Art History Senior Symposium and Tribute to Professor Kathleen Nolan, April 24

Hollins will observe the 25th anniversary of the Art History Senior Symposium and pay tribute to retiring Professor of Art History Kathleen Nolan during two virtual events on Saturday, April 24.

The annual Art History Senior Symposium, the capstone experience for art history majors, will take place from 10 a.m. – noon EDT. Four members of the class of 2021 will present their original research through a series of 20-minute talks. Email knolan@hollins.edu for the Zoom link and more details.

From 1 – 3 p.m. EDT, art history alumnae will come together for a reunion to honor Nolan and her distinguished 35-year academic career at Hollins. Nolan shaped the art history department into a multi-faceted program and taught majors, minors, and non-majors the skills to perceptively and thoughtfully interpret images from the past and present alike. She has taught medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque art history, and her scholarly interests include the history of women in the Middle Ages, and the works of art commissioned by women to tell their stories. She co-edited Arts of the Medieval Cathedrals: Studies on Architecture, Stained Glass and Sculpture in Honor of Anne Prache. Her book, Queens in Stone and Silver: The Creation of a Visual Identity of Queenship in Capetian France (Palgrave 2009), looked at queens’ personal seals and effigy tombs. Her articles and essays have appeared in The Art Bulletin, the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Studies in Iconography, and Gesta.

Christine Holt Fix ’97, Zirwat Chowdhury ’05, Gwen Fernandez ’06, Sarita Herman ’08, and Rory Keeley ’17 will deliver brief reflections on how their experiences studying with Nolan shaped their career paths. Through short videos, many other alumnae will also offer greetings and share their recollections. The celebration will also include opportunities to catch up with classmates, provide updates, and make new connections. Preregister for the Zoom link, or contact Amy Torbert ’05 at amy.torbert@gmail.com to learn more about the reunion event or to contribute your own memories.


Hollins Makes Test-Optional Admission Policy Permanent

Hollins University faculty have approved the permanent adoption of a test-optional admission policy for domestic students. ACT and SAT scores will no longer be required when applying for admission.

“Hollins strongly endorses a student-centered, holistic approach to admission,” said Ashley Browning, Hollins’ vice president for enrollment management. She noted that if a prospective first-year student chooses to submit ACT or SAT scores, Hollins will continue to consider them as part of the student’s total application. However, “the absence of standardized test scores will not disadvantage any domestic student’s application for admission.”

Michael Gettings, dean of academic success at Hollins, stated that the case for a test-optional admission policy is strong. “Students of color and students with fewer resources, both low-income and first-generation, tend to be disadvantaged by standardized test requirements, either because of the cost of the test, lack of access to test prep services, lower-resource schools, or other factors.  National data indicates that students from these groups earn lower SAT scores, and are thus disproportionately represented among groups with lower scores.”

Gettings explained that even though few students have to date entered Hollins without test scores, “our analysis indicates that students with lower test scores historically perform well, with respect to Hollins GPA and graduation rates, nearly the same as the overall student population.”

Hollins assesses many aspects of a student’s application to determine their academic preparedness for the university. This includes the high school transcript; course rigor; Advanced Placement, Dual Enrollment, International Baccalaureate and other advanced coursework; GPA; class rank; required essay; and recommendations.  “These are all good indicators that allow the Office of Admission to judge academic readiness,” said Gettings, “and again, our data indicate that these are predictors of academic success at Hollins.”

Browning added that Hollins’ decision reflects a broader trend in higher education. “Many schools have gone test-optional during the global pandemic, and many are making that change permanent in order to make the application process more equitable for students from all backgrounds.”

Last August, Hollins joined more than 500 college and university members of the National Association for College Admission Counseling in confirming that students would not be penalized for the absence of a standardized test score for admission in Fall 2021. The policy was intended to alleviate uncertainty for students and families as they weighed concerns about the safety of going to test centers or the feasibility of testing from home due to COVID-19.

 

 

 


Leah Wilkins ’23 Selected for Prelaw Undergraduate Scholar Program

Leah Wilkins ’23 has been named a Prelaw Undergraduate Scholar (PLUS) by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC).

The political science major is one of only 185 scholars competitively selected nationally to attend an intensive five-week summer program with law school faculty at one of seven partner institutions. LSAC is a not-for-profit organization committed to promoting quality, access, and equity in law and education worldwide by supporting individuals’ enrollment journeys and providing preeminent assessment, data, and technology services. LSAC’s PLUS program is designed to increase the number of lawyers from underrepresented groups by introducing first- and second-year college students to the skills important for success in law school. Propelling future legal careers, scholars receive a summer stipend, and LSAC funds their law school application process and admission test, the LSAT.

Wilkins is passionate about amplifying Black women’s voices and experiences in law and policy. “My knowledge will be an asset to my community,” she said of translating her Hollins courses such as Gender and the Law to legal practice. She is excited to work with the law school faculty at the University of Houston Law Center (UHLC). “Born and raised in Texas, continuing my training at UHLC this summer is an honor,” she stated, adding that she is confident the program will make her an even “better advocate in a state I love.”

Assistant Professor of Political Science and Gender and Women’s Studies Courtney Chenette, who is also an attorney, noted that “Leah’s confident leadership and interpersonal intelligence already make her a successful community advocate.” Wilkins serves as vice president of Sandusky House, Hollins’ community service residence hall, and as chair of the university’s Honor Court, which is charged with hearing issues of honesty and integrity and upholding Hollins’ core values. She is committed to building an empowering community at Hollins and in her future as a lawyer.


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.

 

 


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.


Balancing Act: Hollins Professor Deftly Juggles Filmmaking with Teaching

Pursuing scholarly or creative work while ensuring a meaningful experience for students in the classroom is a daily challenge for every college professor. Associate Professor of Film Amy Gerber-Stroh, who chairs the film department at Hollins and codirects the university’s graduate programs in screenwriting and film studies, has accrued 40 years as a professional filmmaker and nearly three decades teaching film in higher education. For her, immersion in both vocations is the key to success and fulfillment.

“Teaching learners of all ages and abilities has been really rewarding. It has made me a better filmmaker, much more so than if I were balancing filmmaking and [the demands of] Hollywood,” she said.

Gerber-Stroh laid her foundations at Los Angeles’ CalArts (California Institute of the Arts), which was founded by Walt Disney. Alumni including directors Tim Burton and Sofia Coppola set high standards. “It’s a school that shaped me in terms of experimental directing and trying different things from an artist’s point of view rather than a consumer point of view. A lot of the other film schools in L.A. are really more geared toward the Hollywood box office.”

After CalArts, Gerber-Stroh admits she “got sucked into Hollywood and worked on a lot of strange stuff, mostly as a casting associate.” Her mainstream movie credits range from City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold (1994), Angels in the Outfield (1994), and Tank Girl (1995) to Goldeneye (1995), The Craft (1996), and The Mask of Zorro (1998). Fortunately for Gerber-Stroh, casting work was just a day job. “At the same time, I was making a lot of experimental art films, and I was also working at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. That was a great gig because I was able to make films about painters and sculptors. It honed my sensibilities and drove me artistically.”

In 2000, Gerber-Stroh launched her own production company, FlatCoatFilms, and began producing her own short films, documentary features, and animation projects. After joining the Hollins faculty in 2007, her task was to balance filmmaking with her new passion for teaching.

“It takes a long, long time to make films. I sort of rotate between longer and shorter pieces,” she explained. “Shorts can take a couple of years. Feature-length projects for independent filmmakers take anywhere from four to eight years. The reason is, if you’re not backed by a major production company or studio, the money is trickling in. You’re getting grant money, maybe you’re getting people who are investing in your films, or you’re getting GoFundMe campaigns going. Thanks to Hollins, I received seed money for my current project.”

Gerber-Stroh has addressed a variety of subjects in her films. Public Memory (2004) explores the meanings and motivations of American memorials. The Truth About Trees: A Natural and Human History (2015) is a three-part documentary series for PBS made in collaboration with the James Agee Film Project. Do Cell Towers Dream of Morse Code? (2019), which imagines the possibilities if cell towers actually developed consciousness, won the Silver Award for Experimental Works at the 2020 University Film and Video Conference. (“Professors who make films have developed such a great community, and so it was really nice to win an award there.”) Cell Towers also earned awards and acclaim at the Miami International Sci-Fi Film Festival and Chicago’s International Art House Film Festival.

But the greatest source of inspiration and material has come from both sides of Gerber-Stroh’s own family. In My Grandfather Was a Nazi Scientist: Opa, von Braun and Operation Paperclip (2011), she uncovers the secret past of Dr. Eduard Gerber, who was among hundreds of Nazi scientists brought to the United States after World War II through a classified and controversial government program. She’s currently writing, directing, and producing a hybrid documentary called Hope of Escape. It tells the story of how her forebears escaped slavery.

“Some scholars believe Cornelia Read, my great-great-grandmother, and her mother, Diana Williams, were born free in Charleston, South Carolina. But we know that, at some point, they became enslaved. They learned they were about to be sold and separated forever, so they had to get out of there. At the same time, Cornelia had a sweetheart. This is the man who would become my great-great-grandfather, William Benjamin Gould. He was also enslaved and planning his escape from Wilmington, North Carolina.

“Cornelia fled by train in a harrowing journey. William eventually escaped in a skiff on the Cape Fear River and was picked up by the U.S.S. Niagara, a Union steam frigate that was blockading the Wilmington harbor. I detail their escapes, getting into what they both were thinking and feeling, while giving insight into their lives, their times, and the obstacles they faced. Both my great-great-grandparents were literate, highly educated, and wrote beautifully. Literacy for the enslaved was illegal in the South, but someone was definitely teaching them. What it was like to be enslaved and educated, and acknowledging the benefits of having lighter skin, are also aspects of their escape that the film will examine.”

Gerber-Stroh has a compelling primary source, a diary that William Gould kept during his escape and continued to write as a sailor for the Union during the Civil War. “My uncle, named for William Gould, wrote a book about this diary, which is one of just three in existence that depicts such an experience. It’s located in the Massachusetts Historical Society and is a great resource for me, serving as a jumping-off point for how I’m going to approach the story.”

Quite a few boldface names played roles in this epic history. Diana and Cornelia grew up in family circles that included the Ball and Laurens families (of Hamilton fame). “Sometimes you would have to pay what was called ‘ransom money’ to gain your family’s freedom. The famous abolitionists Henry Highland Garnet and Lewis Tappan, along with the Rev. James Crawford, gathered money from as far away as England, where many abolitionist societies were dedicated to helping the enslaved. The Duchess of Sutherland was truly an angel investor in that 19th century GoFundMe!” said Gerber-Stroh.

As the film project has ramped up, meaningful opportunities have arisen for Hollins undergraduates. Film major Anja Holland ’21 served as one of Gerber-Stroh’s research fellows on the project. “Anja really helped me with historical research, finding scholars, developing a production schedule, and looking for locations.” Filming is set to begin this summer in Wilmington on the Cape Fear River and also in Charleston.

Gerber-Stroh is devoting her spring term sabbatical to continuing work on Hope of Escape. “This is a really great time for me to dig into my roots and tell the story. It’s a popular genre in film right now—I’m thinking of Harriet (2019)— but Cornelia, William, and Diana had a unique experience that I think audiences will appreciate. I’m very excited. How many filmmakers get the chance to make ‘profiles in courage’ of family members they’re proudest of in the whole world?!”

Watch Gerber-Stroh’s presentation, “Filmmaker in Academe: Producing Films Large and Small,” part of the Faculty Authors and Achievers series sponsored by the Wyndham Robertson Library.


Hollins Sociologist Explores How Black Mothers Talk to Their Children About Race

“I’m scared for you. I love you. I’m going to teach you how to be a gentleman. I’m going to teach you how not to be a statistic. I’m going to teach you the skills I know to make you successful in this world. The world already has three fingers against you: You’re supposed to already be in jail, you’re supposed to be a dad, and you’re supposed to be a deadbeat and not take care of your kids. I don’t want that for you. I want you to be able to go to college. I want you to succeed. I want you to have a family, I want you to love people, I want you to be able to show love, I want you to be able to cry. I want you to enjoy this world, but this world will never enjoy you because they are scared of you.”

Tamara, a 26-year-old mother of one son, was among the low-income Black single mothers who shared their hopes and concerns for their children with Assistant Professor of Sociology Jennifer Turner as part of her dissertation, “#BlackMamasMatter: The Significance of Motherhood and Mothering for Low-Income Black Single Mothers.”

“It’s important that we talk about what it means to be Black in the United States and how that impacts Black mothers and Black motherhood,” Turner said. “For Tamara, the fear that her son would be stereotyped, criminalized, and/or become a target of racist state or vigilante violence manifested itself in this diary entry before her son was even born. This passage illustrates the significance race, class, and gender play in shaping the anxieties of low-income Black single mothers. Tamara recognizes that she will have to work hard to protect her son from the racialized class and gender discrimination that he will likely face for a lifetime.”

Recent statistics demonstrate why those fears are present for all Black mothers. A database established by The Washington Post to track fatal police shootings since 2015 shows that Black Americans are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans. The journal Pediatrics reported in 2020 that Black children, especially those between the ages of 12 and 17, were six times more likely to be shot to death by police than White children.

Turner also cites the disproportionate rates at which Black children are punished in schools. “Scholars call the phenomenon the ‘School-to-Prison Pipeline.’ Black students represent 31% of school-related arrests. They are three times more likely than White students to be suspended or expelled, and then three times more likely to enter the juvenile justice system in the year following. Later in life they are more likely to enter the criminal justice system. All of this shows us that Black children are not seen in the same way as White children. Black children are presumed to be bad or criminals at a very young age. Black mothers of all social classes grapple with how to protect their children from discrimination.”

In her research, Turner sought to learn more about how low-income Black single mothers talk to their children about race. “Racial socialization is a significant component of Black parenthood. Primarily, Black mothers are doing this work and these conversations begin with their children at a very young age. It’s not only talking with them about how to interact with police, it’s also teaching them how to interact with educators and other authority figures in the hope that their children will not be subject to racist stereotypes and/or violence.”

Turner also addressed what she sees as a deficit in Black parenting studies. “So much of the previous research on the racial socialization practices of Black mothers has focused on middle-class mothers, and I wondered, ‘What’s the difference here with low-income moms, and why isn’t there more focus on them?’”

Turner set out to build upon that previous scholarship. The literature shows that class status doesn’t insulate middle-class Black families from racism. They worry that their children, particularly their sons, will be mistreated by their White teachers and targeted in their predominantly White neighborhoods. These families also face racist stereotypes that associate Blackness with poverty. However, middle-class families are still able to draw upon their status to avoid discrimination.

“[University of Maryland sociologist] Dawn Marie Dow found that these mothers engage in what she calls ‘experience management,’” Turner said. “They encourage their sons to develop skills in athletics and the performing arts that will allow them to traverse racialized class and gender boundaries. They expose them to aspects of Black history, culture, and Black male role models that affirm positive messages regarding Black masculinity. They also pursue ‘environment management,’ in which they scrutinize their sons’ everyday social environment to eliminate discriminatory sources, and enact ‘image and emotion management,’ which involves helping their sons contain their anger, frustration, and excitement, and monitor their dress and appearance.”

Turner argues that these practices fall under the umbrella of “‘respectability politics,’ which essentially is an attempt to counter negative stereotypes of Black people as poor, lazy, and uneducated, emphasizing middle class values of hard work, education, dressing tidily, using proper English, and respecting authority figures.” Respectability politics has its roots in the early 20th century and the Black church. “The idea was, if we could try to dismantle those stereotypes about Black people, and achieve a proximity to Whiteness, we can avoid racial discrimination.”

According to Turner, previous studies of low-income Black single mothers haven’t necessarily examined their parenting concerns, but looked primarily at problems these women experience,  how they view and navigate motherhood generally, and/or the resources upon which they draw. “So, I really wanted to focus on mothering from the perspective of low-income Black single mothers and what it means to them to be a mother. I also wanted to study their parenting practices. I illustrate the work they do every day to negotiate their specific challenges to teach their children about issues they deem important.”

Turner interviewed 21 mothers from Central and Southwest Virginia in 2017 who participate in, or had previously taken part in, Social Services benefit programs. These mothers often face increased scrutiny and are stigmatized for seeking out food stamps and other social welfare services.

“The findings of my research suggest that the practices of low-income Black single mothers are heavily informed by social class,” Turner said. “As in previous studies, the mothers in my research often invoke respectability politics when racially socializing their children. Specifically, as previous research on Black motherhood demonstrates, the mothers in my study fear for their children’s safety, especially their sons, and they often discussed encouraging their children to behave in certain ways in an effort to prevent them from facing discrimination on the basis of their race, class, and gender. Unlike middle-class mothers, however, low-income Black single mothers are unable to assert their class status to avoid racism and discrimination. For these mothers, their employment of respectability politics seems to be more about helping their children surpass their current class status in order to achieve a level of respectability that may help them avoid becoming targets of racism, specifically racist state violence, and also to help them ultimately have a better life than what they currently have.”

The participants in Turner’s study echo similar concerns as those expressed in previous research indicating “that in a lot of ways, race may trump class, at least in some cases, when it comes to the experiences of Black mothers. That is, it appears that Black mothers of all social classes are united in their anxieties about raising Black children in a racist society. Nevertheless, low-income Black single mothers do not have access to the same social, political, and economic resources as middle-class mothers to help them protect their children from racism.”

Turner believes that this study “enhances our understanding of racial socialization by illuminating how race, class, and gender are interconnected in influencing low-income Black single mothers.” She is currently working in collaboration with a Hollins student on a paper that spotlights the racial socialization of Black girls.

“Racial socialization practices look very different when we’re talking about sons and daughters. Typically when socializing boys, Black families tend to emphasize racial barriers. But, when talking to their daughters, Black parents tend to instill messages of racial pride and self-esteem to combat the negative messages that Black girls and women are less feminine and less beautiful than White girls and women. They face disproportionate threats of becoming victims of domestic or intimate partner violence, and threats of sexual assault at the hands of police officers. I’m interested in the role that racial gendered socialization can play in helping Black girls avoid or deal with these threats, and how Black mothers are talking to them.”

Watch Turner’s presentation, “To Be Black and a Mother: The Significance of Black Mothers’ Racial Socialization Practices,” part of the Faculty Authors and Achievers series sponsored by the Wyndham Robertson Library.

 

 

 

 


SW Virginia Is A Lyme Disease Hotspot. Hollins’ “Tick Lady” And Student Researchers Are Discovering Why.

Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Elizabeth Gleim is a disease ecologist whose research centers on the study of zoonotic diseases (those that can be directly transmitted between animals and humans) and vector-borne diseases (infections that require transmission through vectors such as ticks or mosquitoes). But a lot of people at Hollins and beyond who are familiar with her work simply know her as the “Tick Lady.”

Ever since she was pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Georgia, Gleim, who is also a Hollins alumna (class of 2006), has investigated tick-borne diseases. “There are three main areas on which my research questions focus,” she explained. “The first is identifying ways to better control and prevent tick-borne diseases, especially in the human population but also in domestic animals. I also do a lot of work in vector and disease dynamics, which can vary dramatically based on the ecosystem or the region of the country, and even just from year to year. The other piece is trying to better understand anthropogenic drivers, which is how humans are affecting tick-borne disease risk with their actions or behaviors, and then understanding environmental drivers of disease risk, which can include changes in weather, forest management practices, wildlife population changes, and other factors.”

Gleim’s passion for her work has remained constant. “One of the first things that drew me to this discipline is the fact that I get to do both lab and field work, so there’s a lot of variety that I really enjoy. It’s also been wonderful in terms of offering a wide array of research opportunities to Hollins students.”

Liz Gleim Outdoors
Gleim’s interest in tick research began in graduate school. “I get to do both lab work and field work, so there’s a lot of variety that I really enjoy.”

Over the past 18 months, Gleim has been involved with two major research projects. The first involved studying the impact of a process known as “prescribed fire” on the risk of tick-borne disease, which was published in the July 10, 2019, edition of Scientific Reports. This investigation was prompted by the fact that, over the past several decades, both the emergence and incidence of tick-borne diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease have risen dramatically. The challenge for scientists and disease ecologists has been to find ways to reduce and control tick populations and mitigate the risk of tick-borne disease, especially in humans. For years, prescribed fire has been used to successfully manage forests, grasslands, wetlands, and other types of landscapes.

The first phase of Gleim’s research looked at how fire impacts tick abundance and seasonality. The second phase, which she brought to Hollins, focused on whether fire might also affect the pathogens that circulate in the ticks. It was the first study that had ever been done to examine the effects of prescribed fire on tick-borne pathogens themselves. Gleim spent two years doing field work in Southwest Georgia and Northwest Florida, “and collected a whole lot of ticks – 50,000 of them. I then tested almost all of those ticks for all known tick-borne pathogens.” She determined that while prescribed fire did not affect all pathogens, it did impact some. Furthermore, fire greatly reduced the density of ticks infected with pathogenic bacteria in an area and showed a 98% reduction of encounter rates with infected ticks.

“The findings here were exciting and promising, and led to some interesting questions that I hope I can explore in the years to come. First, would we get the same types of dramatic reductions in ticks that we observed if we did this work in other ecosystems or other regions of the country or even the world? Second, could prescribed fire reduce Lyme disease risk specifically? Where I did this work in Georgia and Florida, Lyme is not endemic (e.g. does not occur). It’s at least possible that it could affect the pathogen that causes Lyme.”

The dynamics of Lyme disease in the United States have evolved considerably over the past two decades. As recently as 2001, Lyme cases were seen primarily on a limited basis in New England and the Midwest. However, just 16 years later, Lyme was common everywhere in the Northeast and had begun to spread to other parts of the country.

“By 2017, the western region of Virginia was at the leading edge of what would probably be considered a Lyme endemic area with a distinct hotspot developing in Southwest Virginia,” Gleim said.

Liz Gleim Ciera Morris
Ciera Morris ’19 (right) collaborated with Gleim to study black-legged tick dynamics in the Roanoke Valley.

Jory Brinkerhoff, a professor at the University of Richmond, collected black-legged tick (the vector of Lyme disease in the eastern U.S.) nymphs, the life stage particularly associated with Lyme cases in humans, at four sites on an east/west gradient across the state. He found the greatest number of nymphs at his western-most site and the highest level of the Lyme pathogen there, but it was just one site. “We all know in science that you can’t draw any firm conclusions from just one place,” Gleim said. She, Hollins Professor of Biology Morgan Wilson, and then-senior Ciera Morris ’19 set out to understand black-legged tick dynamics in the region, particularly in Southwest Virginia’s hotspot.

For Morris’ senior honors thesis, the team established 12 sites around the Roanoke Valley area to collect ticks on a monthly basis for an entire year. They collaborated with an Old Dominion University tick ecologist collecting ticks in the eastern part of the state that same year. “We found a significantly higher number of black-legged tick nymphs and larvae in the Roanoke region versus the Norfolk area,” Gleim said. “What’s notable though is that we do not have significantly more adults. It seems to indicate that we don’t necessarily have more black-legged ticks in the western portion of the state.” However, they are more forcefully engaging in a particular kind of behavior.

“It turns out ticks don’t jump or fly. The only way they get on a human or animal host is to physically brush up against them. For a tick to get on a host, they crawl up to the tops of vegetation, grass, or low-lying plants, and they wait for something to brush up against it. We call that behavior ‘questing.’”

Leemu Jackson '20
Leemu Jackson ’20 conducted genetic analysis to verify whether black-legged ticks are migrating into Southwest Virginia from the northeastern U.S.

Gleim cited previous studies that demonstrated ticks in the Northeast quest much more aggressively than those in the Southeast. “Ticks in the Southeast tend to stay down in the leaf litter and therefore are unlikely to come into contact with humans. Thus, a migration of ticks from the North into Virginia via the Appalachian Mountains is a possibility.”

Using some of the groundwork laid by Morris and Shravani Chitineni ‘21, and in collaboration with Gleim, Brinkerhoff, and Hollins Professor of Biology Rebecca Beach, Leemu Jackson ‘20 performed her senior honors thesis last year doing a genetic analysis to compare Roanoke-area black-legged tick populations to those elsewhere in order to verify whether migration was occurring.

“We did what we call a phylogenetic analysis, which is sort of a fancy way of saying we created a family tree of all the different ticks we were testing from Roanoke as well as the state of Virginia and the entire eastern U.S.,” Gleim said. “That analysis compared the DNA sequences of all these ticks and showed how similar those sequences are and thus how related they are to one another. What we discovered was a really high genetic diversity here in the Roanoke area, more so than what we’re seeing in the eastern part of the state. This does not definitively prove that ticks are migrating into Virginia, but it certainly provides some evidence to support that hypothesis.”

Another factor that Gleim believes may be contributing to the prevalence of Lyme in the Roanoke Valley involves human dynamics. “In a lot of urban or suburbanized areas, people don’t spend a lot of time outside. But that’s simply not the case here. We have an outdoor-centered lifestyle, so there’s a large number of people who are spending a lot of time outdoors in an ideal tick habitat.”

Shravani Chitineni ‘21
Shravani Chitineni ’21 is exploring methods to effectively control Lyme disease risk.

The “Tick Lady” emphasizes there is still much work to be done. She hopes to submit Morris’ senior thesis for publication in the next month or two (“She’ll be first author on that paper, which is really exciting.”).  In addition, “Shravani has picked up where Ciera and Leemu have left off – she’s a senior who is doing her thesis with me right now. She’s getting to do what she really loves, biostatistics, and she’s working on a Lyme simulation model with an ecological mathematician at Old Dominion University and myself. We’re examining different control methods that might be used to effectively control Lyme disease risk, particularly in different regions of the country.

“My hope is that over the next six months or so, we can get published the work that Leemu and Shravani have been doing. And down the line, we may begin to examine other tick species and pathogens in addition to further exploring our questing behavior work.”

Watch Gleim’s presentation, “The Battle Against Lyme Disease and Beyond: The Fascinating Intersection of Ecology and Public Health,” part of the Faculty Authors and Achievers series sponsored by the Wyndham Robertson Library.

 

 

Photo Credits:

Elizabeth Gleim at the microscope and in the field: Nancy Evelyn

Elizabeth Gleim with Ciera Morris ’19; Leemu Jackson ’20; Shravani Chitineni ’21: Elizabeth Gleim

 


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.

 

 

 

 


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.