Hollins University is launching a regional partnership with the Roanoke Valley that will focus on community-based research and learning. Faculty and students from a diverse array of disciplines will be matched with area businesses and organizations to undertake a variety of cooperative projects.
“Hollins is deeply dedicated to civic engagement, social responsibility, and strengthening our roots in the local and regional community,” says Hollins President Pareena Lawrence. “This partnership reinforces and enhances this commitment, and celebrates the ideals of public citizenship. I can think of no better way to prepare our students to solve complex real-world problems than to immerse them in understanding these issues and applying the knowledge they are learning in their coursework together with the guidance of their faculty and our community partners to find solutions.
“I’m confident this initiative will provide exceptional experiential educational opportunities for our students while simultaneously helping to meet critical but unmet community needs,” she continues. “This partnership has the potential to infuse the Roanoke Valley with fresh ideas that will have an impact.”
Patricia Hammer, Hollins’ vice president for academic affairs, believes that collaborative, community-based research should be “an integral and vibrant part of our student learning experience. Matching community needs with specific courses strengthens our curriculum and our community in a way that is relevant and necessary in the 21st century.” She envisions the number of community partners growing each year in tandem with the increasing participation of students and faculty and the addition of new, related courses. “Our students and faculty are excited to begin this work.”
Hollins’ first partner in this endeavor is the Roanoke Valley – Alleghany Regional Commission (RVARC), which for more than 45 years has spearheaded collaboration and strategy on issues that are critical to the economic growth, quality of life, and sustainability of the area. This summer, Hollins will be supporting an initiative created in 2011 by the RVARC and the Council of Community Services called the Partnership for a Livable Roanoke Valley.
“This undertaking focuses on economic and workforce development as well as fostering a healthy Roanoke Valley and preserving our natural assets,” explains RVARC Executive Director Wayne Strickland. “Beginning in May and continuing through August, students from Hollins will be helping us address some crucial questions: How do we track improvements? What measurements do we need? And, how do we sustain this work? The students will become engaged in our community, learn more about the area, and play a key role in determining where the Roanoke Valley wants to go in the future.”
Hollins’ regional partnership program is supported by the university’s Presidential Initiative Fund and is directed by Associate Professor of International Studies Jon Bohland. Three years ago, Bohland co-founded the Small Cities Institute, a research and teaching collaboration between Hollins, Roanoke College, and Virginia Tech where faculty and students tackle issues facing small urban areas around the globe.
Roanoke Valley businesses and organizations that are interested in exploring potential partnerships with Hollins are invited to contact Bohland at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Hollins has enjoyed significant involvement in the community and region through the individual work of our faculty, staff, and students in research, public service, and internships,” says Lawrence. “This new partnership will provide more structure, public visibility, opportunity, and an overarching intentionality to this existing involvement, and will allow us to develop new ways to build upon our current efforts.”