“I Had No Idea I Would be the Person I Am Today:” Senior Aditi Sharma’s “Leap of Faith” from Nepal to Hollins

 

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.”

Aditi Sharma '21 First Step
Bearing a cider bottle decorated for the occasion, Sharma celebrated the First Step tradition on Front Quad last fall to begin her senior year.

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.”

Aditi Sharma '21 Windsor Castle
Experiencing Windsor Castle was a must for Sharma when she began her study abroad experience in London in February 2020.

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.”

Meredith Pierce Hunter '97 and Aditi Sharma '21, RBG Kew
Meredith Pierce Hunter ’97 (left) was instrumental in arranging Sharma’s internship with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in London.

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.”

 

 

 


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.

 

 

 

 

 


Hollins Junior to Intern This Summer with Georgetown Law’s Criminal Justice Clinic

Tyler Sesker ’22 is one of only six undergraduates from across the nation chosen for pre-law positions this summer in the Investigative Internship Program at the Georgetown University Law Center’s Criminal Justice Clinic.

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.


London Calling: Through an Internship Abroad, a Senior “Storyteller” Furthers Her Growth as a Writer and Film Student

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.”

Carly Lewis '21 WMA
Lewis (left) at London’s Weller Media Agency. “I loved my internship and being around a bunch of crazy creatives every day.”

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.”

Carly Lewis '21 Arlette House London
“Going to London became a big part of why I wanted to come [to Hollins]. You get to immerse yourself in life in another country.”
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.”

Carly Lewis '21 Brick Lane Graffiti Tour
Lewis was captivated by Brick Lane on London’s East End with its graffiti tours, thrift shops, and vibrant music scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

Carly Lewis '21 Stratford Upon Avon
A jaunt through Stratford-Upon-Avon in the county of Warwickshire, England.

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.

Carly Lewis '21 Hampstead Heath
Lewis at London’s Hampstead Heath: “Eventually I think I will go back. I felt like I was leaving behind a home, and one day it will be time to go back home.”

 

 

 

 

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.”


Through Summer Internships, ELI Students Get Down to Business

 

Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, it was still a busy summer for many at Hollins. The university’s Entrepreneurial Learning Institute (ELI) completed its first-ever summer internship program, which offered four Hollins students unique opportunities to work with local Roanoke businesses and startups, nationally respected entrepreneurs, and even a Hollins alumna.

 

 

Zahin Mahbuba '23
Zahin Mahbuba ’23

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
Chanmolis Mout ’23

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.”

Grace Davis '21
Grace Davis ’21

 

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.”

Soha Munir '23
Soha Munir ’23

 

 

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.”

 

ELI will again offer internships for the Summer 2021 semester, in addition to a new Innovation Fellowship that’s currently being finalized. For more information on the Institute, visit ELI’s website.

 

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.

 


“Everyone Has the Right to be Heard”: Political Science Major Prepares for Law Career

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.

 

 


Eager to Perform “Meaningful Work with Impact at the State Level,” Political Science Major Pursues Master of Public Policy at UVa

Since coming to Hollins as a first-year student, Hannah Byrum ’20 has been drawn to the study of legislation enacted by state government and the importance of leadership as it relates to policy.

Beginning this fall, the political science major will immerse herself in what she describes as “the best of both worlds” through the Master of Public Policy (MPP) program at the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. 

“As a student in the MPP program, you get to tackle the most pressing issues of the world in a variety of ways while also working on your leadership and team-building abilities,” Byrum says. “My emphasis while there will continue to be on state policy analysis.”

During her first two years at Hollins, Byrum laid the groundwork for a career in government and politics. She performed January Short Term internships as a first-year student and as a sophomore with government relations firms in Richmond, Virginia, that focus on state public policy issues: Commonwealth Strategy Group and Pickral Consulting. She subsequently completed a summer internship with the constituent services team in the Office of U.S. Senator Tim Kaine. In January of this year, she interned with the Office of Delegate Karrie Delaney, who represents the 67th District in Virginia’s House of Delegates. While in the latter role, Byrum helped write several pieces of legislation that were passed during the most recent Virginia General Assembly session.

“The internships provided me with an opportunity to apply what I had learned in class to the real world while also bringing conversation and a new perspective to the classroom,” Byrum says. “Seeing such strong and passionate people representing the needs of constituents and interest groups helped direct my career path of working with Virginia’s lawmakers on legislation.”

After completing her General Assembly legislation work, Byrum noticed discrepancies in how human sex trafficking laws in Virginia were approached. “The political science department requires a research methods course,” she notes, “and that was when I realized I wanted to focus my research on human sex trafficking.” Byrum went on to devote her honors thesis to examining the human trafficking laws and bills that were presented during the 2020 General Assembly.

“I dissect the language in those laws and bills and identify potential inconsistencies that could result in victims not receiving the safeguards and services they need. I make recommendations for language that should be included in future legislation. I also offer general direction for more assistance and general protections under the law that will be beneficial to victims.”

Byrum praises two of her professors, Professor of Political Science Edward Lynch and Assistant Professor of Political Science Courtney Chenette, for having “a substantial impact on my education.” As a student in Lynch’s first-year seminar course, “How to be a President,” Byrum was invited to attend a lecture on international relations and global politics at the University of Virginia. “I knew then how much I wanted to attend UVa for graduate school,” she recalls.

Chenette was Byrum’s thesis advisor. “She has provided so much feedback, encouragement, and excitement for my work,” Byrum says. “I cannot thank her enough.”

The Williamsburg, Virginia, native believes that she would not have had the amount of success she has had at Hollins if it were not for Lynch and Chenette’s support. “Both of them care so much for the success of their students and want to see us work hard for what we want. They aren’t going to sugar-coat things and that’s what makes them incredible as professors.”

Byrum also cites the tools she has gained from her involvement with the Batten Leadership Institute at Hollins. “I can confidently navigate personal, academic, or professional conflict in a way that is extremely effective, and improve communication when tensions may be high. I learned how to be a better leader in every aspect of my life. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Batten when I started my first year, but thanks to (Executive Director) Abrina Schnurman, my experience went far beyond what I could have imagined.”

After completing the MPP program at UVa, Byrum says she “would love to dive head-first into meaningful work with impact at the state level,” whether that is with a government relations firm or state government entity. Working on a campaign or as a legislative aide for a state delegate or senator is also a possibility.

“All I know for certain is, I want to continue to serve my community to the best of my ability, however that may present itself.”

 


Johns Hopkins Internship Propels Senior Gates Millennium Scholar to MPH Program at Brown

One of the nation’s largest and most ambitious scholarship initiatives, the Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) program helps African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American, and Hispanic American students with high academic and leadership potential, and with financial need, realize their higher education aspirations.

For Epa Cabrera ’20, GMS made possible her journey from her home on Saipan in the western Pacific Ocean’s Northern Mariana Islands to study at Hollins University. The program also enabled the business and economics double major to take advantage of real-world experiences outside the classroom. One of those opportunities was working as a research assistant during this year’s January Short Term at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

“My J-term experience enhanced my interest in public health and inspired me to pursue a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree,” Cabrera notes. She subsequently applied to and earned admission at some of the country’s most prestigious MPH schools: the Milken Institute of Public Health at The George Washington University; the Boston University School of Public Health; the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Public Health; the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University; Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health; and the Brown University School of Public Health.

“I was admitted to some amazing MPH programs,” she explains, “and after weighing the pros and cons of each, I decided Brown was the best fit for me. I was drawn by its emphasis on applying the skills that we, as students, would learn with hands-on practical experience through internships.”

Cabrera was also impressed with the caliber of Brown’s faculty. “The School of Public Health offers a cadre of world-renowned researchers who focus on a number of topics in which I am particularly interested in exploring. For instance, I’d like to work closely with Associate Professor of Epidemiology Eric Loucks. His examination into social factors that influence cardiovascular disease aligns with my current thesis on obesity in women and its consequences for the U.S. labor supply. I’m also intrigued by recent research undertaken by Bess Marcus, dean of the School of Public Health, which investigates low-cost interventions to promote physical behavior in habitual environments.”

After completing the two-year MPH program at Brown, Cabrera wants to engage in public health projects on a global scale. “I hope to contribute to protecting the well-being of individuals by supporting policies and strategies worldwide through the World Health Organization.” Her long-range goals include completing a doctorate in public health.

Cabrera praises GMS for enabling her to graduate this spring debt-free and able to continue her education without an economic burden. At the same time, she says, “I am grateful for the professors, deans, and the Batten Leadership Institute at Hollins. They have exceedingly given me support and encouragement throughout my time here.”


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.”


Rutherfoord Center for Experiential Learning Guarantees Access to a World of Possibilities

Hollins University is pleased to announce the creation of the Rutherfoord Center for Experiential Learning, which ensures undergraduates beginning in their first year can benefit more than ever from dynamic, real-world experiences beyond the classroom.

“The establishment of the Rutherfoord Center enables Hollins to build upon its strong foundation of experiential learning programs,” said Interim President Nancy Gray. “Bringing these programs together in a new way allows for more collaboration and interaction while at the same time expanding opportunities for students.”

Made possible by the generosity of Jean Hall Rutherfoord, Hollins class of 1974, and her husband, Thomas D. Rutherfoord Jr. (pictured), the Rutherfoord Center encompasses study abroad at an array of destinations around the world; domestic and international internships; initiatives that promote innovation and engagement while connecting academic work with practical application; leadership practice; and undergraduate research projects conducted in close partnership with Hollins faculty.

“Through the Rutherfoord Center, students can develop a global perspective and build their creative thinking and problem-solving skills in a tangible way,” Gray said. “They acquire the experience necessary to thrive in both professional and educational settings after earning their undergraduate degrees.”

The Rutherfoord Center guarantees every student can pursue each of these programs throughout all of their four years at Hollins. At the same time, they gain mentorship; receive expert help in identifying leadership, study abroad, research, and career options; and explore prospects for financial assistance.

Gray emphasized that the power of experiential learning cannot be overestimated. “Experiential learning transforms personal and social development. It enhances resiliency, tenacity, curiosity, and self-reflection. It’s an immersive process by which students gain knowledge and skills by observing, inferring, and most of all, doing.”

To learn more, visit  https://www.hollins.edu/rutherfoordcenter.