Presidential Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco Talks About Reading For Hollins And His Latest Book “How to Love a Country”

It’s not every day that a presidential inaugural poet gives a reading for Hollins University. In fact, it’s a first. This Thursday, April 8, Cuban-American writer Richard Blanco, who read his poem “One Today” at the second inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2012, will offer a virtual reading for the Hollins community that’s open to the general public, becoming the first inaugural poet to do so in the university’s history. It’s a rare honor to be selected to read a poem at a presidential inauguration, even rarer than being president (45 individuals have served as U.S. President, but there have been just six inaugural poets, including literary titans such as Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration and Maya Angelou for Bill Clinton in 1993.) Blanco was the nation’s first Latino and first openly gay inaugural poet, and he wrote about the experience and his life leading up to that moment in his 2013 memoir For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey. Blanco recently spoke about his latest collection How to Love a Country, writing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and his new friendship with fellow inaugural poet Amanda Gorman.

 

Thank you so much for taking the time, Richard. Let’s just start with the big game-changing moment: getting the call to read at then-President Obama’s second inauguration. What was that like?

That was a pretty crazy, alarming, wonderful, all-of-the-above moment. But I guess the most striking thing was that my initial reaction was not of fear or apprehension but really more of immense gratitude, not just for the opportunity that it represented, but more so gratitude for my parents and grandparents and all the sacrifices they made coming to this country. So you realize that your story is not just your story but that it’s a story that started being written a long time before. Gratitude for all of that was, in a way, a kind of closure as well as a new beginning. It closed one chapter of my life but opened up a whole new one.

 

It sounds like the inauguration was cathartic not just personally but artistically as well. Can you talk more about that?

Aesthetically and creatively, I’d never had to write a poem like that before. But I have to say, in an interesting and ironic way, I’d been writing it my entire life. In my very first graduate-level creative writing workshop, my first assignment was “write a poem about America.” [Laughs] My mentor and I joke that Obama gave me the same assignment ten years ago. But to be honest, after four books of writing about being Cuban-American and gay and Latino, I felt I had kind of exhausted the material. I didn’t know how to break out of the more purely autobiographical, and [the inauguration] was an invitation to do just that. I know what America means to me, but what does America mean to America? That was the question I had to ask. So the poem is a response to that and, in a way, it did open up a whole other approach to writing where the idea of the poetry of “We,” not just the poetry of “I,” became very important. And that’s obviously reflected in How to Love a Country as well.

 

Can we expect to hear some poems from that latest book during your Hollins reading?"How to Love a Country" Book Cover

Yes, I’ll read some poems from, How to Love a Country, [plus] some poems that lead up to that book as well. I usually like to tell somewhat of a narrative about my journey, both artistically and personally, and how that’s reflected in the poems. So thinking about growing up as an immigrant gay kid, becoming an inaugural poet, and how that changed my perspective on things in my art, resulting in How to Love a Country, which are poems that are much more socio-political.

 

I love that collection so much. For these poems, did you find yourself struggling to love this country, or struggling to re-evaluate that love?

The question of what is America, what does it mean to be an American, has always been a part of my question. Being selected as presidential inaugural poet was obviously an amazing experience in that it opened my eyes to the idea that my narrative is part of America. Before then, I wasn’t 100-percent convinced of that. [Laughs] But I also started seeing how many narratives weren’t being included although they were part of this country’s fabric, that so many people, like me, felt the same way. So I just started thinking about all the work we had to do still in this country. Our democracy is not a one-off—it’s not a check-and-done—it’s constant work and constant re-evaluation. So the inauguration was a pivotal moment, a positive moment, but it also sent me on a journey to keep investigating this idea of the American narrative.

 

And how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected that investigation? Has quarantine had a big impact on your writing process?

For the most part, no, in the sense that writers are used to working alone. But even I’m going a little stir crazy, and you know when the writers are going stir crazy that something is really bad. [laughs] But I really have a sense of empathy for people who have been working outside their house for years and years. I would say that this last year has instilled in me an appreciation for home and community like never before. There are so many things that we all take for granted, even the smallest things like going to your favorite neighborhood restaurant or just appreciating the people who allow us to have those experiences and understanding, much like the inaugural poem, that all of us matter. All our stories are really happening at once and they’re all interconnected.

 

Speaking of that interconnection, we just had another inauguration in January and another presidential inaugural poet. What did you think of Amanda Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb”?

I know Amanda. She speaks Spanish, which is really wonderful; we text in Spanish so she can practice. As my partner Mark says, more people have been to the moon than have been presidential inaugural poets, so it’s a very small club! [laughs]

But besides her poem and the strength of her poem, what she represents is so powerful. During these chaotic years, I’ve been concerned by what kind of story we’re telling to our children, to our youth. So the choice of this 22-year-old writing dynamo as inaugural poet says a lot: says that you have power, you have agency, you have to participate in this democracy, it’s your country as well. I think she has come at a moment when we need that the most, and I look forward to seeing how she can lead us, especially our youth, through what I think are still very tumultuous years ahead.

 

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.


Hollins Presents 63rd Annual Science Seminar, April 5 – 8

 

 

Hollins will highlight the dynamic research that has been conducted by the university’s science and mathematics students during the 2020-21 academic year at the 63rd Annual Science Seminar, April 5 – 8.

 

 

The four-day virtual meeting will celebrate scientific research and inquiry through:

  • Student research presentations in both oral and poster formats
  • Separate student/faculty panels exploring research in biology/environmental science, chemistry/physics, mathematics/statistics/computer science, and psychology
  • An alumnae panel exploring research in STEM fields
  • A keynote address

“Though we have been pressed by the pandemic, we have continued in our quest to expand our mathematical and scientific understanding of the world around us,” said Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Renee Godard.

The 63rd Annual Science Seminar begins on Monday, April 5, with two sessions considering the process and value of doing research in STEM fields. During “Conversations about Research with Students of Science and Math” (4:45 – 5:45 p.m., ET), student panelists will discuss how they found research opportunities, describe what lessons they learned and skills they gained during their research, and explain how this has prepared them for their future. Preregister for the Zoom meeting link.

The evening session, “A Conversation with STEMinist Alumnae in Research” (6:30 – 7:30 p.m., ET), will be led by recent Hollins alumnae who are actively pursuing careers in research in psychology, environmental science, biomedical technology, and chemistry. Preregister for the Zoom meeting link.

On Tuesday, April 6, the Science Seminar will explore research in biology/environmental science and mathematics/statistics. “Exploring Research in Biology and Environmental Science” (4:45 – 5:45 p.m., ET) will feature biology and environmental science faculty and students, who will discuss their ongoing research at Hollins. Preregister for the Zoom meeting link.

Also from 4:45 – 5:45 p.m., faculty and senior majors in the Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science will talk about “Exploring Research in Math, Statistics, and Data Science.” Students will make short presentations about the current state of their research, and faculty will speak briefly about their own research areas. Preregister for the Zoom meeting link.

“Senior Research Presentations” (6:30 – 7:30 p.m., ET) will highlight two Hollins seniors who are exploring research projects at the intersection of biology, environmental science, and mathematics/statistics. Preregister for the Zoom meeting link.

Day Three of the Science Seminar, Wednesday, April 7, will be devoted to research in chemistry/physics and psychology. “Exploring Research in Chemistry and Physics” (4:45 – 5:45 p.m., ET) features chemistry and physics faculty in a conversation about their areas of research followed by separate discussions with students presenting research posters. Preregister for the Zoom meeting link.

Susan Campbell
Neurobiologist Susan Campbell of Virginia Tech is the keynote speaker for the 63rd Annual Science Seminar.

“Exploring Research in Psychology,” also from 4:45 – 5:45 p.m., spotlights faculty research, student research posters, and various research opportunities for students. Preregister for the Zoom meeting link.

That evening from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m., ET, “Senior Research Presentations” will showcase two seniors who are conducting research projects in chemistry and psychology. Preregister for the Zoom meeting link.

On Thursday, April 8, at 7:30 p.m., ET, the 63rd Annual Science Seminar will conclude with a keynote presentation by Susan Campbell, an assistant professor of animal and poultry sciences at Virginia Tech, entitled “Mechanism of Seizure Development: Switching Roles and Gut Feelings.” Campbell completed her Ph.D. in neurobiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and her scientific career has been focused on studying epilepsy and mechanisms involved in seizure development. Campbell’s research group is investigating novel mechanisms that lead to seizure development by combining electrophysiology and clinically relevant seizure models. Preregister for the Zoom meeting link.

 

 


“Decision Height” Revival Celebrates Ten Years of the Award-Winning Drama

“Oh my God, what am I going to write?”

This was the question nagging then-junior Meredith Dayna Levy ’12, M.F.A. ’18 while she was studying abroad in London during the spring of 2011. For her senior honors thesis, the theatre major knew she wanted to write a play, one with an all-female cast that would allow her “to practically use the actors I knew on campus and also speak to my experience as a college student.” What she didn’t know was, what exactly was the play going to be about?

“I was beating myself up about it,” Levy recalls.

All that changed when Levy learned that in 2009, President Barack Obama had signed into law a bill awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the group known as the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), the first women ever to fly American military aircraft. Created in World War II to fly noncombat military missions in the United States so that male pilots could take on combat missions in Europe and Asia, the WASP program logged more than 60 million miles and flew virtually every kind of aircraft operated by the Army Air Force.

Levy was astounded. She had never heard of the WASP program and was determined to learn more. She found a newspaper article about one of the pilots after she had flown her first solo flight. “All of her friends had dumped her into this wishing well per tradition. I thought, ‘This is something Hollins students are going to understand. We’re all about wacky traditions.’” But on a more profound level, Levy’s initial research told her that “even though I knew nothing at all about planes, the military, or physics, I decided this was an environment and a community that I could understand, and more importantly, my audience of students could understand.”Decision Height Flyer

Thus began Levy’s work on what would become the play Decision Height. The drama would have its Hollins Theatre Main Stage premiere in the fall of 2012, subsequently capture honors from the prestigious Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, and go on to be produced at high schools, colleges, and community theatres around the country. Hollins Theatre is now giving Decision Height its first revival in a virtual staging April 1-3 at 7:30 p.m.; April 9 and 10 at 7:30 p.m.; and April 11 at 2 p.m. (Admission is free and open to the public, but tickets are required; visit Brown Paper Tickets to request the Zoom link.)

Decision Height follows six women upon their arrival at a base in Sweetwater, Texas, for nine months of training before moving on to active duty. “We witness how their relationships develop and the ways in which they learn new things about themselves and each other, what motivates them and what gives them purpose and strength,” Levy explains. “By the end of the play, every character is sort of on a different path, but we know they’re united forever in friendship.”

Artistic Director and Chair of the Hollins Theatre Department Ernie Zulia, who was Levy’s advisor when she was an undergraduate, remembers when she first approached him prior to the 2011-12 academic year about writing a play as her honors thesis. “An honors thesis is a yearlong process, and I figured, ‘Terrific, that’s enough to occupy any new playwright for a year.’ But then she added, ‘I would like to design, produce, and direct the play.’ And I thought, ‘Sure, if anyone can take on that kind of effort, Meredith can.’ Not only was it sitting down and creating characters and dialogue, it also required intense research in order to do it authentically.”

WASPs Awarded Congressional Gold Medal
Deanie Parrish accepts the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of her fellow WASPs at the Capitol March 10, 2010. More than 200 WASPs attended the event, many of them wearing their World War II-era uniforms. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)

Levy devoured every piece of background information she could find. A crucial discovery was an online collection of primary research materials compiled by Nancy Parrish, whose mother, Odean “Deanie” Bishop Parrish, was part of the WASP program. “Nancy has made it her life’s mission to document WASP, and I spent the entirety of the summer after I came back from London just eating this stuff up. I even got to talk to Nancy and Deanie. So many of the events in the play came out of that research and brought those stories to life. It can be intimidating when you’re faced with so many real people. How do you fictionalize it? You want to get every detail right and memorialize it perfectly.”

So, Levy devoted the fall of 2011 to “doing draft after draft after draft.” Friends took part in readings of the play “just trying to get the words out so that I could hear the play and determine what was missing or confusing. With each draft I was able to take a further step away from the history and lean more on my own lived experience, my friendships, and putting my own emotional truth into the play and amongst all the historical framework.”

Levy eventually invited Zulia and Todd Ristau, director of the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins, to attend those readings and offer feedback. “It needed more work, but it was a beautiful script,” Zulia says. “When you get a play to that point, it’s important to get it up on its feet so the playwright can see the play they’ve written.”

In February 2012, Decision Height went into rehearsals for its production that spring in the Upstairs Studio Theatre at Hollins, a venue designed for trying out new works. The staging “was received with such enthusiasm,” Zulia says. “People were in tears and talking about what an impact this play had on them. I’d seen plays through many incarnations and I knew some of the problems she’d need to fix as she continued to work on it, but I heard it loud and clear from the audience that something in this play was profoundly moving.”

After graduating in the spring of 2012, Levy moved into Hollins’ M.F.A. in Playwriting program. Zulia offered her a deal: If she spent that summer working on rewrites, he would put Decision Height on Hollins Theatre’s Main Stage. She continued adding new elements to the play with support from Zulia, Ristau, and Bob Moss, a member of the Playwright’s Lab faculty who has been called a “living legend of Off-Off Broadway.”

For Decision Height’s Main Stage production that October, Zulia invited representatives from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Region IV, a program dedicated to improving the quality of college theatre in the United States. “The feedback we got was phenomenal,” Zulia notes, and in January 2013, KCACTF’s Region IV awarded its top playwriting honor to Levy.

A year later, Hollins and Roanoke’s Mill Mountain Theatre hosted the 2014 Region IV KCATCF and featured Decision Height as the opening event. “There were spontaneous standing ovations, people were so impressed by the work Meredith and the whole company had created,” Zulia says. “It definitely told us something good was happening. At this festival, national representatives from across the country for the Kennedy Center were in attendance. They selected Decision Height as the top new play of the year, and the top production of a play that season.”

Subsequently published by Samuel French, one of the world’s leading publishers and licensors of plays and musicals, Decision Height over the past seven years has reached broader audiences regionally and nationally. Levy got special satisfaction from seeing it staged at colleges and universities. “I’m always amazed when I go to a school and see students do the show. If it’s a single-sex environment, the actors are so excited – ‘This play feels like our school. This is me and my friends, this is our community.’ I expected that, but I’m also so delighted when I go to big state schools and the women say, ‘There are so few parts for us in so many of the main stage productions. I’ve never viewed any of my peers as friends when we’re competing for the same five parts. To do an all-female production, I feel like I’ve built a new family.’ Hearing these students talk about how they had discovered this whole new way of being in community with women, that it didn’t have to be adversarial or competitive, was huge. I didn’t set out to write a play that would do that, but it was gratifying to know the play was having such an impact.”

Decision Height Stage Scene
A scene from the original production of “Decision Height” on Hollins Theatre’s Main Stage in October 2012.

Zulia sees the Decision Height revival as a logical continuation of Hollins Theatre’s Legacy Series, which began a decade ago as a way to bring literary pieces by Hollins writers to the stage. Beginning with the classic children’s book Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown ‘32, the Legacy Series has included A Woman of Independent Means (Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey ’60), Belloq’s Ophelia (Natasha Trethewey M.A. ’91), Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Annie Dillard ’67, M.A. ’68), and Good Ol’ Girls (Lee Smith ’67 and Jill McCorkle M.A. ’81).

“Along comes Decision Height, and we thought, ‘Our playwriting program is a big part of our legacy along with our creative writing program,’” Zulia explains. “Some students came to me last year and asked, ‘When do we get to perform Decision Height?’, and it seemed like a good idea – let’s bring this play back and give our current students the opportunity to be a part of it. Its historical setting and themes are timeless.”

Levy believes Decision Height is the perfect title for the play and underscores why it continues to resonate with audiences of all ages, particularly the college demographic. “‘Decision Height’ is the flight term that was used for the critical moment where you have to decide if you’re going to land the plane or keep going. I thought that was such a great metaphor for what it feels like to graduate college and be at this point where you have to decide, what path you’re going to take with your life.

“Looking back after ten years, there’s no decision that you can’t change. But as a senior, I thought whatever I do next is going to define my life. It felt so huge, and this metaphor was really helpful to me to put my hands around that feeling and fear.”

 

 


Support Hollins Athletics By Joining In The Hollins Hustle Virtual 5K

Whether you’re an expert marathoner, casual runner, walker, hiker, or just want to be outside, you can take part in the Hollins Hustle Virtual 5k, April 5 – 12.

The cost is $25, and all proceeds benefit the Hollins University Athletic Department. Each participant will receive a Hollins Hustle race bib and a certificate of completion.

The registration deadline has been extended to midnight on April 2. Enter a gift amount of at least $25 and select “One-Time Gift.” Then, select “Friends of Athletics 5k Registration” and complete the giving form. Please include your current email address.

Here’s how the Hollins Hustle Virtual 5k works: Any time between April 5 and 12, in any location around the world, the 5k can be run, jogged, or walked on the road, trail, or treadmill, at the gym or on the track. Be sure to document your distance and time on an app such as Strava, Charity Miles, Map My Run, or others. Then, take a screen shot of your results and email it to Sports Information Director Justin McIlwee at mcilweej@hollins.edu.

Be sure to use the hashtag #HollinsHustle during the event to let us know you’re hustling for Hollins Athletics!

Medals will be awarded to the top two individuals in each of the following categories:

  • Age group winners: Under 20, 20-39, 40-59, 60 & over
  • Most picturesque image taken during the Hustle
  • Best selfie taken during the Hustle
  • Best Hollins spirit picture taken during the Hustle

The Hollins Hustle Virtual 5k is an event for anyone and everyone.

 


Hollins Celebrates The Life And Legacy Of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, members of the Hollins University community are paying tribute to the civil rights leader with two special video presentations.

“Imagining Peace” reflects King’s commitment to justice and equality through the voices of representatives from the class of 2024, including Keniyah Bullock, Kardera Page, Zoe Raba, Hannah Sandy, and Dymond Williams. Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton; Cultural and Community Engagement Graduate Assistant Caitlyn Lewis ’17, M.A.L.S. ’21; University Chaplain and Director of Spiritual and Religious Life Catina Martin; and Associate Dean of Cultural and Community Engagement Jeri Suarez are also featured.

In “Deeper Understanding for People of Good Will,” President Hinton honors King’s work by sharing “my thoughts on why we as a community at Hollins University have to move beyond good will in order to become a truly inclusive institution.”

 

 


Hollins Announces Robust Calendar of Online Activities and Events for J-Term

As Hollins students rejuvenate from a challenging fall semester and prepare for what will be an equally demanding spring semester by enjoying an extended Winter Break, they will be able to remain engaged and connected, both academic and socially.

Hollins is planning a calendar of online curricular and cocurricular activities and events during what normally is January Short Term (J-Term) that is both entertaining and educational and designed to appeal to a wide array of interests.

Students wishing to focus on keeping healthy in both body and mind can take part in a weekly wellness series as well as virtual yoga and guided meditation classes and “Stress Free Sunday” sessions intended to help oneself thrive during difficult times. The schedule of events will also feature discussions on topics ranging from literature, works of art, and career preparation to trans justice, spirituality and LGBTQIA, Korean culture, implicit bias, and building cultural humility. Students who wish to take a “digital deep dive” can earn a Digital Technology in the Workplace Certificate, while those who want to pursue international learning experiences can register for “Travel Tuesdays” and “World Wednesdays” and also try their hand at global literacy quizzes.

Creativity in the arts will be showcased. Students can crochet and knit; make collages, linocut prints, mobile paper sculptures, zines, and postcards; build their skills in writing with sensory detail, on social justice, and in short forms; virtually explore the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum; and watch via Zoom livestream the annual Hollins – Mill Mountain Winter Festival of New Works, featuring exciting new plays by Hollins playwrights.

In addition, students can learn more about various campus initiatives. Faculty members will talk about their current research or creative work, and the  university’s Working Group on Slavery and Its Contemporary Legacies will conduct listening sessions.

And, there will be lots of fun activities, including virtual “Get to Know Hollins” scavenger hunts, a photo/video contest, a murder mystery party, a virtual tabletop role-playing game, a trivia night, bird watching, and that year-round Hollins favorite, Bingo Night.

On Monday, January 18, a special prerecorded program honoring the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. will be made available for viewing throughout the day, which will feature Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton’s presentation, “Why Goodwill Is Not Enough.” Members of the class of 2024, University Chaplain and Director of Spiritual and Religious Life Catina Martin, Associate Dean of Cultural and Community Engagement Jeri Suarez, and Caitlyn Lewis, graduate assistant in Cultural and Community Engagement, will also participate in the program.

Because the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to continue having an impact nationally well into the coming year, Hollins announced in early October that students will not be returning to campus for J-Term this year and residence halls will remain closed. In-person, virtual, and/or hybrid seminars will not be offered during this year’s session, and the J-Term academic requirement for credit has been suspended for the 2020-21 academic year. Virtual internships, independent study projects, and remote theses are the only activities that will be approved for credit this J-Term.

Spring Term classes, which will be taught in-person, online, or through a hybrid mix of those forms of instruction, will begin on February 10, 2021.

 

 

 

 


2021 Hollins-Mill Mountain Winter Festival of New Works Goes Virtual

The Hollins-Mill Mountain Winter Festival of New Works, which each January showcases compelling new plays by students from the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University, is headed online for 2021.

“Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we will be producing and performing the entire Winter Festival of New Works through the magic of Zoom,” said Ernie Zulia, artistic director and chair of the Hollins theatre department. Along with Playwright’s Lab Director Todd Ristau, he co-leads the Hollins Theatre Institute, which produces the Winter Festival annually in partnership with Roanoke’s Mill Mountain Theatre.

Taking place January 21 – 31, this year’s event is featuring two fully produced plays and two thesis play readings by Hollins playwrights. Each Zoom livestream is free and open to the public, but advanced reservations are encouraged as audience capacity is limited.

The 2021 schedule includes:Missing Red Girls

Missing Red Girls, written and directed by Max Bidasha

January 21-23, 7:30 p.m.
January 24, 2 p.m.

Based on true stories about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, and inspired by activist, storyteller, and mother Jennifer James, the play follows two families on their journeys to find their loved ones who were stolen from them. The families endure racism, many obstacles, and very few resources. Reserve tickets at BrownPaperTickets.com.

 

Saturday Fringe Spotlight: The Care Taker, written by Stephanie Goldman and directed by Michelle LoRicco

January 23, 2 p.m.

The complicated relationship of a mother and daughter gets even more complicated in this twisted love story when what is hidden in the closet is forced to come out. A wound that is hidden can never be healed. Reserve tickets at BrownPaperTickets.com.

 

The Shadow of the SonShadow of the Son, written by Kate Leslie and directed by Lauren Brooke Ellis

January 28-30, 7:30 p.m.
January 31, 2 p.m.

Artemis is the goddess of the moon, and her brother, Apollo, is the god of the sun. Expected to live up to the ideals of the immortals, Artemis longs for freedom and the opportunity to chart her own path. But when she builds her own world away from that of her father, has she simply traded one set of impossible expectations for another? Reserve tickets at BrownPaperTickets.com.

 

Saturday Fringe Spotlight: The Magic Stick, written by Erica Zephir and directed by Breana Venable

January 30, 2 p.m.

In this memory play, narrator Mary tells the story about returning home to her mother to escape spousal abuse. As she searches for happiness and fulfillment, she encounters many adversaries, and the aura of her husband haunts her. Reserve tickets at BrownPaperTickets.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Record Number of Hollins Students Earn Honors at Appalachia Regional Model Arab League

Eight members of Hollins’ Model Arab League delegation won awards at the Appalachia Regional Model Arab League (ARMAL), held November 13-15.

The number of Hollins students recognized this year is a record for the university.

Model Arab League (MAL) is a project of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations (NCUSAR), a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., that seeks to foster greater understanding of the Arabic-speaking world by U.S. students. NCUSAR also sponsors internships, study trips to the region, international conferences, and networking opportunities, and the organization’s student programs coordinator is a Hollins alumna: Katie Grandelli ’20. Hollins has taken part in MAL conferences since 2015. (The university has also participated in Model United Nations [MUN] conferences since 2000.) John P. Wheeler Professor of Political Science Edward Lynch teaches the MUN/MAL class and advises the MUN/MAL Club.

ARMAL, normally held on the Hollins campus, was conducted virtually this year. For the first time, the conference included a simulation of the Arab Court of Justice (ACJ), and Hollins is the first host of a regional MAL conference to have an ACJ; students who participated were assisted by Assistant Professor of Political Science Courtney Chenette, a practicing attorney.

Hollins students earning honors at ARMAL this year include:

  • Lillian Albrecht ’24, who won two awards for her work on the ACJ: Outstanding Justice and Outstanding Advocate.
  • Salima Driss ’23, Jaiya McMillan ’23, and Susanna Helms ’24, who were recognized with Outstanding Advocate awards.
  • Acadia Czeizinger ’22, Mollie Davis ’22, Maggie McCroby ’22, and Bianca Vallebrignoni ’23, who received Distinguished Chair awards for leading various conference councils.

In addition, Carly Jo Collins ’21 and Delia O’Grady ’22 served as ARMAL’s Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General, respectively.

 

 

 

 


Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop Hosts Winter Recharge Weekend, Jan. 29-31

Offering both manuscript and “write now” workshops, the Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop (TMWW) at Hollins University is presenting its first-ever Winter Recharge Weekend, Jan. 29-31.

“This is an opportunity to recharge your creativity, reconnect with the Tinker Mountain community of writers, and reframe your work,” said TMWW Director Fred Leebron.

Manuscript workshops, limited to eight participants, enable writers to get feedback on their work and learn what other writers are doing. Write now workshops, limited to ten participants, allow writers to immerse themselves in the craft of writing and generate new work without the pressure of preparing or reading manuscripts.

The Winter Recharge Weekend will be entirely virtual, kicking off with a social session on Friday evening, January 29. Workshops will be held on Saturday and Sunday, January 30 and 31, from 10 a.m. to noon and again from 2 to 4 p.m.

“The weekend is just the right amount of time to affirm your writing and reset for the balance of winter and spring,” Leebron explained.

Workshops include:

  • “All Styles/All Forms Fiction Manuscript Workshop” with Leebron, an award-winning novelist and short story writer. He has founded and directed writing programs in Europe, Latin America, and the United States, and has taught at both the undergraduate and graduate level for nearly 30 years. He also co-authored a textbook on fiction writing.
  • “The Middle Place Manuscript Workshop for Fiction Writers, Memoirists, and Essayists” with Barbara Jones, an executive editor at Henry Holt & Company, where she edits fiction, memoir, and an idiosyncratic short list of nonfiction. Her writings have been published in Salon, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.
  • “Write Now Workshop: Poetry and Nonfiction” with poetry and nonfiction author James McKean, who has published two books of essays and three books of poems. A winner of the Iowa Poetry Award and the X.J. Kennedy poetry prize from Texas Review Press, McKean’s work has also appeared in The Atlantic, Iowa Review, Gettysburg Review, and the Southern Review.
  • “Write Now Workshop for Fiction Writers” with Daniel Mueller, author of two collections of short fiction, a winner of the Sewanee Fiction Prize, and a faculty member at the University of New Mexico and in the low-residency M.F.A. program at Queens University of Charlotte. He is currently working on a memoir.

Visit the TMWW Winter Recharge webpage for more information on the workshops and faculty


Hollins, Roanoke College Name 2020 Kendig Award Nominees

Artists, arts advocates, and arts and cultural organizations are among the nominees for the 2020 Perry F. Kendig Arts and Culture Awards. Co-sponsored by Hollins University and Roanoke College, the Kendig Awards recognize exemplary individuals, businesses, and organizations in Virginia’s Blue Ridge that support excellence in the arts.

The Kendig Awards are named for the late Perry F. Kendig, Roanoke College’s seventh president and a supporter of the arts. The Kendig Awards were established in 1985 and presented annually by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge through 2012. Hollins and Roanoke College first partnered the following year to bestow these important honors.

Due to COVID-19 and the restrictions in place, the awards event will not be held this year. The decision was made to protect the participants, community and the students because the event is usually held on campus. The 2020 nominees and winners will be recognized at an awards event in the fall of 2021 where the nominees and winners from 2020 and 2021 will be recognized. That event is not yet scheduled.

Nominees for the 2020 Kendig Awards: 

Artemis Journal: Artemis Journal has inspired creativity and fellowship for people of all backgrounds in the region for over 40 years. The Journal serves thousands of people in Virginia’s Blue Ridge and across the globe with its features of up-and-coming artists and writers as well as award-winning artists. Since its origination in 1977, Artemis Journal has been an advocate for social justice and highlights all deserving artists and writers. 

Bryan Hancock: Hancock is a musician, poet, actor, slam artist, DJ and band member known as “Harvest Blaque.” His most noteworthy achievement is what he has given the community through his bi-weekly “Soul Sessions,” which are open-mic events that provide an inclusive space for all individuals, particularly from marginalized groups, in the Valley to express themselves freely. 

Kerry Hurley: Hurley has influenced the community as a professional musician, producer, songwriter, recording artist, and radio show host and producer. His love of the blues is shared through his “Blues Show” radio program, a staple for 20 years. His own music career includes two popular bands — The Thrillbillyz and The Fat Daddy Band. Hurley opened the Blue 5 restaurant in downtown Roanoke, giving blues music a stage in the heart of the city. Hurley gives back to the community by mentoring young artists. 

Robert Nordt Sr.: Nordt is an integral part of the art and culture scene in the region. He personally ensures the prosperity of organizations such as Opera Roanoke, Second Presbyterian Church, Roanoke Valley Choral Society, Roanoke College Choir, and Roanoke Symphony Orchestra. His contributions enable local arts and culture organizations to achieve their goals and remain successful. 

Todd Ristau: Ristau is primarily responsible for developing the region’s artistic impact from local entertainment to the national spotlight through his creation of the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University. As program director, Ristau provides actors and directors with a high-intensity-low-residency M.F.A. program that helps them sharpen their skills as they learn about innovative ways to expand their artistic capabilities. 

Roanoke College Olin Hall Galleries: Olin Hall Galleries provides the greater Roanoke community with a wide breadth of experiences ranging from high-quality gallery shows to hands-on community engagements. Over the past 10 years, the Gallery has grown tremendously due to the passionate and community-oriented work of the Gallery Director Talia Logan. Recent successes include the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef/Roanoke Valley Reef and the Paper Blooms Project. 

Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir: The Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir (RVCC) is a well-known, prestigious choir directed under the exemplary leadership of its founder, Kim Davidson. RVCC delivers high-quality concerts both locally and abroad including collaborations with the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra and Opera Roanoke, as well as concerts in distinguished venues such as Orchestra Hall in Chicago, the Mormon Tabernacle, Carnegie Hall, and Canterbury Cathedral. 

Smith Mountain Arts Council: The Smith Mountain Arts Council (SMAC) has led the charge for coordinating performing, visual and literary arts in the Smith Mountain Lake area. The SMAC provides opportunities for individuals and groups to participate in and enjoy the arts by sponsoring local artists, hosting events and granting local high schools scholarship aid to graduates who excel in the arts. 

Third Street Coffee House: This non-profit listening room has been known as a hidden gem offering intimate performances through open mic nights, opening and featured acts, and guitar pulls. Third Street Coffee House does not charge cover fees making it exceptionally accessible. Instead they offer a “pass-the-hat” donation option for listeners to directly support the artists featured onstage. 

Pat Wilhelms: Wilhelms served as the Director of Education and Outreach at Mill Mountain Theatre for many years before starting the Roanoke Children’s Theatre (RCT) in 2008. One of Wilhelm’s top priorities as founder of RCT was to ensure theatre was accessible to every child in the Roanoke area by touring RCT productions to local libraries, community centers and schools. 

Dwayne Yancey: Yancey is an award-winning journalist who now serves as the editorial page editor for The Roanoke Times. He is a unique and creative writer and is a passionate advocate for the arts throughout the region. Yancey is a successful playwright and actor as well. He has written a large number of plays and short pieces that have been produced in theaters and institutions across the United States and abroad. In addition to his own playwriting, he is a founder of Roanoke’s branch of No Shame Theatre in association with Mill Mountain Theatre.