Herrington describes herself as “a passionate lover of art history” who plans to pursue a career working in art museums. Her past experience includes interning at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, where she researched the museum’s founder, digitized materials, and installed exhibitions. She has traveled to Greece and Italy to conduct art historical research and says the experiences helped her to “appreciate the value of an arts education as a means to explore any subject, time period, philosophy, and culture.” Genevieve Hendricks, associate professor of art history at Hollins, says Herrington is “enthusiastic, inquisitive, and an inspiration for students.”
Founded in 1931, the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts is the legacy of Hagerstown native Anna Brugh Singer and her husband, Pittsburgh-born artist William Henry Singer, Jr. Featuring a collection of more than 6,000 objects, the museum has important holdings of American painting, Old Masters, decorative arts, and sculpture. The Jean Cushwa College Internship is graciously funded by an endowment from former Singer Society member Jean Cushwa, which allows the museum to participate in the important work of fostering the next generation of arts leadership.
As a veteran of 34 meets, including four Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) championship competitions, and co-holder of multiple relay event records, Hanna DeVarona ’21 of the Hollins University swim team is one of the school’s most accomplished student-athletes. She has placed in the top 16 in multiple events each year at the ODAC Championships, and this March the conference recognized her with one of its highest honors, the Bonnie Kestner Sportsmanship Award, which recognizes ODAC swimmers who “have demonstrated consistently good sportsmanship, ethical behavior, and unselfishness in his/her daily participation in intercollegiate athletics.”
Competing in a sport she loves convinced DeVarona that athletics would be her vocation. However, taking Associate Professor of Communication Studies Lori Joseph’s Health Communication course as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged during her junior year gave the business major a new perspective. After graduating from Hollins this spring, DeVarona will begin her Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in communication and marketing at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
“I had never considered public health before, and that class made me realize that in the past I had actually been afraid to learn about health myself. When I was able to study it, I was no longer afraid,” DeVarona explained. “I know there are people out there who are just as afraid as I was to learn about health, but I don’t want them to fear something that isn’t fearful.”
DeVarona’s aspiration of becoming a health communication specialist may be a departure from her previous, long-standing career goal, but she remains steadfastly committed to what she describes as “my true calling, which is helping people as much as I can. I enjoy it, and that’s the whole reason why I’m drawn to public health.”
For the Woodbridge, Virginia, native, “being a true student-athlete has been absolutely wonderful. When I was looking at Hollins what stood out to me was that I could find that balance. Hollins does such a great job of that. The coaches understand that you are a student before you are an athlete, and the professors are supportive and accommodating as well. I really give credit to my professors and my coaches as well as my teammates for being able to get things done throughout my four years here.”
DeVarona’s list of accomplishments is indeed impressive. In addition to majoring in business with a concentration in marketing, she is minoring in both communication studies and economics. She’s a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee; Omicron Delta Epsilon (the academic honor society in economics); and the Honor, Conduct, and Appeal Board. She’s been a lead admissions ambassador and an orientation team leader, and she’s pursuing a certificate in leadership from the Batten Leadership Institute. This year, she’s serving as the Hollins Student Government Association’s athletic chair and has been inducted into Chi Alpha Sigma, the student-athlete national honor society. For the 2019-20 academic year, she was awarded the Hollins Athletics Service Award, which honors the individual who has best shown the true character of Hollins in rendering service to the athletic department while demonstrating a high degree of leadership, initiative, and dedication.
DeVarona has also completed three internships during her undergraduate career, one each on campus with the university’s alumnae relations and athletic departments, and a virtual internship during this year’s January Short Term in global communications at The Estée Lauder Companies in New York City.
“Even though it was remote, I learned a lot,” she said. One of the highlights was attending virtually an international summit in Hong Kong, where she got a global outlook on dealing with reputation and issues management. During the month, she also participated in researching and drafting briefings for Leonard Lauder, chairman emeritus and former CEO of Estée Lauder, as he prepared for media interviews in conjunction with the release of his new book, The Company I Keep: My Life in Beauty.
“I got to meet a lot of great people, some of whom studied health communications in graduate school and offered to help me with making connections in the D.C. area if I chose to pursue that career path,” she added.
On a personal level, DeVarona says she has benefited from the camaraderie she’s enjoyed as a member of the swim team. “We’re all equals, we’re all here to swim with each other, and our goal has been to have as much fun with each other as possible.” Those bonds have become even stronger during the pandemic. “This year our team has definitely grown more into a family. That’s something that I want to take along with me in the future. Even when we went home during Winter Break, we all got together regularly on Zoom calls and even played games online. Among Us (an online multiplayer social deduction game) was the most popular.”
At GW, DeVarona is hoping to continue swimming competitively. The university has a club team, but “there’s a chance I could compete with their varsity team since I still have eligibility.”
When DeVarona was recruited to swim at Hollins, “the moment I first stepped on campus, it felt like home. When I heard about the connections you make with the professors and alumnae, that put everything in place for me. I don’t think I’d be where I am, or who I am, today if I went somewhere else. I’m just really thankful to Hollins for giving me so many opportunities and helping me pursue things I’m so passionate about.”
During her first visit to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center when she was eight years old, Megan Bull ’21 announced to her dad she wanted to be an astronaut when she grew up. A return trip when she was 16 found her no less resolute.
“I was in total awe watching a video on the Mars exploration program,” she recalled. “I leaned over to my mom and told her I would work at NASA one day.”
Bull’s dream will come to fruition this summer when she embarks on a ten-week virtual internship with NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The mathematics major with a concentration in data science will be participating in the Enrich Knowledge Graphs Through Graph Data Science intern project from June 7 – August 13. She will help create a people analytics knowledge graph using Neo4j (Network Exploration and Optimization 4 Java), a graph database management system designed to leverage data relationships and associate data as it is stored.
“Every organization collects data, but not many people know what to do with it,” Bull explained. “The idea is to be able to use the data we already have to predict trends: look at things that have happened and anticipate the likelihood of other things happening. The project itself focuses on occupation data within NASA and skills associated with certain professions. The objective is to analyze the similarities between jobs that share the same sets of skills and predict which people would be successful in these positions given their previous experience.”
When Bull first learned about the internship from Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics Molly Lynch, “I knew it would be a long shot, but I was going to apply anyway,” she said, motivated by the goal she had steadfastly remained committed to through a significant part of her life. Later that same week, she took part in a Hollins Alumnae Board virtual event for seniors.
“Elizabeth Kolmstetter ’85 was one of the participants and she urged anyone who was interested to check out NASA internships.” Kolmstetter is NASA’s director of talent strategy and engagement.
Bull let Kolmstetter know that she was already working on her application, and that set the stage for a powerful example of how the Hollins alumnae network supports undergraduates in their career preparation. Kolmstetter gave Bull her email address, and the two scheduled a Face Time meeting the following evening.
“She served as my mentor throughout the application process,” Bull said. Kolmstetter subsequently told her that David Meza, chief knowledge architect at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., was heading up the Enrich Knowledge Graphs Through Graph Data Science intern project, and would like to interview her.
“I thought it sounded fantastic,” Bull related. “A couple of hours after the interview, I received an email telling me I’d been selected for this internship. I called my mom (Rebecca Boone Bull ’90) – I was screaming over the phone – and my roommates were laughing. ‘We were going to ask you how your interview went, we guess it went well!’”
Bull was excited to share her senior project, “Examining Bias in Facial Recognition Programs,” with Meza. He told Bull he was particularly impressed with her commitment to learning new things, and her range of skills.
“Graph data science is not something I’ve worked with previously,” she said. “It’s something that’s entirely new to me, so he’s sending me resources on a daily basis to review.”
Bull’s internship with NASA will be the culmination of a Hollins career that began when she first toured the campus as a high school junior with her mom. “I fell in love with it. I loved how open everyone was, students kept coming up and asking me what I was interested in and what I wanted to do. Hollins was one of my first college visits, so it really just set the precedent.” A mentorship program that matched high school students with women in STEM professions encouraged her to pursue a mathematics major, and a class in the Google Applied Computing Series taught by mathematics professors Julie Clark and Steve Wassell convinced her to concentrate on data science.
“I was never interested in computer science until then, and Dr. Wassell is the reason I decided to pursue data science,” Bull said. She praises the entire mathematics faculty for how “they are able to nurture every single student who comes through. Dr. Clark has been my advisor since I declared. She’s been an amazing mentor and she’s wickedly smart. Seeing a woman who is just so successful in her career, it was so inspiring. I’d never really seen that before in academia.” She adds that Wassell has helped her figure out where to apply for graduate school, and that he, Clark, and Director of Quantitative Reasoning Erin Levering have all been generous in writing recommendation letters on her behalf.
Majoring in mathematics led to Bull tutoring for Hollins’ Quantitative Reasoning Center beginning in her sophomore year. She has served as an Honor Court member, vice president for the class of 2021, and member of the swim team for three of her four years. She’s also finishing a certificate in leadership studies from the university’s Batten Leadership Institute and works as ambassador for the university’s Office of Admission. “I’ve been an admission ambassador since my first year,” she said. “I started doing it because I love Hollins so much, and I want other people to love it as much as I do.”
Beyond campus, Bull has enjoyed two study abroad opportunities, spending Spring Term 2019 in London and the 2020 January Short Term in Florence, Italy. She’s completed two internships as well, one with Boyd-Pearman Photography in Roanoke her first year, and the second during her sophomore year that brought one of the most impactful experiences of her life full circle.
“Working with our Career Center, I created my own remote internship with Women in Technology (WIT) in Falls Church, Virginia,” an organization dedicated to advancing women in the field through leadership development, technology education, and networking and mentoring. Bull interned with WIT’s Girls in Technology initiative, the same program that placed her with women who are STEM professionals while she was in high school.
As she preps for her NASA internship this summer, Bull is busy applying to graduate schools. She plans to pursue a Master of Science in computer science but has not made a final decision on where she will be attending graduate school in the fall.
“I would really like to go into artificial intelligence engineering and machine learning,” she said. “They play pretty well together.”
Each year, Hollins sophomores, juniors, and seniors can apply for an exceptional array of internships through the university’s Signature Internship Program. Sponsored by Hollins alumnae in a variety of fields and available during the January Short Term, these internships carry academic credit and offer a stipend of $300. Housing is often provided.
Jonea Mathis ’23 so impressed her supervisor during her 2021 J-Term signature internship that she was asked to stay on with the organization this spring.
The communication studies major interned remotely with Peace Boat US, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization headquartered at the United Nations Plaza in New York City. Through educational programs and experiences intended to inspire positive action in a number of areas, including social justice, the environment, and nuclear disarmament, Peace Boat US works to promote a culture of peace and sustainability through voyages around the globe.
“I was specifically looking for opportunities for communication studies majors,” Mathis recalled. “When I saw Peace Boat US on the list of available signature internships, it seemed like an interesting organization. I did some research on my own and decided I really wanted to work for them.”
“We truly appreciate all the support from Hollins students each year,” said Emilie McGlone, director of Peace Boat US. “Our intern team is a key part of our mission to educate young people, raise awareness about important global issues, and create a more peaceful future for all.”
In 2020, Peace Boat US launched a virtual internship program so that students could work online and participate in United Nations conferences and events from home. “I got used to a virtual internship faster than I expected,” Mathis said. “I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to keep up, but my supervisor was very helpful and we were in constant communication. I was encouraged to speak up for myself and I learned a lot.” She played a vital role in Peace Boats US’s social media presence on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and also engaged in grant research and writing. As an important nuclear weapon prohibition treaty was going into effect, Mathis was actively involved in the effort to share news and information by writing articles for the Peace Boat US blog.
“It has been a pleasure to work with Jonea this year,” McGlone said, “and thanks to her support as an intern, we invited her to continue working with us into the spring semester.”
“I thought that sounded really good,” Mathis said of the opportunity to serve as the organization’s coordinating intern. She works closely with five new interns who joined Peace Boat US in February. “After my classes are done I look in to see what everyone else has been doing and make sure that we are all on the same page and things are getting done in the way I know our supervisor wants them to be done,” she explained. “I’m really happy I have worked with them as long as I have, and listing this internship on my résumé as extending beyond J-Term will be good.”
As a result of her Peace Boat US experience, Mathis is making international travel a priority in her future educational and career plans. While at Hollins she wants to take advantage of study abroad opportunities. In addition, she is already exploring global experiences post-graduation, including the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET), which allows young professionals to live and work in cities, towns, and villages throughout Japan and represent the U.S. as cultural ambassadors, and Peace Boat US’s Global English/Español Training Program (GET), where students are inspired to use language to make connections around the world. Mathis is minoring in Spanish and hopes to be fluent in the language by the time she graduates from Hollins.
“I just want to see the world and learn from people in a conscious way, and that’s something this internship has really helped me to see,” Mathis said.
For McGlone, Mathis’ internship demonstrates the partnership between Peace Boat US and Hollins is stronger and more productive than ever. “We look forward to having more Hollins students join us in the future as we continue to create opportunities to gain first-hand experience that can help them find meaningful work that they are passionate about.”
After graduating from high school in her native city of Kathmandu, Nepal, Aditi Sharma ’21 wasn’t sure how she wanted to further her studies. But there was one thing at the time of which she was absolutely certain.
“I had little intention of coming to America” to go to college, she said. “I wanted to stay near to my family.”
The events that led to Sharma taking what she calls a “leap of faith” to venture on her own to the United States and attend Hollins University began during the gap year she took after finishing high school.
“In Nepal, the subjects you take in high school are usually what you are going to do for life,” Sharma explained. “I took accounting, so during my gap year I worked as a finance assistant to see if that field was actually for me before jumping into college.”
Sharma was employed by a nonprofit organization in the public health sector. She interacted with clients from around the globe, and it was a representative from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) who first suggested that she consider institutions of higher learning in the U.S. “He felt that there were many more programs in America that would be beneficial for me as well as some good scholarship opportunities. Financial considerations were big for me coming from a developing country.”
While not totally convinced, Sharma nevertheless applied to several U.S. universities. “My parents had studied in India and Nepal, so they had no idea what was involved. My high school counselor was very helpful, but mostly I was navigating everything from financial aid to applying for a visa by myself. It was very daunting.”
As the time to make a decision approached, Sharma found herself increasingly drawn to Hollins. “I took a virtual tour of campus and saw how beautiful it was,” she said, but what impressed her most was the personal approach of the Office of Admission.
“They reached out to me and were so open. I felt like I was being heard. I had no idea what I was doing, and they were so quick to respond to my questions, even the smallest ones. From filling out forms to learning what Hollins is about, what it offers, and what accommodations it has for international students. I felt like I already belonged to the community.”
Bolstered by a belief in herself and support from the people who had seen her potential, particularly her family, Sharma enrolled at Hollins. “My family didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but they wanted the best education for me.” Sharma lived with her parents, paternal grandparents, and a younger sister, “and everyone was always encouraging, telling me to be the best I can be. I was so thankful that they trusted my judgement.”
After arriving at Hollins, Sharma enjoyed her freedom and learning so many new things. “I knew what I wanted to study (she would become a business and economics major pursuing a finance track). At the same time, being in a liberal arts environment I got to take all these amazing classes in sociology, environmental science, art history, and drawing.” Still, adjusting to a new environment, speaking English all the time, and missing her family were at times stressful. She credits History Rocks, her first-year seminar with Associate Professor of History Peter Coogan, with boosting her confidence.
“Professor Coogan and that class encouraged me to speak out. I’m very vocal now about a lot of things. My high school friends wouldn’t recognize me, I was so timid then and in the shadows. In Coogan’s class you were obliged to talk, and once that started happening my confidence grew. History Rocks really helped me, and I can’t thank him enough.”
Finding her voice, Sharma got actively involved with Hollins’ Student Government Association (SGA), Cultural and Community Engagement (CCE), and the International Student Orientation Program (ISOP). “I still remember contacting a Hollins senior before I arrived here. She helped me with things like, what and what not to pack, which flight to take, and what airport to fly into. You’re coming from your own comfortable home space, you’re scared and you’re nervous about moving into a new country, and I always let incoming international students know if they need anything I’m always here. CCE has a great structure for connecting international students and guiding communication and going through all these changes and opportunities together as a group really helps. I love seeing the international population at Hollins grow.”
One of Sharma’s most remarkable experiences occurred last spring when she embarked on a semester abroad in London. She had always been fascinated by the United Kingdom and reveled in visiting landmarks such as Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. She also had an internship lined up with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. “As soon as I heard London had an internship program, I knew I wanted to go there. When I landed, it felt like I was walking on air.”
Sharma and her friends first began hearing about the COVID outbreak near the end of February when they learned students studying abroad in Italy were forced to return home. “I felt really bad for them, but I was still in denial,” she said. “There was no news of anything in London or the UK as a whole.”
But after coming back from a group excursion to Sweden in early March, London students were notified by the International Programs office at Hollins that Hollins Abroad-London was transitioning to online instruction due to COVID’s threat. Students could either continue living with their host families or go home.
“I wasn’t planning on returning to Nepal,” Sharma said. “I had lined up a job on campus with the Alumnae Association for the summer, so I was going to travel directly from London back to Hollins at the end of Spring Term.”
Then, Sharma and other students in London learned from International Programs that the U.S. policy had changed and that students who were not from the U.S. would not be allowed back into the country. Simultaneously, the UK announced it was going into lockdown within two days. “I had to book a flight immediately to Nepal. The trip is about 21 hours, and I would have to make a connecting flight along the way. What if the place where I’m in transit gets locked down and I can’t fly out from there? Fortunately, a fellow student from Nepal and I got the perfect flight out just before the UK lockdown began.”
Sharma was relieved to touch down in Nepal, but deeply sorry to leave London and particularly her internship, which had been coordinated by Hollins alumna Meredith Pierce Hunter ’97. “I wanted to work in fundraising in the fine arts sector. Meredith was very involved in the whole process and all the people on the internship were extremely helpful. It broke my heart to leave without saying goodbye.” Fortunately, there would be good news for Sharma after she arrived back in Nepal: Hunter had worked with International Programs to ensure that Sharma could continue her international internship virtually. “I was so happy. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, a dream come true.”
London is six hours behind Nepal, but Sharma was able to successfully juggle taking two online classes while completing her internship. Typically, she would work on her internship between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. (Nepal time) and then attend classes remotely at night. “I was so grateful to continue the internship. I did so much work, there was no difficulty in communication, and they even threw me a virtual farewell party.”
Sharma remained in Nepal through the summer. When Hollins students were given the option for Fall Term 2020 to come back to campus or take classes remotely, she decided, “I wanted to experience my senior year in person.” As SGA treasurer this year, Sharma spearheaded one of her proudest accomplishments, a fund designed to help any on-campus resident who needed financial assistance to go home or live off-campus during Winter Break. “It worked out beautifully. My fellow roundtable members and the business office helped make sure the funds got into the students’ accounts. That’s why I did the fundraising internship in London, I wanted to see how I could use my financial knowledge to help others.”
Currently applying for jobs after graduation, Sharma is looking to build upon an already impressive resume that includes J-Term internships with Gilman Hill Asset Management, the International Spy Museum, and Omega Wealth Management. Ultimately, she plans to use that experience to earn acceptance to business school. As with her Royal Botanic Gardens internship, Sharma is grateful to the Hollins alumnae who curated those internships and continue to be very supportive. “Work experience is crucial to getting into business school because the finance and business fields place so much emphasis on learning and implementation. I’ve been reaching out to alumnae and they’ve been really helpful and responsive.”
When she first arrived in America, Sharma “had no idea I would be the person I am today. This is where I have had the most experiences, where I’ve been myself the most. I’ve been challenged, and I’ve challenged myself. It all happened here. It all happened at Hollins.”
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?
“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.
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.
When a high school English teacher who also happens to be an alumna of a university nationally recognized for creative writing realizes that one of her students has a passion and talent for the craft, the mission she undertakes isn’t surprising.
“She was always asking me, ‘Have you checked out Hollins?’,” Carly Lewis ’21 recalled, laughing. “She got me the Hollins Creative Writing Scholarship as sort of a final ‘Please look at Hollins’ creative writing program, it’s really good.’”
So, the native of Richmond, Virginia, did just that. “Since I liked going to an all-women’s high school, attending a historically women’s college sounded right up my alley. But I mostly wanted to come here because I found that the writing program was indeed very good. I’m a big storyteller, a storyteller in all regards, and I wanted to become a better writer and learn with other like-minded writers.”
From the beginning, Lewis thrived. The first class she took “was with a phenomenal graduate assistant who tossed a lot of rules out of the window. In high school, I was already breaking the rules of writing a little bit. But then I got to Hollins and that graduate student told me, ‘Just write what you want and do what you want. It’ll all come together in the end and we’ll help you.’ Having that freedom right off the bat was such a gift. It opened my eyes to the possibilities of what I could write and how to hone my craft before I even knew what honing my craft meant.”
Three members of Hollins’ English and creative writing faculty subsequently had a profound impact on Lewis. Professor of English and Creative Writing T.J. Anderson III showed her she could blend music with writing and it could be “heartbreaking and lovely and moving,” she said.
Lewis remembers feeling both excitement and trepidation when she enrolled in her first advanced creative writing workshop, which was taught by her advisor, Professor of English and Creative Writing Cathryn Hankla. “I was scared to read something from one of our random writing exercises during class because I thought it wasn’t going to be good. She told me, ‘No first draft is good. Just read it and you can fix it later. It’s not meant to be good at first.’ That’s always stuck with me. Even if you think it’s good, there’s always work to do. She’s always encouraged me to have confidence and trust in my writing.”
This semester, Lewis is taking her fourth and final advanced writing workshop, and her second with Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing Jessie van Eerden, who is “always cheering me on. She’s a comforting good source of critique and support.”
While Lewis came to Hollins to study creative writing, she also considered herself a visual person (one of her hobbies is photography) and enjoyed an interest in film. “I don’t know why, but it wasn’t something I’d entertained in studying until I had the opportunity to take an Introduction to Film class. I realized it’s not unlike analyzing or critiquing a book. So I thought, ‘A writer who can talk about movies, too. It’s a good pairing,’ and I ended up adding a film major.”
Lewis said the film classes that she has particularly loved are the ones she’s taken with Professor of English and Creative Writing R.H.W. Dillard. “He’s a great film critic. I’m in my third of his Film as a Narrative Art classes. He does a great job of connecting the filmmakers to their work and getting to know them, their techniques, and the history of the time when the film was made that might have impacted it.”
Another of Lewis’ aspirations when she came to Hollins was international study. Trips to Italy and Spain during high school sparked her interest in spending a semester abroad, so during one of her visits to Hollins as a prospective student, she attended a meeting about the Hollins Abroad – London program.
“I was immediately hooked. Going to London became a big part of why I wanted to come here. You take classes, but the most important thing is that you actually get to immerse yourself in life in another country.”
As Lewis prepared to travel to London to spend the 2019 fall term, she decided that completing an internship there would enrich her experience. Hollins’ Office of International Programs works through CAPA to provide international internship opportunities for students based on their areas of interest, and Lewis was placed with Weller Media Agency (WMA), a global digital creative and marketing company specializing in promoting talent in the music and entertainment industries, especially up-and-coming artists.
“It was a dream come true, it was like they read my mind almost about what I wanted to do,” Lewis said. “I’ve always been a big music person but I’d never done anything before in the music industry. I loved my internship and being around a bunch of crazy creatives all day, every day. They were just so nice and encouraging.”
Lewis did everything from graphic design and social media content to writing for Spindle (a magazine affiliated with WMA), engaging in public relations activities, and assisting with film and photography production. “It was fun because everyone is working in the same room and all I had to do was walk from one table to the next to see if there was anything they needed. They were very gracious and excited to have me help out on a bunch of projects such as shooting music videos and meeting and interviewing talent. Interacting with the artists I listened to or wrote about was really cool.”
The Hollins senior believes her WMA internship has opened a door for her. “I never really entertained the thought of working in the music industry in terms of film and photography or even as a writer, but this showed me I could do it and how it could happen. And Weller was such a great place for networking.”
The WMA experience mirrored what Lewis encountered throughout her semester in London. “The people are so kind and giving, and so imaginative,” she said. One of her favorite parts of the city is Brick Lane, located in the East End. “There are loads of little thrift shops and it’s really artistic. They do graffiti tours down there so there’s always artists spray painting the walls with these giant murals. I really liked their music scene, too. I went to a lot of concerts there.”
Lewis praises the host family with whom she lived. “I loved them so much. My host mom was interested in what was doing, very supportive, and recommended what to see and where to eat. She made sure I knew how to get to those places, too, whether it was on the Tube or taking a bus. She was always looking out for me, and it was nice to have someone who was already living there be a guide. I can’t recommend enough living with a host family.”
Lewis’ final semester is a busy one. She’s wrapping up her third year as a CA (Community Assistant), a position that has offered her the chance to draw upon her experience as the oldest sister in her own family to mentor first-year students. “I get to watch them when they first come to college and see how they change. It’s crazy how much they grow into themselves, even in the first semester. It’s just great to be a part of that.”
But perhaps the most ambitious project on Lewis’ plate at the moment is her first novel, which she began a couple of years ago and draws upon her study abroad experience. “It’s realistic fiction and it involves music, it’s about a band, and it’s set in London,” she explained. “It’s combining all of my favorite things and in the genre that I think is the most ‘me.’ It’s very hard but it is fun.” She noted that Hankla and van Eerden have both been very supportive, reading parts of the novel and offering suggestions as the work progresses.
Following graduation this spring, Lewis hopes to secure a music editorial internship with NPR. She’s also been in touch with Hollins alumnae in Richmond about possible opportunities within the area’s robust film production industry. “I also want to look at music studios to intern or just come in and see what they are all about, partly because I’m interested in getting to know the music industry better, but also to gather research for my novel.”
Even though her future plans are still coming together, Lewis has little doubt a particular city will figure prominently whatever she pursues. “After I returned here following my London experience, it seemed like I should be back there. Eventually I think I will go back, possibly for grad school in a couple of years. I felt like I was leaving behind a home, and one day it will be time to go back home.”
Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, it was still a busy summer for many at Hollins. Four Hollins students took advantage unique opportunities to work with local Roanoke businesses and startups, nationally respected entrepreneurs, and even a Hollins alumna.
Zahin Mahbuba ’23 interned with a new startup called Learning Pods that, in response to COVID’s impact on educational institutions, provides safe and high-quality learning spaces for small groups (or “pods”) of elementary-level children at home or in the backyard. During this internship, Mahbuba collaborated with Stacey Seltzer, a respected New York entrepreneur and one of Learning Pods’ advisors. Seltzer is also co-founder of the Hudson Lab School, which was featured in The New York Times this summer for its own learning pod offerings. “I met Stacey through the Entrepreneurship class (BUS 330) at Hollins,” recalled Mahbuba. “The people that I had the opportunity to work with were such an inspiration. They made me feel so welcome and valued all of my ideas and contributions. I think what I loved the most was how they trusted me with the work and let me produce results.”
Even though her internship was entirely online, Mahbuba said that she learned a lot from her work: contacting families, scheduling times for them to meet with Learning Pod, and building teachers’ profiles for new teaching positions. “I got to experience what it takes to build an educational system during unprecedented times,” said Mahbuba. “This [internship] helped better my professionalism as I got to work with high caliber individuals who are global innovators and entrepreneurs.”
Chanmolis Mout ’23 was very excited to work with a Hollins alumna and the CEO and Founder of Flewid Capital, Elizabeth Jose ’12. Headquartered in Roanoke, Flewid Capital is a promising startup with the goal of one day creating the largest international community market where users can transfer money affordably, quickly, and securely, even without internet access. Some of Mout’s internship responsibilities included sending out surveys to determine how much people spend transferring their money from one location to another. “Working with Elizabeth was an amazing experience,” said Mout. “On top of having all the great qualities as a leader and founder, she is very patient and understanding. I’m really looking forward to working with the team again in the future.”
Similarly, Grace Davis ’21 honed her business skills working with long-time entrepreneurial powerhouse and Virginia Tech graduate Mary Miller, who serves as the director of Roanoke’s Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program (RAMP), which helps launch regional startups and create new jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
“The experiences and knowledge that I gained during this internship was much more than I could’ve hoped for,” said Davis. “This real-world application was thrilling, because by dealing with a living and breathing company, you learn the urgency and immediacy of the start-up world.”
As for Soha Munir ’23, she was impressed that her internship allowed her to utilize different aspects of her Hollins education. Working on website development with Sara Snider, CEO at BEAM Diagnostics, a Roanoke-based start-up that applies advanced behavioral economics to an array of different fields, Munir pooled her knowledge from various classes combining psychology, programming, and graphic design. “Beam Diagnostics provided me with the freedom and creative environment any artist could ask for,” said Munir. “I realized coding is an art, [and] I learned to allow myself to be creative and trust in my process and skills while maintaining good communication and open-mindedness with the team.”
Jeff Dingler is a graduate assistant in Hollins’ marketing and communications department. He is pursuing his M.F.A. in creative writing at the university.
The freshman year of high school for many college-bound students means focusing on strong academic performance, selecting challenging classes, and participating in extracurricular activities, all to build a solid record of achievement for the college application process.
Mary Offutt ’20 was already looking ahead as well to what would be her college destination.
During her freshman year, Offutt, who hails from Sterling, Virginia, met Ashley Browning, Hollins’ vice president for enrollment management. “We continued to stay in touch about admission events and other information about Hollins,” she recalls. What ultimately convinced her to choose Hollins, she says, were “the small class sizes and Ashley. Additionally, when I toured campus I fell completely in love with the beauty of the campus, and I appreciated how nice everyone was at the events I attended, from faculty and staff to current students.”
Considering her diligent early college preparatory work, it is not surprising that Offutt also determined her academic aspirations in advance. “I came to Hollins planning on majoring in political science, knowing that my goal was to go to law school,” she explains. To that end, she independently discovered internships throughout her Hollins career.
“In 2018,” she notes, “I started an internship with a family law firm in Leesburg, Virginia. Since then, I’ve worked there on all my breaks and throughout the year. This summer, I will be doing a clerkship with them.”
Offutt also credits Hollins’ study abroad program for having had “a huge impact on my life. I was in London for the entirety of my sophomore year and it was an amazing experience, being able to travel to a multitude of different countries to experience their culture and beauty. There are no words to truly describe it other than ‘life-changing.’”
When she began the application process for law school, Offutt says Assistant Professor of Political Science Courtney Chenette was “a huge help. Her classes made me even more passionate about the law. I learned from her that cases are about people, and I believe that everyone has the right to be heard.”
This fall, Offutt will begin pursuing her Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree at the Charleston School of Law in South Carolina. In many ways, her reasons for choosing the school for her legal education are similar to why she picked Hollins. “They have small class sizes, an individualized course experience, and an amazing externship program,” she says. “Plus, the beautiful city of Charleston was a large draw.”
After law school, Offutt intends to take the Virginia state bar examination and join a family law firm in Northern Virginia as an associate.