Hollins Professor Receives NEH Summer Stipend to Underwrite Book Project

Ruth Alden Doan Assistant Professor of History Christopher Florio has received a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Stipend award of $6,000 to support his project, “The Problem of Poverty in the Anglo-American Age of Slave Emancipation, 1780-1865.”

Florio, a member of the Hollins faculty since 2019, is writing a book on responses to poverty across the Anglo-American world in the wake of slave emancipation. The book traces the historical relationship between slavery’s abolition and the emergent forms of racialized and global inequality that began to coalesce in slavery’s wake.

The NEH Summer Stipends program aims to stimulate new research in the humanities and its publication. The program works to accomplish this goal by:

  • Providing small awards to individuals pursuing advanced research that is of value to humanities scholars, general audiences, or both.
  • Supporting projects at any stage of development, but especially early-stage research and late-stage writing in which small awards are most effective.
  • Funding a wide range of individuals, including independent scholars, community college faculty, and non-teaching staff at universities.

Summer Stipends support continuous full-time work on a humanities project for a period of two consecutive months. NEH funds may support recipients’ compensation, travel, and other costs related to the proposed scholarly research. In the last five cycles, this nationally competitive program received an average of 812 applications per year. It has only an 11% funding ratio with the NEH making an average of 90 awards per year. The maximum individual award amount is $6,000.

Overall, the NEH announced more than $35 million in grants this month for humanities projects throughout the country. “These 258 newly funded projects demonstrate the vitality of the humanities across our nation,” said NEH Chair Shelly C. Lowe (Navajo). “NEH is proud to support exemplary education, preservation, media, research, and infrastructure projects that expand resources for Americans, support humanities programs and opportunities for underserved students and communities, and deepen our understanding of our history, culture, and society.”

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the NEH supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation.


Hollins Mourns the Loss of Celebrated Professor, Author, and Scholar R.H.W. Dillard

Memorial Service

A memorial service for Professor Richard H. W. Dillard will be held in Hollins University’s duPont Chapel at 4 p.m. on Friday, April 14. A reception will immediately follow the service in the Lewis Reading Room, Wyndham Robertson Library. The service is open to the public and will also be livestreamed. Professor Dillard served Hollins for 59 years and was an active member of the faculty until the time of his death. 

Please join us in celebrating his legacy on Friday.

R.H.W. Dillard, renowned author and figure in the creative writing world, and a devoted member of the Department of English and Creative Writing at Hollins University for 59 years, died Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in Roanoke.

A distinguished member of the Hollins faculty since 1964 and Roanoke native, Dillard earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Roanoke College and completed his Master of Arts and Ph.D. at the University of Virginia, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He went on to serve as chair of the Department of English and Creative Writing at Hollins for 33 years, where he taught creative writing, British and American literature, and film. He was editor of the Hollins Critic, the university’s literary journal, since 1996, and editor-in-chief of Children’s Literature, the annual of the Children’s Literature Association, since 1992. He founded Hollins’ graduate program in children’s literature and taught in the program in its early years.

Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton noted that Dillard is “synonymous with our English and creative writing program. I know our community will grieve this tremendous loss.”

“No one did more than Dillard to turn the raw talent of Hollins University’s creative writing program into national stars, or to catapult [it] into one of America’s Top 20 programs,” The Roanoker magazine noted in 2009. “Dillard mentored approximately 800 aspiring writers from around the world, including such Pulitzer winners and stellar authors as Annie Dillard, Lee Smith, Madison Smart-Bell, Jill McCorkle, Henry Taylor, Natasha Trethewey, and Kiran Desai. For his contribution to other writers, Dillard was awarded the 2007 Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) George Garrett Award.”

“No professor has ever done more in the service of literature or the humanities than Richard Dillard.” – Lee Smith ’67

In nominating Dillard for the Garrett Award, Professor of English Emerita Jeanne Larsen wrote, “His grace and gifts and generosity of spirit make him almost unique in my experience. In Richard’s career as editor, program builder, community sustainer, mentor, critic, life-changing teacher, top-notch writer, and idea guy, he’s helped countless young (and not young) writers, directly or behind the scenes. He has transformed a program, helped start others, edited journals, nourished writers’ groups, written critical pieces that lifted up neglected writers, and sent four decades’ worth of writing teachers out across the country to do work that keeps our art alive.”

In 1987, Dillard was named Virginia’s Professor of the Year. “His award is hardly remarkable,” The Roanoke Times reported, “considering the fervent recommendations of colleagues and former students sent to CASE (the Council for Advancement and Support of Education). [The] high-powered national education association chose him over nominees from 17 other Virginia schools.”

Dillard was also a prolific and acclaimed author and scholar in his own right. His works include The Day I Stopped Dreaming About Barbara Steele and Other Poems; News of the Nile; After Borges; The Greeting: New and Selected Poems; The Book of Changes; Horror Films; The First Man on the Sun; Understanding George Garrett; Just Here, Just Now; Omniphobia; Sallies; What Is Owed the Dead; and Not Ideas: Philosophical Poems. He also penned many stories, poems, essays, and literary translations. Dillard received both the O.B. Hardison and Hanes poetry prizes and was inducted into the Fellowship of Southern Writers in 2011. The Virginia Writers Club honored him with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

Dillard was the founder of Groundhog Poetry Press, which he described as “a small, independent press dedicated to publishing absolutely the best poetry we can find without regard to any factor other than quality.”

Dillard’s life, influence, and legacy will be forever cherished by colleagues and former students alike. “No professor has ever done more in the service of literature or the humanities than Richard Dillard,” author Lee Smith ‘67 stated in 1987. “No professor has ever done more to help his students – following their progress, in many cases, throughout their lives, supporting and advising them at every critical juncture. I remain profoundly grateful.”

After Dillard’s death was shared with the Hollins community, Susan Gager Jackson Professor of Creative Writing and Associate Professor of English Thorpe Moeckel, who currently serves as director of the Jackson Center for Creative Writing, reflected, “Richard said with his eyes and his grin more than his breath. He told me before I came to Hollins, ‘Be of good voice.’ I still feel those words as if it’s a collective voice, a voice of everything good, loving, and true we’ve known, a voice of and beyond language. Richard is missed, but he’s with us, his voice on and off the page, puzzling us in various ways to endeavor to care.”


Meditation for a Pickle Suite
by Richard Dillard

Morning: the soft release
As you open a jar of pickles.
The sun through the window warm
And moving like light through the brine,
The shadows of pickles swim the floor.
And in the tree, flowing down the chimney,
The songs of fresh birds clean as pickles.
Memories float through the day
Like pickles, perhaps sweet gherkins.
The past rises and falls
Like curious pickles in dark jars,
Your hands are sure as pickles,
Opening dreams like albums,
Pale Polish pickles.
Your eyes grow sharp as pickles,
Thoughts as green, as shining
As rows of pickles, damp and fresh,
Placed out in the afternoon sun.




In New Essay, Hollins Professor Looks at How 19th-century Novels for Girls Are Relevant Today

When it comes to addressing the challenges and anxieties of modern-day girlhood, Professor of English Julie Pfeiffer believes we are contemplating the wrong question.

“What if instead of asking ‘How do we fix girls?,’” she proposes, “we ask: ‘How do we fix our understanding of adolescence?’”

That’s the focus of Pfeiffer’s new essay in Psyche, a digital magazine that sheds light on the human condition through the insight of experts in psychology, philosophy, and the arts. In “Forget ‘Little Women’: How Did Girls Learn to be Grown Women?”, Pfeiffer explores how Victorian-era novels for adolescent girls might help in finding healthier models of what it means to grow up female.

“A more nuanced understanding of 19th-century girlhood is described in early German books for adolescent girls,” Pfeiffer writes. “For the awkward, uncertain girls in their pages, adolescence does not require withdrawal from connections with adults, or a rejection of the family that supported them through childhood, but new adult mentors and friends who provide instruction and acceptance.”

Pfeiffer cites the Backfisch (a German slang word for a teenage girl) books, such as Clementine Helm’s Gretchen’s Joys and Sorrows (1863). “Backfisch books suggest that the girl does not need to await her future passively….With the help of mentors and peers, these girls can make themselves into women who contribute as wives, mothers, and community members.” Pfeiffer notes that American novels published around the same time “describe girls who leave loving homes to learn to grow up with the help of aunts and teachers and friends.” As they reflected themes found in the Backfisch books, these books were translated and distributed in a German-American exchange.

“What is surprising about these 19th-century girls’ books is that they focus not on the product – a perfect Victorian woman – but on the process and effort that makes the transformation of girl into woman possible,” Pfeiffer says.

The perspective of literature centering on adolescent girls, however, began to shift in the 20th century. “Adolescence is increasingly seen as a time of ‘storm and stress,’” Pfeiffer explains, “and the assumption that teenagers will be alienated from adults gains momentum.” By 2003, a study published by Duke University’s Women’s Initiative was calling attention to “a social environment characterized by what one sophomore called ‘effortless perfection’; the expectation that one would be smart, accomplished, fit, beautiful, and popular, and that all this would happen without visible effort.”

Nineteenth-century novels for girls, according to Pfeiffer, offer “an antidote to the stress of effortless perfection by naming the ‘creaking of the wheels’ that running a household and managing a body requires. [They] don’t just train them how to become good women, they also acknowledge the hard work this transformation requires.”

She adds, “While many 21st-century adolescent girls are asked to negotiate a system of invisible labour without instruction or any acknowledgement of the difficulty of this task, Backfisch books made visible to the work that becoming a woman in the 19th century required, while assuring girls they would be loved despite their awkwardness and mistakes. These books affirmed the role of a community of peers and mentors in helping girls make the significant transition from girlhood to womanhood.”

Pfeiffer recommends emulating the mentors found in the 19th-century Backfisch books. “We can recognize the hard work of growing up, and allow girls to be tired or to slip up, and normalise messy adolescence. If we see that teenage girls need rest and praise, and care and instruction – not just from their parents, but from a whole community – then maybe we can make growing up a shared project, and relish the transformative potential of adolescence.”

A member of the Hollins faculty since 1997, Pfeiffer has published scholarly articles on the Backfisch books in Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature and Mothers in Children’s and Young Adult Literature: from the Eighteenth Century to Postfeminism. She is also the author of the book Transforming Girls: The Work of Nineteenth-Century Adolescence, published by University Press of Mississippi in 2021.






VFIC Honors Hollins Professor with “Rising Star” Award

For her dedication to higher education and student success, Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Sciences Mary Jane Carmichael has received the 2022 H. Hiter Harris III Rising Star Award from the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC).

After teaching high school science for six years at the beginning of her career, Carmichael decided to pursue an advanced degree with a goal of becoming a faculty member at a small, liberal arts institution. She completed her M.S. in biology from Appalachian State University and then returned to her alma mater, Wake Forest University, where she earned her Ph.D. in biology.

Nora Kizer Bell Provost Laura McLary noted that Carmichael, who joined the Hollins faculty in 2017, sees higher education “as a true and clear calling. Students are attracted to her radiant confidence and natural care for their growth and development, as well as her humble kindness and generous spirit. As developing scientists in a field still largely dominated by men, her students draw strength from the example she sets: a scientist with deep disciplinary knowledge and an inquisitive mind, an emerging leading researcher, and a practiced, inclusive teacher.”

McLary praised Carmichael’s “incredible range, offering courses from ecology to microbiology to general education science breadth courses. She is the very best kind of teacher who is also a consummate learner, continuously seeking to expand her teaching skills and tools and even the content of her courses, so that she can best meet the needs of her students.”

Carmichael’s research has taken her from the mountains to the sea, from belly crawling in caves in eastern Tennessee to mucking through wetlands in coastal North Carolina. At Hollins, she has supported student research on a variety of topics, from the human microbiome to cave ecology to the physiological ecology of high-elevation spruce fir forests in the Appalachian Mountains.

“Two of her publications were coauthored with Hollins undergraduate students, and in the last five years, she has mentored and trained over a dozen student researchers,” McLary stated. “She has also received a prestigious National Science Foundation/Robert Noyce Capacity Building Grant. By developing a stronger pipeline of STEM educators from Hollins and into high-need, rural school districts, she is leading the way to change the face and nature of STEM education at Hollins and in the region of behalf of young women pursuing careers in STEM.”

This year, Carmichael was presented Hollins’ Herta Freitag Legacy Award, which recognizes a full-time teaching faculty member who has received external recognition for professional excellence in research and scholarship. “It is remarkable that Dr. Carmichael, as an early-career assistant professor, is the recipient of the Freitag Award,” McLary said. “It is even more remarkable that her contributions to teaching and service are equal to her outstanding record of research and discovery in her field.”

Carmichael was honored at the VFIC Annual Fall Luncheon and Harris Family Awards Presentation, held November 3 in Richmond.


“A Poet at the Top of His Form”: Hollins Professor’s Newest Collection Is Published

The often lost and surprising senses of the world and of words are exhumed in According to Sand, the new volume of poems by Thorpe Moeckel, associate professor of English and director of the Jackson Center for Creative Writing at Hollins University.

Mercer University Press, the book’s publisher, calls According to Sand “an aching, wryly joyous collection that embodies the erosive and porous qualities of sand and invites us to recognize how we might remain among the remains, settling, shifting, filtering, and surviving. While ranging from creekbanks to hummocks, from barrier islands to ridges and hollers (from the Kansas River to West Penobscot Bay, to the Edisto, to various tributaries of the New and the James, the Neuse and the Savannah), these creaturely poems track the abundant and the minimal, singing (in praise and loss) the uncanniness of existence.”

Chris Dombrowski, acclaimed author of The River You Touch, praises Moeckel and According to Sand. “I have been an admirer of Thorpe Moeckel’s poems for many years, searching them out as one looks forAccording to Sand Book Cover morels or thimbleberries in the woods, but here, in the brilliant According to Sand, is a book to subsist on. Line by supremely original line, it illuminates – and is illuminated by – ‘the fleeting infinities’ of the natural world, of which we are a minuscule (see: sand grain) but luminous part. Moeckel is an utterly necessary poet at the top of his form, as fully manifested as a trillium in full bloom.”

Raised in Atlanta, Moeckel has taught in the writing program at Hollins since 2005. His first book of poems, Odd Botany, won the Gerald Cable Book Award in 2000, as well as the George Garrett Award for New Writing from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. In subsequent poetry books, Making a Map of the River, Venison, and Arcadia Road, as well as two nonfiction books, Watershed Days and Down by the Eno, Down by the Haw, Moeckel has stayed close to the woods and rivers of the Appalachians while exploring a variety of themes.

Moeckel’s work has been widely anthologized and has appeared in many journals and magazines, among them Field, Open City, The Antioch Review, Poetry Daily, Taproot, Orion, Poetry, The Southern Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review.




Hollins Professor’s Latest Film Earns Prestigious Sponsorship from Women Make Movies

The new production from a Hollins University film professor is receiving major support from the world’s leading distributor of independent films by and about women.

Associate Professor of Film Amy Gerber-Stroh’s Hope of Escape has earned official sponsorship from Women Make Movies (WMM), a nonprofit media arts organization based in New York City. For 50 years, WMM has backed women directors and producers in an effort to promote a diverse and inclusive filmmaking landscape.

“Hundreds of films by women have been made with the help of WMM’s Production Assistance Program,” Gerber-Stroh explained. Along with fiscal sponsorship, the program “offers professional development, nonprofit tax-exempt status, consultations, and workshops. Films and filmmakers supported by the organization have won Academy Awards, Emmys, and prizes at major film festivals worldwide.”

Currently in post-production, Hope of Escape is based on the true story of the journey of an enslaved mother and daughter who must escape before they are sold and separated forever. Their only hope is to connect with their free relatives in the North and convince the most powerful abolitionists of their time to help them.

Hope of Escape champions the enslaved American heroes and abolitionist allies who, leading up to the Civil War, were willing to take on immense risk in order to combat the wretchedness of slavery,” Gerber-Hope of Escape PosterStroh said. “As a descendant of slaves, I wish to add a different perspective to the lesser-known story of our collective historical memory by shining light onto the ‘above-ground railroad’ where slave masters were paid ‘ransoms’ (much like how Frederick Douglass gained his freedom) by families, mostly in the North, in order to free their enslaved relatives.”

Gerber-Stroh noted that “it ‘took a village’ to fundraise and emancipate a slave. Hope of Escape shows how my own family depended on a complex network of abolitionists, both inside and outside the United States. We see how, even though separated for many years and by thousands of miles, families (both free and enslaved) managed to keep their connections, holding onto hope that their circumstances would change for the better.”

Researching and making Hope of Escape has been a profoundly moving experience for Gerber-Stroh. “It has taught me that the women in my family, as well as women in scores of other families, did indeed resist with fierce hope in their hearts during slavery times. They courageously persevered so that their descendants (like me) can keep fighting and hopefully someday escape the national nightmare of institutional slavery and its lasting consequences. In a small way, my film is part of that fight.”

Gerber-Stroh has written and directed independent films, which focus on the intersection of memory, culture, and history, for over 30 years. Her films have won honors at numerous national and international film festivals. She chairs the film department at Hollins, where she teaches production, animation, and film studies.



Hollins Professor’s Photographic Work Is Showcased in Bridgewater College Exhibition

Assistant Professor of Art Mary Zompetti will exhibit “The Lost Garden” at Bridgewater College’s Beverly Perdue Art Gallery from August 22 through September 27.

An opening reception will be held on Monday, August 29, from 5 to 7 p.m. with a talk at 5:30 p.m.

A photographic artist, Zompetti utilizes traditional and experimental analog photographic methods to investigate land, home, and environment. Her recent camera-less photographic work explores the delicate and resilient nature of film emulsion exposed to environmental conditions where she collaborates with light, weather, and time to create unique photographs that embrace chance, mistake, and deterioration. “The Lost Garden” series is created by exposing large-format film to environmental conditions over extended periods of time. Wind, rain, ice, and snow alter the film, leaving time- and place-specific impressions.

“My creative process is driven by curious experimentation with analog photographic materials – not in the quest for the perfect, captured moment, but rather for the possibilities that exist when control is relinquished and chance helps guide both the process and questions being asked by the work,” Zompetti said. “This curiosity excites and drives me to push the medium further, seeing what is possible outside the parameters of traditional photographic processes.”

Zompetti received an M.F.A. in visual arts from the Lesley University College of Art and Design in Cambridge, Mass., and a B.F.A. in visual arts from Northern Vermont University. She is a recipient of the 2020 Vermont Arts Council Creation Grant in support of new analog, camera-less photographic work, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including at the Photographic Resource Center in Boston, the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University, the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, Mass., the Mjólkurbúðin Gallery in Akureyri, Iceland, and the A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn, N.Y. Zompetti has attended artist residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and at the Gil Residency in Akureyri, Iceland, and her work is also held in several collections, including the artist book libraries at Yale University and the Banff Center for Arts and Creativity.

The exhibition, opening reception, and artist’s talk are free and open to the public. The gallery, located on the main floor of the John Kenny Forrer Learning Commons, is open from 7:30 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; and noon to midnight on Sunday.

Zompetti appeared on “The Mike Schikman Show” on WSVA Radio in Harrisonburg to talk about the exhibition.


Hollins Professor R. H. W. Dillard Revisits His Connection To Cult Classic Film “Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster”

When Hollins Professor of English R. H. W. Dillard was just a grad student at the University of Virginia, he never imagined an expensive bottle of whiskey and a $50 payment to write a screenplay with acclaimed writer George Garrett would result in one of the most (in)famous sci-fi/horror films in American cinema: the 1965 cult classic Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (FMtSM). And yet that’s exactly what happened. Sort of.

“Given all the things going on both in class and out of class in the world, I don’t think much about FMtSM these days,” said Dillard about the sole film he co-wrote nearly six decades ago. “But I do think of it in class on certain occasions, such as my Kubrick class this last semester, since FMtSM‘s director, Robert Gaffney, was a close associate of Stanley K. and worked on several of the pictures we studied. Then, I put on my FMtSM t-shirt and puff with pride.”

If the title of the movie sounds ridiculous, well, that’s because it is. The flick’s about a modern-day Frankenstein’s monster (named appropriately enough Col. Frank Saunders) created by the U.S. military in order to combat an impending alien invasion aimed at kidnapping earth women to repropagate their race. The film premiered in the summer of  ’65 at the Trieste Science Fiction Film Festival in Italy and for a while was even paired as a double feature with Golden Globe-winning film Inside Daisy Clover, which starred Natalie Wood and Robert Redford.

The sci-fi picture about women-absconding extraterrestrials didn’t win any awards, but over the years, much to Dillard’s surprise, FMtSM became a cult classic, appraised by audiences and critics as either brilliantly funny or so outrageously bad as to be impossible to not (secretly) savor the train-wreck appeal of the film’s ludicrous plot, 60s-saturated soundtrack, and over-reliance on stock footage (that doesn’t always match). The film became so popular/notorious that Robin Williams even once used a scene from FMtSM on a cable TV show, and some clips were also included in a comedic documentary about B movies called It Came From Hollywood (even though FMtSM was neither produced by Hollywood nor shot there.)

Regardless of which end of the critical spectrum fans fall on, the film is now considered one of the first movies to have gathered a large cult following exactly because of its “campiness” or “camp,” a kind of aesthetic or style that’s so low budget and seemingly bad it actually boomerangs back to being really enjoyable. Think of Mel Brooks’ comedic masterpiece Young Frankenstein, a tongue-in-cheek homage to the age of black-and-white horror films, except FMtSM was ahead of its time, beating out Young Frankenstein by nearly a decade. And much like Young Frankenstein, FMtSM has maintained its camp-classic status for more than half a century now.

R.H.W. Dillard
Professor of English R.H.W. Dillard: “I do think of it in class on certain occasions. Then, I put on my ‘Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster’ t-shirt and puff with pride.”

However, most unbelievable about this little B-movie-that-could is the incredibly talented (perhaps overqualified) group of writers behind the screenplay. In addition to Dillard—who’s left his indelible mark in American literature, especially as a poet and editor of the Hollins Critic—the writing credits also include the aforementioned Poet Laureate of Virginia and Guggenheim Fellow George Garrett, and professor and publisher John Rodenbeck, who as the director of the American University in Cairo Press published an English translation of Naguib Mahfouz’s surrealist novel The Thief and the Dogs, which paved the way for Mahfouz’s Nobel Prize in Literature. (There’s even a rumor that Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Henry Taylor contributed some lines to FMtSM, but Dillard said that, although Taylor was a close friend of the group, he didn’t have a hand “or even a finger” in crafting the script.)

But how exactly did these three very different literary titans come together on such a Frankenstein’s creation as FMtSM? At the time, Dillard and Rodenbeck were both graduate students and part-time junior instructors at the University of Virginia, where Garrett, already an established poet and fictionist, was a professor in the English department. The three became fast friends, so close in fact that, according to Dillard, one night he and Rodenbeck “smuggled” their desks from the junior instructor room into the office of George and W. R. “Bill” Robinson, who would become a noted film scholar. Their shared space was marked by a slightly ironical sign that read, “Master Artists Corp.” Now the story goes that Garrett, who had some prior screenwriting experience, got a call one day from his old Princeton friend Richard Hilliard (who was fostering his own indie film aspirations) to write the story for a movie that had only a title. That title: Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster. Daunted by creating an entire script from such a ridiculous premise, Garrett reached out to Dillard and Rodenbeck for help. So the Master Artists Corp sat around Garrett’s kitchen table one night with a bottle of whiskey and began throwing out ideas for what would become the first draft for FMtSM.

For what it’s worth, the movie was originally intended to be a parody of the sci-fi/horror films that Dillard loved growing up. Of the three writers in the Master Artists Corp, he was the most versed in horror movies, and it’s actually a genre that fascinates and haunts him even today. “I am, of course, still trying to figure out the appeal of the horror film to my psyche, Frankenstein especially,” said Dillard. “Perhaps something dark in there beneath my cheerful demeanor.” The Hollins professor considers horror to be profound cinema that explores the dangers of technology, the inner darkness of humanity, and the compassion we can all have for our monsters. That first draft of FMtSM would’ve explored these themes, particularly through the manmade “monster” Col. Frank, with some comedic routines such as Frank’s legs, which were transplanted from a deceased tap dancer, breaking out into dance whenever the melody of “Sweet Georgia Brown” was played. Sound familiar to Mel Brooks’ monster from Young Frankenstein singing, or really groaning, “Puttin’ on the Ritz”? Except FMtSM would’ve done it first!

However, that’s not (necessarily) the film that got made. The producers of FMtSM, while amused by the original concept, wanted a serious horror film they could easily sell to the summer drive-in movie theater crowd. “I learned (and try to pass on to my students who don’t want to hear it) that the first version of a screenplay is far from the final version,” said Dillard, who’s also taught film and screenwriting courses at Hollins for years. “The final film may bear little resemblance to where the screenplay started out. That’s an important lesson and one that’s often overlooked in screenwriting classes.”

To that point, Dillard and the Corp did numerous rewrites on FMtSM, each straighter than the last, to appease an increasingly nervous pair of business-minded producers. And while the three writers had no hand (or even a finger) in the actual production of the movie, the end result does retain a lot of the initial script’s core ideas and even some scenes from the overtly comedic first draft, such as the gloriously cheesy and over-the-top performances of Princess Marcuzan and Dr. Nadir (the film’s two primary antagonists), and the impressive ineptitude of General Bowers, who chuckles over comics in the midst of an alien invasion.

It’s been more than half a century now since Dillard worked on FMtSM (and saw it at a Vinton drive-in where the reels were played out of order), but the campy classic that’s entertained multiple generations still occupies a special place in his heart. “Those days sharing an office with the other members of the Master Artists Corp were a joy and a delight, even though sadly enough I alone am left to tell thee,” said Dillard. “We had such a great time day-by-day, and FMtSM was a lasting (or so it seems) tribute to the good time we had.”

Isabell Kingori Brings Public Health Expertise to Hollins as Fulbright Scholar-In-Residence

Most people might not think of studying infectious diseases as a pleasant endeavor, but public health expert and parasitologist Isabell Kingori believes that sharing her knowledge with the world is one of the most fulfilling things she can do.

After a year-long delay to her arrival due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kingori has finally joined the Hollins community for the 2021-22 academic year as a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence. Kingori, who earned her bachelor’s degree in applied biology from Kenya Methodist University and her master’s degree and Ph.D. in applied parasitology from the University of Nairobi, is bringing an international perspective to Hollins’ own public health curriculum. She has taught both undergraduate and graduate students at Kenyatta University’s School of Public Health in Nairobi since 2018, with course topics including immunology, communicable diseases, and vector control.

“I first wanted to study parasitology because people in Kenya are affected by a lot of different diseases — and in order to control a disease, you must first understand it, how it’s spread, and at what part of the transmission cycle you want to stop it,” Kingori said. “I was motivated to do the Fulbright program because I felt the need to share my knowledge with a country that doesn’t face the same diseases that my country does. Any time I gain new information by researching, I want to share it with people who don’t know anything about it.”

Kingori’s expertise is certainly on display in the Vectors of Public Health Importance course that she is currently teaching. The class focuses on diseases that are transmitted to humans by organisms, particularly biting insects. “In Africa, we have so many diseases that are transmitted by insects, like malaria, sleeping sickness, and bilharzia. I’m teaching the students about the particular organisms that are responsible for these diseases, and how they can be controlled through methods such as trapping the insects,” she explained. “For example, malaria is transmitted by the anopheles mosquito, and mosquitoes breed in water. So there are environmental management measures we can take to make sure that mosquitos are not able to breed in the water.”

“I also want to help my students understand the importance of development in a nation, because the more a country is developed, the more it is able to tackle simple infections and diseases that would otherwise kill people in an underdeveloped nation. It’s so valuable to learn the milestones that have been met by certain countries in terms of improving health, education, and social systems because those are milestones that some countries still need to meet.”

Kingori isn’t the only one who’s passionate about her teaching opportunities at Hollins. “Dr. Kingori is able to provide incredible insights on health care disparities and disease systems in Africa,” said Elizabeth Gleim, assistant professor of biology and environmental studies. “Ensuring that our students going into health care and public health have a global perspective and understanding of systems outside of the U.S. is so incredibly important as we are cognizant more than ever of the international efforts that are often needed to address public health issues and the ability of diseases to so easily cross international borders thanks to modern-day travel.”

While studying diseases matters a great deal to Kingori, she’s equally as eager to be a mentor who can support her students in whatever ways they need. “What I value most about teaching is giving. As a teacher, you give a lot. Sometimes teachers don’t realize this, but students can carry what you give them for the rest of their lives. It could be something different from what you teach them in class, like the way you talk or handle yourself. Maybe they learn something from teachers who always come to class on time or mark the assignments on time,” she said. “A teacher who talks to students and encourages them and tells them that they’re going to make it in life has a heavy impact.

“I just want to give students hope that there’s going to be a better future. That’s why I’m always so happy when I see my former students working. I’ll learn that they’re giving immunizations or working in public health offices, and it’s a really good feeling. It motivates me.”

Marin Harrington is a graduate assistant in Hollins’ marketing and communications department. She is pursuing her M.F.A. in creative writing at the university.





New Hollins Professor, Poet/Novelist Candice Wuehle, To Bring Focus On Genre-Blending And Magic In Writing

Candice Wuehle seems like the perfect fit to teach English and creative writing at Hollins. An emphasis on genre-blending? Check. An impressive academic and professional resume? Check. An interest in the occult and spooky things? Double-check.

“I’m fascinated with séance as a literary mode and mediumicity as a poetic strategy,” Wuehle said about her interest in what she calls “occult technologies” in creative writing. “There are a lot of writers working within that occult realm as a way into the craft of writing.”

The poet/novelist joined the Hollins faculty this fall as a visiting assistant professor, and the historic presence of the university isn’t lost on Wuehle. “It seems like a lot of the students at Hollins are interested in the ‘haunted’ history of the campus,” said Wuehle. “I’d love to teach a course about the craft of ghost stories that might merge with Hollins’ history and perhaps archival research at the university.”

Even though she’s been teaching at Hollins only since September, it’s already clear that Wuehle has lots of ideas about what to do with her time at one of the nation’s oldest higher-ed institutions for women. “Right now I’m really enjoying for the first time in my life doing what I always imagined a creative writing professor doing, which is mostly just workshopping all the time,” said Wuehle. She calls Hollins a “dream job” that allows her to craft her classes around her own interests: hybrid works and authors who write across genre and form. “I like to think about the slippage between genres,” said Wuehle. “What’s to be gained from this additional space that’s generated by crossing between those borders?”Monarch Book Cover

Wuehle has quite the resume, too. Born and raised in Iowa City, Iowa, she’s the author of three poetry collections including Death Industrial Complex, which was selected as a 2020 finalist for The Believer Magazine Book Award. Her debut novel, MONARCH, is due out in March of next year. Wuehle holds an M.A. in literature from the University of Minnesota, an M.F.A. in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a doctorate in creative writing from the University of Kansas, where she was the recipient of a Chancellor’s Fellowship.

As for how this über-talented writer landed at Hollins, the credit partly goes to an old friend of Wuehle’s: Visiting Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing Matthew Burnside. Both Burnside and Wuehle attended what many consider the most prestigious creative writing program in the country: the Iowa Writers Workshop in Wuehle’s hometown of Iowa City. “It was nice to know someone in the department before I came here,” said Wuehle, who studied poetry at the Iowa Workshop while Burnside was studying fiction. “I’d also heard of Hollins because there are so many very famous graduates and writers from the university.”

While earning her master’s degree at Iowa, Wuehle first became interested in memory studies, ghost stories, the occult, tarot, and more. She even had a class on magic and occult technologies taught by poet D. A. Powell. “We had a séance in the basement of the English department at Iowa,” recalled Wuehle. “There were maybe 40 people there, and it was really active. So I started working on projects in that magic course and just never stopped.”

Some writers struggle with the competitive environment of the Iowa Writers Workshop, but Wuehle felt differently about her experience at the nation’s oldest creative writing institute. “I’m from Iowa City where the culture of the writing program really spills over into the town,” she said. Wuehle even had high school teachers who were graduates of the workshop. “I know some people feel that Iowa City is a small town, but it was a return to where I was from, to people I’d known since high school,” said Wuehle. “It was just a really nice time there for me.”

Speaking of small towns, Wuehle seems already settled into her new life in Roanoke. “I’m really loving being at Hollins,” she said. “I’m fascinated with the general culture of this school, the mix of really contemporary—the curiosity and political passion of the undergraduates—with the older traditions like Tinker Day and the architecture of the campus itself. It feels like a really special, idyllic place to be.”

Jeff Dingler is a graduate assistant in Hollins’ marketing and communications department. He is pursuing his M.F.A. in creative writing at the university.