Hollins Establishes Research Initiative with Roanoke Valley Community Partners

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 jbohland@hollins.edu.

“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.”

Hollins Partners with Rise Against Hunger to Support International Hunger Relief

Hollins is joining the global movement to end world hunger by 2030.

The Office of Spiritual and Religious Life and Meriwether Godsey, the university’s dining services provider, are combining forces with the international relief organization Rise Against Hunger to host a series of special events to raise funds, package meals, and spread the word about achieving the realistic goal of a world without hunger over the next 22 years.

Activities will begin with Hollins’ annual Golden Rule Dinner on Tuesday, March 13, from 5 – 7 p.m. in Moody Dining Hall. “For many years, this simple meal of soup and bread has raised awareness of our neighbors who struggle with food insecurity,” said University Chaplain Jenny Call. “As many religions and spiritual traditions have a version of the ‘golden rule,’ an injunction to ‘do unto others as you would have them to do unto you,’ we show compassion for those who are hungry and work toward hunger relief.”

Through the Golden Rule Dinner, Meriwether Godsey will make a donation to Rise Against Hunger based on the meal savings and the amount of people participating through meal card swipes or dinner purchases.

Also on March 13, Rise Against Hunger Chief Development Officer Peggy Shriver will discuss issues of women, poverty, and hunger relief beginning at 5:30 p.m. in Moody Student Center’s Goodwin Private Dining Room. “Attendees are invited to bring their dinner and listen and learn as they eat,” said Call.

Rise Against Hunger will offer Hollins students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to take part in hands-on service on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 13 and 14, in Moody Student Center’s Ballator Gallery. “They will guide us in packing and sealing bags of rice, soybeans, and vitamins that will provide the required daily nutrients to a family of four,” Call explained. “Hollins’ goal is to fund and pack 30,000 meals over these two days. Classes, groups, and individuals are invited to come and go as they are able throughout the scheduled hours (8 a.m. – 8 p.m. on Tuesday, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Wednesday) to help with the packing.”

The Darci Ellis Godhard Fund for Social Justice is partially funding the lecture and meal packaging events. Additional monetary donations and registration for the meal packaging events can be made online:

Tuesday, March 13

Wednesday, March 14 



Open Enrollment Under Way for Executive Leadership Certificate Program

Hollins University’s Batten Leadership Institute has announced its Executive Education Certificate in Leadership Program for 2018.

The program features both women’s and co-educational cohorts, each of which consists of 12 sessions beginning in early April and continuing through early October.

“The Batten Leadership Institute challenges and develops leaders through tactical and intense certificate programs and customized organizational training,” said Program Director Abrina Schnurman-Crook. “We offer concrete, practical, and experiential learning exercises that link theory to practice and provide knowledge and skills that can be put into action from day one.”

Continuing in the program this year, Schnurman-Crook added, is “research from neuroscience and the emerging field of neuroleadership to improve performance, manage diversity, and facilitate better learning and decision-making.”

In other highlights, the program will explore:

  • Diagnosing challenges and responses
  • Conflict, risk, and change
  • Team functioning
  • Feedback from multiple perspectives
  • Interpersonal situations from a strategic view of systems
  • Understanding systems and culture applied to each particpant’s specific organization
  • Assessment portfolios, including multiple 360-degree assessments

In order to maximize learning and engagement, each cohort is limited to ten participants. The cost of $3,800 includes course materials, books, refreshments, and online assessments and individual appointments for assessment review, which will take place in February and March. Scholarships are available, and a ten percent discount is offered to organizations that enroll two or more employees.

“Over the past 13 years, this program has invested 526 training hours with professionals in the Roanoke area, who have expanded their capacities in emotional intelligence, team functioning, and conflict and communication,” Schnurman-Crook explained. “They have learned strategic uses of authority across power structures and systems. They have gleaned significant value in networking with others across industries and agreed to be held accountable in their cohorts for creating real movement within themselves, while challenging others to do the same.”

For more information, contact Abrina Schnurman-Crook at 540-362-7488 or aschnurmancrook@hollins.edu. To register, visit the Executive Certificate in Leadership Registration page. While official enrollment ends February 14, the enrollment process will conclude as soon as the program is full. At that point, a wait list for priority registration in 2019 will begin.

Hollins, Carilion Clinic, Turn the Page Partner to Promote Early Literacy


For Carilion Children’s youngest patients, this Thanksgiving came with a special treat – a newly republished Margaret Wise Brown book, and a pair of accomplished leaders (and moms) to read it to them.

Hollins President Pareena Lawrence and Carilion Clinic President and CEO Nancy Howell Agee spent their Thanksgiving morning reading to patients at Carilion Children’s. In addition to reading Brown’s perennial favorites Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny, the two leaders introduced the children to Four Fur Feet.

“We wanted to make this Thanksgiving just a little brighter for our patients and their families,” said Agee. “It’s difficult being in a hospital, and especially during a holiday. Brown’s books have been a comfort to children for many decades and our patients were pretty excited to hear Four Fur Feet.”

Thanks to a partnership between Carilion and the Roanoke-based non-profit Turn The Page, and another partnership between Turn The Page and Hollins, every child born at Carilion during the year will receive the book. Hollins, which is Brown’s alma mater, is the repository for hundreds of her manuscripts, and made the Four Fur Feet manuscript available to be published.

“We know that children who are read to early in life become better readers – better learners – as they grow,” said Lawrence. “I’m thrilled that our partners at Turn The Page have made it their mission to get books into the hands of the 3,000 babies born at Carilion every year.”

Turn The Page’s mission is to increase awareness of the benefits of reading with children from birth and to provide every child born in the Roanoke Valley with his or her own home library of books during the first three years of life.

“Reading aloud is a simple way for parents to help their children grow,” said Lauren Ellerman, founder and board member of Turn The Page. “The partnerships with Carilion and Hollins are helping us get great books like Brown’s into the hands of families in the region.”

Lawrence, Agee, and Turn The Page volunteers finished out the morning by visiting several units of the hospital, including labor and delivery, mother-baby, and southwest Virginia’s only Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and handing out the book to interested families.

Hollins Senior Finds Her Calling During Peruvian Disaster

Florida, Puerto Rico, and Texas are not alone this year in coping with the overwhelming impact of a natural disaster. During the early months of 2017, Peru’s annual rainy season morphed into a climate event nightmare, particularly in the country’s northern region.

“Ten times the usual amount of rain has fallen on Peru’s coast, swelling rivers which caused widespread flooding, and triggering huge landslides which tore through shanty towns,” The Guardian reported last April. “More than 100 people have died, nearly 158,000 are displaced, and 210,000 homes are damaged, according to Peru’s emergency operations centre. The country’s infrastructure took a big hit: 260 bridges collapsed and nearly 3,000km of roads are unusable, cutting off hundreds of villages and towns.”

This was the scene awaiting Meagan Rioux ’18, a business and economics double major from Ohio, and three other Hollins students when they arrived in Peru for Spring Break last March. The four friends traveled to the South American nation to embark on a 12-day hike covering the Cordillera Huayhuash in the Andean Mountains. Considered one of the top ten trekking circuits in the world, the Huayhuash encompasses breathtaking mountain passes, renowned peaks, and a spectacular array of flora and fauna.

With all roads to the Huayhuash blocked due to the flooding, Rioux and her friends were forced to make the disappointing choice to abandon their hike. But the surrounding catastrophe convinced them to take their trip in a new and completely unexpected direction.

“We were really upset about cancelling the hike. But then we saw what was going on and decided, ‘We’re here, how can we help out?’” Rioux recalls. “We visited a local travel agency and asked the woman in charge if she knew of any organizations we could contact that were helping in the relief effort. It turned out she was planning to volunteer the following day in the areas that were affected, so we went with her to offer aid.”

The four Hollins students reached out not only to local residents in need but also gave crucial care to the domesticated animals they encountered, dogs in particular. “You see images of natural disasters, but there is nothing like going through first-hand what a natural disaster does to a community of people, both economically and emotionally,” Rioux explains. One of her most enduring memories occurred after returning on the bus from working in a severely damaged locale. “We were tired and really shaken up, but then the Peruvian volunteers we went with came up and thanked us profusely. ‘There are Peruvians who are not even responding,’ they said, ‘You’re not from our country, you don’t speak our language, but you’re helping.’ They got teary-eyed.”

For Rioux, delivering disaster relief was “the best experience. It completely turned my life around because it changed my path of what I want to do as a career. Before that, I wanted to take a corporate finance route, but Peru made me realize that humanitarian aid is something I want to do, one hundred percent. I’ve always enjoyed helping people and doing nonprofit work, and those moments of helping people in that context sparked something inside of me. It made me realize I want to make a difference. If there are problems within the policies of disaster relief, I want to be part of the solution.”

Rioux recently applied to join the Peace Corps after she graduates from Hollins next spring. In the meantime she’s devoting part of her busy senior year to continuing the work she began in South America.

“When Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria occurred,” she explains, “I had to do something. Not just a fundraiser but an act of support.” A runner, Rioux came up with the idea to promote a 5K run-walk (“a perfect way to get people together”) and created a partnership between Hollins and Roanoke College students to sponsor it. In just a month’s time, Rioux and others organized the event, which took place October 28 on the Roanoke College campus. With participants from Hollins, Roanoke College, and the community at large, the event raised money for the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund and also facilitated in-kind donations for a Roanoke College student whose family lives in Puerto Rico.

Whether it’s responding to a major natural calamity a continent away or spearheading a disaster relief initiative closer to home, Rioux encourages all students to get involved in some way. “In the future, I hope they see something like this happening and will want to take action.”

Photo caption: Meagan Rioux ’18 (second from front) assists in disaster relief efforts in Peru following widespread flooding and landslides. 




Student Brings Advocacy to Va. Board for People with Disabilities

For some time, Alexus Smith ’19 has sought to foster greater awareness of the issues that people with disabilities face. Now, she will be taking her interest in activism to a statewide level, thanks to her appointment by Gov. Terry McAuliffe to the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities (VBPD).


Smith will serve a four-year term and will be eligible for reappointment.

“The board works for the benefit of individuals with DD (developmental disabilities) and their families to identify needs and help develop policies, programs, and services that will meet these needs in a manner that respects dignity and independence,” says VBPD Executive Director Heidi Lawyer. “A key aspect of our work is to advise the Governor, legislators, and government agencies on public policy issues as well as on how to develop programs and services for people with DD that will eliminate barriers to full inclusion in all facets of community life.”

Alexus Smith '19
“Advocacy is vital to disability culture and my life as a disabled woman.” – Alexus Smith ’19

“Advocacy is vital to disability culture and my life as a disabled woman,” says Smith, an English major from South Boston, Virginia. “The rights of my people will always be one of my many passions along with my love for English and literature. I hope I can use my degree and skills as part of my advocacy work.”

Smith’s journey to VBPD membership began in 2013. “I was a student in the Youth Leadership Forum (YLF), a board-sponsored training program that focuses on post-high school transition, self-advocacy, goal setting, self-acceptance, and job-related skills such as resume writing,” she explains. As a YLF alumna, she was invited to apply this year for one of the openings on the board. Her application and others were reviewed by the director of the VBPD. Recommendations were then made to the Governor, who has the final say on appointments.

Smith wants to achieve a number of goals during her board membership. “I hope to gain a better understanding of disability policy so that I can advocate more effectively for the needs of people like myself. There are many factors that make up the lifestyles, access to resources, and emotional well-being of people with disabilities, and I want to address this issue.”

Smith adds that she plans to draw upon her experiences as a student, mentor, awareness event planner, and writer to introduce new ideas to the board. “Compassion, openness, a strong voice, and attention to detail are at the core of my leadership style and I am excited to bring those attributes forward to benefit the board’s mission.”

Alumna Successfully Fights for Bill to Combat Opioid Addiction

New Hampshire is one of many states across the nation that is desperately seeking ways to battle a burgeoning epidemic of drug addiction. Thanks in large measure to the advocacy of a licensed acupuncturist and Hollins alumna, treatment providers now have a powerful new tool in their arsenal.

Elizabeth Ropp ’99, who lives in Manchester and has been a practicing acupuncturist for 10 years, fought for passage of House Bill 575, which permits recovery and mental health professionals in New Hampshire to use ear acupuncture to treat addicts.

“That might sound strange, but it works,” Ropp wrote last March in an opinion piece for the Concord Monitor. “Acupuncture can be a safe, cheap and effective tool to help people in all stages of addiction recovery. It can help soothe the symptoms of withdrawal, reduce cravings, and ease anxiety or trauma that can lead people to use drugs in the first place.”

She concluded, “New Hampshire is first-in-the-nation for death by fentanyl overdose. This is a problem that touches all of us. We need to open up as many pathways to recovery as possible. We are all in this together, and together we can get through this.”

According to Ropp, HB 575 allows for both licensed and non-licensed addiction recovery and mental health workers to be trained and certified in ear acupuncture, “a simple procedure that involves placing five tiny needles in specific points around the outer ear. The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association has trained more than 10,000 health professionals across the country in this practice.”

Ropp and others effectively lobbied state senators and representatives from both political parties on the benefits of ear acupuncture and the steps necessary to make it affordable and eliminate unnecessary administrative costs. The bill became law on July 1.

“We could be trendsetters for the nation,” Ropp told the New Hampshire Union Leader in June. “With this bill, we have more flexibility, we have seen the mistakes other states have made in setting this up and learned from them.”


Photo Caption: Elizabeth Ropp ’99 (right) with New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu on the day House Bill 575 was passed into law.


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Hollins, Roanoke College Name Kendig Award Winners for 2017

The late John Sailer, the Grandin Theatre Foundation, and Judy and Joel Tenzer have been honored with this year’s Perry F. Kendig Arts and Culture Awards.

Co-sponsored by Hollins University and Roanoke College, the Kendig Awards program has recognized distinction in arts and culture in the Roanoke Valley for more than 30 years. Awards are presented in each of the following categories: Individual Artist, Arts and Cultural Organization, and Individual or Business Arts Supporter.

Sailer, who died in 2015, is this year’s Individual Artist award recipient. With an M.F.A. in scene and lighting design from the University of Oklahoma, he first came to Roanoke in 1981 to work at what was then called Mill Mountain Playhouse. Sailer soon became the “go to” set and lighting designer in the Roanoke Valley, mounting sets for Mill Mountain Theatre, Opera Roanoke, Hollins University, Roanoke Ballet Theatre, Patrick Henry High School, Opera on the James, and others. Ernie Zulia, director of the Hollins Theatre Institute, said of Sailer, “He had an imagination that could create a world for a play that was not only beautiful but dynamic. He had a real gift.” Sailer’s wife Rachel accepted the award on his behalf.

The Grandin Theatre Foundation received the Kendig Award in the Arts and Cultural Organization category.  In addition to its role as a neighborhood economic and cultural anchor offering a movie theatre, art gallery, and gathering place, the Grandin has been successful in supporting educational outreach within the community at large. Over 20 schools attended programs at the Grandin last year, and the facility has collaborated with local organizations and non-profits to present films that stimulate conversation on important issues. The newest educational outreach program is the Grandin Theatre Film Lab, an after school program for high school students interested in the cinematic arts who want to learn the process of filmmaking from screenwriting to production to editing.

The Kendig Award in the Individual or Business Arts Supporter category was presented to Judy and Joel Tenzer. For more than four decades, the Tenzers have distinguished themselves with their devotion to and patronage of the arts in the Roanoke Valley. They have served on the boards of such organizations as the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, the Taubman Museum of Art, the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge, and Mill Mountain Theatre. “They have built relationships and networks of people to join them in collecting art, attending performances, and supporting cultural organizations,” said Roanoke College President Mike Maxey. “The Tenzers are leading by example and their long-standing commitment has truly enhanced the quality of life in our region.”

Named for the late Perry F. Kendig, who served as president of Roanoke College and was an avid supporter and patron of the arts, the Kendig Awards program was 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 the honors, and congratulate the 2017 winners.


Hollins, Roanoke College Welcome Nominations for the 2017 Perry F. Kendig Awards

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2017 Perry F. Kendig Arts and Culture Awards, which recognize individuals, businesses, and organizations in the Roanoke Valley that provide exemplary leadership in or support for the arts.

The deadline for nominations is Friday, July 28. Nomination forms and other information are available at https://kendig.press.hollins.edu/.

Hollins University and Roanoke College have cosponsored the awards since 2013. Roanoke College will host the 2017 Kendig Awards presentation on Thursday, September 28, 5:30 p.m. in Olin Hall Galleries.

Three Kendig Awards will be presented this year, one in each of the following categories:

  • Individual Artist (in all disciplines – dance, literature, music, media arts, visual arts, and theatre)
  • Arts and/or Cultural Organization
  • Individual or Business Supporter

Individuals, businesses, and organizations from the Roanoke region (which includes the counties of Botetourt, Franklin, and Roanoke, the cities of Roanoke and Salem, and the town of Vinton) are eligible, as are past Kendig Award recipients from 1985 – 2012.

Named for the late Perry F. Kendig, who served as president of Roanoke College and was an avid supporter and patron of the arts, the awards were presented by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge for 27 years.

First-Year Student Is Crowned Miss Teen Virginia United States

Monica Osborne ’20 will be advocating for locally sourced food and the importance of good childhood nutrition as the new Miss Teen Virginia United States.

Osborne, who hails from Independence, Virginia, won the crown at Roanoke’s Dumas Center on April 8.

As part of her reign, Osborne will be promoting her platform, “Buy Local, Eat Local, Be Local.” She created the initiative in 2013 by partnering with area farmers and farmers markets in southwest Virginia.

“My parents are farmers so every day I see the value of supporting local agriculture and the local economy,” Osborne explains.

Among her duties as Miss Teen Virginia United States, Osborne says she is most looking forward to traveling across the commonwealth to visit elementary schools. “It’s very important to teach children early on in their lives how vital it is to make healthy eating choices.”

This July, Osborne will compete for the title of Miss Teen United States in Orlando, Florida.


Photo credit: Goodwin Photography


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