Hollins College (visited 11/2/16)
Hollins “is transformative. We enhance what’s there,” said a faculty member.
Hollins, named the 3rd Most Haunted campus in the country (the Tinker ghost got particular mention), is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year. “We’re not going anywhere but up,” said one of the Deans. This beautiful liberal arts university, dedicated to educating young women, takes an approach based on depth and breadth, both academically and co-curricularly.
The equestrian program is of special note. A rider from Oregon told us, “I didn’t even know this place existed until they contacted me! They have one of the best writing programs and riding programs in the country; it’s great.” Usually they get about 45 riders per semester of all levels, “but we have the horsepower to do more.” The school-owned horses are donated, and students can board their own for $1100 a month (full-service including turnout: “if they need a buddy or are used to being on their own, we’ll make that happen,” said one of the riding coaches). The barn manager lives on premises.
Riders are students first; they work lessons around academics. They teach hunter-seat but welcome riders from other styles (stock seat, dressage, saddle seat). They have a range of horses up to show-horses to accommodate all levels. Riders on the equestrian team pay $1195 per semester which includes 2 lessons a week, coaching, and all fees for travel and competition. “Students who ride regularly know that’s a deal.”
Beyond the Equestrian program, things that differentiate Hollins include:
- The Internship program:
- These often happen during January Term. Students get stipends, many from alumna who will come back to run workshops and other programs for students. “Speed Connection” (like speed dating) helps make connections. Alumna even help with small things like finding housing.
- Students intern at places like National Geographic, Amas Musical Theater, Wiley Publishing, the National Cathedral, and the National Dance Institute.
- Research: There is no honors program, but students have the option to participate in honors seminars starting first year.
- Study abroad: they run specific historic programs in London and Paris
- Leadership classes, including how to negotiate such things as their first pay raise. The Batton Leadership Institute comes with a scholarship. It challenges students to think outside the box.
I appreciate that Hollins is deliberate in their curriculum. A Dean said that they’ve been working with the following questions: What capacities do we and our students need to address the challenging issues of the 21st century? Are we doing what we need to do for students to be successful, in however they define success? Do we have the right co-curricular options in place? The answers to these have led to a few recent changes to curriculum:
- They’ve added a Data Analytics Concentration
- They’ve reconfigured the Department of Global Politics and Society
- They’ve added an Envi Sci/Envi Studies program
A few other academic programs worth mentioning include:
- The 3-year Accelerated Program: Students need to elect this coming in, maintain a minimum GPA, and complete 40-44 credits per year.
- Their Creative Writing program graduates 30+ seniors each year.
- Certificates in Arts Management, Leadership, Piano Teaching, and Musical Theater Performance.
- Their theater department has been ranked #19 for Best College Theater, and they offer a London Theater Immersion
Faculty are teachers first and invested in the students. A handful live on campus. Students babysit for them and get invited home for breaks. However, they’re also experts in what they do and have a lot to brag about including being a 2015 National Book Finalist, having won a $100,000 Mellon grant for professional development, an NSF grant for technology in early education, and an award for best article in Critical Race Theory (Sociology).
NSSE information allows Hollins to compare themselves to peer institutions: They’ve ranked Better or Much Better on: Asking questions, class presentations, working with classmates on projects, discussing academic work outside of class, writing and speaking clearly, and effectively working with others. Students here solve real world problems. The video “Women who are going places start at Hollins” is worth seeing.
The students like the all-female environment. “You can be yourself. You don’t have to fit into a group. People will love you for it. I’m shy. My roommate hugged me when I arrived. I’ve never felt so loved or accepted. You get the opportunities you ask for. Sky’s the limit. People do unimaginable things. If you take the initiative, they’ll figure out how to help you!” said a student sitting with us at dinner.
They also want people to know that a women’s college doesn’t mean they’re cut off from other people. Students get involved in the Roanoke community: “We have a cool downtown!” and shuttles take students to the mall, downtown, and Target. The Amtrak will start coming back through in 2017 and flights from the Roanoke airport go to major hubs. They can get taxi vouchers to the airport. Roanoke College (coed) and Hampden-Sydney (all male) are “right down the road, and they [HSC] have a Women’s House for people to stay in if we visit campus.”
A favorite tradition is Tinker Day: classes get cancelled, and people get dressed up in wacky costumes and hike up Tinker <ountain (“The average person can hike it in 1.5-2 hours”). Another favorite thing is the Therapy Dog program (and several dogs hang out at the barn). Finally, there’s Ring Night: Seniors adopt juniors who get their rings. They have to “Earn” them: they’re given tasks (singing songs, etc) by freshmen and sophomores. Then the juniors get a box of things for senior year such as a bottle of apple cider for the beginning of the year. The “First Step” is when seniors step on the front quad in the fall: they decorate their gown, step on campus, and get sprayed with cider.
Last year’s 224 freshman was the largest incoming class in 17 years. The Admission office promises an answer (including scholarship information) in 2 weeks as long as applicants have submitted a FAFSA. They’re need-blind for admissions but aggressive with scholarships. “What does it hurt to apply?” said one rep; a student at dinner told us that it was cheaper for her to come here than to go to her state school. They have a special Secular Society Scholarship: it’s not just for the best grades but for students who show a “glimmer of moxie” and will contribute to the larger community and world.