHS students to earn credits at Virginia Western while completing their high school graduation requirements.) In response, Hollins began offering online graduate classes to help teachers at LBHS and throughout Virginia qualify to teach DE classes. To date, five mathematics teachers in the commonwealth have earned eligibility.

LBHS teacher Jimmy Yager completed his certification to teach DE last year and recalled, “Hollins was overwhelmingly helpful as I sought this additional certification. I found the flexibility to be a great plus. The self-paced learning and instructor availability were extremely beneficial, and I valued the focused approach of a stand-alone path for DE certification.”

He added, “There has been a great need for dual enrollment teachers in our district and I am extremely grateful for the efforts of Hollins to help.”

“We are proud to help teachers,” Lange said, “but the real winners are the students.”

Lorraine Lange talks with WSLS 10, WDBJ 7 about Hollins’ collaborations with local school divisions.



“Compassion, Grace, Gratitude, Care”: Hollins Embarks on the 2022-23 Academic Year

Praising “an incredible community of people…united by time, traditions, and this place we call home,” Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton officially launched the 2022-23 academic year at the university’s Opening Convocation on August 30 in duPont Chapel.

The welcoming of new students into the campus community and the procession of seniors in their graduation robes for the first time are among the highlights of the annual ceremony. Hinton cited Hollins’ class of 2023 for having “proven themselves to be resilient, engaged, supportive, brilliant learners. As we begin to find our way through this academic year, I encourage all of us to have that same spirit as our seniors.”

In her address, Hinton reiterated to students, faculty, and staff, “Our hearts and minds are tethered. I ask that as we get to know our newest members and embrace familiar relationships with others, that we seek to see the individual complexities and beauty we each bring. That, in fact, we recognize Hollins would not be the same without each and every one of us. That we choose to extend compassion, grace, gratitude, and care to each person we encounter. That when we are faced with a variety of ways to reach out and engage one to the other, that we choose to do so with love.”

Student Government Association President Jaiya McMillan ’23 shared how the Hollins motto, Levavi Oculos (“I will lift up my eyes,” taken from Psalm 121), will always resonate with her. “I want to carry those words for the rest of my life, for with them I feel that I can lift my eyes and see the wisdom I have yet to gain. I can look up and see my professors, my friends, my family, and the people I admire around me. I ask all of you to lift your eyes and look into yourselves. What do you see? Can you look back into the person you once were, and are parts of that person still existing within you today? Can you see that you are an amalgamation of experiences you’ve had with people you’ve met and the changes you’ve undergone? I hope you cherish, treasure, and love what you find there.”

Congratulating her fellow seniors, McMillan concluded, “We sit here today together, ready to take on the world in leaps and bounds. Let today be the first of many steps to knowing ourselves, knowing each other, and knowing our world.”

Following the event, the class of 2023 took part in the traditional First Step ceremony on the university’s historic Front Quad. Each year, seniors line the sidewalks of Front Quad dressed in robes they creatively design themselves. Bearing bottles of cider specially decorated for the occasion, they take their symbolic first steps onto the grass.


Photo: Hollins seniors processing in their graduation robes for the first time is one of the highlights of Opening Convocation.

Hollins Students Showcase Projects at Summer Research Symposium

Twelve Hollins University students were among the 240 undergraduates from across the country presenting at the 11th annual Summer Research Symposium at Virginia Tech on July 28.

Over the past 10 weeks, the students “engaged in a wide variety of projects tackling real world problems in many disciplines,” said Keri Swaby, director of Virginia Tech’s Office of Undergraduate Research. “I am humbled by the quality of work, and I hope [these students] have been inspired to continue exploring.”

The 240 students collaborated with 24 organized funded programs and a number of independent labs and gave a record-breaking 206 poster presentations.VT Symposium Poster 1

“Summer affords undergraduates the opportunities to dedicate significant time and effort to the planning, execution, and analysis of a research project,” explained Jill Sible, associate vice provost for undergraduate education and professor of biological sciences at Virginia Tech. “They have also had the chance to become authentic members of research teams by working with faculty, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and research staff.” She shared the university’s appreciation for “the diversity of ideas and cultures that [these students] have brought to our research programs.”


The following undergraduates represented Hollins at the 2022 Summer Research Symposium:

VT Symposium Poster 2Malaika Amin ’25/ Biology
Fullerene-functionalized Metal Chalcogenide Nanosheets for New Electron Transport Material in Flexible Solar Cells

Ashree Bhatta ’24/Chemistry & Tram Nguyen ’24/Chemistry
Stereoselective Glycosylation via Dynamic Kinetic Resolution

Aqsa Fazal ’23/Chemistry with a Concentration in Biochemistry
Amphibian Feeding Mosquitoes Are Potential Vectors of Viruses

Kiran Gautam ’23/Mathematics with a Concentration in Data Science and Applied Economics
How Do Wars Affect the Stock Market?

Vanity Hernandez ’24/PsychologyVT Symposium Poster 3
The Impact of Childhood Poverty on US Latinx Adults’ Financial Literacy and Management

Makda Kalayu ’23/International Studies
Erasing Tigray: Ethiopia and the Use of Cultural Erasure as a Tool for Ethnic Cleansing

Jennifer Noyes ’23/Biology
Detection of Taeniid Cestodes in Wild Canids in Virginia

Olivia Sacci ’24/Biology
Changes in the American Toad Microbiome During Development

Yareli Sosa Antunez ’23/Psychology
Investigating the Impact of Latine Ethnicity on Public Stigma Toward Men with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Depression

Nina Lauren Valdisimo ’24/Business (Finance Track)
As Inflation Surges, How Long will this Inflationary Episode Last Compared to Other Episodes in History?

Jessica Willebeek-LeMair ’23/Environmental Science
Investigating Factors of Perceptions of State Fish and Wildlife Agency Prioritization of Wildlife Viewing


Top Photo: Ten of the 12 Hollins undergraduates who presented at the Summer Research Symposium

Photos Credit: Brenda Hale 


Autumn Green ’24 Uncovers Marginalized Peoples’ Stories Through Digital Legal Research Lab

During the United States’ Antebellum Period, considered by some historians to have lasted from the late 18th century to the American Civil War, Indigenous and enslaved peoples engaged in widespread legal mobilization as a means of challenging the exploitation they endured. Their suits for freedom, and habeas corpus petitions for remedy against wrongful imprisonment on both institutional and interpersonal levels, are crucial to the principles of the American legal system. However, the details behind those actions for the most part have not been studied or circulated.

This summer, Autumn Green ’24 is among eight undergraduates from across the U.S. conducting historical legal research through the Digital Legal Research Lab at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. The initiative is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site and is considered an interdisciplinary hub for the social scientific study of freedom making in the United States during the 19th century.

“I’m very, very interested in social and historical context in relation to complex legal civil rights issues rather than just doctrinal rule of law,” said Green, an English major who plans to become a lawyer. She is one of three students this summer working with University of Nebraska Professor of History William G. Thomas III on “O Say Can You See: Early Washington, D.C., Law and Family,” a project documenting the challenge to slavery and the quest for freedom in early Washington, D.C. Green and her fellow students have been examining digitized records from petitions and suits filed between 1800 and 1862, as well as tracing multigenerational family networks.

At the same time, Green is learning about the findings of the other five peers in her cohort who are working with University of Nebraska Associate Professor of History Katrina Jagodinsky, the primary investigator for a second project underway this summer. “Petitioning for Freedom: Habeas Corpus in the American West” is looking at more than 8,000 habeas corpus petitions from Black, Indigenous, immigrant, institutionalized, and dependent petitioners over the 19th century in Washington, Oregon, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, New Mexico, and Arizona.

In an article for Nebraska Today, Jagodinsky noted, “We’re unique in that there aren’t a lot of REUs that are history focused. [Thomas] and I really saw a gap in training in legal history, and legal research generally, that we felt we could address. In graduate school, researchers are expected to be able to navigate legal archival research, digital databases for legal research, and then also apply sophisticated methods and methodologies to that work, but there’s very little undergraduate training or preparation for that work.”

Since June 1, Green has immersed herself in learning and performing raw data collection and processing, archive interpretation, and transcription and encoding. She’s also receiving seminar-style instruction on relevant literature, research methods, professional development, and developing her own research questions. “It’s a five-day-a-week, all-day kind of thing,” she said. “I have been transcribing documents that aren’t on main online legal databases. Our primary investigators had to go to D.C. to collect them from the National Archives and Records Administration as well as from the Supreme Court, which tried a number of the freedom suits we are working with, and local court archives.”

Green’s work has not been without obstacles. “Many of the documents are severely damaged. I had one case that was rescued from a fire. So, when I was transcribing I had to encode it with a note to that effect and add that the language was unclear and the data could not be recovered.”

As a result of her work this summer, Green said she has acquired new research skills and the ability to apply quantitative analysis to humanities data. She’s also learned how to think of more creative ways of structuring humanities data without losing personal and important historical context. “We use a lot of spreadsheets to notate the characteristics of a suit, the arguments the individual brought, the kind of plaintiffs in a certain type of case, and the characteristics of cases that succeeded and those that failed.”

Green noted that “a significant portion” of the data set in the “O Say Can You See” project consists of “Black mothers using petitions for freedom or habeas suits to sue for custodies civilly of their children, which is not something you would expect from a modern understanding of what habeas corpus is. They’re suing for custody on the basis that their children were being wrongfully imprisoned.”

She emphasized that “while reading the decisions of different courts with a deeper understanding of case-specific circumstances has given context to what we know to be the racist and discriminatory history of the law, the focus really is on creating accessible databases that emphasize marginalized people’s legal strategies and stories recenters historical legal analysis to promote forward-facing scholarship, which recognizes communities and people that legal systems work against, or attempt to exclude.”

The culmination of the Digital Legal Research Lab will be a research fair on August 5 in which Green and the other members of her cohort will make presentations based on their work. In the future, she is “definitely interested in exploring other research experiences in the legal history realm, or the legal realm, or the history realm,” and is looking forward to applying the skills she’s learned this summer to her undergraduate studies at Hollins. “I can definitely see using more quantitative data structures and looking at raw data for research in my classes, or if I want to do a thesis.”

She is also excited about the ways in which her experience this summer will be an asset as she goes on to pursue a law career. “I feel like the knowledge of the law that I’ve gained in this program and how to conceptualize data and fact in creative and quantitative ways will be helpful.”


Hollins Students to Conduct Summer Research through Virginia Tech’s Global Change Center

Aqsa Fazal ’23, Olivia Sacci ’24, and Jessica Willebeek-LeMair ’23 will be spending this summer collaborating with faculty from the Global Change Center at Virginia Tech.

The opportunity is made possible through the Hollins Partnership program, which gives select Hollins University undergraduates the opportunity to identify possible mentor-mentee connections/relationships for their future graduate training.

Aqsa Fazal '23
Aqsa Fazal ’23

Fazal, Sacci, and Willebeek-LeMair will gain summer undergraduate research experiences through the Fralin Life Science Institute’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program in conjunction with activities organized by the Virginia Tech Office of Undergraduate Research.

A rising senior majoring in chemistry with a concentration in biochemistry and minors in biology and physics, Fazal will work with Assistant Professor of Biochemistry Chloé Lahondère on researching mosquito-borne diseases. Specifically, she will study Culex Territans mosquitos, which feed primarily on amphibians. Fazal will investigate the pathogens these animals carry and transmit. She plans to pursue graduate studies in the future.

Olivia Sacci '24
Olivia Sacci ’24


Building on her experience working with amphibians in both a clinical and zoological setting, Sacci will partner with Professor of Biological Sciences Lisa Belden to research the symbiotic microbial communities that reside on amphibian skin as well as the microbiome-parasite interactions in honeybees. A rising junior, she is a biology major and chemistry minor on the pre-veterinary track at Hollins and hopes to enroll in a dual DVM/Ph.D. program after she completes her undergraduate studies.




Jessica Willebeek-LeMair '23
Jessica Willebeek-LeMair ’23


Willebeek-LeMair, a rising senior majoring in environmental science, will work with Ashley Dayer, an assistant professor of human dimensions in Virginia Tech’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation. She will assist in using data from wildlife viewer surveys to write scientific reports, which will enhance her data analysis and scientific writing skills and provide her with a new social perspective on environmental conservation issues in the Appalachian region. Through Hollins’ affiliation with the School for Field Studies, Willebeek-LeMair spent this year’s spring term studying abroad in Tanzania.


The Hollins Partnership program was initiated in 2017, but has been on hold since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Margarite Fisher ’22 Gets Ready to Build Her Business Expertise Through Graduate Studies in France

When Margarite Fisher ’22 was deciding where to apply to college, her mom, with whom she is very close, had just one request.

“My mom attended a women’s college (Wellesley College in Massachusetts),” Fisher recalled, “and she was very insistent that I apply to at least one women’s college.” Born and raised in Berryville in Virginia’s northern Shenandoah Valley, she wanted to stay within a six-hour drive and “Hollins fell into that. We drove down here one day, and the campus was just so beautiful. Everyone I talked to was so nice. There was just a different type of community and a different type of bond here on campus that I really, really liked.”

Fisher did not want to go too far away from home for her undergraduate education, but the business major’s Hollins experience has her ready and excited to travel halfway around the world to pursue a master’s degree in digital marketing beginning this fall at the Rennes School of Business in France. Fisher said the one-year program offers several distinct advantages and opportunities. “I signed up at Beyond the States, which is a website that specializes in finding programs abroad that are taught in English,” she explained. “I wanted the majority of my program to be in English with the possibility of learning more of the French language or taking classes in French. I also specifically targeted schools that had sizable international populations.” In addition to those attributes, Rennes boasts triple crown accreditation, which reflects recognition of excellence in business education in the US, UK, and Europe, so her studies will be recognized on her return to the US.

The economic benefit of completing graduate school overseas was another of Fisher’s major considerations. “The cost of graduate school is less expensive in Europe, even if you’re an international student.”

Fisher is no stranger to French language and culture. Her mom speaks French fluently having lived in Belgium and France for two years, so Fisher occasionally heard the language growing up. She took four years of French in middle and high school and is completing a French minor at Hollins to complement her business degree. She first went to France during the January Short Term of her first year at Hollins as part of the university’s “French in Tours” travel/study program. “This was a fun program and fueled my desire to spend more time in France,” she said. Fisher was subsequently realizing her dream of spending an entire semester studying abroad in Paris during the spring term of 2020 when just a few weeks after arriving, her visit was cut short by the emerging COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was heartbreaking for me. Before I went to France, I was extremely nervous whenever I spoke French. It wasn’t because I was necessarily saying anything wrong, but when it’s not your first language, there’s nothing in your brain to tell you, ‘Oh, you said that incorrectly.’” After she got to Paris, “I had to speak French regularly and I really became comfortable with it. I was so sad to leave as one of my goals was to learn to speak French fluently and I was not quite at that point when I had to leave.”

Thus, Fisher sees going to graduate school in France as a chance to finally fulfill the journey that was interrupted two years ago and achieve her goal of becoming fluent in French. “It’s a bit of an out-of-the-box solution,” she said. “I get to the opportunity to continue my education while at the same time living aboard and becoming fluent in a language I have always loved. It’s a win-win situation.” Rennes is located just an hour and a half from Paris, and with the country’s centralized transportation system she said she will find it easy to do a lot of exploring. She is also “completely leaving open the option of staying there a few years more” after she completes her master’s degree.

Fisher plans to make her time in France a success by “going in with a very positive mindset. If you go in thinking you’re going to have a great time, you’re probably going to have a great time. But if you go in with a negative mindset, then you’re probably going to have a really bad time. You have to have that kind of attitude when you go abroad because everything will be different. It helps that I’ve been there before, so some processes I’m already familiar with. Other ones will be brand-spanking new,” but because of the study abroad experiences that Hollins has provided, she noted that she is ready for the challenge.

“My business professors at Hollins were generous with their time in helping me to evaluate business programs in relationship to my career goals, and everyone in the French department – even a new professor that I did not know well – gave me advice on the schools and the different areas of France,” she stated. “My professors also gave me detailed recommendations that led to scholarships. Overall, the Hollins community was incredibly supportive of my goals.”

And how does her mom feel about her upcoming adventure? “My mom is so excited. She has already made plans to visit.”