With Compassion for Immigrant and Refugee Populations, Sajila Kanwal ’22 Lays the Groundwork for a Career in Public Health

As a student at an all-girls’ high school in her home country of Pakistan, Sajila Kanwal ’22 thought her career path was set. She had aspirations of becoming a doctor, and was enrolled in her school’s pre-med program.

But during her first year at Hollins University, Kanwal soon discovered after taking a sociology class that she also found other fields of study equally as appealing. “It took me some time to kind of realize what I really wanted to do,” she recalled. Her educational exploration ultimately led her to classes taught by Visiting Assistant Professor in Global Politics and Societies Ashleigh Breske and Associate Professor in International Studies Jon Bohland.

With so many interests, Kanwal decided to major in international studies with a minor in social justice. Those passions coalesced last year when she took Breske’s Globalization and Local Responses course.

“I did research on women’s health in Pakistan and their access to sexual and reproductive healthcare,” she said. “I have first-hand experience of not being able to easily access those services back home because sexual and reproductive health is such a sensitive topic.” Kanwal said she hoped the subject would ultimately become her senior thesis, but a lack of available data presented obstacles. At the same time, she increasingly wanted to learn more about, and work with, refugees and immigrants in the United States. “So, I thought that focusing my thesis on undocumented immigrant and refugee women in this country, and their healthcare, would be a good idea. My research is about organizations that help women get access to sexual and reproductive services in Virginia, their policies, and what they are doing different compared to other organizations that cannot reach their goals.”

A class last spring on public health and social justice with Assistant Professor of Public Health Abubakarr Jalloh helped inform her thesis work and solidify her plans post-Hollins.

“I learned a lot about how there’s so much disparity in the healthcare system in the United States,” she explained. “Even during the pandemic, immigrants were completely ignored, even though they were bringing food to our tables. They were having to work even if they were sick. That really kind of drew me into public health, and I’m applying now to graduate school public health programs.”

In January, Kanwal will begin an internship with Ipas, a nonprofit organization based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, that promotes initiatives around the world to increase women’s ability to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights. She’ll work part-time and remotely in Ipas’ development department, where she will conduct individual and foundation donor research and study embassies located in countries where Ipas offices have programming. “Ipas has an office in my home country, which is amazing,” Kanwal said. “I’m going to be involved in a lot of fundraising. The contract is for one year, but I can end the internship in June if I find a full-time job after I graduate from Hollins. I definitely think it’s a great opportunity to start with in my public health career.”

“It has been such a gift to watch Sajila grow and mature during her time at Hollins,” said Ashley Browning, Hollins’ vice president for enrollment management. “She is a wonderful ambassador for our community. I am certain that her contributions at Ipas will make a meaningful impact on their work.”

Kanwal noted that she has enhanced her leadership skills through a number of extracurricular student activities. For the past three years she has served as a mentor in Hollins’ International Student Orientation Program (ISOP), and she works in the university’s Office of Admission, where her responsibilities include sharing on social media her everyday experiences with professors and her fellow students. She is a member of the Diversity Monologue Troupe, a team of student leaders that promotes understanding of the university’s rich diversity while helping to broaden perspectives on the various stereotypes common in society. She’s pursuing a Certificate in Leadership Studies from the university’s Batten Leadership Institute. And, she works as a community assistant, helping support the academic and personal development of each individual in the residence halls.

“I’ve learned a lot from my co-workers and supervisors,” she added. “Their empathy has really driven me to care for others and build my own character.”

The Hollins senior also praises her professors (“Their kindness is beyond limits. They understand you as a student, they give you honest feedback, and they want the best for you. I wouldn’t have had this at a bigger college.”) and her host parents, Marcella Griggs and Peter Trower of Blacksburg (“They have been of great support during my entire Hollins journey. They have really helped me a lot to get to where I am.”).

Kanwal is spending her Winter Break in New York City, where she will be volunteering for a refugee organization. Then, during January Short Term she’s heading to the Universidad de Alicante in Spain to immerse herself in study tours, activities, and courses in health sciences and social sciences.

“I’m proud of myself for choosing Hollins,” she said. “I wouldn’t have had this experience of self-development otherwise. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what the future brings for me in terms of opportunities and options. I’m open to everything that interests me and see the best in each possibility.”

 


As a Stanford University Innovation Fellow, Zahin Mahbuba ’22 Hopes to Impact Hollins and Beyond for Years to Come

Zahin Mahbuba ’22 is passionate about becoming a force for building experiential and entrepreneurial learning in the educational programs of developing nations. This academic year, the international studies major and economics minor from Bangladesh is participating in a Stanford University program that she hopes will help her in establishing a basis for achieving that goal, while at the same time promoting initiatives for students at Hollins.

Mahbuba is one of 251 students from 65 institutions of higher learning in 15 countries to be named University Innovation Fellows (UIF) for 2021-22. The program, run by Stanford’s  Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (d.school), empowers students to become agents of change at their schools. These student leaders create opportunities to help their peers build the creative confidence, agency, and entrepreneurial mindset needed to address global challenges. Fellows create student innovation spaces, start entrepreneurship organizations, facilitate experiential workshops, and work with faculty and administrators to develop new courses. They serve as advocates for lasting institutional change with academic leaders, lending the much-needed student voice to the conversations about the future of higher education.

“The new fellows are designing experiences that help all students learn skills and mindsets necessary to navigate these uncertain times and to shape the future they want to see,” said UIF co-director Humera Fasihuddin. “They are giving back to their school communities, and at the same time, they’re learning strategies that will help them serve as leaders in their careers after graduation.”

During her first two years at Hollins, Mahbuba worked closely with Karen Messer-Bourgoin, who previously served as professor of practice in business at Hollins. “She helped me with all my entrepreneurial endeavors,” Mahbuba said. She learned about UIF from Alyssa Martina, director of Elon University’s Doherty Center for Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship, whom she got to know when Hollins took part in the Elon University Innovation Challenge.

When Mahbuba was presented this summer with Hollins’ first-ever Changemaker Award, participation in UIF became financially attainable. The honor includes a $5,500 grant, made possible by an anonymous donor. “It’s the donor’s belief that the world’s biggest and most difficult problems can be solved by embracing an entrepreneurial mindset and by working diligently to affect change in areas where innovation is needed most,” Mahbuba stated. When deciding how to use the award, she said her overarching goal was that “I didn’t want it to be an experience for myself. I wanted to leave a legacy on which students could embark.”

With Assistant Professor of Political Science Courtney Chenette as her faculty sponsor, Mahbuba embarked on completing UIF’s rigorous application process. “I answered questions about what innovation means to me, what resources would I acquire to build upon the entrepreneurial ecosystem on our campus if the president gave me a blank check, and even what three superpowers I wanted. I made a video where I talked about what excites me. Professor Chenette contributed to my application by describing what entrepreneurship means at Hollins, and I had to get recommendation letters from other faculty.”

As a UIF candidate, Mahbuba was then required to complete a four-week training program remotely this fall. Guided by Joshua Cadorette, a Stanford UIF mentor, she learned “how you can build stuff, how you gather resources, get people on board, things like that.” In collaboration with Chenette, she is spending the next several months at Hollins engaged in a project she conceptualized herself.

“I’m focusing on immigrant populations and refugees and their take on entrepreneurship,” Mahbuba explained. “When refugees are forced to migrate, they often come to America or other Western countries. English is not their first language, and they don’t have a lot of documentation to look for work. They end up becoming entrepreneurs, and I love that innovative mindset. I want to take that idea and make experiential learning opportunities for our students: How can you can create things in your environment and ecosystem that don’t exist yet, but you know should be there? It doesn’t even have to be a device – it could a change in policy.”

During her fellowship, Mahbuba is engaging in a design-thinking framework that is also the focus of “Sustainability and Social Innovation,” a Hollins first-year seminar for which she serves as a student success leader. “Exposing our new students to that is going to be a game changer,” she said. “It’s real, meaningful work, and also has value to one’s knowledge and skills.”

Mahbuba’s fellowship will culminate in March 2022, when she travels to California to spend ten days working with Stanford’s d.school and Silicon Valley startups. “You get exposed to the entrepreneurial ecosystem and connect with people who are actually working on projects,” she said.

As Hollins’ first participant in UIF, Mahbuba is a pioneer for future Hollins students who wish to pursue the program. In fact, cohorts usually include up to seven fellows from a particular college or university in a given year. “I’m really excited to be a part of that,” she noted, “and I’m sure students will be thrilled to get the opportunity to work with Stanford and access their resources.”

Next spring, Mahbuba will graduate after three years at Hollins. She is exploring Ph.D. programs in higher education policy and education reform. “Working with Stanford’s d.school can offer so many ideas on how I can make that structure work for me. When you talk about higher education and policy reform, this will give me a unique mindset and a set of skills.”

Above all, Mahbuba is committed to developing ways to positively impact communities globally whenever possible, especially in regard to young people. “I can’t talk about social innovation enough and why it’s so crucial in moving youth forward. They’re going to be the world’s changemakers. This is something I hope to build on and maybe take it back to Bangladesh, where I can start my own university fellowship program.”


“Don’t Be Afraid of the Word ‘No’”: Students Gain Insight and Encouragement at 10th Annual C3

Entrepreneur and educator LaNita Jefferson ’07 assured Hollins students, “You can make your own tables. You don’t have to wait for someone to invite you to a seat at the table,” during the 10th annual Career Connection Conference (C3), September 30 and October 1.

Jefferson was the keynote speaker for this year’s event, which welcomed alumnae/i from across the country to showcase the lifelong power of a liberal arts education, share their insights on life and work, and help students connect to others in their networks. Thirty-five alumnae volunteered their time and talents to serve virtually as conference leaders for 2021.

“What a momentous and important occasion to celebrate the deep and engaging connection between the liberal arts and career success, and the critically important link between our alumnae/i and current students,” said Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton.

C3 2021 began on Thursday, September 30, with networking, mock interviews, and a program on “Identity in the Workplace” featuring guest speaker Krishna Davenport ’96, an activist and advocate for the equal treatment of Black women in the workplace, specifically Black mothers. On Friday, October 1, C3 presented sessions covering a range of career fields, including Global Health; Business, Finance, and Data; Driven by Mission: Working in Nonprofits; Museums and Archives; Landing in Unexpected Industries; and Entertainment and Media.

Jefferson is a licensed professional counselor, adjunct professor, and social justice activist in Columbia, South Carolina, whose goal is to raise awareness of the benefits of mental health to marginalized communities. She told a Hollins Theatre audience that she considers herself “a determined person. I have goals that I make attainable and I achieve them, I believe in what I can do and I believe in myself. As my husband once said, ‘Whenever you say you’re going to do something, you do it.’”

But she admitted she didn’t always have that mindset. “There was a time when I felt I wasn’t good enough for certain things” including college. “I felt that I wasn’t smart enough. So what changed my mind and was the beginning of me believing I can do what I want to do? That actually happened right here on the Hollins campus.”

LaNita Jefferson C3
Entrepreneur and educator LaNita Jefferson ’07 delivered the keynote address at C3 2021.

Jefferson described how she was deeply homesick throughout her first year at Hollins. When she returned for her sophomore year, her unhappiness persisted. “I made up my mind that I’m just not the type of person who belongs in college. I decided I was going to go back home, get a job, and hang out with my friends – that’s all I felt I deserved and all I felt I needed to do to be happy.”

Jefferson met with her academic advisor, then-Professor of Sociology William Nye. “‘Sounds like you have a plan there, LaNita,’” she recalled him saying after she explained her decision to leave Hollins. “Then he said to me, ‘So what are you afraid of? Are you afraid to experience anything different from what you are used to experiencing? Are you afraid of what potential Hollins is going to unleash? Tell me, what’s your biggest fear?’”

Afterward, Jefferson said she thought a lot about Nye’s questions. Ultimately, she admitted to herself, “I was afraid. I was really afraid to do anything different outside of what I was used to at home. And then something happened: I challenged myself to show I’m not afraid and I’m willing to try different things.”

Jefferson said she began speaking up more in class and “talking to people who didn’t look like me.” She got involved in leadership positions with Hollins’ Black Student Alliance and other multicultural organizations on campus. “I just told myself, ‘I’m gonna give it shot. I’m gonna give it a real chance.’ I felt like I owed it to myself. I fought for what I wanted.”

After graduating from Hollins, Jefferson spent three years working in various positions before getting what she called her first “big girl job.” She loved it. “It was my first insight into mental health and I knew this was what I needed to do to figure out how to become a therapist.” A promotion at first heightened her optimism, “but I started changing. My mental health declined.” She began having trouble eating and sleeping, and she would often have to pull her car over to the side of the road on her way to work because she was having panic attacks. Finally, she was called in to meet with her supervisor.

“I got fired, y’all. Most people would be upset by that, but I was so relieved. I needed that door to close so that I could realize there were other doors already open. I needed them to push me out.”

As she got in her car to leave that day, “I sat there for a while and then something came over me. I said, ‘LaNita, you will never ever let another job or another person come in front of your mental health again. You are worthy, you have a voice, and you will use it. You will make another opportunity for yourself. You deserve that.”

For Jefferson, that opportunity manifested itself in her pursuit of a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. “I immersed myself in becoming a really good counselor who could help people medically and mentally. It was my calling.” She focused her sights on opening her own private practice to provide holistic mental health in her community, but in addition to completing her graduate degree she would also need to pass a licensure exam. The first time she took it, she failed, but she remained undaunted. “I had heard the word ‘no’ so many times: ‘No, you can’t do this.’ ‘No, you shouldn’t think that way.’ I was so used to the word ‘no’ that I wasn’t afraid of it anymore. All ‘no’ means is to try again.”

When Jefferson took the licensure exam a second time, she decided to do it on her birthday. Her anxiety was high, and when breathing exercises didn’t help calm her down, she sought encouragement from her favorite rap song, “Juicy” by Biggie Smalls. “There’s just something about how that song hits your soul. It’s all about success and trying hard and celebrating the good things in your life. The chorus says you know very well who you are and no one can hold you down. Reach for the stars. Believe in yourself and dream as big as you want.”

Jefferson passed the exam, and with her friend, colleague, and business partner, opened Carolina Assessment Services LLC in 2019. As of today, the practice has served over 200 people in South Carolina. This year, she launched The Cohort LLC with another friend as a means of empowering others to fulfill their dreams through entrepreneurship. Currently, she’s a Ph.D. candidate in counselor education at the University of South Carolina.

“What I’m trying to do is help make space for people like you, students like you, that may be afraid to tap into your potential. That may be afraid to step outside of the box. It’s okay to find and create opportunity. It’s okay to be you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be yourself and believe in yourself. And don’t be afraid of the word ‘no.’”

 

 


Sullivan Foundation Workshop Encourages First-Year Students to Embrace “Head, Heart, Hustle”

Students in Hollins University’s first-year seminar “Sustainability and Social Innovation” are focused on finding ways to address the world’s most pressing problems as they present themselves in our local communities. Class members recently received inspiration and a blueprint on how to start finding their purpose as social entrepreneurs through “Head, Heart, Hustle,” an interactive workshop presented by the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation.

Reagan Pugh Sullivan Foundation
The Sullivan Foundation’s Reagan Pugh: “The most effective young people are the most reflective young people.”

 

“What we do is simply support young people who want to be changemakers,” explained Reagan Pugh, a facilitator with the Sullivan Foundation. Partnering with a network of 70 schools throughout the southeastern United States, the foundation seeks through college scholarships, awards, and events and programming to inspire young people to prioritize service to others above self-interest.

Pugh discussed with the students the idea of finding “an intersection” between one’s own beliefs, passions, and skills. “We know that we want that, but some of us are not one hundred percent clear what that looks like. It’s a work in progress. The most effective young people are the most reflective young people.” He urged the class to “take a minute and pay attention to what’s going on around us and make observations. Then, pick a path forward and do that incrementally over time. Move toward finding something that’s right for [you] and right for the world.”

In the “Head, Heart, Hustle” workshop, Pugh led the students in recognizing potential career pathways that employ one’s head (an individual’s skills and unique gifts) and align with one’s heart (the issues that matter most) in order to develop a hustle (a vocation) that fits the individual and serves others.

“If you leave here today and you have a clear step of something you might try, in real life, to bring you clarity about what you might want to do,” Pugh noted, “that’s our goal.”

Sustainability and Social Innovation
In the first-year seminar “Sustainability and Social Innovation,” students are “challenged to ask not what your community can do for you, but what you can do for your community.”

At Hollins, all first-year students take a first-year seminar. These seminars allow them to participate in collaborative and active learning and to hone their skills in critical thinking, creative problem solving, research, writing, and oral communication. Each seminar also has an upper-class student mentor called a Student Success Leader, or SSL. SSLs attend the seminar, help students with advising, and answer academic questions.

“Igniting passion into people and seeing them transform will always be a concept that’s magical to me,” said Zahin Mahbuba ’22, who serves as the SSL for “Sustainability and Social Innovation.” From her perspective, the workshop had a profound impact. “It was tremendous to see the students being struck by their own sense of inspiration and to ultimately want to build on their passions.”

Assistant Professor of Education Teri Wagner co-teaches “Sustainability and Social Innovation” with Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Science Mary Jane Carmichael. “At the heart of the concepts of sustainability and social innovation is stewardship – the responsible use and protection of the environment around your through thoughtful and intentional practices that enhance ecosystem resilience and human well-being,” Wagner said. The concept of stewardship, she added, is applicable not only to the environment and nature, but also to economics, health, information, theology, cultural resources, and beyond.

“In this seminar, we challenge students to develop innovative solutions to complex problems by applying design thinking principles while working in multidisciplinary collaborative teams. We challenge them to ask not what your community can do for you, but what you can do for your community.”

 

 

 


M.A.T.L. Grad Makes Rewarding Career Switch from the Newsroom to the Classroom

When Erin Brookshier Edmonds worked as a morning reporter for Roanoke’s WSLS 10, there was one aspect of the job she enjoyed the most. “It was just great to go out and meet people in the community and share their stories,” she recalls.

Among her regular pieces were ones that originated from local schools. “We would do a high school football kickoff segment every Friday morning and go to different schools around the region. In addition to the players and the cheerleaders, we’d interview teachers and other students. Those were always just my favorite stories, and once I saw myself gravitating more and more toward that environment, I decided I needed to do something different.”

Erin Edmonds WSLS
After graduating from Virginia Tech, Edmonds worked at Roanoke’s WSLS 10, first as a producer, then as a traffic reporter, and finally as the local NBC affiliate’s morning reporter.

Edmonds loved broadcast journalism, “but waking up at 3 a.m. every morning to go to work was hard. It became even more difficult once I got married and started having a family.” At the same time, the idea of pursuing a career in education “was something that really began speaking to me – hanging out with the students and being in school every day, the place I loved doing stories.” Her mother, who teaches at Roanoke County’s Glenvar High School (which Edmonds attended), also had a profound influence on her. “That was the lifestyle we grew up with – my mom was off on the days we were off and she was home during the summer. That was something that was always in the back of my mind.”

For Edmonds, the tipping point came after she had to cover a particularly tough story about a house fire. “I called my mom and told her I didn’t want to do this anymore, and that I was interested in teaching.” A crucial potential stumbling block was whether Edmonds would have to go back to college and complete a significant number of undergraduate classes in order to make a career change a reality. Her mom knew of several people who had transitioned into teaching and suggested that she reach out to Lorraine Lange, director of the Master of Arts in Liberal StudiesMaster of Arts in Teaching, and Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning graduate programs at Hollins University, for advice. “I asked Dr. Lange, ‘How do I go about doing this? How does this work? Is there something that Hollins offers?’ I got a lot of information from her and from one of my former principals.”

With their encouragement, Edmonds successfully took her Praxis examinations (important components of Virginia’s licensure and certification process, these exams help demonstrate knowledge of content, pedagogy, and instructional abilities) and the Virginia Communication and Literary Assessment (VCLA) examination, a basic skills test. “And then, Roanoke County actually hired me,” she says. Edmonds spent her first year of teaching splitting her time between Northside High School and Glenvar. She also enrolled in the Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning (M.A.T.L.) program at Hollins.

“Teaching and completing my M.A.T.L. at the same time was great. The program is so flexible. Being able to take those classes in the evening and take them online fit perfectly with my teaching schedule.” Edmonds says she needed five classes to get her teaching licensure and four more to get her master’s degree “so I just went ahead and did the full thing. I was surprised at how quick it was, it only took about a year and a half.  And as I was teaching, I was learning a lot about the fundamentals of classroom management and other things you really need to know.”

Edmonds says she also benefited from the program’s intimate, close-knit environment. “The classroom settings were super-comfortable and relatively small-sized, so you could meet and get to know other students on an individual basis. We were working together and you knew what everyone else was teaching or wanting to teach. It was helpful to get ideas from people who were interested in the same things as you, or learn something completely different to get a new perspective as well.”

Edmonds is now beginning her fourth year as a teacher. After dividing her time between Northside and Glenvar during her first year, Edmonds moved solely to Glenvar, where she teaches 10th grade and 12th grade English.

Erin Edmonds Outdoors
Edmonds says, “Teaching and at the same time completing my M.A.T.L. at Hollins was great. The program is so flexible.”

“I’ve always been interested in literature and writing and my minor in college (she is a graduate of Virginia Tech) was actually in English, so it was kind of a perfect fit. A lot of the classes I took as an undergrad helped me with what I am doing now.”

Coming back to Glenvar has reunited Edmonds with many of the instructors who actually taught her when she was in high school. “It’s really cool to come back and be able to be friends with people who were my teachers,” and of course serve on the same faculty as her most important mentor, her mom.

But what has been especially gratifying to Edmonds has been the opportunity to form personal relationships with her students. “I had a lot of those relationships with the teachers who are now my coworkers. I love being able to help students decide what the next step is for them after high school, it’s a big time in their lives with a lot of choices they are making.” Her ability to get to know students on an individual basis is bolstered by the fact that Glenvar boasts small class sizes, and as Edmonds notes, “Teaching 10th graders and 12th graders means I get to have lot of those students twice. It’s neat to be able to look at my roster this year and see 15 to 20 students that I taught two years ago when they were sophomores and I’m getting to teach them again now that they are seniors.”

Not surprisingly, the biggest challenge Edmonds has faced during her teaching career in terms of developing those connections has been the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Some of it was really difficult. Having the hybrid classes, some students online and others in person, it’s not what any of us are used to. You have to make those connections in person, and the students who are online, you just see them through this screen image.”

Yet, Edmonds adds there were some silver linings to the pandemic experience, noting that the perspective everyone had gained when full in-person learning resumed last spring “made us all appreciate each other more. I think students and teachers alike were surprised we were able to do it, and I feel like everyone did a great job last year. Teachers and students both worked really hard to make sure nobody would fall behind.”

During her four years in education, Edmonds says she has discovered a good teacher must embody several characteristics to be successful. She explains that “caring, understanding, and finding a way to introduce material in a way that’s interesting to the students” are musts. “British literature isn’t always the most exciting thing for 12th graders, I think there are ways you can approach it that gets them excited in reading and learning more about it.”

And even though she has switched career paths, Edmonds has found the skills she acquired as a television reporter have come in handy. She admits, “I still get nervous those first few days of school talking in front of my students, and I think I probably always will. But, having the broadcast journalism background helps push those nerves down a bit.”

 

 

 

 

 


Hollins Receives CIC Grant to Support “Partners in Purpose” Project

Hollins University is welcoming a $10,000 Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) Professional Development Award for activities that strengthen vocational exploration programming for students.

Supported by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), the grant will bolster the establishment at Hollins of Partners in Purpose (PIP), a project intended to build effective strategies for advising and mentoring undergraduate students.

“PIP will provide invaluable opportunities for Hollins faculty, staff, and alumnae/i to think deeply and collectively about the role of vocation and purpose as it relates to undergraduate education,” says Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton. “Our goal is to prepare campus leadership to do the meaningful work of discernment and life purpose.”

PIP is made up of three components:

  • A faculty/staff development initiative will launch in September and continue through May 2022. The series of monthly workshops will be facilitated by Rev. Catina Martin, university chaplain, and LeeRay Costa, director of faculty development and professor of anthropology and gender & women’s studies, and will include guest speakers, a curriculum on vocation and purpose, and contemplative activities. The workshops will emphasize the unique college and life experiences of underrepresented, disadvantaged, or marginalized students, and provide a space for faculty/staff to read, learn, and reflect together. Quarterly workshops led by professional development speakers will be recorded to create a library of vocational learning for faculty, staff, and alumnae/i mentors.
  • Alumnae/i mentoring workshops will begin in Spring Term 2022. This series will draw from the work of Hollins’ Center for Career Development and Life Design, as well as from a tested mentoring model used for students participating in the university’s Batten Leadership Institute.
  • PIP’s experiential component, which is not funded by the grant, will involve the development and implementation of a new vocation-based program in which Hollins faculty/staff and alumnae/i mentors work closely with a cohort of 12 Fellows made up of students representing first-generation, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), and low-income populations. Starting in the 2022-23 academic year, campus leaders will conduct monthly sessions that focus on vocation and life calling, meaning, and purpose. This pilot program will expand to future generations of Hollins students after the grant project is completed.

Martin and Costa are developing the PIP curriculum this summer and will share further details with faculty and staff in the coming weeks. “We are focusing on the language surrounding these discussions,” Martin explains. “We want to be attentive to the role of spirituality in exploring vocation and discernment, as well as factors such as gender and sexual identity, class, race, culture, and community identity that shape students’ conceptualization of purpose and vocation. As we prepare campus leaders to think about working effectively and meaningfully with students around vocation and purpose, it is imperative that our approach be as inclusive and diverse as possible.”

NetVUE is a nationwide network of colleges and universities, of which Hollins is a member, formed to enrich the intellectual and theological exploration of vocation among undergraduate students. In support of this goal, members may request funds for activities that enhance the knowledge, skills, capacity, and expertise of campus leaders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Through Remote Internships, Students Get Valuable Career Experience While Observing Pandemic Protocols

Normally each year, many Hollins students spend their January Short Term living and working in New York City, Washington, D.C., or other locations around the country as part of the university’s Signature Internship Program. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors may apply for an array of internships offered by alumnae in various fields. In addition to gaining valuable career experience, students receive academic credit and a $300 stipend, and housing is often provided.

But in 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic presented a significant and unprecedented challenge to the program: How could students safely and successfully complete an internship at a time when social distancing, travel restrictions, and other protocols limiting personal contact are essential in mitigating the spread of the virus?

The Hollins University Center for Career Development and Life Design, bolstered by the enthusiastic support of alumnae and nearly 30 organizations, developed a viable and dynamic alternative.

“We realized early on that our students would have to engage in remote internships this year, so we provided best practices and other information to employers to help them build a framework. We knew this whole idea would be as new to our employers as it was for us,” said Center for Career Development and Life Design Coordinator Amber Becke. “We were able to convert the majority of our existing internship employers, and even had quite a few organizations host multiple students during January. We were also pleased to reactivate some employers that we hadn’t partnered with in a few years.”

Forty-two students were placed in remote signature internships this January, working in areas such as technology, legislation, publishing, research, and marketing and communications. The Center for Career Development and Life Design readied them for what to expect. “We provide orientation sessions each year, but this year we put particular focus on remote work practices and preparation for the remote world,” Becke explained. “Prior to Short Term we regularly checked in with each of them to make sure they were comfortable with interning remotely and to assure them that we were here to support them throughout the month.”

Biology majors Mylah Johnson ’21 and Hana Olof ’22 were both seeking to build their medical  research experience, and while their remote internships kept them out of the labs at their respective employers, they were still able to participate in important work.

“I did so much and it was nice to be in a constantly changing environment, because that’s the way medical research goes,” said Johnson. She interned with Michelle Watt ’93 at San Antonio-based Vascular Perfusion Solutions, which is working on a device to help transplanted organs last longer outside of the body. “I helped present to the entire team of engineers, researchers, and CEOs a newly published scientific article that offered suggestions for their own research. I was also able to prepare some histology data for them. They sent me pictures of cells and I took measurements of those pictures with my laptop. Some of the data I gathered will support their research paper, which will be published eventually, and I will get co-authorship on it. I am so excited for that. Being able to step into the field I want to go into after graduation was really wonderful for me.”

Olof interned with Atlanta Botanical Garden, which emphasizes plant conservation education and research. “I mainly worked with seed banking and micropropagation (the multiplication and/or regeneration of plant material for transfer to the field),” she said. “It’s different from the field I’m used to, and I wanted to challenge myself and get to know more about why seed banking is needed. I wanted to learn how to design and conduct research.”

Olof performed research “on the shelf life of temperate versus tropical orchid seeds. It was fun to see how to organize data and do a statistical analysis in an actual scenario. It strengthened my interest in research.” Her work potentially will contribute to improvements in seed storage at Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Another compelling facet of Olof’s internship is that she completed it a half a world away in her home country of Ethiopia. “My supervisor was kind enough to take the time difference into consideration. We would always meet online at 10 a.m. (in the Eastern time zone), which was 6 p.m. back home.” At the outset, her other concern was whether she could count on having a reliable internet connection throughout the month, “but it was more stable than I expected. On the days that it didn’t work for me, I would just go to an internet café or a hotel nearby and do my Zoom calls there.”

While Johnson and Olof knew going into their internships that they want to pursue medical research after graduating from Hollins, Molly Ward ’22, who is double-majoring in history and art history, saw her Short Term experience as a crucial step in discovering where she wants to go in her career. Ward interned with the White House Historical Association’s marketing and communications department.

“I applied for this internship not knowing anything about the field, and just wanting to see if it would potentially be something I would like to do after graduation, and I think it is,” she said. “I had a great experience with great opportunities.”

Ward extensively researched the career of President Lyndon Johnson. She also performed a website review to find historical and grammatical errors and identify sections where the text could be improved. “This was awesome because I had no previous experience working on the back-end of websites and I became very fluent in using a CMS (content management system).”

Despite not being able to be physically present at American Rivers in Washington, D.C., biology major Camryn Anderson ‘21 still felt like she was very much a part of their team. “They welcomed me from day one as if I had worked for them for years. I was doing equity research on dam removal and restoring areas for impoverished or minority groups, and I was interviewing staff to learn about their experiences out in the field. Every single employee saw the interviews as a chance just to talk with me, to find out what I was doing, how they could help me (to achieve my goals), and who they could connect me with. I was at home but I was still getting this really incredible opportunity.”

English and political science major Claire Ross ’23 echoed the emphasis on collaboration in the office of Virginia State Senator Jennifer Boysko. “The size of the team was perfect for me. It was Sen. Boysko herself, my supervisor, another legislative aide, and two other interns. I was remote, but I still got to work hands-on with legislation. I got to write press conference statements, media releases, and statements for committees to help pass bills.”

For Ming McDonald ’22, a communication studies major, her remote work with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia this January has ably complemented her previous internships in helping her stand out while seeking future opportunities. “I recently had a call about a possible internship this summer, and I talked about the PR experience I’ve had through the Signature Internship Program. The people I spoke with were blown away with the amount of experience that I have from being a student at Hollins and the number of internships you can get here.”

She added, “I feel very confident that when I get my first job out of college and begin my career, it won’t be nearly as scary as it could have been because of the experience Hollins has offered. I’d just like to say ‘thank you.’”

Center for Career Development and Life Design Director Christine Harriger believes a mix of face-to-face and remote internships holds tremendous promise for the future. “With some things such as laboratory work, you really need to be in person, but other activities can be done in a hybrid fashion. You can save on expenses and still deliver valuable career preparation.”

In addition, Harriger is grateful for the collaborations that helped make the remote internship approach a success. “We could not offer these kinds of opportunities without our fabulous hosts and our super-engaged alumnae. And we’re really proud of how well students responded to this format, they represented us really well. This is what makes Hollins, Hollins.”

Photo: Ming McDonald ’22 completed a remote internship with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia during this year’s January Short Term.

 

 

 

 

 


“Prelude to C3: A Virtual Conference” Connects Students With the Green And Gold Network

Mindful of COVID-19 protocols, Hollins alumnae/i this fall are employing a different way of conveying the lifelong power of a liberal arts education to current students.

In conjunction with Hollins Alumnae Relations and the Center for Career Development and Life Design, Hollins grads are taking the annual Career Connection Conference (C3) online with Prelude to C3: A Virtual Conference, September 28 – October 3.


Above Photo: Networking at the 2019 C3 conference

 

“Students will be able to hear some of our most accomplished alumnae/i share their insights on navigating life after Hollins,” said Director of Alumnae Relations Lauren Walker. “Since most jobs don’t come from postings but through personal and professional connections, students can maximize their future opportunities by interacting throughout the week with the Green and Gold network at C3.”

This year’s C3 will include Zoom sessions covering a wide array of topics and interests:

Monday, September 28
Healing and Healthcare
The paths that led professionals in health-related fields to their current roles and the ways in which one can make a difference in improving the well-being of others.

Life After Hollins
Tried-and-true strategies on relocating to a new city, finding housing, managing finances, finding a mentor and new social network, and overcoming transitional challenges.

Tuesday, September 29
Aiming for Advanced Study
When is a graduate degree a ticket to upward mobility and when might it carry unacceptable costs or debt?

Wednesday, September 30
Curating Culture
Finding ways in different roles and work/life configurations to keep the arts and humanities alive for oneself and others.

Brand Yourself: Monitor Your Media Image
What are employers looking for in one’s online presence and social media profiles? How does one use media most effectively for networking and job hunting?

Thursday, October 1
Innovative Endeavors
The innovative mindset required to stay agile and find new business opportunities in a rapidly changing world.

Friday, October 2
What Can I Do with a Science and Math Degree?
Representing business, data analytics, scientific research, and environmental compliance, alumnae/i in this session will discuss pioneering into fields where women have been historically unrepresented.

Life After Hollins
(See description above)

The final day of Prelude to C3: A Virtual Conference on Saturday, October 3, will feature a morning keynote address by Aheri Stanford-Asiyo ’05, a software engineer at Microsoft working to create next-generation holographic computing solutions for the workplace. Prior to joining Microsoft’s Mixed Reality team, she served as a senior JavaScript engineer at the Accenture Liquid Studio, a rapid-prototyping facility in Silicon Valley.

The afternoon will be devoted to one-on-one Zoom sessions between students and alumnae/i for the purpose of career mentoring through general networking and informational interviews.

“Whether you are a first-year student or a senior, a double major or undecided, career-ambitious or career-confused, there is a place for you at C3,” said Walker.

 

 

 


Accessing Our Network: One of Hollins’ Greatest Strengths

My Hollins University experience began differently than most students. Growing up on the campus had a significant impact on my early development. I was able to witness intelligent, strong, and creative students that went on to do amazing things. My mother, Jeri Suarez (Hollins’ associate dean of cultural and community engagement), and all of her students became the best role models a girl could ask for during her formative years. I was surrounded by love and empowering figures from an early age, and that continued to grow as I did. I have seen what Hollins can do for its students, firsthand, and when it came time for me to pick a school, I couldn’t think of a better fit for me.

The opportunities that I have had over the last four years have been unique and rewarding. Had I gone to another institution, I may not have received the tremendous mentoring, opportunities to develop strong research skills, or traveled the world as I did. At Hollins, helping students succeed and reach their fullest potential is the norm, not the exception.

I found my love of research at the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School, which provided the outlet to conduct psychological experiments and examine the real-world implications. I fell in love with the process, the emotional rollercoaster that is caring about something enough to dig deeper. Going into my first year at Hollins, I knew that I wanted to conduct research that would be impactful. Over the last four years, I had many opportunities to conduct my own research and assist in many others. In the psychology department, there are options to conduct research through classes but also working closely with professors on their research projects. At the end of my first year, I was given the chance to work in the child development laboratory with Associate Professor of Psychology Tiffany Pempek. This invaluable time in her laboratory strengthened my research abilities, interpersonal skills and confidence. The course I took on research statistics with Professor of Psychology Bonnie Bowers is something I access daily in my current position.

Each year, the Career Center and the Office of Alumnae Relations host the Career Connection Conference (C3), a wonderful event for current students to talk with alumnae and to hear their career advice. During my second year, I met Lauren Staley ’11. She worked at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). Lauren spoke about her time at Hollins and the experiences she had working with the non-profit organization. I knew that was a path I wanted to pursue. She gave me her contact information and said that I could stay in touch as I explored my career path.

The summer between my junior and senior years, I received a research internship at the Addiction Recovery Research Center (Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC), while working on my senior honors thesis. It was time to explore my future plans. My goal was to gain additional work experience, conducting research at a professional level, before entering graduate school. I wrote to Lauren Staley in the fall of my senior year to ask for her advice about applying to work for AIR. She connected me to a former colleague who helped me immensely in the application process.

Applying for a job becomes more daunting in the face of a global pandemic. But, by accessing the Hollins network, as well as my college preparation, I had the confidence to pursue a position with AIR. I was offered an interview with the organization. Due to COVID-19, the process was a 2.5-hour interview over Skype with multiple researchers. Although it felt intimidating at times, I was well prepared and confident in my abilities and able to showcase them.

I have been working at AIR for two months now. I split my time between two departments: the Annual Reports – Digest of Education Statistics team and the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies. These two divisions are committed to increasing the effectiveness of education at every level through research, analysis, training, and assistance in the technical field. AIR’s commitment to research and evaluation provides important insight for policy makers and practitioners with which to guide implementation of certain programs, techniques, and funding. I have since gained new skills in programming, data checking, writing research proposals, and website design. I am honored to be working at this incredible organization.

Hollins helped me develop my skill set and confidence to take chances and to dream bigger. At 19 years old, I did not realize that a 15-minute conversation with an alumna would lead to my first professional position. I thank everyone who helped me on this journey.

 

 


Rosie Wong ’22 Embraces Grass-Roots Activism During Peace Boat US Internship

As an international student, Chin Wai “Rosie” Wong ’22 is passionate about working with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that focus on different languages and cultures. So, when she learned Peace Boat US in New York City was offering four internships to Hollins students during this year’s January Short Term, she seized the opportunity.

Combining learning, activism, advocacy, and travel, Peace Boat enables people from the U.S. and around the world to study first-hand about global concerns such as war, environmental degradation, gender violence, and other issues. Wong and her fellow Hollins interns – Irina Conc ‘21, Leena Gurung ‘22, and Sajila Kanwal ’22 – worked closely with Peace Boat US Director Emilie McGlore on a variety of internal projects, including research, data entry, writing, and design. They also connected with other NGOs, United Nations (UN) departments, and colleges and universities to help build partnerships.

“This experience helped me gain a better understanding of how an international NGO operates and realize that the way to make a change is through action starting at the grass-roots level,” Wong said.

Peace Boat 2020 Interns
Peace Boat US in New York City welcomed four Hollins students as interns during this year’s January Short Term.

Wong, Conc, Gurung, and Kanwal attended and wrote articles about various special events such as UN programs, a fundraiser for Australian wildlife affected by the wildfires on the continent, and a New York City Council meeting on nuclear disarmament.

“At the council hearing we got the chance to read testimonies of the survivors of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Wong explained. “They described their personal experience and trauma and urged the council and committee members to support the total abolition of nuclear weapons and their development.”

The communication studies major called working with Peace Boat US “a wonderful internship experience. It allowed me to see what is expected and what it is like to work in real life. It was also a lesson in what an organization is looking for and what I am looking for, and to see what I am capable of and what I need to work on more.”

Wong stressed that her time with the NGO gave her a tremendous sense of pride. “I wasn’t just an individual working for Peace Boat US. I was actually a representative of the organization, which cultivated a greater sense of responsibility in me. I felt this honor whenever I wrote, talked, or even walked on the street. I also felt proud to be one of the Hollins students working with Peace Boat US, enhancing the connection between Hollins University and Peace Boat, and paving the way for myself and my fellow Hollins students.”

Back at Hollins, Wong said she is looking forward to studying different kinds of writing, and her interest in learning more languages has grown as well.  “In the future I would love to be a language teacher, spreading knowledge and love and bringing about positivity to society. I plan to volunteer as a language teacher on board a Peace Boat voyage one day and welcome a new chapter in my life.”