President Hinton Coauthors Chapter for New Book on the Future of Higher Ed.

Hollins University President Mary Dana Hinton and Debra Humphreys of the Lumina Foundation have made a compelling contribution to a new higher education reference work for policymakers, administrators, university presidents, academicians, practitioners, scholars, researchers, instructors, and students.

Hinton and Humphreys cowrote the chapter “Seeking Equity, Quality, and Purpose as Higher Education Transforms: Liberal Arts Colleges Respond” for New Models of Higher Education: Unbundled, Rebundled, Customized, and DIY, edited by Aaron M. Brower and Ryan J. Specht-Boardman of the University of Wisconsin and published by IGI Global as an open access book.

“Students already ‘DIY’ and build an unbundled education and training path for themselves, demonstrating a clever and productive approach to lifelong learning,” the publisher explains. “New Models of Higher Education…views this as the future of higher education: students mixing and matching education and training throughout their careers to reach personal and professional goals.”

IGI Global continues, “Covering a wide range of topics such as assessment, personal success, and education paradigms, the book considers the practical ways in which institutions of higher education, education technology companies, and workplaces can better respond to, and enable, this new way in which education and training are engaged and consumed.”

In their chapter, Hinton and Humphreys discuss methods to further goals associated with equity and educational quality. They analyze key developments in who today’s students are, what is known about teaching and learning that promotes equitable student success, and the changing global economy and workplace. With that assessment as their foundation, they suggest a possible new path for reform in liberal arts colleges that makes use of both “unbundling traditional models of teaching and learning” and “rebundling student supports and educational pathway guidance to facilitate student success,” fostering experiences shown to enhance quality and equity.

“Higher education has become more aware of entrenched inequities and pedagogical shortcomings,” they note. “What we have called for in this chapter [is] reimagining how we offer programs and how we can better prioritize expanded outreach to students and communities. We have attempted to illustrate how colleges and universities can pursue both excellence and equity in these efforts.”

The authors express confidence that “higher education institutions have the capacity to change. They must rethink their models and offerings so they can meet all students where they are in their learning and so they can help meet the needs of the workplace. At the same time, higher education has the responsibility to provide high-quality educational programs to those who have historically been excluded from higher education.”

Hinton and Humphreys conclude, “This is a critical moment for higher education to be responsive. The sustainability of our missions, our institutions, our students, and our democracy hang in the balance.”


Hollins Recognized for National Excellence in Educator Preparation

Hollins University is among 55 institutions from 28 states and the United Arab Emirates to receive educator preparation program accreditation in Fall 2022 for a period of seven years from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).

Recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, CAEP has developed rigorous, nationally recognized standards to ensure excellence in preparing the teachers of tomorrow. It advances educator preparation through evidence-based accreditation that assures quality and supports continuous improvement to strengthen PK-12 learning.

“These institutions meet high standards so that their students receive an education that prepares them to succeed in a diverse range of classrooms after they graduate,” said CAEP President Christopher A. Koch. “Seeking CAEP Accreditation is a significant commitment on the part of an educator preparation provider.”

Accreditation is a nongovernmental activity based on peer review that serves the dual functions of assuring quality and promoting improvement. CAEP is a unified accreditation system intent on raising the performance of all institutions focused on educator preparation. Educator preparation providers seeking accreditation must pass peer review of the CAEP standards, which are based on two principles:

  • The institution’s graduates are competent and caring educators.
  • The institution’s educator staff have the capacity to create a culture of evidence and use it to maintain and enhance the quality of the professional programs they offer.

At Hollins, undergraduates can earn a bachelor’s degree in a chosen discipline and a teaching license in four years. Then, they have the option of staying an extra year and earning a Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) degree along with their teaching license. Students who hold bachelor’s degrees from any accredited institution can complete teaching licensure and their M.A.T. degree at Hollins at the same time or enroll in a licensure-only program. The university also offers a Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning degree, a flexible, online graduate program for licensed PK-12 teachers who want to enhance their skills.

“Our students and instructors should be very proud of their hard work and its validation through CAEP Accreditation,” said Assistant Professor and Chair of Education at Hollins Teri Wagner. “Our students and their families are investing in an education program that is designated as nationally accredited for teacher preparation.”


Hollins Is Among Virginia’s Top 10 Schools for Praxis Elementary Education Pass Rates

Hollins University is number eight on’s list of the Best Praxis Elementary Education Pass Rates in Virginia.

The rankings recognize the commonwealth’s public and private colleges and universities with the highest first-time pass rates for the Praxis Elementary Education Multiple Subjects Test, a computer-based exam that quantifies a teacher’s subjective knowledge before a teaching license is obtained.

Praxis exams are one of the most widely accepted licensing exams available to teachers, and most states, including Virginia, accept Praxis exams to meet their licensing requirements. Prospective teachers can have their exam results considered for job opportunities not only in Virginia but across the United States.

Nationally, the Praxis exam first-time pass rate is 45%, while in Virginia, the first-time pass rate is 57%. Hollins exceeds both the national and state averages with a 72% first-time pass rate.

“The education department at Hollins is proud that we have so many successful students who get jobs as meaningful teachers throughout Virginia,” said Director of Graduate Education Programs Lorraine Lange.

In addition to undergraduate programming that enables students to earn teacher licensure alongside a degree in their chosen major, Hollins provides students with a bachelor’s degree from any accredited institution the opportunity to earn teaching licensure and a Master of Arts in Teaching at the same time. Geared toward college graduates in an array of fields who believe teaching is their calling, the program features small, interactive classes as well as hybrid instructional options, along with career assistance with job connections in the Roanoke region.

Hollins also offers a Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning, an online graduate program for licensed teachers who want to learn more about the practice of teaching and acquire and develop new knowledge.

For more details on these programs, complete and submit the Request Information about Our Graduate Programs online form.

Hollins Soccer Student-Athletes Earn Academic All-District® Honors

Five Hollins Soccer student-athletes have been named to the 2022 NCAA Division III Academic All-District® Women’s Soccer Team by the College Sports Communicators (CSC).

Cat Bussani ’24, Sophia Ciatti ’24, Cady Gardiner-Parks ’24, Chloe Hammel ’25, and Zoe Simotas ’25 were recognized for their performances on the field and in the classroom and will advance to the CSC Academic All-America® voting ballot.

First-, second-, and third-team Academic All-America® honorees will be announced in early December.

Founded in the 1950s, the CSC’s Academic All-America® program is regarded as one of the premier awards programs in intercollegiate athletics for honoring combined academic and athletic excellence. CSC members nominate and vote for Academic All-America® teams in 16 sport contests in all NCAA and NAIA divisions including men’s soccer, women’s soccer, football, volleyball, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, men’s swimming & diving, women’s swimming & diving, men’s tennis, women’s tennis, baseball, softball, men’s at-large, women’s at-large, men’s track & field, and women’s track & field.

From Honors Thesis to Peer-Reviewed Journal: Student/Faculty Mental Health Study Earns Impressive Publication

Collaborating with her psychology professor and mentor, a Hollins alumna has published an article in a national, peer-reviewed journal that sheds new light on the connection between self-concept and mental illness stigma.

“Predictors of Help-Seeking: Self-Concept Clarity, Stigma, and Psychological Distress” by Hinza Malik ’21 (with coauthor Caroline Mann, assistant professor of psychology) appears in the Summer 2022 issue of Psi Chi: Journal of Psychological Research. Malik, who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in psychology at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington, based the article on her honors thesis at Hollins.

“Mental health stigma and psychological distress have been shown to be a barrier in help-seeking*,” Malik said. “The topic of help-seeking and its predictors in addition to stigma remains essential in an effort toward improving mental health campaigns.”

One predictor that has received little investigation, Malik noted, is self-concept clarity (SCC). “The broad definition of self-concept is the perception of oneself, influenced by the interaction between the environment and subsequent experiences,” she explained. “SCC is the extent to which self-beliefs are clearly and confidently defined, internally consistent, and stable over time. A lower SCC is associated with mental health illnesses such as depression and anxiety, resulting in psychological distress.”

Malik stated that mental health stigma “can be further classified into personal stigma and perceived public stigma. Personal stigma has been shown to be negatively associated with help-seeking, but perceived public stigma was not found to be associated with help-seeking in previous studies**. The current study altered the perceived stigma reference group from ‘public’ to ‘peer’ to investigate whether this change would influence the association with help-seeking.”

Mann added, “Social norms typically influence health behaviors, so we wondered whether a more precise variable of perceived peer-group stigma would show more relevance.”

Assistant Professor of Psychology Caroline Mann: “I’m not just proud of Hinza’s work, but I’m inspired by working with her.”

With 111 Hollins University undergraduate study participants, Malik and Mann sought “to develop a better understanding of the relationship between SCC, stigma, and help-seeking behavior,” Malik said. “To our knowledge, this was the first study to explore the concept of SCC and help-seeking together.”

The researchers developed four hypotheses. “The first hypothesis predicted a positive correlation between SCC and help-seeking,” Malik stated, “and the results showed that individuals who have a higher SCC have a more positive attitude toward seeking mental health services.

“A negative correlation between SCC and psychological distress was the second hypothesis. We found that as SCC increased, psychological distress decreased.

“The third hypothesis predicted a positive correlation between personal and peer-group stigma. This was the first study to investigate peer-group stigma.  We did find that higher perceived stigma in the peer group corresponded with higher personal stigma. As perceptions help shape personal beliefs, the direction of respondents’ personal stigma matched their perceived peer group stigma.

“The fourth hypothesis predicted no correlation between perceived public stigma and help-seeking, but a negative correlation between both personal and peer stigma with help-seeking behavior. Consistent with previous literature, personal stigma continued to be associated with help-seeking, whereas perceived public stigma was not associated with help-seeking; however, perceived peer stigma was associated.***”

“Sometimes when you’re not finding an expected effect, it’s because you’re not measuring it precisely enough,” Mann said. “It makes sense that the reference group for young college students is not ‘the public’ at large but their own sociodemographic group.”

Because the data was collected during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the research “utilized a convenience sample, which greatly limits the generalizability of our results,” the authors stressed caution in interpreting their findings. However, “One of the major strengths of the current study is that we investigated the relationship between variables that have not been studied before to help fill in the gaps in the literature. Being the first study that we know of to explore SCC with help-seeking, replication is highly recommended.” They also noted that “this is a population, young people with lower SCC and higher distress, that needs to be targeted by not only mental health help-seeking intervention programs, but also anti-stigma campaigns. Youth mental health was categorized as a crisis by U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy at the 2022 American Psychological Association convention.”

“Predictors of Help-Seeking” became one of the first recipients of the Psi Chi: Journal of Psychological Research’s new Diversity Badge. According to Psi Chi Editor Steven V. Rouse, the badge recognizes projects that “examine whether psychological phenomena differ as a function of human diversity, highlight psychological characteristics within a historically marginalized group, or identify factors that are related to diversity-based prejudice or discrimination.”

For Malik, the publication is gratifying in a number of ways. “By disseminating our research to mental health professionals and the public at large, we can start removing barriers to treatment.” On a personal level, inclusion in a peer-reviewed journal reflects the degree of scholarship that Malik has achieved, a key factor in earning acceptance into a Ph.D. program. “Doctoral programs in clinical psychology are very competitive. It’s important for them to see your experience in the research cycle: Formulating your hypothesis, collecting and analyzing the data, and writing up and disseminating the results. If you’re not prepared, you won’t succeed.”

Malik praised Mann for her guidance with “Predictors of Help-Seeking,” which she completed as part of the first cohort of students in the psychology department’s clinical and counseling concentration. “Dr. Mann inspired me to explore my interests. I learned theory and got to apply my skills in a real-world clinical setting,” performing a supervised field placement at Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center in Roanoke. “She also encouraged me to apply for grants that made it possible for me to present my research at various conferences.” Notably, the Janet L. MacDonald and Beatrice E. Gushee Award ensured Malik could attend the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, the L. Starling Reid Psychology Research Conference at the University of Virginia, and UCLA’s Psychology Undergraduate Research Showcase.

In addition, Malik credits Mann for urging her to submit her research for publication and go beyond simply completing it as a requirement for her thesis. Mann, she said, directed her to the Psi Chi Journal as a good fit for undergraduate research.

“What sets Hollins apart from other schools is that you build these very strong relationships with your mentor. You get a lot of chances for one-on-one direction.”

Eventually, Malik hopes to specialize in clinical neuropsychology. Her ideal work environment, she said, would be in an academic medical center. “I want to incorporate my equal affinity for research, teaching, and clinical practice. I could have a research lab, and I could train future psychologists and mentor them as research assistants. A clinical practice would inform my research and vice versa. I like that integration.”

“I know Hinza will continue to make great contributions to the science and treatment of mental illness and brain diseases,” Mann stated. “She arrived at Hollins with a passion for psychology, which was a joy to witness, but what blew me away was her focused determination and her willingness to put that into practice, even during the hardships of the pandemic. Hinza expanded her research and clinical skills every single year. I’m not just proud of her work, but I’m inspired by working with her.”



*Thornicroft, G. (2007). Most people with mental illness are not treated. The Lancet, 370 (9590), 807–808.

**Boerema, A. M., Kleiboer, A., Beekman, A. T., van Zoonen, K., Dijkshoorn, H., & Cuijpers, P. (2016). Determinants of help-seeking behavior in depression: A cross-sectional study. BMC Psychiatry, 16(1).

Eisenberg, D., Downs, M. F., Golberstein, E., & Zivin, K. (2009). Stigma and help seeking for mental health among college students. Medical Care Research and Review, 66(5), 522–541.

***Golberstein, E., Eisenberg, D., & Gollust, S. E. (2009). Perceived stigma and helpseeking behavior: Longitudinal evidence from the healthy minds study. Psychiatric Services, 60(9), 1254–1256.





Student/Faculty Research Presented at American Society for Microbiology Va. Branch Annual Meeting

Research projects by two recent Hollins University graduates were recently featured at the Virginia meeting of one of the world’s largest life sciences societies.

Isabella Jessee ’22 and Geneva Waynick ’21 presented their work at the 2022 American Society for Microbiology Virginia Branch Annual Meeting, held November 4-5 at Laurel Ridge Community College in Middletown.


Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Science Mary Jane Carmichael served as coauthor of Jessee and Waynick’s individual research studies and accompanied them to the conference.


Isabella Jessee ASM Conference

Jessee delivered an oral presentation on “Variability in Antimicrobial Properties on Multifloral Honey in Southwest Virginia,” representing her thesis work at Hollins. Currently working as a medical scribe for Carilion Clinic Pediatric Orthopaedics in Roanoke, she is building clinical hours as she prepares to pursue her M.D.





Geneva Waynick ASM ConferenceWaynick gave a poster presentation entitled “The Influence of Infant Formulae on the Growth of Commensal and Pathogenic Streptococcus Species in the Infant Oral Cavity,” also based on her Hollins thesis. She works in the COVID testing lab at Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC in Roanoke and is applying to graduate school at the University of Virginia and the College of William and Mary.







Top photo (from left to right): Isabella Jessee ’22, Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Science Mary Jane Carmichael, and Geneva Waynick ’21 attend the 2022 American Society for Microbiology Virginia Branch Annual Meeting.

Case Studies Showcase Sophomore’s Interest in Researching Cultural Heritage

In the introduction to their book Indigenous Peoples’ Cultural Heritage: Rights, Debates, Challenges (Brill, 2017), editors Alexandra Xanthaki, Sanna Valkonen, Leena Heinämäki, and Piia Nuorgam noted that “Indigenous rights to heritage have not been at the centre of academic scholarship until quite recently. It became clear that more work needs to be done on this topic, more stones to be uncovered, and more discussion to be had.”

Javeria Piracha ’25 has contributed to the growing study of this issue by conducting research under Assistant Professor of Global Politics and Societies Ashleigh Breske during the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program this past summer. Alongside Breske and fellow student researcher Makda Kalayu, the applied economics major analyzed the interaction between Indigenous peoples and those owning their cultural property, and that research recently earned her a speaking opportunity at a regional International Studies Association academic conference.

Piracha became interested in cultural heritage when she took Breske’s Introduction to International Studies course in the fall of 2021. “That was the first course I took in international studies and I really enjoyed it,” she said. She’s now considering declaring a second major in the subject. “During the course we visited the [Eleanor D.] Wilson Museum at Hollins. We viewed these stone carvings that had been donated to their collection many years ago, and about which they knew very little.”

According to Wilson Museum Director Jenine Culligan, the objects were made by the Taíno people, an Indigenous group in the Caribbean. “We know these carvings are found in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and parts of Mexico, and they’re associated with crops or other plants,” she explained. “Unfortunately, we have no provenance (history of ownership documentation) for these objects, and we haven’t yet been able to identify their country of origin.”

The mystery surrounding the carvings intrigued Breske, who was first introduced to the objects in fall 2018 by Culligan and decided to pursue this research first with her Spring Term 2022 Cultural Property, Museums, and Rights class and then with the two students in the summer of 2022. Piracha’s turned part of this research project into her conference paper, “Economic Impact of Museum Industries: A Study of Provenance and Authenticity of Taíno Zemi Objects.”

“This project is a case study of Taíno sacred stone figurines, known as zemí figures, that are held by institutions and in private collections,” Piracha said. “It makes use of items from the Wilson Museum as well as other items that have either been sold at private auctions or are in the collections of American museums. The project focuses on the ethical obligations we have to return objects to their rightful places because of their heritage value; the diversity, equity, and inclusion claims museums make in the United States; and the reasons it is morally required for cultural objects to be returned after the 1970 UNESCO Convention,” which advocated for ending the illicit trafficking of cultural property. “Looking to the future, this project also explores the various ways repatriation could help the economies of countries in the Caribbean.”

Piracha submitted the project to the International Studies Association (ISA) South regional conference for its 2022 annual conference this fall in St. Augustine, Florida. Established in 1959, the ISA is one of the oldest interdisciplinary associations dedicated to understanding international, transnational, and global affairs. It features more than 7,000 members from around the world, including academics, practitioners, policy experts, private sector workers, and independent researchers.

Breske has encouraged SURF research students to submit abstracts to the ISA regional conferences for the past two years so that they can gain the experience of speaking to academics and professionals in the field.  Piracha was invited to deliver her first academic conference presentation at ISA-South. “The people who presented with me and who were in the audience were all professors and all at the Ph.D. level, so I was surprised I got a chance to present,” she said. “They asked excellent questions.”

Another research project related to cultural heritage that Piracha has undertaken and submitted to the ISA-Northeast 2022 Annual Conference in Baltimore, held November 4 and 5, was “A Sense of Belonging: An Analysis of the Afghan Refugee Population in the United States and Ways Their Cultural Identity is Being Kept Alive.”

“It’s an overview and analysis of the Afghan refugee population in the United States and how cultural heritage can help them create a sense of belonging and help in their integration in the host society,” Piracha said. “A refugee often chooses to flee from their home country in hope for a better chance at life. However, they do wish to maintain aspects of their cultural identity.”

“A Sense of Belonging” addresses the underrepresentation of refugee communities in cultural heritage discussions and the different ways their heritage can be preserved. In her research, Piracha explores methods for keeping cultural heritage alive such as preserving oral history, promoting cultural participation, and understanding the significance certain objects carry of memory and ancestral affirmation.

“My case study revolves around refugees from Afghanistan who fled to the United States between 1979 and 1992. The study also examines how the Afghans maintained the production of culture after their arrival in the United States, the difficulties they encountered, and the length of time it took to build a community in the United States.”

The ISA conference presentations, for which she received travel funding from Hollins’ Warren W. Hobbie Ethics and Service Endowment, are part of what is shaping up to be a busy but rewarding academic year for Piracha. She will spend the 2023 Spring Term in London, where she will take economics courses and complete an internship in public policy (she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in the field after graduating from Hollins). It will be her second study abroad experience as a Hollins undergraduate, the first occurring during the 2021 January Short Term when she traveled to France.

“Learning about different cultures, getting to experience various traditions first-hand, and understanding the perspectives a country has to offer have always excited me.” Piracha explained. “As an international student, I have developed a knack for wanting to assimilate different cultural experiences in my own identity to better equip myself to become an intentional, globally aware citizen. Thus, studying abroad in France was the perfect opportunity for me to embark on these cultural journeys. By knowing more about the educational and cultural aspects of other countries, I can use them to shape my future and the communities I want to serve.”

After completing her spring term in London, she will return to the U.S. next summer for an internship with a marketing company in Orlando.

Ultimately, Piracha hopes to work in economics analyzing data that include economic indicators. “My own country, Pakistan, has a declining economy and lately has had a number of internal displacements as a result of the climate issue. With a degree in public policy, I will be able to do research for Pakistan and predict emerging trends that will aid in developing long-term objectives for those who have been internally displaced.”

Piracha will also draw upon her experience working with various nonprofit organizations. “Previously, in Islamabad, I founded and led an organization that focused on destigmatizing taboo topics such as period poverty that affect low-income women in Pakistan.”





Hollins Named “Overall Distinguished Delegation” at Regional Model Arab League Conference

Hollins University earned multiple honors at the annual Appalachia Regional Model Arab League (MAL) conference, held at Hollins November 4-6.

Eight delegations comprised of student representatives from George Mason University, Georgia Southern University, Georgia State University, Hollins, Roanoke College, Virginia Military Institute, and Roanoke’s Community High School participated in the event, now in its eighth year.

MAL is the flagship Youth Leadership Development Program of the National Council on U.S. – Arab Relations (NCUSAR). According to NCUSAR, MAL’s goal is “allowing emerging leaders to learn firsthand what it is like to put themselves in the shoes of real-life Arab diplomats and other foreign affairs practitioners. In the process, students deepen their knowledge and understanding of the Arab world and its peoples. They also strengthen their ability to engage in the art of reasoned argument and spirited debate, and become better prepared to be knowledgeable, well-trained, and effective citizens as well as civic and public affairs leaders.”

John P. Wheeler Professor of Political Science Edward Lynch and Assistant Professor of Political Science Courtney Chenette jointly organized the 2022 conference. Lynch is teaching Hollins’ Model United Nations/Model Arab League course this academic year, and Chenette will lead the course beginning in Fall 2023.

“Hollins again held a successful and stimulating Model Arab League conference,” Lynch said. “This is an important element of Hollins’ emphasis on experiential learning, and I am happy that so many students took leading roles in the Councils.” He noted that Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton welcomed the delegates at the outset of the conference, which “sends an unmistakable signal to our visitors that Model Arab League is important here. Professor Chenette and I greatly appreciate the support we receive from the Hollins administration.”

The conference opening also featured a talk on Islamic art by Michelle Moseley, associate professor and chair of art history and visual culture at Virginia Tech.

Hollins students served in key leadership roles at the conference, including Bianca Vallebrignoni ’23, secretary general; Chanmolis Mout ’23, assistant secretary general; and Jenna Johnston ’25, chief justice of the Arab Court of Justice simulation.

Hollins was named the conference’s Overall Distinguished Delegation. Students also came away with several group and individual awards:

  • Distinguished Delegation in the Council on Palestinian Affairs: Ava Kegler ’25 and Sammy Stuhlmiller ‘25
  • Outstanding Delegation in the Summit of the Arab Heads of State: Kayla Richardson ’24 and Phil Anh
  • Outstanding Chair: Harper Dillon ‘25
  • Distinguished Chair: Sofia Olivares ’25 and Claire Ross ‘23


AAC&U President Visits Hollins to Stress the Enduring Power of the Liberal Arts

In 2020, the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) released a new blueprint for the future of higher education.

What Liberal Education Looks Like focuses on restoring public confidence in liberal education and inclusive excellence and refuting claims that higher education in general, and liberal education in particular, are irrelevant. It’s also a collective call to action to uphold the considerable potential of colleges and universities.

“This work is urgent,” said Lynn Pasquerella, AAC&U president. “Talk of higher education as a public good and of investing in society through education has been replaced by talk of return on investment – tuition in exchange for jobs. Skeptics deride the arts and humanities as elitist, and we need to be vigilant in rebutting those charges and recognizing them for what they are: Collusion in the growth of an intellectual oligarchy, in which only the richest and most prestigious institutions preserve access to the liberal arts traditions.”

Pasquerella recently shared her passion for “the public purpose of higher education” with Hollins faculty, staff, and the Board of Trustees as the university embarks on creating a new five-year strategic plan. “I’ve been committed to promoting access to excellence in higher education regardless of socioeconomic background, to championing the centrality of liberal education, and to defending political scientist Benjamin Barber’s notion of colleges and universities as civic missions where we not only educate people to be free, but we free them to be educable, thus serving as a visible force in the lives of those who have been most marginalized in our society.”

Those who claim a liberal education and preparation for work, citizenship, and life are mutually exclusive are creating “a false dichotomy,” Pasquerella said. “We need to highlight the fact that in a global knowledge economy, demand for graduates with a liberal education is growing.”

Pasquerella cited the AAC&U’s 2020 research, How College Contributes to Workforce Success: What Matters Most, in which nearly 500 executives and hiring managers were surveyed. The study found that confidence in higher education and the value of a degree remains fairly strong: Sixty-seven percent of employers have a good deal or quite a lot of confidence in higher education (compared to 63% in 2018), and almost nine in 10 (87%) believe that a college degree or credential is definitely or probably worth the time and financial investments.

“Perhaps most importantly, employers regard liberal education as providing the knowledge and skills for long-term career success in the 21st century,” Pasquerella noted. “Nine in 10 employers believe it is important to achieve the learning outcomes that define a contemporary liberal education, and they urge new efforts to help students acquire those. At least half of employers think it’s very important for college students to possess a range of mindsets and aptitudes to be successful, including a solid work ethic, ability to take initiative, self-confidence, persistence, self-awareness, empathy, and curiosity for lifelong learning.”

Pasquerella added that AAC&U’s research showed active and applied educational experiences can have a positive impact on students by improving their engagement and deepening their learning, which in turn can positively impact hiring decisions. These include first-year seminars, learning communities, writing-intensive courses, collaborative projects, undergraduate research, internships, community-based learning, capstone courses, and engagement with educational mentors in and out of the classroom.

At the same time, Pasquerella said, “Student learning assessments must support student success, with guiderails to keep all students on track rather than hurdles that only some students can clear. Inclusive excellence is not a process that isolates students or promotes competition among them. Rather, it’s a collaborative process that takes aim at educational disparities and patterns or systemic disadvantage. Colleges and universities must demonstrate that our success is inextricably linked to the psychological, social, educational, and economic well-being of those we serve.”

Pasquerella asserted that “a 21st century liberal arts education mandates the acceleration of high-impact opportunities that engage students in solving real-world problems within the context of the workforce. It adopts a holistic approach to evidence-based problem solving that incorporates diverse points of view. The curriculum’s emphasis should be on learning outcomes, knowledge of human cultures and the physical and natural world, intellectual and practical skills, personal and social responsibility, and integrative and applied learning as necessary for students’ intellectual, civic, personal, and professional development, and for success in a global economy.”

Asking arts and humanities advocates “to step outside of our echo chambers and use whatever modes of engagement are available to connect the work the academy is doing with people’s lives,” Pasquerella endorsed “leveraging popular culture to promote humanistic understanding. We must recognize more expansive forms of literature and art as the key to survival of the humanities. If we continue to relinquish the opportunities that would extend our reach, public discourse will continue to decline, and academicians will continue to lose the chance to engender a true sense of wonder. In fact, if academics rely exclusively on the mechanisms of arcane study to get out our message, scholarly pursuits as anything more than an ossified repository of ancient curiosity will die.”

Pasquerella concluded with a plea to collectively reaffirm how a liberal education sees the world as a set of interdependent yet inequitable systems, expands knowledge of human interactions, privilege, and stratification, and fosters equity and justice locally and globally. She recalled the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. at the 1963 March on Washington: “We’re now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. This is no time for apathy and complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”

King’s lesson “is more critical than ever,” Pasquerella said. “We need to illuminate the transformative power of the arts and humanities. At the same time, we need to recognize that higher education and its graduates must play a leadership role in fulfilling the promise of liberal education, ensuring that all students are positioned to find their best and most authentic selves.”

At Ignite Retreat, First-Year Students Embrace How to Create Change

Students from a Hollins University first-year seminar recently immersed themselves in a community of changemakers at a gathering sponsored by an organization dedicated to inspiring young people.

Members of the “Ask Not What Your Community Can Do for You: Sustainability and Social Innovation” class traveled to Black Mountain, North Carolina, to take part in the Ignite Retreat. Hosted by the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation, which for nearly 90 years has sought to “ignite the good and place service to others above self-interest,” the weekend event offered college students the chance to learn how to become social entrepreneurs and spark change in their communities.

The retreat complemented the goals of the “Sustainability and Social Innovation” course, which is taught by Assistant Professor of Education Teri Wagner in collaboration with Student Success Leader Abigail Phillips ’25. The seminar upholds stewardship as the heart of sustainability and social innovation and emphasizes that the concept can be applied not only to the environment and nature, but also to economics, health, information, theology, cultural resources, and more.

“This class explores ways to address those issues as they present themselves in our local community,” Wagner said. “Students are challenged to develop innovative solutions to complex problems by applying design thinking principles while working in multidisciplinary, collaborative teams.”

Wagner noted that students in the class also learn about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 interconnected objectives whose stated mission is to provide “a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.”

“They choose a goal that holds personal significance to them and explore ways to address issues in our local community related to that SDG.” Wagner explained. “We utilize the design process while working in multidisciplinary, collaborative teams to develop innovative projects to address these complex problems.”

Ignite Retreat Attendees
The Ignite Retreat welcomed undergraduates from colleges and universities across the southeastern U.S.

The Ignite Retreat gave attendees the opportunity to tackle projects, gain insight into possible career options, and do a deep dive into issues they are passionate about. The three-day program was divided into three tracks intended to “meet each participant where they’re at and help them get where they want to go next.” These included:

  • Personal Track: Facilitated better understanding of an individual’s skills and passions while growing confidence and delving into the mindset of a social entrepreneur.
  • Problem Track: Designed for those who want to address a particular issue or problem but aren’t sure how to be a part of solutions.
  • Project Track: Helped students who are ready to begin working on a specific project, venture, or campus initiative they’ve been considering.

In addition to networking with undergraduates from colleges and universities from across the southeastern U.S., Hollins students received one-to-one mentoring from coaches who have launched nonprofit organizations or other social ventures and enjoyed an array of hands-on workshops.

The first-year seminar program at Hollins is intended to improve student learning at a critical early stage in undergraduate education, offer a unique class bonding experience based on academic excellence, and introduce students to a number of general education skills and perspectives. All of the seminars share the same scholastic goals, allowing students to participate in a common learning experience in their first term at Hollins. All first-time, first-year students must enroll in a first-year seminar in the fall term. The instructor/advisor for each first-year seminar is assisted by a student success leader, an upper-class student mentor who attends the seminar, helps students with advising, and answers academic questions.