“You Persevered, You Summoned Your Inner Strength”: Hollins Welcomes Home the Class of 2020 to Celebrate Commencement

The graduates waited an unprecedented two years for the ceremony, but the class of 2020 finally and deservedly received their moment in the morning sun as Hollins held its 178th Commencement Exercises on May 29.

The event on Hollins’ historic Front Quadrangle, which was postponed in May 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, honored members of the class who earned bachelor’s degrees that year (graduate students who earned advanced degrees in 2020 were recognized in May 2021).

Tiffany Marshall Graves '97
Guest speaker Tiffany Marshall Graves ’97: “You have honored me in more ways than you could ever imagine by inviting me to speak to you today.”

Tiffany Marshall Graves ’97 was the guest speaker, fulfilling the invitation she originally received two years ago to deliver the 178th Commencement address. Since 2018, Graves has worked as pro bono counsel for Bradley Arant Boult & Cummings LLP in Jackson, Mississippi. She oversees the development and administration of the firm’s pro bono programs, which help address the unmet legal needs of indigent individuals and charitable institutions across the firm’s footprint. Prior to joining Bradley, Graves was the executive director of the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission, where she led and promoted initiatives to improve and expand access to civil justice to the nearly 700,000 Mississippians living in poverty.

The Hollins honors graduate with degrees in political science and Spanish as well as membership in Phi Beta Kappa went on to earn her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. She focused her remarks “on three Rs – no, not reading, writing, and arithmetic – but resilience, reflection, and rest.”

Graves emphasized that “being resilient does not mean that you don’t experience stress, emotional upheaval, and suffering. Rather, demonstrating resilience includes emotional pain and suffering.

“We all know resilient people,” she continued. “I am looking at a crowd full of them now. You persevered, you overcame, and you summoned your inner strength using the tools and people around you to keep pressing forward.”

Class of 2020 MortarboardGraves stated that she did not believe that “we can ever over-reflect. Self-reflection is the process of bringing your attention to what’s happening in your life in a mindful and open-minded way. Self-reflection helps us make sense of things. To continue to learn and grow, you have to take significant steps toward loving and accepting yourself – you – in all your beauty – and it starts with making self-reflection an everyday practice.”

Resilience and reflection require a lot of work, Graves said, and she cautioned the class of 2020 that “you are going to get tired – and I want to encourage you to rest. We greatly undervalue rest. Studies have shown that in addition to improving our health, rest can make us less stressed, it can deepen our relationships, it can present opportunities for reflection, it can make us more balanced, increase our productivity, and it can allow us to build up a reserve for when unexpected emergencies happen and rest is not an option.”

Graves shared her aspirations for the class of 2020 by quoting the children’s book, I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenfield:

             I wish you more ups than downs178th Commencement Processional

            I wish you more give than take

            I wish you more tippy-toes than deep

            I wish you more we than me

            I wish you more hugs than ughs

            I wish you more woohoo than woah

            I wish you more can than knot178th Commencement Smiles

            I wish you more snowflakes than tongue

            I wish you more pause than fast-forward

            I wish you more umbrella than rain

            I wish you more bubbles than bath

            I wish you more treasures than pockets

            I wish you stories than stars

“I wish all of this for you, because you are everything I could wish for and more,” she concluded.

Following Graves’ remarks, Hollins University Trustee Sandra Kiely Kolb ’70 presented her the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa for her commitment to “the fight to secure justice for all.”

Alex Lesniak '20
Class of 2020 Senior Class President Alex Lesniak: “We will certainly have a unique story to tell about our senior year.”

In her address, Class of 2020 Senior Class President Alex Lesniak noted, “We have the unique perspective of ‘graduating’ with two years of post-undergraduate life experience, which allows us to view our time at Hollins with a different lens.” She encouraged the class to “let this graduation ceremony highlight the things we’ve gained and accomplished,” adding, “We’ve all learned things in the wake of COVID-19, we’ve learned that life is precious, to forgive easily and show grace. We’ve learned to step outside ourselves and try to be as global and community-minded as possible, because you’ll never know when you will need something to be paid forward for you. We’ve learned how to show up for each other even when it’s hard and know that the siblinghood we have inherited by graduating from Hollins University will never dissipate.”

Lesniak reminded her classmates that “completing your undergraduate degree in the midst of a global pandemic is a milestone achievement. Not only will our senior year be memorable, but our time at Hollins as a whole. We were the largest class in many years, we experienced political upset and social and racial unrest, and finally, COVID-19. If anything, continuing to roll with the punches through these intense life events, one right after the other, should serve as a positive predictor about our class’s ability to withstand and thrive in swiftly changing environments.”

Other highlights of the 178th Commencement included the presentation of the following honors:178th Commencement Teddy Bear

The First Faculty Award for Academic Excellence, recognizing the student or students with the highest academic standing in the class of 2020, was presented to April Little (French/creative writing). Madeline Clevenstine (gender and women’s studies) received the Second Faculty Award for Academic Excellence for earning the second-highest academic standing.

Megan Caldwell (international studies/history) received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Student Award. Given by the New York Southern Society in memory of the founder, this award recognizes a senior who has shown by daily living those qualities that evidence a spirit of love and helpfulness to other men and women.

178th Commencement RecessionalThe Annie Terrill Bushnell Award was given to Reilly Swennes (political science). The award honors the senior who has evidenced the finest spirit of leadership during her days at Hollins.

The Jane Cocke Funkhouser Award, recognizing the senior who is preeminent in character and leadership in addition to being a good student, was presented to Leemu Jackson (biology).

 

Watch Hollins University’s 178th Commencement Exercises in their entirety.

Visit the 178th Commencement photo gallery.

 

 

 

 

 


“Ask the World, ‘What Do You Need from Me?’”: Hollins Celebrates the Class of 2022 at its 180th Commencement

Hollins University Board of Trustees Chair Alexandra Trower ’86 assured the class of 2022 that graduation is “not an ending, but a commencement, a new beginning, a monumental moment” at Hollins’ 180th Commencement Exercises, held May 22 on the school’s historic Front Quadrangle.

Hollins conferred 193 undergraduate and graduate degrees during the morning ceremony.

 

Trower, who retired last year as executive vice president, global communications, for The Estée Lauder Companies, was scheduled to be the guest speaker for this year’s event, but was unable to attend in person. Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton delivered Trower’s address on her behalf.Commencement 2022 - 2

In her remarks, Trower praised the graduating class for having done “something really, really hard. You began at Hollins, and then, right in the middle of it all, COVID-19 cracked the world open. And our old world kind of fell apart. But with the help of our incredible leader, President Mary Dana Hinton, together with the entire campus, you built a new Hollins community – this extraordinary ‘Culture of Care’ for which this wonderful class of 2022 will forever be known. You did all that during a time of racial reckoning, of political upheaval, of cancel culture, despite fear of illness and even death while still being students, artists, athletes, workers, and friends. You did not give up.”

Commencement 2022 - 3Trower’s address offered advice to the graduates that she noted, “I wish I had known when I was in your seat decades ago.” Her lessons for the class of 2022 included:

Pick one thing. “At the start of your post-Hollins journey, pick the thing that is most important to you and go for it. I have to add one crucial fact – your most important thing will change over time. You still need to figure out what that most important thing is for you right now, but be prepared for forks in the road as you move forward.”

Ask for help. “Asking for help doesn’t mean you are weak or that you don’t know what you are doing. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Asking for help is a sign of strength and courage. And one of the best parts of Hollins is that Hollins graduates are always there to help each other. Pick up the phone, reach out on LinkedIn, send an email or a text – but ask!”

Raise your hand for everything. For Trower, that included “tasks I knew nothing about. Working on those projects with other departments, stepping in when a teammate was out, and volunteering for things noCommencement 2022 - 4 one else wanted to do helped me learn more about the organization, build my skills, and experience new areas. And it built trust. You will find that accountability matters at all levels of an organization, personally and professionally. I could trust myself to follow through. My teammates could trust me to show up. And that’s co-creating a culture that thrives.”

Be a team player. “It wasn’t just that I was willing to do the work, but that I was…someone who most people enjoyed working with. And believe me, when it’s your fourth night in a row of working past midnight, being with people you like is really important. Organically, I began building a network that meant more complex and important projects, more meaning for me, and more and more responsibility.”

Commencement 2022 - 5Always ask, “What do you need from me?” Trower considers this to be “the most important lesson I’ve learned. Remember to ask the people that you work with: What do you need from me? What does it look like? What does success look like for you? How do you want to be communicated with, and how often? What keeps you up at night?” Trower added, “‘What do you need from me?’ is something we should also ask ourselves. Be brave enough to ask yourself, ‘What do I need in this moment?’ And graduates, this is how change happens. Every single time you expand your thinking to include even one more person, rather than just reacting and retreating – you can change the culture, and the future, for the better. You have increased the chances for more communication, more honesty, more success, and better outcomes for everyone

Trower concluded with a quote from the Talmud: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”Commencement 2022 - 8

“When we say (that quote), we are really asking the world, ‘What do you need from me?’,” she explained. “When we make intentional choices true to our calling, when we raise our hand, and raise each other up, when we take a moment and ask ourselves and the world: ‘What do you need from me right now?’, we take a step closer to becoming the person we want to be, in the world we say we want to live in. But it takes all of us. And that is a relief, because that is what Hollins is. It’s all of us.”

Other highlights of this year’s commencement included the presentation of the following honors:

The First Faculty Award for Academic Excellence, recognizing the student or students with the highest academic standing in the class of 2022, was presented to Aabhashree Lamichhane (economics) and Apoorva Verma (psychology). Nabila Nasrullah Meghjani (gender and women’s studies) and Chin Wai “Rosie” Wong (communication studies/theatre) received the Second Faculty Award for Academic Excellence for earning the second-highest academic standing.

Commencement 2022 - 7Mary Ming McDonald (theatre/communication studies) received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Student Award. Given by the New York Southern Society in memory of the founder, this award recognizes a senior who has shown by daily living those qualities that evidence a spirit of love and helpfulness to other men and women. Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Patty O’Toole was presented the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Community Award, which is given to a person associated with Hollins who has shown in daily living and work those characteristics that exhibit the noblest of spiritual and human qualities.

The Annie Terrill Bushnell Award was given to Leena Gurung (international studies). The award honors the senior who have evidenced the finest spirit of leadership during her days at Hollins.

The Jane Cocke Funkhouser Award, recognizing the senior who is preeminent in character and leadership in addition to being a good student, was presented to Aabhashree Lamichhane (economics).

 

Commencement 2022 - 6

 

Watch Hollins University’s 180th Commencement Exercises in their entirety.

 

Visit the 180th Commencement photo gallery.


Hollins Announces Guest Speakers for Class of 2022, Class of 2020 Commencements

Hollins University is celebrating the class of 2022 and the class of 2020 with two separate commencements this spring.

Alexandra Trower ’86 will be the guest speaker for Hollins’ 180th Commencement Exercises on Sunday, May 22, at 10 a.m. on the school’s historic Front Quadrangle. The ceremony will recognize members of the class of 2022 receiving bachelor’s degrees, and graduate students earning advanced degrees this year.

Trower joined The Estée Lauder Companies as executive vice president, global communications, in 2008. In addition to serving as an executive officer of the company and on the executive leadership team, she was a founding member of the Inclusion and Diversity Committee and an executive co-sponsor of the company’s LGBTQIA employee resource group. She oversaw corporate, social, crisis, Lauder family, and philanthropic communications. Trower retired from Estée Lauder in 2021.

Alexandra Trower '86
Alexandra Trower ’86

Trower credits her Hollins education for becoming a decades-long supporter of women and girls as evidenced by the more than 20 Hollins students who performed internships with the Global Communications team at Estée Lauder, including Chin Wai “Rosie” Wong ’22 this year. She was elected chair of the Hollins Board of Trustees in 2018, and under her leadership the board has created a DEI Task Force; revised its governance process and succession plan; added four new board members; led two complete presidential searches; guided board members to participate in the Association of Governing Boards (AGB) training; and implemented OnBoard as the board document portal, digitalizing most board documents. She was chair when the university received a record $75 million alumna donation in 2021.

Trower is the former co-chair of the International Women’s Media Foundation and is treasurer of The Secular Society. Both organizations are committed to supporting girls and women, with a focus on education, and The Secular Society has provided 26 full scholarships for Hollins students. She is also an Independent Director for American Funds, one of the largest mutual fund families in the U.S.

In 2018, Trower was presented one of the communications industry’s highest honors, the Matrix Award. Presented by New York Women in Communications, the award is given to extraordinary female leaders at the pinnacle of their careers.

Hollins’ 178th Commencement Exercises, which were postponed in May 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have been rescheduled for Sunday, May 29, at 11 a.m. on Front Quadrangle. Members of the class of 2020 who earned bachelor’s degrees that year will be honored at the event (graduate students who earned advanced degrees in 2020 were recognized at the university’s 179th Commencement Exercises in May 2021).

Tiffany Marshall Graves '97
Tiffany Marshall Graves ’97

The class of 2020 has invited Tiffany Marshall Graves ’97 to be the guest speaker. Since 2018, Graves has worked as pro bono counsel for Bradley Arant Boult & Cummings LLP in Jackson, Mississippi. She oversees the development and administration of the firm’s pro bono programs, which help address the unmet legal needs of indigent individuals and charitable institutions across the firm’s footprint.

Prior to joining Bradley, Graves was the executive director of the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission, where she led and promoted initiatives to improve and expand access to civil justice to the nearly 700,000 Mississippians living in poverty. She was responsible for developing strategic goals and building coalitions to enhance the civil legal aid and delivery system.

 

Graves graduated with honors from Hollins with degrees in political science and Spanish as well as membership in Phi Beta Kappa, Pi Sigma Alpha (the political science honor society), and Sigma Delta Pi (the Spanish honor society). She went on to earn her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, where she became only the fifth student to receive the Powell Fellowship in Legal Services. The fellowship enables a graduate of the law school to work in public interest law to enhance the delivery of legal services to the poor under the sponsorship of a public interest organization.

For her work on behalf of the citizens of Mississippi, Graves has received numerous awards, including Outstanding Woman Lawyer of the Year from the Mississippi Women Lawyers Association (2013); Distinguished Service Award, The Mississippi Bar (2016); and Leader of the Year, Young, Gifted and Empowered Awards (2019). Hollins recognized her with its Distinguished Young Alumna Award in 2017.

Visit the Hollins commencement webpage for more information on this year’s ceremonies.

 

 


Graduates Assured at 179th Commencement, “You Have Hollins and You Can Do Anything”

During a commencement unlike any other previously held at Hollins University, NASA’s Director of Talent Strategy and Engagement Elizabeth Kolmstetter declared to graduates, “Successful people never give up. Successful people learn from successes but even more so from hardships, failures, and paths redirected.

“So what do successful people have in common? They start with a dream – a vision of big goals for the future.”

 

Kolmstetter, a member of Hollins’ class of 1985 who currently serves on the university’s Board of Trustees, was the guest speaker for the university’s 179th Commencement Exercises on May 19. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s ceremony was held on the university’s athletic practice fields to allow for a socially distanced setting that best and most safely accommodated all graduates and guests. Attendance was limited to up to three guests per graduate.

Hollins honored a total of 269 undergraduate and graduate students, including members of the class of 2021 receiving bachelor’s degrees and graduate students earning advanced degrees in 2020 and 2021.179th Commencement Graduate Undergraduates from the class of 2020, whose commencement was postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, elected to have their celebration coincide with Hollins’ Reunion Weekend, May 27-29, 2022.

Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton paid tribute to the graduating students for how they learned and thrived despite what she described as “perhaps the most disruptive crisis in our history. You cared for yourselves, one another, and this community.”

Hinton continued, “Even more, you showed concern for those beyond this community. Long before the racial reckonings of the summer of 2020, this class called Hollins to be more just, more inclusive, more equitable. You demanded that we do better and become consistent advocates, allies, and activists. In our most challenging moments, in the face of injustice, violence, and hate, you lifted one another, your Hollins family, and our institution. We shared hurt and heartache. But we also shared hope. We shared the work. We called on one another to be our best selves and, when conditions made that difficult, we offered compassion and support. You were strong and courageous, vulnerable and caring.”

179th Commencement StudentKolmstetter, an industrial and organizational psychologist, has pioneered numerous innovative talent management programs across eight federal agencies, including the FBI, CIA, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence. She conveyed to graduates that whatever they want in life is achievable “because you have Hollins,” and employed each letter in the university’s name, “H-O-L-L-I-N-S,” to cite the advantages of their Hollins experience. She devoted “H” to President Mary Dana Hinton, who is completing her first academic year at Hollins. Kolmstetter called her “an extraordinary leader and role model. She has engaged the entire Hollins community. She is authentic, a powerful and prolific communicator, and inspires all of us to be our best selves. As you go forth, lead as she does with grace and grit, smarts and heart.”

“O” represents the campus community’s optimism, which Kolmstetter said “has already gotten you through unexpected challenges and allowed you to innovate and create new opportunities. It is a great strength that will give you courage to adventure further.”

The first “L” stands for the liberal arts education offered at Hollins, which Kolmstetter said emphasizes “skills such as critical thinking, communication, self-expression, and the ability to view ideas from multiple perspectives. Show those off every chance you get.” The second “L” is laughter. “It really is the best medicine,” Kolmstetter explained. She cited research from Stanford Business School on the positive effects of laughter, especially during the pandemic, on “relieving stress, healing illnesses, and helping cope with difficult situations. You’ve had hours of laughter with your friends and faculty, so keep that going. The more you laugh, the better the journey will be.”

Ingenuity is the “I” in “H-O-L-L-I-N-S.” “Together, you and this entire campus have used ingenuity and perseverance…to navigate the challenges of the last 15 months,” said Kolmstetter. “These two qualities179th Commencement Mortarboard will serve you well as you go forward.”

“N” is for nimble. “I am pretty sure you have all learned that you can act faster and bounce back more nimbly that even you thought,” Kolmstetter stated. “Rigid and status quo is ‘out.’ Nimble and thriving in change is ‘in.’ Employers want to know you are nimble and adaptive to change. Use it to your great advantage as you pursue your dreams.”

And, “S” reflects sisterhood. “You are part of the Hollins sisterhood, women who celebrate each other’s wins and support each other through hard times – and always understand you,” Kolmstetter said. “There truly is no friend like a sister. Things in life seem a little less scary when you know your sisters are there for you.

“Welcome class of 2021 to the greatest sisterhood on Earth!”

Kolmstetter concluded by telling graduates to do one thing “before you leave the Hollins gates: Close your eyes and envision your one big, scary dream. Then, write down H-O-L-L-I-N-S and a word or phrase for each letter. Perhaps some of mine resonated with you, but I am sure you have your own, too. Tuck it in your diploma or a favorite Hollins picture…and from time to time, use it to remind yourself of all you have to fearlessly pursue your dreams. No matter where you go or what you do, you have Hollins and you can do anything.”

179th Commencement StageHinton urged graduates to “hold tight to your beliefs. You have proven your strength. You have proven your character. Most of all, you have proven you are enough. Who you are is enough. How you are is enough. Who you love is enough. How you love is enough. In your joy and sadness you are enough. In the face of criticism, lies, and pain, you are enough. On your very best day, on your very worst day, you are enough. Believe that. Rise with that.”

Other highlights of this year’s commencement included the presentation of the following honors:

  • Ivana Esther Martinez, a Spanish major from Sterling, Virginia, received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Student Award. Given by the New York Southern Society in memory of the founder, this award recognizes a senior who has shown by daily living those qualities that evidence a spirit of love and helpfulness to other men and women. Megan Canfield, the university’s director of student activities and orientation, was presented the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Community Award, which is given to a person associated with Hollins who has shown in daily living and work those characteristics that exhibit the noblest of spiritual and human qualities.
  • The Annie Terrill Bushnell Award was given to Emma McAnirlin, a classical studies major from Newport, Maine. The award honors the senior who has evidenced the finest spirit of leadership during her days at Hollins.
  • The Jane Cocke Funkhouser Award, recognizing the junior or senior who is preeminent in character in addition to being a good student, was presented to Shravani Chitineni, a biology major from Cary, North Carolina.

 

 


Hollins Celebrates 179th Commencement May 19

Hollins University will honor members of the class of 2021 receiving bachelor’s degrees, and graduate students earning advanced degrees in both 2020 and 2021, during the school’s 179th Commencement Exercises, which will be held on Wednesday, May 19, at 10 a.m.

Undergraduates from the class of 2020, whose commencement was postponed last year due to the pandemic, have elected to have their celebration coincide with Hollins’ Reunion Weekend, May 27-29, 2022.

In order to best and most safely accommodate all graduates and guests, and to ensure Hollins is in full compliance with the commencement guidelines issued in March by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, the ceremony will be held on the university’s athletic practice fields. Attendance is limited to up to three guests per graduate.

The event may be viewed virtually through the commencement livestream beginning that day at 9:50 a.m.

The 179th Commencement Exercises will recognize undergraduate and graduate students who are pursuing the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Arts and Fine Arts, and Bachelor of Science degrees, as well as the Master of Fine Arts, Master of Arts, Master of Arts in Teaching, and Master of Arts in Liberal Studies degrees. The following awards will also be announced:

  • The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, honoring a senior and a member of the Hollins community who have shown by daily living those qualities that demonstrate a love and helpfulness to others.
  • The Annie Terrill Bushnell Award, presented to a senior who has evidenced the finest spirit of leadership during their days at Hollins.
  • The Jane Cocke Funkhouser Award, highlighting the junior or senior who, in addition to being a good student, is preeminent in character and leadership.

Elizabeth Kolmstetter, Ph.D., a member of Hollins’ class of 1985 who has pioneered numerous innovative talent management programs across eight federal agencies, will be the guest speaker. An industrial and organizational psychologist, Kolmstetter has excelled at leading organizational change across some of our nation’s most prominent agencies such as the FBI, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the CIA. After 9/11, she helped start the new Transportation Security Administration where she led the hiring of the largest civilian workforce in U.S. history in one year.

Kolmstetter currently serves as NASA’s director of talent strategy and engagement. Her efforts have contributed to NASA being named the Best Place to Work in government and she was recently recognized with NASA’s 2020 Outstanding Leadership Medal. She is a member of the Hollins University Board of Trustees, has served on several nonprofit boards, and is the recipient of Hollins’ Distinguished Alumnae Award and Hollins’ Honoris Causa. Her mother, Paula P. Brownlee, served as president of Hollins from 1981 – 1990. Her husband, Michael, earned his Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Hollins in 1990.

Visit the 179th Commencement Exercises webpage for more information on this year’s ceremony.

 


With Safely Accommodating All Graduates and Guests the Priority, Hollins to Conduct Commencement Exercises May 19

Hollins University will honor the class of 2021 during commencement exercises on Wednesday, May 19, at 10 a.m. ET.

In order to best and most safely accommodate all graduates and guests, and to ensure the university is in full compliance with the commencement guidelines recently issued by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, the ceremony will be held on the athletic practice fields across from the Batten Tennis Center on West Campus Drive.

The ceremony will recognize undergraduate and graduate students who are pursuing the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Arts and Fine Arts, and Bachelor of Science degrees, as well as the Master of Fine Arts, Master of Arts, Master of Arts in Teaching, and Master of Arts in Liberal Studies degrees. The following awards will also be announced:

  • The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, honoring a senior and a member of the Hollins community who have shown by daily living those qualities that demonstrate a love and helpfulness to others.
  • The Annie Terrill Bushnell Award, presented to a senior who has evidenced the finest spirit of leadership during their days at Hollins.
  • The Jane Cocke Funkhouser Award, highlighting the junior or senior who, in addition to being a good student, is preeminent in character and leadership.
Elizabeth Kolmstetter '85
Elizabeth Kolmstetter, Ph.D., a member of Hollins’ class of 1985, will deliver the commencement address.

Elizabeth Kolmstetter, Ph.D., a member of Hollins’ class of 1985 who has pioneered numerous innovative talent management programs across eight federal agencies, will be the guest speaker. An industrial and organizational psychologist, Kolmstetter has excelled at leading organizational change across some of our nation’s most prominent agencies such as the FBI, ODNI, and CIA. After 9/11, she helped start the new Transportation Security Administration where she led the hiring of the largest civilian workforce in U.S. history in one year.

Kolmstetter currently serves as NASA’s director of talent strategy and engagement. Her efforts have contributed to NASA being named the Best Place to Work in government and she was recently recognized with NASA’s 2020 Outstanding Leadership Medal. She is a member of the Hollins University Board of Trustees, has served on several nonprofit boards, and is the recipient of Hollins’ Distinguished Alumnae Award and Hollins’ Honoris Causa.

Kolmstetter is married to Michael (MALS ’90) and her mother is Paula P. Brownlee, who was president of Hollins from 1981 – 1990.


Hollins Announces September 6 as New Date for Commencement

Hollins University’s 178th Commencement Exercises, postponed from their original date of May 24 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have been rescheduled.

Interim President Nancy Oliver Gray stated that this year’s Commencement will take place on Sunday, September 6, during the Labor Day holiday weekend.

The university made what Gray described as “a heartbreaking decision” on April 1 to delay Commencement following Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s temporary stay-at-home order, which remains in effect through June 10. “This is a huge disappointment for our graduating students and their families and friends, as it is for our academic community,” she explained. “However, we are eager for our graduates to still have the special celebration they deserve.”

The university’s Baccalaureate Service, a multifaith worship service of blessing and a traditional part of the Commencement observance each year, will be held on Saturday, September 5, “along with other festivities to honor our graduates,” Gray said.

Gray noted that should the progression of the pandemic make it prohibitive to hold Commencement on Labor Day weekend, the ceremony will be conducted during the Memorial Day weekend next year on Sunday, May 30, 2021.

Visit Hollins’ coronavirus preparedness webpage for more information on how the university is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

 

 

 


“A Heartbreaking Decision”: Hollins Postpones 178th Commencement Exercises

Interim President Nancy Oliver Gray has announced that Hollins University’s 178th Commencement Exercises, scheduled for May 24, have been postponed.

What Gray called a “heartbreaking decision” was made as a result of the temporary stay-at-home order issued this week by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to protect the health of Virginians and mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. The order, which is in effect until June 10, prohibits public gatherings of more than 10 people.

“This is particularly difficult news for our seniors, who were already feeling a deep sense of loss after missing other senior activities and their final months as a class together; our graduating grad students; and those students’ families,” Gray said, adding, “I share their disappointment as I, too, was anticipating their special day. This is not the end of the academic year that any of us would have wanted.”

Gray assured the class of 2020 that “although we cannot hold our Commencement Exercises on the scheduled date, we can look forward to enjoying this important event at another time. We will work hard to find the best way for our graduates to come together and celebrate their many accomplishments.” She noted that alternate dates and plans would be shared in the near future.

Visit Hollins’ coronavirus preparedness webpage regularly for updates on the university’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 


Alumna and Civil Justice Advocate to Speak at 178th Commencement Exercises

Tiffany Marshall Graves ’97, who has been at the forefront of advancing civil justice in Mississippi, will be the guest speaker at Hollins University’s 178th Commencement Exercises.

This year’s ceremony takes place on Sunday, May 24, at 10 a.m. on Hollins’ historic Front Quadrangle.

Since 2018, Graves has worked as pro bono counsel for Bradley Arant Boult & Cummings LLP in Jackson, Mississippi. She oversees the development and administration of the firm’s pro bono programs, which help address the unmet legal needs of indigent individuals and charitable institutions across the firm’s footprint.

Prior to joining Bradley, Graves was the executive director of the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission, where she led a 21-member commission created by the Mississippi Supreme Court and promoted its initiatives to improve and expand access to civil legal services to the nearly 700,000 Mississippians living in poverty. She was responsible for developing strategic goals and building coalitions to enhance the civil legal aid and delivery system. She supported the evolving needs of underserved populations through critical outreach and programming. She also maintained working relationships with regional and national legal nonprofits, bar associations, and access to justice leaders.

Graves previously served as interim director and adjunct professor for the Pro Bono Initiative at the University of Mississippi School of Law, and as executive director and general counsel for the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project.

Originally from Winchester, Virginia, Graves graduated with honors from Hollins with degrees in political science and Spanish as well as membership in Phi Beta Kappa, Pi Sigma Alpha (the political science honor society), and Sigma Delta Pi (the Spanish honor society). She went on to earn her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, where she became only the fifth student to receive the Powell Fellowship in Legal Services. The fellowship enables a graduate of the law school to work in public interest law to enhance the delivery of legal services to the poor under the sponsorship of a public interest organization.

For her work on behalf of the citizens of Mississippi, Graves has received numerous awards, including Outstanding Woman Lawyer of the Year from the Mississippi Women Lawyers Association (2013); Distinguished Service Award, The Mississippi Bar (2016); and Leader of the Year, Young, Gifted and Empowered Awards (2019). Hollins recognized her with its Distinguished Young Alumna Award in 2017.

For more information about Hollins’ 178th Commencement Exercises, visit our commencement webpage.


“Keep On Defeating Those Mountains”: Class of 2019 Is Celebrated At 177th Commencement

EduSeed Executive Director Shireen K. Lewis encouraged Hollins University’s class of 2019 to take the power of sisterhood into the world and “create a truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive community for all women” at the school’s 177th Commencement Exercises on May 26.

Lewis was the guest speaker at the morning ceremony, which was held on Hollins’ historic Front Quadrangle. The university conferred 224 undergraduate and graduate degrees at this year’s event.

Lewis, who has devoted more than 20 years to mentoring and coaching women and girls, leads EduSeed’s efforts to promote education in historically disadvantaged and underserved communities. She also founded the organization’s SisterMentors program, which supports learning among women and girls of color.

A graduate of Douglass College, a women’s college at Rutgers University, Lewis cited the continuing importance and value of women’s colleges today and “their desire to create something new, something different, something that is more just.” Referencing Hollins’ beloved Tinker Day tradition and the scaling of nearby Tinker Mountain, she proclaimed, “Nobody can say that Hollins women don’t know how to defeat a mountain. So, keep on defeating those mountains, Hollins women! Let’s imagine and build together a world where we listen to all women when they speak the truth. Let’s imagine and build together a world where not just a few women are free, but all women are free – free from all kinds of harm.

“I believe the petri dish for this kind of world is women in communities, including women’s colleges, who are willing to take a critical look at themselves and challenge our assumptions about women’s lives.”

Lewis concluded by thanking the class of 2019 for putting in the “emotional labor” to enhance living and studying at Hollins. “Every one of you contributed in some way and worked to make this place much better than how you found it when you first arrived on campus.”

Other highlights of this year’s commencement included the presentation of the following honors:

  • Shalan Mitchell, an English major from Chesapeake, Virginia, received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Student Award. Given by the New York Southern Society in memory of the founder, this award recognizes a senior who has shown by daily living those qualities that evidence a spirit of love and helpfulness to other men and women. Rev. Jenny Call, who serves as university chaplain at Hollins, was presented the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Community Award, which is given to a person associated with Hollins who has shown in daily living and work those characteristics that exhibit the noblest of spiritual and human qualities.
  • The Annie Terrill Bushnell Award was given to Hanna Strauss, a double-major in Spanish and political science from Keswick, Virginia. The award honors the senior who has evidenced the finest spirit of leadership during her days at Hollins.
  • The Jane Cocke Funkhouser Award, recognizing the junior or senior who is preeminent in character in addition to being a good student, was given to Nina Keller, a double-major in history and sociology from South Jamesport, New York.
  • The First Faculty Award for Academic Excellence, recognizing the student or students with the highest academic standing in the class of 2019, was presented to Shannen Kelly, a double-major in environmental science and Spanish from Tolland, Connecticut, and Bibhu Sapkota, a double-major in mathematics and economics from Mandan, Nepal. Maria Junco Rivera, a double-major in English and French from Cocoa, Florida, received the Second Faculty Award for Academic Excellence for earning the second-highest academic standing.

Watch Hollins University’s 177th Commencement in its entirety here.

View a gallery of commencement photos here.