Investigation interns are trained and assigned to work with attorneys, contributing to pre-trial evidence gathering and defense strategy building.
A gender and women’s studies major and social justice minor, Sesker said her studies at Hollins have motivated her advocacy and inspired her “commitment to social justice, compassion for community, and work to eliminate sources of discrimination and inequality.” During January Short Term this year, she completed a Signature Internship with the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C., where she got the opportunity to research intersections of indigent criminal defense and juvenile justice.
“I learned that client-centered work from an intersectional perspective can make change,” she said of her experience.
Georgetown Law’s clinical programs allow law students and select undergraduates the unique chance to serve clients. They collaborate with, and are supervised by, faculty practitioners of law. This model of practice-learning informs the teaching of Assistant Professor of Political Science and Gender and Women’s Studies Courtney Chenette, who is also an attorney. “Tyler embraces every opportunity to learn and lead,” Chenette said. “She embraces the scholar-practitioner model and brings course concepts to creative community engagement and advocacy.”
“I look forward to serving Georgetown Law’s Criminal Justice Clinic clients, counsel, and community this summer,” Sesker said.
Pursuing scholarly or creative work while ensuring a meaningful experience for students in the classroom is a daily challenge for every college professor. Associate Professor of Film Amy Gerber-Stroh, who chairs the film department at Hollins and codirects the university’s graduate programs in screenwriting and film studies, has accrued 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 really 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 Los Angeles’ CalArts (California Institute of the Arts), which was founded by Walt Disney. Alumni including directors Tim Burton and Sofia Coppola set high standards. “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. A lot of the other film schools in L.A. are really more geared toward the Hollywood box office.”
After CalArts, Gerber-Stroh admits she “got sucked into Hollywood and worked on a lot of strange stuff, mostly as a casting associate.” Her mainstream movie credits range from City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold (1994), Angels in the Outfield (1994), and Tank Girl (1995) to Goldeneye (1995), The Craft (1996), and The Mask of Zorro (1998). Fortunately for Gerber-Stroh, casting work was just a day job. “At the same time, I was making a lot of experimental art films, and I was also working at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. That was a great gig because I was able to make films about painters and sculptors. It honed my sensibilities and drove me artistically.”
In 2000, Gerber-Stroh launched her own production company, FlatCoatFilms, and began producing her own short films, documentary features, and animation projects. After joining the Hollins faculty in 2007, her task was to balance filmmaking with her new passion for teaching.
“It takes a long, long time to make films. 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 or studio, the money is trickling 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 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 series 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. (“Professors who make films have developed such a great community, and so it was really nice to win an award there.”) Cell Towers also earned awards and 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. It tells the story of how her forebears escaped slavery.
“Some scholars believe Cornelia Read, my great-great-grandmother, and her mother, Diana Williams, were born free in Charleston, South Carolina. But we know that, at some point, they became enslaved. They learned they were about to be sold and separated forever, so they had to get out of there. At the same time, Cornelia had a sweetheart. This is the man who would become my great-great-grandfather, William Benjamin Gould. He was also enslaved and planning his escape from Wilmington, North Carolina.
“Cornelia fled by train in a harrowing journey. William eventually escaped in a skiff on the Cape Fear River and was picked up by the U.S.S. Niagara, a Union steam frigate that was blockading the Wilmington harbor. I detail their escapes, getting into what they both were thinking and feeling, while giving insight into their lives, their times, and the obstacles they faced. Both my great-great-grandparents were literate, highly educated, and wrote beautifully. Literacy for the enslaved was illegal in the South, but someone was definitely teaching them. What it was like to be enslaved and educated, and acknowledging the benefits of having lighter skin, are also aspects of their escape that the film will examine.”
Gerber-Stroh has a compelling primary source, a diary that William Gould kept during his escape and continued to write as a sailor for the Union during the Civil War. “My uncle, named for William Gould, wrote a book about this diary, which is one of just three in existence that depicts such an experience. It’s located in the Massachusetts Historical Society and is a great resource for me, serving as a jumping-off point for how I’m going to approach the story.”
Quite a few boldface names played roles in this epic history. Diana and Cornelia grew up in family circles that included the Ball and Laurens families (of Hamilton fame). “Sometimes you would have to pay what was called ‘ransom money’ to gain your family’s freedom. The famous abolitionists Henry Highland Garnet and Lewis Tappan, along with the Rev. James Crawford, gathered money from as far away as England, where many abolitionist societies were dedicated to helping the enslaved. The Duchess of Sutherland was truly an angel investor in that 19th century GoFundMe!” said Gerber-Stroh.
As the film project 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 really helped me with historical research, finding scholars, developing a production schedule, and looking for locations.” Filming is set to begin this summer in Wilmington on the Cape Fear River and also in Charleston.
Gerber-Stroh is devoting her spring term sabbatical to continuing work on Hope of Escape. “This is a really great time for me to dig into my roots and tell the story. It’s a popular genre in film right now—I’m thinking of Harriet (2019)— but Cornelia, William, and Diana had a unique experience that I think audiences will appreciate. I’m very excited. How many filmmakers get the chance to make ‘profiles in courage’ of family members they’re proudest of in the whole world?!”
“I’m scared for you. I love you. I’m going to teach you how to be a gentleman. I’m going to teach you how not to be a statistic. I’m going to teach you the skills I know to make you successful in this world. The world already has three fingers against you: You’re supposed to already be in jail, you’re supposed to be a dad, and you’re supposed to be a deadbeat and not take care of your kids. I don’t want that for you. I want you to be able to go to college. I want you to succeed. I want you to have a family, I want you to love people, I want you to be able to show love, I want you to be able to cry. I want you to enjoy this world, but this world will never enjoy you because they are scared of you.”
Tamara, a 26-year-old mother of one son, was among the low-income Black single mothers who shared their hopes and concerns for their children with Assistant Professor of Sociology Jennifer Turner as part of her dissertation, “#BlackMamasMatter: The Significance of Motherhood and Mothering for Low-Income Black Single Mothers.”
“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. “For Tamara, the fear that her son would be stereotyped, criminalized, and/or become a target of racist state or vigilante violence manifested itself in this diary entry before her son was even born. This passage illustrates the significance race, class, and gender play in shaping the anxieties of low-income Black single mothers. Tamara recognizes that she will have to work hard to protect her son from the racialized class and gender discrimination that he will likely face for a lifetime.”
Recent statistics demonstrate why those fears are present for all Black mothers. A database established by The Washington Post to track fatal police shootings since 2015 shows that Black Americans are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans. 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.
Turner also cites the disproportionate rates at which Black children are punished in schools. “Scholars call the phenomenon the ‘School-to-Prison Pipeline.’ Black students represent 31% of school-related arrests. They are three times more likely than White students to be suspended or expelled, and then three times more likely to enter the juvenile justice system in the year following. Later in life they are more likely to enter the criminal justice system. All of this shows us that Black children are not seen in the same way as White children. Black children are presumed to be bad or criminals at a very young age. Black mothers of all social classes grapple with how to protect their children from discrimination.”
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 very young age. It’s not only talking with them about how to interact with police, it’s 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.”
Turner also addressed what she sees as a deficit in Black parenting studies. “So much of the previous research on the racial socialization practices of Black mothers has focused on middle-class mothers, and I wondered, ‘What’s the difference here with low-income moms, and why isn’t there more focus on them?’”
Turner set out to build upon that previous scholarship. The literature shows that class status doesn’t insulate middle-class Black families from racism. They worry that their children, particularly their sons, will be mistreated by their White teachers and targeted in their predominantly White neighborhoods. These families also face racist stereotypes that associate Blackness with poverty. However, middle-class families are still able to draw upon their status to avoid discrimination.
“[University of Maryland sociologist] Dawn Marie Dow found that these mothers engage in what she calls ‘experience management,’” Turner said. “They encourage their sons to develop skills in athletics and the performing arts that will allow them to traverse racialized class and gender boundaries. They expose them to aspects of Black history, culture, and Black male role models that affirm positive messages regarding Black masculinity. They also pursue ‘environment management,’ in which they scrutinize their sons’ everyday social environment to eliminate discriminatory sources, and enact ‘image and emotion management,’ which involves helping their sons contain their anger, frustration, and excitement, and monitor their dress and appearance.”
Turner argues that these practices fall under the umbrella of “‘respectability politics,’ which essentially is an attempt to counter negative stereotypes of Black people as poor, lazy, and uneducated, emphasizing middle class values of hard work, education, dressing tidily, using proper English, and respecting authority figures.” Respectability politics has its roots in the early 20th century and the Black church. “The idea was, if we could try to dismantle those stereotypes about Black people, and achieve a proximity to Whiteness, we can avoid racial discrimination.”
According to Turner, previous studies of low-income Black single mothers haven’t necessarily examined their parenting concerns, but looked primarily at problems these women experience, how they view and navigate motherhood generally, and/or the resources upon which they draw. “So, I really wanted to focus on mothering from the perspective of low-income Black single mothers and what it means to them to be a mother. I also wanted to study their parenting practices. I illustrate the work they do every day to negotiate their specific challenges to teach their children about issues they deem important.”
Turner interviewed 21 mothers from Central and Southwest Virginia in 2017 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 findings of my research suggest that the practices of low-income Black single mothers are heavily informed by social class,” Turner said. “As in previous studies, the mothers in my research often invoke respectability politics when racially socializing their children. Specifically, as previous research on Black motherhood demonstrates, the mothers in my study fear for their children’s safety, especially their sons, and they often discussed encouraging their children to behave in certain ways in an effort to prevent them from facing discrimination on the basis of their race, class, and gender. Unlike middle-class mothers, however, low-income Black single mothers are unable to assert their class status to avoid racism and discrimination. For these mothers, their employment of respectability politics seems to be more about helping their children surpass their current class status in order to achieve a level of respectability that may help them avoid becoming targets of racism, specifically racist state violence, and also to help them ultimately have a better life than what they currently have.”
The participants in Turner’s study echo similar concerns as those expressed in previous research indicating “that in a lot of ways, race may trump class, at least in some cases, when it comes to the experiences of Black mothers. That is, it appears that Black mothers of all social classes are united in their anxieties about raising Black children in a racist society. Nevertheless, low-income Black single mothers do not have access to the same social, political, and economic resources as middle-class mothers to help them protect their children from racism.”
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 in collaboration with a Hollins student on a paper that spotlights the racial socialization of Black girls.
“Racial socialization practices look very different when we’re talking about sons and daughters. Typically when socializing boys, Black families tend to emphasize racial barriers. But, when talking to their daughters, Black parents tend to instill messages of racial pride and self-esteem to combat the negative messages that Black girls and women are less feminine and less beautiful than White girls and women. They 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.”
Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Elizabeth Gleim is a disease ecologist whose research centers on the study of zoonotic diseases (those that can be directly transmitted between animals and humans) and vector-borne diseases (infections that require transmission through vectors such as ticks or mosquitoes). But a lot of people at Hollins and beyond who are familiar with her work simply know her as the “Tick Lady.”
Ever since she was pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Georgia, Gleim, who is also a Hollins alumna (class of 2006), has investigated tick-borne diseases. “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, which can vary dramatically based on the ecosystem or the region of the country, and even just from year to year. The other piece is trying to better understand anthropogenic drivers, which is how humans are affecting tick-borne disease risk with their actions or behaviors, and then understanding environmental drivers of disease risk, which can include changes in weather, forest management practices, wildlife population changes, and other factors.”
Gleim’s passion for her work has remained constant. “One of the first things that drew me to this discipline is the fact that I get to do both lab and field work, so there’s a lot of variety that I really enjoy. It’s also been wonderful in terms of offering a wide array of research opportunities to Hollins students.”
Over the past 18 months, Gleim has been involved with two major research projects. The first involved 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. This investigation was prompted by the fact that, over the past several decades, both the emergence and incidence of tick-borne diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease have risen dramatically. The challenge for scientists and disease ecologists has been to find ways to reduce and control tick populations and mitigate the risk of tick-borne disease, especially in humans. For years, prescribed fire has been used to successfully manage forests, grasslands, wetlands, and other types of landscapes.
The first phase of Gleim’s research looked at how fire impacts tick abundance and seasonality. The second phase, which she brought to Hollins, focused on whether fire might also affect the pathogens that circulate in the ticks. It was the first study that had ever been done to examine the effects of prescribed fire on tick-borne pathogens themselves. Gleim spent two years doing field work in Southwest Georgia and Northwest Florida, “and collected a whole lot of ticks – 50,000 of them. I then tested almost all of those ticks for all known tick-borne pathogens.” She determined that while prescribed fire did not affect all pathogens, it did impact some. Furthermore, fire greatly reduced the density of ticks infected with pathogenic bacteria in an area and showed a 98% reduction of encounter rates with infected ticks.
“The findings here were exciting and promising, and led to some interesting questions that I hope I can explore in the years to come. First, would we get the same types of dramatic reductions in ticks that we observed if we did this work in other ecosystems or other regions of the country or even the world? Second, could prescribed fire reduce Lyme disease risk specifically? Where I did this work in Georgia and Florida, Lyme is not endemic (e.g. does not occur). It’s at least possible that it could affect the pathogen that causes Lyme.”
The dynamics of Lyme disease in the United States have evolved considerably over the past two decades. As recently as 2001, Lyme cases were seen primarily on a limited basis in New England and the Midwest. However, just 16 years later, Lyme was common everywhere in the Northeast and had 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.
Jory Brinkerhoff, a professor at the University of Richmond, collected black-legged tick (the vector of Lyme disease in the eastern U.S.) nymphs, the life stage particularly associated with Lyme cases in humans, at four sites on an east/west gradient across the state. He found the greatest number of nymphs at his western-most site and the highest level of the Lyme pathogen there, but it was just one site. “We all know in science that you can’t draw any firm conclusions from just one place,” Gleim said. She, Hollins 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’s hotspot.
For Morris’ senior honors thesis, the team established 12 sites around the Roanoke Valley area to collect ticks on a monthly basis for an entire year. They collaborated with an Old Dominion University tick ecologist collecting ticks in the eastern part of the state that same year. “We found a significantly higher number of black-legged tick nymphs and larvae in the Roanoke region versus the Norfolk area,” Gleim said. “What’s notable though is that we do not have significantly more adults. It seems to indicate that we don’t necessarily have more black-legged ticks in the western portion of the state.” However, they are more forcefully engaging in a particular kind of behavior.
“It turns out ticks don’t jump or fly. The only way they get on a human or animal host is to physically brush up against them. For a tick to get on a host, they crawl up to the tops of vegetation, grass, or low-lying plants, and they wait for something to brush up against it. We call that behavior ‘questing.’”
Gleim cited previous studies that demonstrated ticks in the Northeast quest much more aggressively than those in the Southeast. “Ticks in the Southeast tend to stay down in the leaf litter and therefore are unlikely to come into contact with humans. Thus, a migration of ticks from the North into Virginia via the Appalachian Mountains is a possibility.”
Using some of the groundwork laid by Morris and Shravani Chitineni ‘21, and in collaboration with Gleim, Brinkerhoff, and Hollins Professor of Biology Rebecca Beach, Leemu Jackson ‘20 performed her senior honors thesis last year doing a genetic analysis to compare Roanoke-area black-legged tick populations to those elsewhere in order to verify whether migration was occurring.
“We did what we call a phylogenetic analysis, which is sort of a fancy way of saying we created a family tree of all the different ticks we were testing from Roanoke as well as the state of Virginia and the entire eastern U.S.,” Gleim said. “That analysis compared the DNA sequences of all these ticks and showed how similar those sequences are and thus how related they are to one another. What we discovered was a really high genetic diversity here in the Roanoke area, more so than what we’re seeing in the eastern part of the state. 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 outdoor-centered 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. She hopes to submit Morris’ senior thesis for publication in the next month or two (“She’ll be first author on that paper, which is really exciting.”). In addition, “Shravani has picked up where Ciera and Leemu have left off – she’s a senior who is doing her thesis with me right now. She’s getting to do what she really loves, biostatistics, and she’s working on a Lyme simulation model with an ecological mathematician at Old Dominion University and myself. We’re examining different control methods that might be used to effectively control Lyme disease risk, particularly in different regions of the country.
“My hope is that over the next six months or so, we can get published the work that Leemu and Shravani have been doing. And down the line, we may begin to examine other tick species and pathogens in addition to further exploring our questing behavior work.”
As Hollins students rejuvenate from a challenging fall semester and prepare for what will be an equally demanding spring semester by enjoying an extended Winter Break, they will be able to remain engaged and connected, both academic and socially.
Hollins is planning a calendar of online curricular and cocurricular activities and events during what normally is January Short Term (J-Term) that is both entertaining and educational and designed to appeal to a wide array of interests.
Students wishing to focus on keeping healthy in both body and mind can take part in a weekly wellness series as well as virtual yoga and guided meditation classes and “Stress Free Sunday” sessions intended to help oneself thrive during difficult times. The schedule of events will also feature discussions on topics ranging from literature, works of art, and career preparation to trans justice, spirituality and LGBTQIA, Korean culture, implicit bias, and building cultural humility. Students who wish to take a “digital deep dive” can earn a Digital Technology in the Workplace Certificate, while those who want to pursue international learning experiences can register for “Travel Tuesdays” and “World Wednesdays” and also try their hand at global literacy quizzes.
Creativity in the arts will be showcased. Students can crochet and knit; make collages, linocut prints, mobile paper sculptures, zines, and postcards; build their skills in writing with sensory detail, on social justice, and in short forms; virtually explore the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum; and watch via Zoom livestream the annual Hollins – Mill Mountain Winter Festival of New Works, featuring exciting new plays by Hollins playwrights.
And, there will be lots of fun activities, including virtual “Get to Know Hollins” scavenger hunts, a photo/video contest, a murder mystery party, a virtual tabletop role-playing game, a trivia night, bird watching, and that year-round Hollins favorite, Bingo Night.
On Monday, January 18, a special prerecorded program honoring the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. will be made available for viewing throughout the day, which will feature Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton’s presentation, “Why Goodwill Is Not Enough.” Members of the class of 2024, University Chaplain and Director of Spiritual and Religious Life Catina Martin, Associate Dean of Cultural and Community Engagement Jeri Suarez, and Caitlyn Lewis, graduate assistant in Cultural and Community Engagement, will also participate in the program.
Because the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to continue having an impact nationally well into the coming year, Hollins announced in early October that students will not be returning to campus for J-Term this year and residence halls will remain closed. In-person, virtual, and/or hybrid seminars will not be offered during this year’s session, and the J-Term academic requirement for credit has been suspended for the 2020-21 academic year. Virtual internships, independent study projects, and remote theses are the only activities that will be approved for credit this J-Term.
Spring Term classes, which will be taught in-person, online, or through a hybrid mix of those forms of instruction, will begin on February 10, 2021.
The number of Hollins students recognized this year is a record for the university.
Model Arab League (MAL) is a project of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations (NCUSAR), a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., that seeks to foster greater understanding of the Arabic-speaking world by U.S. students. NCUSAR also sponsors internships, study trips to the region, international conferences, and networking opportunities, and the organization’s student programs coordinator is a Hollins alumna: Katie Grandelli ’20. Hollins has taken part in MAL conferences since 2015. (The university has also participated in Model United Nations [MUN] conferences since 2000.) John P. Wheeler Professor of Political Science Edward Lynch teaches the MUN/MAL class and advises the MUN/MAL Club.
ARMAL, normally held on the Hollins campus, was conducted virtually this year. For the first time, the conference included a simulation of the Arab Court of Justice (ACJ), and Hollins is the first host of a regional MAL conference to have an ACJ; students who participated were assisted by Assistant Professor of Political Science Courtney Chenette, a practicing attorney.
Hollins students earning honors at ARMAL this year include:
Lillian Albrecht ’24, who won two awards for her work on the ACJ: Outstanding Justice and Outstanding Advocate.
Salima Driss ’23, Jaiya McMillan ’23, and Susanna Helms ’24, who were recognized with Outstanding Advocate awards.
Acadia Czeizinger ’22, Mollie Davis ’22, Maggie McCroby ’22, and Bianca Vallebrignoni ’23, who received Distinguished Chair awards for leading various conference councils.
In addition, Carly Jo Collins ’21 and Delia O’Grady ’22 served as ARMAL’s Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General, respectively.
Cinephiles around the globe are no doubt celebrating the centennial of famed Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini. The year 2020 marks a century since the birth of one of cinema’s most quirky, creative, and surreal auteurs—Fellini directed more than a dozen projects across a career that spanned nearly five decades—and this month will see the release of Essential Fellini, a new 15-disc Criterion Collection box set of Fellini classics, including Academy Award-winners La Strada, Amarcord, and, perhaps the original hyper-meta film-within-a-film, 8 ½.
Fellini films also have quite a history at Hollins University. The Italian director is a favorite of Professor of English, Creative Writing, and Film R. H. W. Dillard, award-winning author and editor of The Hollins Critic.
“He’s an extraordinary filmmaker, and he does it with such clarity in his heart,” said Dillard about the enduring popularity of Fellini’s cinematic universe, which was so unique it gave rise to the term “Felliniesque.” (Fellini’s La Dolce Vita also spawned the word “paparazzi” from one of the movie’s characters, an obnoxiously persistent photographer named Paparazzo.) “Fellini’s humanity draws us back to him, as well as his art,” said Dillard about the director’s gifts. “There are lots of artistically competent filmmakers, but Fellini I’m drawn back to again and again. It’s a cliché, but his films have this heart to them.”
To Dillard’s point, Fellini had a gift for depicting all his characters, even some of his most despicable or grotesque, with a kind of forgivability and gentleness. There are no true antagonists or villains in many of Fellini’s films, only flawed but usually likeable and endearing characters against the currents of the larger world. “Amore per tutti (love for all),” one of Fellini’s characters famously declares in the director’s 1965 film Juliet of the Spirits, a movie about a suburban woman who begins seeing visions while grappling with the abandonment of her husband. “Love for all” seems to perfectly sum up the director’s attitude toward not just his own characters but indeed to the larger, messier tapestry that is humanity. In Amarcord, a film about growing up in Fascist Italy under Mussolini, even Fellini’s depiction of the Fascists and their supporters reveals that, for the most part, they are just people, too: neighbors and townsfolk, a high school math teacher, a clerk at a cigarette shop, or—in the case of the semi-autobiographical central character Titta—a freeloading uncle who rats out his own brother-in-law.
“He was an artist determined to reveal his full vision as vividly and completely as possible, to discover the universal in the particular,” wrote Dillard in a 1994 essay published in Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture shortly after the Italian auteur had passed away. “Fellini was an artist who depended upon individual and particular vision and expression rather than politically codified generalities and stereotypes.”
Dillard’s connection to both Fellini and Hollins runs deep. In addition to offering a course on Fellini for many decades at the university (he’s actually teaching Fellini this semester, in honor of the maestro’s 100th, in his Film as a Narrative Art class), Dillard said that Hollins is where he saw his first Fellini film. Ever. “When I was an undergrad at Roanoke College, La Strada was showing at Hollins,” said Dillard, recalling the classic film that fetched Fellini his first Oscar win for Best Foreign Language Film (Fellini would go on to win three more awards in this category, a record). “That was also the first time I ever set foot on the Hollins campus. Eight years later, I came back to work here, and I’ve been teaching Fellini ever since. So I’ve always connected the two.”
That screening at Hollins sparked a decades-long Fellini fascination for Dillard. In a situation somewhat reminiscent of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dillard’s dedication to Fellini cinema even caused him to brave a crowded theater during the H3N2/Hong Kong flu pandemic in the 1960s. “When Hollins was the first college in America to close down with the Hong Kong flu—and the national news reported it—my friend [and film professor] Tom Atkins was teaching 8 ½ in his film class in Babcock,” Dillard recalled. “I thought, ‘I’m not gonna miss 8 ½,’ because back then that was the only way I could see it. And the room was full of people with blankets, all of them were sick. I watched the movie and loved every moment. And I caught the flu for it.” (Dillard is quick to caution current Hollins students not to follow in his footsteps.)
As for Fellini’s future in the pantheon of the world’s great filmmakers, Dillard has no doubt of the Italian director’s place. “I think he’s made it—he’s never going away,” said Dillard. “Post-World War II cinema is one of the great periods of art, like Elizabethan/Jacobean drama in English, and that doesn’t go away. Fellini and Bergman and Antonioni, they’re all gonna last. And thanks to technology, we can see them in Blu-Ray.” Speaking of which, Dillard added that he’s already preordered his copy of the Criterion Collection’s Fellini Essential box set (due out November 24). With a smile, Dillard said he’s just waiting for it to arrive so he can watch Fellini’s masterpieces all over again.
At MDCHS, Hollins students who meet qualifications will be guaranteed the opportunity to interview for the following programs: Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies, Doctor of Physical Therapy, and Doctor of Occupational Therapy.
Students who take an outlined course sequence at Hollins can gain early acceptance to Virginia Tech’s Master of Engineering in Computer Science program. The alliance between Hollins and VT Engineering seeks to increase the number of liberal arts students who are growing the tech talent pipeline in Virginia.
In addition to partnering with MDCHS and VT Engineering, Hollins has agreements in place with Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy; the University of Virginia’s Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy; the Middlebury Institute for International Studies; the University of Pikeville’s School of Optometry, School of Osteopathic Medicine, and Coleman School of Business; and the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine.
In just their first season of competition, Hollins University’s indoor track and field team has been named a 2020 Division III All-Academic Team by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
The team finished the 2019-20 academic year with a cumulative 3.24 GPA.
Hollins is one of eight schools from the Old Dominion Athletic Conference to receive All-Academic Team recognition this year.
To be eligible for the award, teams must have finished the 2019-20 season with a cumulative GPA of 3.1 or higher.
Katie Grandelli ’20 is an international studies major and a history and economics double-minor from Goldvein, Virginia.
The story of how I became the National Council on US-Arab Relations’ newest student programs coordinator is really the story of my four years within Hollins’ Model UN/Model Arab League program.
Model Arab League is the flagship youth leadership development program of the National Council on US-Arab Relations (NCUSAR). The program helps students learn about the politics and history of the Arab world, and the arts of diplomacy and public speech. It further prepares students to be knowledgeable, well-trained, and effective citizens as well as civic and public affairs leaders. The National Council hosts over a dozen conferences every academic year, and these conferences are overseen and organized by the student programs coordinator.
While Hollins continues to find success at large Model UN conferences (read about our success last November here), our program has consistently thrived at Model Arab League conferences. Since the real Arab League is only made up of 22 Arabic speaking nations, council rooms at MAL conferences are quite reflective of the Hollins dynamic—much more time and space for collaboration and cooperation. Students who experience smaller university environments with significant interaction with their peers and professors excel in Model Arab League.
My very first semester at Hollins found me sitting in Wednesday night’s Model UN/Model Arab League class, surrounded by fellow students with various degrees of model program experience. Even after three years of Model UN in high school, I knew I had still so much to learn. Hollins was hosting the Appalachia Regional Model Arab League (ARMAL) conference, and I spent the three days of my first collegiate conference as a permanent vice-chair for the Council on Palestinian Affairs, picking up the parliamentary procedure and learning to run a council as smoothly as I could.
The first half of my sophomore year found me in a very similar situation—Wednesday night Model UN/Model Arab League class, but now that the MUN/MAL club was functional again, there were club meetings to attend. ARMAL came around in the fall, and this time I was the chair for Palestinian Affairs. Our entire conference looked very different this year than years prior. We had moved to an innovative paperless system to cut down on the excessive printing that happens throughout the three days; Google Docs was (and continues to be) a friend of Model Arab League. Spring semester saw me as the second in command of the MUN/MAL club, where I planned meeting agendas, led debate preparation work for our spring conferences, and coordinated the mass of logistics it takes to put 12 Hollins delegates on the road. Even though I no longer needed it for credit, I continued to spend Wednesday night in the class, taking in any extra knowledge I could. I started learning how to anticipate the needs of the program and how to advocate for our success.
Junior year is when things got fun. Monday and Thursday nights were MUN/MAL club meetings; Wednesday continued my near-traditional presence in the Model UN/Model Arab League class. It was turning into something more than simply a learning opportunity for me; I was now there to provide data and support from club meetings for class members. I again served as Chair for Palestinian Affairs at ARMAL that fall and was much more involved in the planning for the entirety of the conference due to my role as co-president of the club. I also spearheaded the selection and training for the five other council chairs, spending more and more of my time poring over parliamentary procedure and learning how to teach it best to others.
Spring semester came, and I was off to London for what I thought was going to be a semester without Model UN/Model Arab League. I was wrong. I flew back to Washington, DC, for a jet-lagged and coffee-filled three and a half days to be part of Hollins’ delegation at the National University Model Arab League conference in early April. Three weeks later, I again left London for an eight-day trip to Saudi Arabia, made possible by both the National Council and the Saudi NGO, GatewayKSA. It was one of the most interesting and eye-opening weeks of my life, and I wrote about my time here. My time abroad in London and in Saudi Arabia gave me a truly international gaze and the great understanding that every single person I am interacting with brings something unique to the table.
In the fall of my senior year, I was not only president of the MUN/MAL club, I was also the secretary general of Hollins’ 2019 ARMAL. While staring down the beginning of my honors thesis and other academic requirements, my weeknights still looked like they had in years past. Monday, club meeting where we held practice debates. Wednesday, Model UN class. Thursday, another club meeting that was much more open ended; they usually turned into research and preparation meetings. ARMAL came and went in a flurry of Google Docs; we had hosted another successful conference yet again.
A week later, the then-current student programs coordinator asked if Hollins could send two chairs and a secretary general for the upcoming Capital Area Regional MAL conference. So two of the council chairs from ARMAL and I spent the next weekend at Georgetown University, again filled with coffee, staffing and driving a conference that was completely unknown to us. Those two days at CARMAL brought out our ability to adapt, overcome, and generally figure it out. Maria Jdid ’21 brought home the Outstanding Chair award, and much to my surprise, I was honored as the Best Secretary General of 2019 by NCUSAR. My hours in the Secretariat Offices at both ARMAL and CARMAL were spent sitting with the student programs coordinators, gaining a wider perspective on NCUSAR’s role in conference preparation and greater MAL outreach as a whole.
My last semester of Model UN/Model Arab League at Hollins was a doozy. Right when I was deep into the logistics and preparation work for our final two conferences of the year, conferences were cancelled across the board, and students who could leave campus were sent home. Coincidentally, some of the news regarding the unraveling of the school year due to COVID-19 broke on a Wednesday night, when I was sitting in Model UN class for what would be my last time.
Throughout my four years, I was constantly surrounded by inspiring leadership within our Model UN/Model Arab League program. Those who came before me laid the groundwork and were invaluable resources; those coming after me bring new ideas, dedication, and renewed enthusiasm for the program’s future. I know that the Hollins MUN/MAL program will reach points higher than I could have ever imagined.
What I learned from serving in various leadership positions in Model Arab League is that a program can only succeed if all members know that their voices are heard and that they are an important part of the success of the entire organization. Recalling my lessons learned in Saudi Arabia, I strove to make our MUN/MAL program as accessible to all interested students as possible. Hollins is one of the only institutions at the national Model Arab League level that receives no direct funding (unlike the majority of schools we debate against), so I made sure that our team had as much access and help as possible to grant opportunities to fund our conference expenses. This drive for even more of an inclusive program is something that I will carry with me into my new position and into this new era of online conferencing.
And now I am continuing within the organization that gave me so many opportunities during my undergraduate studies. As the student programs coordinator for NCUSAR, I will facilitate and act as the main point of contact regarding the entirety of the Model Arab League program, as well as working within the Council’s larger initiatives. I hope to use this opportunity to build Model Arab League into even more of an accessible learning and leadership opportunity for interested students all across the nation as well as at international universities.
My conference friends who graduated in the years before me usually saw the end of their undergraduate studies as their adjournment from Model Arab League. But much to my excitement, it’s not a motion to adjourn for me just yet.