Amanda Cockrell ’69, M.A. ’88 Explores Turmoil of the 1960s in New Historical Novel

As a historical novelist, Amanda Cockrell ’69, M.A. ’88 has employed backdrops ranging from the Hollywood blacklist to Roman myth and history. This spring, Cockrell, who retired in 2018 as director of Hollins’ graduate programs in children’s literature and currently is managing editor of Hollins University’s literary journal, The Hollins Critic, is immersing readers in the Vietnam War era with Coyote Weather, published by Northampton House Press.

Covering the years 1967 to 1972, Coyote Weather “is set partly in Virginia and partly in California in the town where I grew up,” Cockrell explains in an interview with author Brook Allen. “I have written a lot of other historical fiction from pre-Columbian to Victorian and Edwardian, but this one was the hardest, mainly because to me it is not historical fiction at all but fiction set in the years of my early twenties.” She adds, “It’s not autobiographical, although a few of the experiences are mine, as is the era.”

In its synopsis of the novel, Northampton House Press describes “coyote weather” as “the feral, hungry season in California, when everything is drought-stricken and ready to catch fire. It’s 1967 and the American culture is violently remaking itself while the country is forcing its young men to fight in a deeply unpopular war.”

Among the book’s main characters, “Jerry has stubbornly made no plans for the future because he believes that, in the shadow of Vietnam, the Cold War, and atomic bomb drills, there won’t be one. Ellen’s determined to have a plan, because nothing else can keep the world from tilting. And the Ghost just wants to go home to a place that won’t let him in: the small California town where they all grew up.”

Bestselling author and Hollins alumna Lee Smith ’67 praises Coyote Weather as “a spectacular re-creation of a lost but essential time in our history—California, the ’60s, Vietnam—nobody has ever captured it more accurately or written it with more understanding—from several different perspectives. A must read. Bravo!” John Ketwig, author of …and a hard rain fell: A G.I.’s True Story of the War in Vietnam, says,This splendid novel describes the Vietnam generation’s feelings about the war in Southeast Asia, the draft, relationships, the counterculture, psychedelia, women’s issues, commitments, sexual tensions, and the looming uncertainty of where we were headed as individuals and a country. It’s a trip, with all that and more combined in an artful, beautifully written journey.” Historia, the magazine of the Historical Writers’ Association, cites Coyote Weather as one of the “Historical Books to Look Out for in 2023.”

The daughter of a screenwriter and a novelist, Cockrell holds a master’s degree in English and creative writing from Hollins. She has received fellowships in fiction from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. Under the pseudonym Damion Hunter, she wrote Shadow of the Eagle, a novel of Roman Britain and the first in The Borderlands series; The Legions of the Mist; The Wall at the Edge of the World; and the Centurion series. The young adult novel What We Keep Is Not Always What Will Stay; Pomegranate Seed, which spans the eras of silent film and Joseph McCarthy; the trilogies The Deer Dancers and The Horse Catchers; mythological novels of the American Southwest; and The Moonshine Blade, a comic thriller set in her current home of Southwest Virginia, are her books writing as Amanda Cockrell.




Distinguished Jurist and Hollins Alumna to Speak at 181st Commencement Exercises

Senior United States District Judge Callie Virginia “Ginny” Smith Granade ’72 will be the guest speaker at Hollins University’s 181st Commencement Exercises on Sunday, May 21. The ceremony will be held on Hollins’ historic Front Quadrangle.

Granade was nominated to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama by President George W. Bush in August 2001 and was sworn in on February 20, 2002. From 2003 to 2010 she served as the district’s chief judge, and in 2016 she chose to take senior status as a federal judge.

Born in Lexington, Virginia, Granade earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1972 from Hollins, where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. In 1975, she received a juris doctor degree from the University of Texas. From 1975 to 1976, she was a law clerk for the Honorable John C. Godbold, Jr., U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth (now Eleventh) Circuit.

In 1977, Granade joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama, the first female assistant U.S. attorney in that district. Early in her career she gained extensive trial experience prosecuting criminal offenses and defending the United States in civil suits. Her expertise in the courtroom was reflected in her vigorous prosecution of complex white-collar fraud, tax fraud, and public corruption cases. Her prosecution of a multi-defendant, far-reaching, racketeering/public corruption case in 1990 still holds the record as the lengthiest jury trial in the Southern District of Alabama. She also gained extensive appellate experience before the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

In 1990, Granade was promoted to chief of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. From 1997 until her appointment as interim U.S. attorney in May 2001, she served as first assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Alabama, and as such, was responsible for supervising the overall operation of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Recognized as both a leader and teacher in the field of trial practice, Granade has served as an instructor of criminal trial and grand jury practice at the Department of Justice’s Attorney General’s Advocacy Institute. She was elected a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers in 1994 and was Alabama’s first female Fellow.

Granade, a member of the Hollins University Board of Trustees, is married to Fred K. Granade, who recently retired from law practice. They have three grown sons and four granddaughters.

For more information about Hollins’ 181st Commencement Exercises, visit the university’s commencement webpage.

Hollins Exceeds “75” End-of-Year Giving Challenge

In December 2021, Hollins University announced the largest single gift in its history and the largest donation ever received by a women’s college: $75 million from an anonymous alumna to exclusively fund scholarships and address undergraduate financial need for undergraduate students.

To recognize the one-year anniversary of this extraordinary gift, a group of alumnae/i came together and presented a challenge to members of The 1842 Society, the premier recognition society for annual donors to Hollins: The group promised to contribute $75,000 to the Hollins Fund, which provides nearly 11% of the university’s operating budget, if 75 alumnae/i and friends committed $1,842 or more by December 31, 2022.

Thanks to the generosity of 1842 Society members, Hollins exceeded the “75” challenge with 111 donors committing to this level of giving.

“The anonymous alumna who gave the $75 million gift intended it as a statement of confidence, a rallying cry for the enduring power and importance of the Hollins mission,” said Vice President for Institutional Advancement Anita Walton. “This overwhelming response demonstrates a firm belief in the future of Hollins and celebrates the transformative power a Hollins education offers her students. We offer a huge ‘thank you’ to our alumnae/i who led the challenge and to all who contributed.”

Walton extended the university’s gratitude to everyone who has supported, and continues to give, to the Hollins Fund during this fiscal year, which ends June 30. “The Hollins Fund is a great way for alumnae/i and community members to express their love for Hollins. Your gifts help open a world of possibility for our students.”

To learn more about how to make a gift to Hollins, visit


Natasha Campbell ’19 Selected for Prestigious Golden Foundation Residency

Natasha Campbell ’19 has been chosen as an Artist Resident at The Sam and Adele Golden Foundation for the Arts, Inc. She is one of only 18 artists selected for the 2023 Residency Program, including Guggenheim Fellow Deborah Zlotsky and other distinguished artists, from over 600 applicants hailing from around the world.

“The Golden Foundation Residency Program is specifically designed to assist the professional artist in discovering and exploring the many materials and technologies available today,” states the foundation’s website. “Through the Golden Foundation, residents will have the unparalleled opportunity to work with dozens of unique materials and technologies.”

Campbell will spend four weeks next year in central New York State living and working in a 19th century barn that has been transformed into a 21st century artist residency.

“The residency gives a complete survey to Golden acrylic, watercolor, and oil paints and mediums,” Campbell explained. “The first week is full of workshops and demos for said materials to experiment with new ways of using paints and mediums with opportunities to consult with paint technicians. The rest of the program is dedicated to studio time.”

Campbell praised the backing she received from Hollins faculty for preparing her to pursue an art career. “I graduated as an English major with an art history minor, and while I went to Hollins wanting to be a studio art major, I didn’t have the courage to go for it. I felt as though I didn’t have anything worth painting about and I didn’t know how to transfer my interests into tangible work. Of course, you learn that through time paired with painting regularly, but I didn’t want to fail or find out my ability didn’t ‘match’ my passion.”

Hollins, Campbell said, “definitely gave me more confidence in my work and in my abilities, not just in art but to create anything at all: writing, analyzing, even believing in my own intelligence. I had A LOT of support from [Professor of Art Emerita] Kathleen Nolan, [Associate Professor of Art] Genevieve Hendricks, and [Associate Professor of Art] Elise Schweitzer, and I’m so incredibly grateful to them.” She noted that Schweitzer in particular “pushed me out of my comfort zone in and out of college. Many of the art opportunities I had or learned about were recommended to me by Elise.”

Until recently, Campbell served as fellowship coordinator at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond. “I was in charge of a statewide scholarship that is given to Virginia artists, both students and professionals.” She coordinated three to six solo shows a year showcasing former VMFA Fellows, including an exhibition featuring the work of Professor of Art Emeritus Robert Sulkin. “I wanted the Fellowship to have a larger online presence and more benefits to the artists outside of their shows and scholarship such as studio visits, panels, lectures, and the like. The position and the Fellowship are growing and I’m very grateful to have been a part of it.”

Now engaged full-time in making art, Campbell is hoping to enroll in a graduate program beginning in the fall of 2023. In the meantime, she’s been busy participating in workshops, attending lectures, “and meeting great contemporary artists! I just came back from a fall workshop with Ken Kewley at Mount Gretna School of Art. It was wonderful to say the least!”

Outside of art, Campbell is planning to travel to South Korea for a language program. “I have been learning Korean since 2021, something I had been wanting to do since I was 13, so going to a three-month program there should be exciting.”

The Sam and Adele Golden Foundation for the Arts began its residency for artists working in paint in 2012. An art auction celebrating the Golden Foundation’s 20th anniversary in 2017 helped ensure that moving forward, artists could take part in the residency at no cost. Residents are selected through a competitive juried process by a committee consisting mainly of artists and art professionals. The committee’s criteria focus on the quality of submitted work.


Hollins Authors Featured in Publishers Weekly’s 2022 Children’s Starred Reviews

Three alumnae of Hollins University’s graduate programs in children’s literature and children’s book illustration are among the authors highlighted in Publishers Weekly’s (PW) 10th Children’s Starred Reviews Annual.

Dhonielle Clayton, who holds a Master of Arts degree, and Cassie Gustafson and Ali Standish, who both completed Master of Fine Arts degrees, are all recognized in the issue for books they released this year.

“In these pages, you’ll find nearly 400 reviews of books for children and teens published in 2022 that received a star from PW, indicating that they are titles of exceptional merit,” stated the trade news magazine that has served publishers, librarians, booksellers, and literary agents internationally for 150 years.

In Clayton’s Middle Grade (ages eight – 12) novel debut, The Marvellers (published by Macmillan), 11-year-old Ella Durand faces significant obstacles after becoming the first Conjuror to enroll at the elite Arcanum Training Institute for Marvelous and Uncanny Endeavors. Marvellers are “born with marvels, light inside of them that allowed them to perform magical feats” and deem their powers above those of Conjurors. Nevertheless, Ella is determined to succeed and make her family proud. “Clayton imaginatively combines myriad global cultural traditions with an intersectionally inclusive, fantastical adventure that examines themes of acceptance, prejudice, and familial responsibility,” PW notes.


Gustafson’s The Secrets We Keep (Simon & Schuster), which is cited in the Young Adult (ages 14 and up) category, centers on themes of self-harm, sexual violence, and suicidal ideation in the story of Emma, a high school student who must deal with the consequences after her father is accused of sexually assaulting her best friend. PW states in its review, “Gustafson renders Emma’s present and past in striking detail, throughout featuring Emma’s journal entries….The narrative’s dark climax and Gustafson’s visceral prose don’t shy away from the inherent trauma surrounding sexual assault, making for a vital, heart-wrenching account of one teen’s harrowing experience.”



Yonder (HarperCollins) by Standish is a Middle Grade novel that takes place during World War II in a small Appalachian town. Thirteen-year-old Danny Timmons has a friend and protector in 15-year-old Jake, and when Jake suddenly disappears, Danny is determined to find him, no matter what. PW calls Yonder an “uplifting mystery [that] tackles big themes of abuse, bullying, heroism, mental health, and prejudice. Through an elegant voice…the mystery of Jack’s disappearance unfolds alongside the story of Danny’s friendship with him, the increasing clarity with which Danny sees life as far from perfect, and the small but meaningful steps he takes to discover what bravery means.”

Elizabeth Brownlee Kolmstetter ’85 Named a 2022 Presidential Rank Award Winner

A Hollins alumna and member of the university’s Board of Trustees has been presented one of the most prestigious awards in the federal career civil service.

Elizabeth Brownlee Kolmstetter ’85 is among 233 winners from 33 federal agencies selected by President Biden to receive the Presidential Rank Award, honoring “hardworking civil servants who exemplify strength, integrity, industry, and a relentless commitment to public service through their exceptional leadership, contributions, and accomplishments,” said Kiran Ahuja, director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Kolmstetter was cited in the Meritorious Executive category for her work with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). An industrial and organizational psychologist, she has been a member of the Senior Executive Service for over 15 years and has more than 25 years of public service. Kolmstetter has pioneered innovative talent management programs at NASA and other agencies including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and National Skill Standards Board/Department of Labor. In addition, she was selected to serve on special assignment in 2015 to the Executive Office of the President as a senior policy advisor in the Office of Performance and Personnel Management.

After more than six years at NASA in roles including director of the workforce engagement division, Kolmstetter was recently named the first-ever chief people officer at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which leads the national effort to understand, manage, and reduce risk to the nation’s digital and physical infrastructure.

“Her extensive experience in [support of] employee engagement, development, and collaboration make her an ideal executive to lead our important work to build an enduring ‘People First’ culture at CISA,” said CISA Director Jen Easterly.

“I am beyond thrilled to join CISA and that’s true for three exciting reasons,” Kolmstetter noted. “First, the purpose of CISA is remarkable; there is no mission more critical for our national security. I have cared deeply about infrastructure security since my time at TSA and cybersecurity from my early work on the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative at ODNI. Second, in a word, people. Jen is a leader with vision and drive and has built a strong leadership team and really cares about the people of CISA and across the cybersecurity partnership. And third, passion. I am passionate about my work and am energized by the focus of this role on people and culture strategy. I am truly looking forward to working with the great team at CISA.”

After completing her B.A. in psychology and computer science at Hollins, Kolmstetter went on to earn her M.S. and Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology at Virginia Tech. In addition to the Presidential Rank Award, she has received the 2020 NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, the 2010 National Intelligence Superior Service Medal, the 2010 Hollins University Distinguished Alumnae Award, and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) 2006 Scott Myers Award for Best Applied Research. She is also a SIOP Fellow.

Kolmstetter is married to Michael Kolmstetter M.A.L.S. ’90 and is the daughter of Paula Brownlee, who served as president of Hollins from 1981 to 1990.


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.





Distinguished Speaker Series Welcomes Beth Macy, Nov. 15

Critically acclaimed and New York Times bestselling author Beth Macy will speak in the Hollins Theatre on Tuesday, November 15, at 7 p.m. Admission is free, but in accordance with Hollins’ Culture of Care guidelines for COVID-19, masks are required for all attendees.

A 1993 graduate of Hollins’ Master of Arts program in English and creative writing, Macy is a longtime reporter whose books include Factory Man, Truevine, and Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America. Her latest book is 2022’s Raising Lazarus: The Search for Hope and Justice, and the Future of America’s Overdose Crisis. Her recognition includes a Lukas Prize for Factory Man, multiple shortlist and best-book-of-the-year honors for Truevine, and a Nieman Fellowship for Journalism at Harvard University for her newspaper writing. A frequent speaker, teacher, and essayist, she has been published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, O: The Oprah Magazine, Parade, and The Wall Street Journal.

As part of her lecture, two Hollins student journalists will engage in conversation with Macy about her work, her writing craft, and Hollins.

Following the presentation, a reception for Macy will be held in the Wyndham Robertson Library’s Lewis Reading Room. Raising Lazarus will be on sale at the reception, and Macy will be signing copies. Preregistration and proof of vaccination are required to attend the reception in person for those who are not current Hollins students, faculty, or staff.

The lecture will also be livestreamed at the Beth Macy Distinguished Speaker Series webpage. Or, you can access the livestream by contacting Rachel Fletcher at

Macy’s appearance is sponsored by Hollins University’s Distinguished Speaker Series, which is made possible by an endowed fund underwritten by an anonymous alumna.

“My Journey Back Home”: Savannah Scott ’22 Returns to Alaska to Serve in the CDC’s Public Health Associate Program

Growing up in Fairbanks, Alaska, Savannah Scott ’22 saw how factors ranging from poverty and housing insecurity to the lack of sexual health education for young people profoundly impacted the health of her community. As she entered her senior year in high school, she felt such a call to action to address those issues that she sought dual enrollment at the University of Alaska – Fairbanks. “I wanted to learn how I could address those social determinants and best reduce the disparities I was seeing,” she explained.

Scott believed that studying pre-medical sciences on the undergraduate level and then going on to medical school to become a physician was the best route to realizing a career meeting community health needs. But when she arrived at Hollins University in the fall of 2019, Associate Professor of History Rachel Nuñez recommended that she might want to look into a new academic program the university was launching that year.

“Professor Nuñez suggested I enroll in the Introduction to Public Health course,” Scott recalled. “She thought I’d be a great fit, but if not, I could certainly continue on the pre-med track. I took it, and I fell in love.”

As a public health major, Scott enjoyed three significant internship opportunities. First, she worked with the Child Health Investment Partnership of Roanoke Valley, which promotes the health of medically underserved children in the area. “Through them, I was able to shadow community health nurses as well as research and outreach. It solidified my interest in learning more about the public health field.”

Working with Myriah LeGaux ’15, Scott also interned at Taking Aim at Cancer in Louisiana, a statewide initiative whose goal is to improve cancer outcomes. “That’s where I became interested in and was able to focus on chronic disease,” she said. “In a number of Louisiana parishes, there is a high incidence, especially with underserved minority populations. “I was really inspired to see how health care and public policy directly affect the health of the Louisiana community.”

Her third internship, with the Roanoke City Health Department, was coordinated by Dr. Cynthia Morrow, director of the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts and formerly a visiting professor of public health at Hollins. “This confirmed my desire to work on the frontlines of public health and learn more about health care policy,” Scott said. “With state and regional epidemiologists, we drafted an outbreak report to promote a recommended health care policy to increase prevention and lower the risk of Hepatitis A transmission in the Roanoke community.”

Prior to graduating from Hollins last year, Scott earned acceptance to all six of the Master of Public Health programs to which she applied. But during the application process, “I realized I wanted to get more solid work experience before I got more knowledge.” She connected with Diane Hall ’88, a senior health scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, who in turn put her in touch with a CDC official. “I told him I wanted to work on the frontlines of public health but had limited experience, and he said, ‘Why don’t you give our Public Health Associate Program a shot?’”

The CDC’s Public Health Associate Program (PHAP) is designed to give recent college graduates who seek a career in public health the opportunity to work with professionals in an array of public health settings, including state, tribal, local, and territorial public health agencies and nongovernmental organizations. Since it began in 2007, the two-year paid training program has placed more than 1,650 public health associates across 49 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories, and most go on to serve in positions in public health organizations: In 2021, 80% of PHAP graduates accepted jobs in public health.

Savannah Scott '22
Through the CDC’s Public Health Associate Program, Savannah Scott ’22 will work with the Tanana Chiefs Conference, an Alaska Native nonprofit organization.

With thousands of applicants each year for an average of between 300 and 400 positions, Scott noted that the selection process is rigorous. “Once your initial application is chosen, you’re required to submit personal statements and preferences about the specialties in which you want to work and where you want to be located. Once you get past that stage, you interview with some of the supervisors. Then, you are matched with a host site supervisor.”

Scott admitted she was “initially nervous about the application process, especially since it was my senior year and I wanted to make sure that my classes were going smoothly. Plus, people apply every year with different levels of experience, some with master’s degrees and some just graduating like me. I was grateful to Assistant Professor of Public Health Abubakarr Jalloh for his guidance and mentorship, and to Assistant Professor of History Christopher Florio, who helped me prepare for my interviews.”

For Scott, acceptance into PHAP has become “my journey back home”: She is returning to Fairbanks, where she lived for more than a decade (her father was stationed at Eielson Air Force Base there and returned to the area upon his retirement from military service). Beginning in October, she will serve with the Tanana Chiefs Conference, an Alaska Native nonprofit dedicated to meeting the health and social service needs of tribal members and beneficiaries throughout the region.

“I’ll be focusing on the quality of current policies related to health care services, and if needed, change and improve them to best fit the needs and desires of the people,” she explained. “I am looking to gain experience working directly with the community. In my internships at Hollins, I got bits and pieces of seeing how the work we created impacted those we served, but now on an ongoing basis I’ll be able go out and interview people and get their direct feedback on how our initiatives are affecting them. That’s the goal of public health – we are here to serve the health of the public.”

Scott said she is looking forward to “being a sponge, ready to absorb all the information they’re willing to provide for me” in two particular areas. “I want to learn more about collecting data on the transmission of chronic and communicable diseases, and also how to create a dialogue that builds comfort and trust with the population we’re serving.”

With an interest in ultimately becoming a chronic disease epidemiologist, Scott is considering pursuing an MD/Master of Public Health program after she completes the PHAP. However, she emphasized that all options are on the table.

“At this point, I’m really just diving deep into this assignment and allowing it to inform my next steps. I want to have an open mind, because during this program I might come across a great opportunity that I never would have otherwise thought of.”

Whatever the future brings for her, Scott is confident that right now, “I’m following my heart. My passion for public health has allowed me to come full circle, starting in Alaska and ending in Alaska.”

Suzy Mink ’74 Wins at World Triathlon Long Distance Championships

Suzy Mink ’74 was the only woman to medal for Team USA during the 2022 World Triathlon Long Distance Championships, part of the 2022 World Triathlon Multisport Championships held August 18-21 at the Olympic Training Center in Samorin, Slovakia.

Athletes from 50 countries competed, with the largest teams coming from the United States and United Kingdom.


Suzy Mink '74 Flora Duffy
Mink in Samorin with Bermudian triathlete Flora Duffy, who won a gold medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Mink, who serves as senior philanthropic advisor at Hollins. won the long distance triathlon in the 70-74 Female Age Group, which included a 2K swim in the Danube River (1.2 miles), a 79.8K biking trek through the Slovakian countryside (49.5 miles), and a 17.9K run (11.1 miles) through four loops on the Olympic Training Center grounds. She noted that the conditions she and other triathlon competitors encountered at the championships were formidable. “The Danube was exceedingly choppy, so much so that only small boats were allowed on the water instead of kayaks, and the current was really strong. Some folks were pulled out of the water early in the swim.” The bike course “was flat and beautiful, but the headwinds on the return trip were unrelenting for 25 miles, and even the best of the best felt it. The run was also tough with the wind.”


The victory at the championships is the latest achievement for Mink in her remarkable career competing as a triathlete around the world. Notably in 2018, she won her age group’s gold medal in the Long Distance Triathlon at the International Triathlon Union/Fynske Bank Multisport World Championships in Denmark. She was also part of the relay team that carried the Olympic Torch 900 miles to Lake Placid, New York, for the 1980 Olympic Games.