Professor Jeanne Larsen to Participate in Unique Ancient Greece Seminar on the “Odyssey”

larsenHollins Professor of English Jeanne Larsen is one of a select group of faculty members nationwide invited to participate in an Ancient Greece in the Modern Classroom seminar on the Odyssey.

The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and the Center for Hellenic Studies chose Larsen and 19 other faculty members from a pool of 66 nominees for “The Odyssey,” which takes place July 22 – 26 at the Center for Hellenic Studies’ Washington, D.C., campus. Gregory Nagy, Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and professor of comparative literature at Harvard University, and Kenneth Scott Morrell, associate professor of Greek and Roman studies at Rhodes College, will lead the seminar, which is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“Strengthening the teaching of the classics at colleges and universities is of critical importance,” said CIC President Richard Ekman. “The number of institutions that nominated faculty members to participate in the seminar is most impressive, and we believe that Jeanne Larsen will play a strong role in the seminar.”

“I gave Jeanne my highest recommendation for this because of her capacity for learning and for transmitting her enthusiasm for literature,” added Patricia Hammer, Hollins’ vice president for academic affairs. “Her commitment to the life of the mind is evident.”

Designed for non-specialists, the seminar will address the challenge of keeping alive in undergraduate education classical texts such as the Iliad, Odyssey, Homeric Hymns, poetry of Hesiod, and Histories of Herodotus that a generation ago were read and understood by every college graduate.

This seminar will offer an opportunity to examine the many dimensions of the Odyssey in its various historical contexts and explore how the poem (to be read in translation) can be studied in courses that address a variety of literatures and disciplines. Participants will study diverse topics that range from the exchange of luxury goods to the adjudication of disputes arising from athletic contests. Along with providing information and background for understanding Homeric poetry in its ancient contexts, the seminar will devote a substantial portion of each day to reading and analyzing the poem itself.


Virginia Social Science Association Honors Catherine Hensly ’14 with Best Undergraduate Paper Award

henslyCatherine Hensly ’14 has been named the winner of the 2014 Best Undergraduate Paper Award by the Virginia Social Science Association (VSSA).

The Hollins senior, who is double majoring in economics and business, was honored for her paper, “Higher Education, Higher Cost: An Income-Contingent Approach.”

Hensly and her advisor, Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics Deborah Spencer, were recognized at the VSSA’s 87th Annual Meeting, held April 18-19 at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. The paper was presented at the conference’s panel session, “Health Care, Poverty, and Education in Economic Perspective.”

The VSSA’s goal is to bring together all groups related to the social science disciplines of anthropology, business, criminal justice, economics, geography, history, international relations, political science, psychology, and sociology. The association envisions three main interrelated missions regarding teaching, research, and outreach:

  • promoting multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary work in the social sciences;
  • offering students, including undergraduates, opportunities for professional development in presenting their scholarship; and
  •  bringing together teachers at all levels of education in Virginia.

Photo: Beverly Colwell Adams (left), assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and associate professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, presents the Best Undergraduate Paper Award to Hensly at the VSSA’s 87th Annual Meeting.


Swimmers Achieve Scholar All American Status

swimThe Hollins University swim team has earned Team Scholar All American Honors for the 2014 spring semester from the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA).

The CSCAA presents the Team Scholar All American award to college and university swimming and diving teams who have achieved a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

The swim team’s student-athletes were similarly recognized for their academic achievements during the 2013 spring semester.

The team kicks off its 2014-15 season at the Converse All Women’s Invitational, October 10-11.

Founded in 1922, the CSCAA is a professional organization of college swimming and diving coaches dedicated to serving and providing leadership for the advancement of the sport of swimming at the collegiate level.


With Family as Inspiration, Maria Roncal ’15 Uses Hollins Education to Empower Herself, Others

roncalGrowing up in Peru, Maria Roncal ’15 was taught a valuable lesson by her family: personal empowerment would come only if she took responsibility for getting the education she always wanted.

That advice sustained Roncal after she moved to Northern Virginia twenty years ago as a stay-at-home mom with three young children. To support them, she subsequently had to enter the workforce, but the higher education that eluded her in Peru gradually became a reality in this country when she began enrolling in courses at a local community college.

Today, Roncal is thriving at Hollins University with a goal after graduation of becoming a nurse. The hard work and commitment she has displayed as a double-major in biology and Spanish were recognized recently by the Roanoke Valley Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), which awarded her a $1,500 Non-traditional Scholarship.

“I have been encouraged and guided by people whose unselfishness has supported and inspired me,” Roncal wrote in her scholarship application essay. “I want to give of myself as others have given to my family and me.”

Roncal’s journey to Hollins began as she juggled community college classes with her job. “It was hard and I really wanted to do it [go to school] full-time,” she recalled. Through an Internet search, her son-in-law discovered Hollins’ Horizon program, which is dedicated to serving adult women who are entering a four-year college for the first time, or returning after an interruption in their education. “I was amazed,” she said. “The place looked so beautiful on the website and I told my son-in-law I’d like to go visit.”

She arranged a meeting with Celia McCormick, then-director of Horizon, and “fell in love with the campus. Just talking with Celia made me believe I could do it.”

Nevertheless, when she enrolled at Hollins in the spring of 2012, Roncal knew it would be a difficult step for her. Her children, now adults, all resided in the Washington, D.C., area, and she had no friends or relatives in Roanoke. She credits her son-in-law for helping her find the courage to give Hollins a chance. “I was really scared, but my son-in-law – he’s my angel.” Then and now, she said, “he motivates me.”

Other than forgetting to bring a pencil with her on the first day of her first mathematics class (“My professor said, ‘No problem,’ and gave me two or three.”), Roncal adjusted well to life at Hollins. A typical day begins at 8 a.m. and often doesn’t end until ten at night, but she enjoys campus life. She and her fellow Horizon students “have a great bond. They became my family.” Roncal works as a student assistant in the Horizon office and is also active with Hollins’ Office of Cultural and Community Engagement, where occasionally she gets to immerse herself  in one of her favorite activities, cooking, when she prepares meals for students.

Roncal believes her biology and Spanish majors complement one another. She told the AAUW, “I want to be able to help sick people get better, taking care of an individual’s physical, emotional, psychological, intellectual, social and spiritual needs. Also, I want to be able to educate people on how to prevent illnesses. With my degree in Spanish and as a health care professional, I will be able to reach out to the Hispanic community while acknowledging and respecting their differences.

“I aspire to be a role model for minorities and especially women. I enjoy talking with women about my own experiences and the struggles I have had to overcome to make a living.”

Roncal has just four more classes to complete for her biology degree. She will take one of those courses at Virginia Western Community College this summer and the remaining three at Hollins in the spring of 2015. This fall, she will finish her Spanish major while studying abroad in Seville, Spain – another dream come true for her.

While Roncal is justifiably delighted with her accomplishments as a Hollins student, her greatest pride is reserved for her three children, who have embraced her passion for education. Just twelve, eight, and three years old, respectively, when they arrived in the United States, they all went on to attend Vanderbilt University on full scholarships. The oldest, a daughter, is an electrical engineer who is returning to school to become a physician. Her son, the middle child, is also an electrical engineer who is now completing his M.B.A. The youngest, a second daughter, majored in neuroscience in college and has begun a master’s program in public health.

Roncal is also extremely grateful to her mother, sister, and four brothers. “They are always watching after my needs,” she said, citing their financial support in particular.

“Empowering people through education is a big task that will help make a better world and eradicate injustice,” Roncal stated in her AAUW scholarship application. “The more educated people become, the less likely they are to feel like they are facing discrimination and prejudice. Being able to get well-paying jobs while doing something they love gives people a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in their lives.”


Sen. Mark Warner Talks with Hollins Students about Debt, Entrepreneurship, and Learning from Failure

warnerFielding a wide range of questions, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA) engaged via Skype with students from the Hollins business department’s Ethical Leadership class on April 30.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Business Kari Munro welcomed Warner, who reminded students, “I was a business guy longer than I’ve been a politician.” He spoke of starting two businesses after completing his undergraduate and law school education that “failed miserably” – one in energy and the other in real estate – before achieving success in the cellular telephone industry and as a venture capitalist who invested in high-tech companies.

Warner went on to serve as Governor of Virginia from 2002 to 2006. He has been a member of the U.S. Senate for the past five years, where he said “the single issue I’ve been most obsessed with is how we deal with our national debt, which is 17 trillion dollars.” He noted that the issue has a profound effect on college students because “if we don’t have a budget deal we’ll rapidly squeeze the ability of your government to make any kind of investments in education, infrastructure, or research, which is just a bad business plan.”

Warner added that Congress owed it to the women in the class “to leave them a balance sheet where you can still get things done.”

Students then queried Warner about what he learned from his business failures (“You shouldn’t be afraid to fail, people’s lives are generally improved by failure if they can learn from the experience.”); how his college years influenced his career path (“The one thing I wish I would have done in college is more writing.”); and dealing with conflicts between ethical principles and the law (“There’s no better time than college to simulate these situations and wrestle with them. You’re going to confront these kinds of choices in any walk of life.”)

A question about the Pay It Forward program in Oregon, which has been proposed as an alternative to student loans in that state, prompted Warner to talk about the explosion of student debt nationally. While he said he would “want to look at the Oregon program a little more, see what kind of track record it gets” before advocating it in Virginia, he touted a federal program that bases loan repayment on income. “I am looking at how we might expand that program. I want to make sure young people have the opportunity to try to be entrepreneurs. If I had $50,000 debt from college I’m not sure I would have taken that second or third chance, or even that first chance.

“As I travel around Virginia, I get more questions about student debt than Obamacare. If we don’t get ahead of this, it’s going to be the next fiscal crisis. Right now in America, there’s more student debt than credit card debt.”

Warner concluded the twenty-minute session by urging the students to participate in the democratic process. “This is your country every bit as much as it is mine. Your voices have got to be heard. The thing our country needs now are rational people of goodwill in both political parties. If you guys don’t vote, if you guys don’t get involved, we leave too many of the decisions to the outliers. That’s not healthy if we’re going to make sure our country is still the kind of place where everybody gets [a] fair shot.”


Art Professor Jennifer Anderson Is Among the “40 Under 40: Professors Who Inspire”

andersonNerdScholar, a financial literacy website for students that empowers them to make smart financial choices, has selected Assistant Professor of Art Jennifer Anderson for its inaugural list of “40 Under 40: Professors Who Inspire.”

According to the website, “These 40 inspirational professors were nominated based on their ability to captivate and engage students in the classroom, desire to interact with students outside of class, and collaborate on research projects. Nominations were collected through student and faculty recommendations, articles such as The Princeton Review’s Best Professors list, and other pieces highlighting universities with outstanding professors, supplemented by crowd-sourced review sites such as RateMyProfessors and CourseRank.”

Anderson, who will receive tenure and promotion to associate professor on July 1, is one of three professors from colleges and universities in Virginia to make the list (the College of William and Mary and Virginia Tech are also represented).

Anderson’s profile and the complete list of honorees can be found here.