“I’ve Come into My Own as a Person Here”: Elizabeth Klein ’23 Discovers a Love of History While Spotlighting the Jewish American Experience

Elizabeth Klein ’23 confesses she had “never really been a student of history” before coming to Hollins. “My plans focused on majoring in English, going to grad school, and then becoming a book editor,” she remembers. She enjoyed her English classes at Hollins, but during the spring semester of her first year, she took a class with Associate Professor of History Rachel Nuñez that convinced her to reconsider what she wanted to engage in academically as an undergraduate.

“It ended up being one of the most amazing classes that I’ve ever been in. It changed the way I thought about reading and critical thinking. Analyzing primary historical sources was so gratifying because they’re accounts of real people and events. I couldn’t stop thinking about that class after it was over, and a year later I changed my major to history.” With a number of Spanish classes also under her belt, she decided to make the language her second major.

At first, Klein’s approach to being a history student was to simply absorb as much as she could. “I was just learning what history was and what the study of it looked like. I took a lot of different classes in many different subjects.” But in the fall of her junior year, the seminar Antebellum United States, taught by Ruth Alden Doan Assistant Professor of History Christopher Florio, brought particular interests into focus for her. “I wrote a paper about Jewish Americans in the 19th century, and from that sprang a desire to know what Jewish people during that time were doing, what they were talking about, and what was important to them.”

Klein cites Florio as “an important source of encouragement for my interest in history. While working on my paper for his Antebellum United States history class, he arranged for me to do research on primary sources at the Beth Ahabah Museum and Archives and the Library of Virginia, where I got to look at dozens of firsthand accounts of Jewish life in the Antebellum United States. I ended up using several in my final paper.”

While giving her valuable insight into Jewish American history, Klein’s takeaways from researching and writing the paper also included a lot of unresolved questions. “In that paper I talked about the ways in which Jewish people formed relationships with Christians that sometimes were advantageous to them. But why did so many Christians also seek to form relationships with Jewish people? What did they see as advantageous about these relationships? I began thinking about how the interests of both Jewish people and Christians might have intersected or overlapped during the 19th century.”

Klein says writing that paper “was an incredible experience and definitely the catalyst for the research I’ve done this year for my senior honors thesis,” which explores Jewish participation in 19th century westward expansion in the United States. “We don’t think about Jewish people living on the frontier, and getting to delve into that area of history where many don’t expect to see Jewish people was really interesting,” she says. “There’s so much more to talk about than what is in history textbooks.”

Along with examining sources that detailed different Jewish communities in the West, Klein drew upon firsthand accounts of Jewish pioneers. She also found articles published in Jewish newspapers that highlighted opportunities for Jewish people to migrate West and commended those who were leading the way. “Just as important as Jewish people actually going West and participating in this colonization was the way that Jewish communities in the East interpreted their stories. They saw those pioneers as their representatives, and it was interesting to see how they envisioned what they wanted that participation to mean for Jewish people in America.”

Additionally, Klein was intrigued by the consequences of Jewish migration. “I don’t think it’s possible to look at Westward colonization without realizing this was an endeavor to entrench the supremacy of Christian whiteness throughout the continent. So, my research touches upon the ways in which Jewish people were involved in those processes.”

Klein’s senior honors thesis was recognized this spring with the Wyndham Robertson Library’s Undergraduate Research Award in the Junior/Senior category.  At this year’s Honors Convocation, she received the Mary Williamson Award for the best study submitted in the field of humanities. She has also delivered her findings at 2023 Virginia Regional Phi Alpha Theta (National History Honor Society) Conference, held last month at the University of Lynchburg, and at the Hollins Student Performance and Academic Research Conference (SPARC), which gives undergraduates the opportunity to present academic research or creative work to the larger campus community.

In her undergraduate career, Klein complemented her research with two history-related internships. The first was sponsored by the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation and involved working on the Gainsboro History Project, a digital initiative documenting the community that was the commercial and social center of African American life and history in Roanoke and was deeply impacted by urban renewal and development. The internship was organized by Megan Mizak ’03, manager of the Roanoke Public Library’s Gainsboro Branch. “Another Hollins intern and I were based at the Gainsboro Branch and had access to their archives. Using those sources, we built webpages and developed content.” At the end of the January Short Term internship, Klein and her fellow intern had produced dozens of pages of content that were subsequently published online that spring. “It was incredibly rewarding and one of my favorite things I’ve done at Hollins.”

During another January Short Term, Klein interned with Preservation Virginia (PV) under the organization’s education manager, Meika Downey ’17. “I was writing post-field trip activities for students from different grade levels who visited the Cape Henry Lighthouse, one of PV’s six historic sites,” she explains. Even though she was assigned to a specific location, Klein says Downey ensured that she got to tour all the PV sites as well as the Library of Virginia and many museums. “She wanted the internship to be an opportunity to do as much as we possibly could in areas in which we were interested. We learned the ins and outs of historical interpretation and museum work. She wanted us to get the most out of our month there.”

A recent inductee into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, Klein believes she has “spent the best part of my life” at Hollins. “I’ve definitely come into my own as a person here. The community is so supportive. I’ve felt like I belonged at Hollins and people wanted me to be my best self.”

Above all, Klein says she has found a comfort level in taking risks. “I had people here who were going to look out for me – my professors, my friends, and our alumnae/i. I’ve been able to trust the Hollins community and the network that I’ve built here so that I can pursue this interest of mine. I’m truly grateful to Professor Florio for this opportunity and countless others as I’ve pursued my passion for studying Jewish-American history.”

Bolstered by that confidence, Klein is planning to take a gap year following graduation to help her decide which field of study she’d like to pursue. “All roads lead to grad school, but do I want to become a library archivist, or do I want to engage in historical research? I think there’s so much that I could do. My professors encouraged me to take that time to work in both areas and get an idea of what that could be.”








As a Double Major in History and Political Science, Adarra Blount ’23 Is Confident In Her Options After Graduating from Hollins

One of Adarra Blount ’23’s most cherished childhood memories is of the regular excursions she and her father would take to the North Carolina Museum of History, located across the street from the State Capitol in Raleigh. “I lived in the next town over, and as a kid I would always, even throughout high school, ask my dad to take me there on Saturdays. He was a history major, and he’d always say yes. It was a lot of fun.”

Blount not only followed in her father’s footsteps as a history major, but she also completed what she calls “my favorite internship at Hollins, a dream internship for me” at that same museum last summer, where she got what she considers to be “invaluable experience” working in adult education.

The senior says she was certain she wanted to study history when she arrived at Hollins (“I sat in on a class with Associate Professor of History Rachel Nuñez and I knew that I wanted to take more history classes”), but her academic journey ended up encompassing a second major that she didn’t anticipate until her first semester on campus. “I took a first-year seminar in political science, and I just kept going,” she says. Blount likes the fact that both history and political science give students ample education on “the different areas where you can go in each field. In political science, for example, we have [Assistant Professor of Political Science] Courtney Chenette, who is also an attorney and very knowledgeable about all things pertaining to law. [John P. Wheeler Professor of Political Science] Edward Lynch focuses on the working of government. Seeing both sides and how both offer ample opportunities and amazing experiences has been really valuable.”

Blount devoted her senior honors thesis to the history of the metaphor of war in post-World War II American political discourse. “I love the history of 19th century America and the post-Civil War era, but I also grew up with five brothers who love comics,” she explains. “The summer before my senior year, I was watching Marvel movies with a friend, and I started seeing the history in each one. I remember watching Iron Man and thinking, ‘This reminds me so much of the War on Terror.’ I started looking into that and I just didn’t stop.”

One facet of that history which Blount found remarkable was the establishment during World War II of the Writers’ War Board. “The U.S. government pitched titles and storylines to comics publishers and advised them on how to portray German and Japanese people. Then they sent these comics to both kids and soldiers.”

Along with her work at the North Carolina Museum of History, Blount has enjoyed two other exceptional internships while at Hollins. During the 2022 January Short Term, she interned with the White House Historical Association in Washington, D.C., where she worked on the educational nonprofit’s quarterly publication. “Spending that time in Lafayette Square and learning about the history that was right there, it was a place I never thought I would be. That’s probably the most I’ve learned in such a small period of time.”

This J-Term, Blount interned with the Fuquay-Varina Museums, located not far from her home, and was able to extend the internship into the Spring Term. Her responsibilities have included building a social media presence for the organization’s six museum sites.

One of Blount’s goals is to attend graduate school, and to that end she spent a week last year enrolled in the Political Science Predoctoral Summer Institute at Georgetown University. “I was part of cohort of five people immersed in developing a political science research proposal. Professors and graduate students would sit in. We would not only discuss our ideas but also talk about what getting a Ph.D. in political science would look like, discuss the coursework involved, and explore all of our options.”

Blount says the mission of the institute is “to diversify the doctorate in political science. A lot of us came in with similar backgrounds and we didn’t really know how getting a doctorate works. It was an amazing community, and the professors and grad students were very honest with us about their experiences. It was really helpful.”

Before grad school, Blount plans on spending a couple of years after graduating from Hollins working in the history and political science fields. “My idea is to eventually pursue a Ph.D. in history, but I want to be 110% sure. If I find a job that I really love and don’t need a Ph.D., that’s okay. If I find I’ve fallen in love with something else such as public policy, then I want to be very sure about what I do in grad school. That’s a really heavy decision to make without going out into the world first.”

And when the time comes, Blount believes Hollins has given her the confidence to make that decision. “I came to Hollins at 17 and I was very scared. But throughout my time here, I’ve developed wonderful, lifelong relationships with people who have guided me. I’ve gained mentors like I never knew I would, especially with [Assistant to the Dean of Students] Trina Johnson and [Vice President for Student Success, Well-being, and Belonging] Nakeshia Williams. I’m just so grateful for the support. Community is what everyone talks about at Hollins, and they do that for a reason.

“I can honestly say I’m a different person than I was when I first came here, and absolutely for the better.”

Lessons in Leadership, Work/Life Balance Are Guideposts for Arin Waters ’23 as She Seeks a Career as a Health Practitioner and Educator

Spend just a few moments with Arin Waters ’23 and you realize that the empathy and compassion she feels for others is almost palpable. Throughout her time at Hollins, the senior biology major and social justice minor has devoted herself to practicing behavior, conceiving initiatives, engaging in research, and planning a career to improve the quality of life for her fellow students and society at large.

One way in which Waters has impacted the campus during her undergraduate years is through her work as a resident advisor (RA), which she began during the second semester of her sophomore year. “I wanted to become an RA mainly because of the students,” she explains. “I love my residents. Sometimes you’re their support system, the only one they have. So, while a lot of our job is pointing students in the right direction, we also take on a lot of emotional labor. College can be hard, and we are on call 24/7 to support someone in any way we can.”

Not surprisingly, Waters says the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated many of the challenges encountered at colleges and universities nationwide. She believes that for herself personally, the encouragement she received as an RA was just as vital as what she was able to provide for others. “Even now it’s apparent that we are still not okay from all that. My wanting to become an RA in the first place came in part because I needed that external support from more than just my friends. Many times, during the pandemic, my residents kept me going.”

Another key factor Waters cites in her success at Hollins has been the Batten Leadership Institute, where she has been completing her certificate in leadership studies. “I have taken the skills I have learned in conflict management, teamwork, and negotiation, and applied them to the many hats I wear on campus.” In addition to working as an RA, she has also served for three years as an SGA class senator and has been active in ADA, which is dedicated to building school spirit on campus. “I learned so much about how to work with people. I think it is an absolutely amazing program and I love [Batten Executive Director] Abrina Schnurman. She taught me about the different ways a leader can lead, and she taught me about myself along with understanding the mindset of others.”

Beyond the classroom, Waters interned with the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, where she focused on sexology, gender, and reproduction. At Hollins, she conducted extensive research into the Black maternal health crisis in America. “I explored the intersection of natural and social sciences and why Black women have such disparities in their birth rates,” she says.

That study was the impetus for Waters’ social justice capstone project, in which she and other students completing the minor were asked to develop a program that would have a positive impact on the Hollins community.

“I really love studying reproduction and sexual health and awareness of sexual well-being, so I’m working with [Vice President for Student Success, Well-being, and Belonging] Nakeshia Williams and SGA to put together an initiative I call Healing at Hollins,” she says. “The main focus is getting a medicine vending machine that would provide over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and allergy meds along with products such as condoms and dental dams, basic items that should be quickly accessible to all students. Hopefully, we can make this service free, or at least payable through students’ financial accounts with flex dollars.”

Waters’ goal after graduating from Hollins is to become a physician’s assistant (PA), either in emergency medicine or gynecology, with a focus on nonprofit work. To build the patient contact hours required for acceptance into PA school, she has earned qualification as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and is currently pursuing jobs in either labor and delivery or gynecology in her hometown of Baltimore. She also plans to volunteer as a health educator with some of the area high schools. Long-term, after completing PA school, she would like to open a sliding scale practice in Baltimore that serves youth and young adults and provides access to primary healthcare and sexual well-being products.

When asked how she feels she’s changed since coming to Hollins, Waters sums it up in one word: “Boundaries. I have learned the importance of protecting your peace and taking care of yourself. I’m a person who is willing to give my all to everyone at any time, but being able to decompress and take care of yourself is important.”

She adds, “Growing and learning who I am as a young adult, and knowing which battles to fight and what I can control and what I can’t, those little personal skills have really transformed me.”

From her friends and the Hollins community at large to the Batten Leadership Institute, Waters is generous in recognizing those have “supported me and supported my dreams, that’s why I came to Hollins,” but she reserves special praise for one particular person.

“I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish so much without my mom. Her sacrifices have made it possible for me to shine as much as I can. She’s my rock!”


From a Thesis on Storytelling to Chronicling Arts and Culture, Lindsey Hull ’23 Is Laying the Groundwork for a Career in Journalism

With so many possibilities to consider, choosing a college is a decision a lot of students understandably aren’t able to make until their junior or senior year of high school.

Lindsey Hull ’23 made up her mind when she was in the second grade.

“I had a teacher who arranged for a field trip to Hollins,” the Roanoke resident recalls. “We walked around, we saw the horses, and it was just so beautiful. I was seven or eight years old, and I thought, ‘That’s where I want to go to college.’”

After high school, Hull started a family, earned an associate degree from Roanoke’s Virginia Western Community College, and began work tutoring homeschoolers, but “I had always known I wanted eventually to finish my education at Hollins.” After deciding during the pandemic that she needed a career change, her childhood dream became a reality when she enrolled at Hollins to complete a degree in English with a concentration in creative writing.

“It’s been a wonderful experience to come alongside these professors to learn from them, work with them, and get feedback on my writing,” she says. “[Professor of English] T.J. Anderson, [Professor of English and Susan Gager Jackson Professor of Creative Writing] Pauline Kaldas, and [Professor of English] Julie Pfeiffer have been so supportive. My advisor, [Professor of English] Marilyn Moriarty, helped me tremendously when it came to mapping my academic path and finishing my degree. [Assistant Professor of Creative Writing] Matthew Burnside and students from Hollins’ creative writing M.F.A. program who instructed me were really encouraging when it came to leaning into creative writing.”

One of Hull’s achievements as an undergraduate in English has been the completion of her senior thesis, “A Bird in the Bell Tower: Stories from the Edge of Appalachia,” which culminates a year of research she conducted on the tradition of storytelling in and around south-central Appalachia. She got the idea while serving as a volunteer scoutmaster. “When I took my scouts to camp in 2021, one of the things I noticed was missing there was the presence of storytelling performance. It led me to wonder what was happening in that world, and if storytelling was dying off. So many of the tellers had to move to Zoom or YouTube formats during the pandemic, and I wasn’t sure if it was coming back the way everybody hoped it would.”

To her surprise and delight, Hull found that storytelling was not becoming a lost art. In fact, she discovered that what she calls a “third storytelling revival” is taking place. “Traditional tellers are reimagining traditional tales, and in doing so are breaking through those Appalachian stereotypes and allowing audiences to see more of the region, I think, in a positive way.”

Hull is also heartened by the growing diversity of storytellers through regional initiatives such as Roanoke’s Hoot and Holler, a live storytelling event, and The Moth, a nonprofit organization based in New York City that’s dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. “We have younger tellers coming up, we have females starting to become increasingly involved on the national stage, and people of color are getting invited into storytelling spaces. Storytelling event planners are purposefully pairing longtime and newer tellers together so that somebody might also get to hear a story told by a person whose voice has traditionally not been heard in storytelling venues. What I’ve found is that storytelling connects people across communities and helps build understanding in communities.”

Hull’s research resonated on a personal level for her when she invited her 14-year-old daughter to accompany her to the National Storytelling Festival in Tennessee. What began as just “a day out of school, a trip to go see something new” for her daughter ended with a newfound enthusiasm. “By the time we got through the first couple of performances she knew who she wanted to see and what stories she wanted to hear. It was exciting to have her as my guide,” Hull says. “She came back and started getting her friends to tell stories at campouts, and then she arranged for us to take her and her friends to the Sounds of the Mountains Story Festival (an annual event held at Camp Bethel in Fincastle, Virginia) this spring.” Hull’s daughter even inspired the thesis title when she spied a bird in a bell tower while attending the National Storytelling Festival.

A few years ago, when Hull was still teaching, she shared with a friend who worked in the media that journalism would be her second choice for a career. “She told me, ‘You don’t want to do that. Newspapers are closing up shop, people are getting laid off. It’s not a good place to be.’ So, I put that aside and figured it was not a viable option at that point.”

But during the ensuing years, two developments occurred which caused Hull to reconsider. One was the establishment of two new digital news sources in the Roanoke area, The Roanoke Rambler and Cardinal News. The second came when Hull enrolled in classes through Hollins’ Batten Leadership Institute, a reflection of her attraction “to positions of responsibility, either in teamwork, my own employment, or volunteer roles.”

For her Batten capstone project, Hull chose to compose articles pertaining to leadership that could be considered worthy for publication in either a journal or newspaper. Over two semesters she wrote two op-eds, both of which were subsequently published by The Roanoke Times: “Local Youth Programs Offer Leadership Development in the Outdoors” and “New LOVE Sign Highlights Clifton Forge’s Best Assets.” “Those helped get me started on this path of journalism,” she says.

Another Batten assignment led to the next stage in Hull’s evolution as a journalist. As part of her work with the Institute, she was required to make a “big ask” of someone, and “I chose to seek out an internship,” she explains. Through a mutual friend, Hull contacted Dwayne Yancey, executive editor of Cardinal News, and she was offered a reporting internship that began in February and continues through this spring.

For Hull, the experience has “really helped shape my future career goals.” In just three months, she has reported on the 47-bell carillon at Hollins and efforts at Bridgewater College to repatriate Native American remains and artifacts. Beyond higher education, she has profiled artist Steven Weitzman, who is creating a sculpture of civil rights activist Barbara Rose Johns for the U.S. Capitol, spotlighted a Roanoke ballet performance intended for both hearing and deaf audiences, and written a three-part series about the pause in the sister city relationship between Roanoke and Pskov, Russia.

“The thing I like most about this internship is that it has let me get into spaces that I wouldn’t ordinarily, such as the carillon and the bell tower at Hollins and the archives and vault room at Bridgewater,” she says. “Getting to talk to people about old or unusual or cool things, their origins and their futures, has been exciting.”

Hull is looking forward to engaging in freelance reporting after graduation and hopes to do more with arts and culture or the intersection between travel, culture, and entertainment. She’s also hopeful that her thesis will gain a wider audience, which she credits two of her professors for helping make possible. “I had a nice partnership with Dr. Anderson and Dr. Kaldas when it came to writing my thesis and how to get it published. I’ve been able to ask questions and they’ve been there to answer them, and I feel like I’m moving ahead with what I need to know in this publication process.”



With Majors in Psychology and Spanish and a Growing Research Portfolio, Yareli Sosa Antunez ’23 Is Addressing Mental Health Disparities in the Latino Community

A double major in psychology and Spanish, Yareli Sosa Antunez ’23 says that over the past four years, a significant advantage she has enjoyed as a Hollins undergraduate has been evidenced time and again.

“In terms of academics, I’ve had a lot of experience with research that I think would have been harder for me to attain at larger schools,” she states. Those opportunities will be crucial as she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in counseling or clinical psychology in the next couple of years, and her interest in working particularly with the Latino community will be augmented by the language skills she’s built as a Spanish major.

Antunez has been able to practice and improve her bilingual capabilities during an internship with Casa Latina, a nonprofit agency that addresses the needs of the Roanoke Valley’s Spanish-speaking community. Working with the organization’s domestic violence support groups, she says, “has helped me explore my interests in terms of the kinds of people I want to work with. I’ve gotten a good exposure and experience in terms of what I want for my future career goals.”

This past summer, Antunez collaborated with Assistant Professor of Psychology Caroline Mann on a major project focusing on post-traumatic stress disorder and depression among Latino men. “In terms of demographics, a lot of the previous research in those areas had centered on either Black or white men. We were curious to study the impact of those mental health challenges on Latino participants.” Antunez went on to their preliminary findings at the Virginia Tech Summer Research Symposium, and she sees the ongoing study, which she and Mann hope to publish in the future, as a gateway into further exploration of an important issue in which she is interested: health equity disparities, specifically in mental health, in the Latino community.

Antunez’s work as a Hollins research fellow has propelled her into an exciting opportunity: After graduation, she’ll begin a two-year position as a research associate with the Research Engagement and Community Health (REACH) Equity Team at the University of Miami, partnering with the principal investigator there on a project examining mental health and other health disparities among Latino men with HIV. Not only will the research be in a similar realm as what she has worked on at Hollins, “I’ll use a lot of these Spanish-speaking skills I’ve gained from being a Spanish major.” Once her research associate position ends, she says she’ll begin applying to doctorate programs.

Mann’s mentorship has been “a crucial component,” Antunez notes, in navigating the best route to achieve her career goals. “When I first came to the decision that I wanted to be a psychologist, Dr. Mann brought to my attention that I needed to be doing more research. She offered me a position in her lab, and we went from there. She has also encouraged me to get out there and present my research. I probably wouldn’t be where I am right now in terms of getting the research associate position if it hadn’t been for her guidance. I’m very grateful.”

Antunez, who was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa this spring, also cherishes how she has grown on a personal level since coming to Hollins. Originally drawn by the university’s English program, she continues to develop her talents as a poet and creative writer. On a broader scale, Antunez believes Hollins “has really helped me gain the skills I need to advocate for myself and for others. I am a lot more decisive now compared to when I first got here, and a lot of that is due to Hollins, which has helped me find community both inside and outside.”









Through Study at Queen Mary University of London, Marissa Gannon ’23 Will Advocate for Equitable Economic Development

Marissa Gannon ’23 has always been good with numbers, and when she was just 16, that skill landed her a finance job with a community college near her Maryland home. She has continued in that position throughout her four years at Hollins, and just as her responsibilities have evolved in the College of Southern Maryland’s Facilities Department to include project planning, so have her academic interests as an undergraduate.

“When I first got here, I intended to study business with a concentration in finance, and I took all the finance classes offered by [Professor of Finance and Economics Emeritus] Casimir Dadak,” she explains. “I really enjoyed finance because I like the logical flow of things.” But during the economics classes that were required for the business major, Gannon found that she “also liked the big picture of economics and the theory behind it.” She switched to an economics major.

A hallmark of each of the classes Gannon took with Dadak was a major research project, and the senior and recent Phi Beta Kappa inductee took advantage of those opportunities to delve into some very timely topics. “During Covid, I looked at the impact on Moderna’s stock prices and how companies could profit off the pandemic. I also did deep dives into different companies’ financial records to see how they avoid paying taxes.”

Gannon went on to spend a semester last spring studying abroad in London, where she took courses on human rights and on the history of the city. “Every week we went out on tours to different areas. I discovered that London is very gentrified. I found this very interesting, especially after I learned in my human rights class about gentrification’s potentially devastating impact on the culture of a community.”

The experience became the basis for Gannon’s senior honors thesis analyzing urban regeneration in the United Kingdom. She used London for her case studies. “When low income or migrant communities are gentrified, housing becomes too expensive, and people are forced to move. Historic areas that were in place for decades are unfortunately transformed into hipster enclaves.”

Gannon adds that gentrification causes detrimental effects on the community’s mental health. “A lot of migrants rely on tight-knit neighborhoods to fill the gaps that are not covered by state benefits. When you have to disperse to find different housing, you can lose that connection of family and community as well as those social bonds and safety nets those communities built for themselves. Gentrification has an implicit impact people don’t think about when it comes to urban renewal.”

In her research, Gannon specifically explored ways to mitigate gentrification through community engagement. “I found a United Nations (UN) report that lists 16 characteristics of community involvement and how legislation can reflect those characteristics to ensure people have a role in the way their communities evolve. Then I found a 2010 report ranking different London boroughs by their gentrification levels. I picked four of those and looked into their policies to see if they matched up with the UN report. I tried to see if there was a correlation between how gentrified a particular borough was versus how much community engagement was instituted into their urban renewal policies. I did find there was a pretty significant correlation between the two: the more gentrified a community, the less involvement people who already lived there had in the process.”

Just a few weeks into her study abroad experience in London, Gannon emailed her advisor, Associate Professor of Economics Pablo Hernandez, to say, “I want to go to grad school here.” He recommended several prestigious universities for her consideration, including Queen Mary University of London, which has been placed among Great Britain’s “Ivy League” of top research schools. “When I got back home, I started looking into these universities and figuring out what I want to do. I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, Queen Mary University of London is a really big school, but if he thinks I can do it, I’ll do it.’”

Not only was Gannon accepted, but she also received a significant scholarship to study public and social policy. “I have a general idea of what I want to accomplish. I don’t know yet what specific job I want, but if there’s a system already in place that’s working for people, then let’s reinforce that rather than trying to get them to conform to something else. Culture plays a huge role in economics, that’s one of the things I love about it, and I think it’s important to maintain that when you are going into places to help people. It doesn’t mean forcing your ideas upon them for what you want them to do.” Her interest in this field has been enhanced this semester through a course she’s taking called Economics of Development and Globalization, offered for the first time at Hollins by Visiting Associate Professor of Business Rathin Basu. “I absolutely love it,” she says.

As she prepares to enroll at Queen Mary University of London this fall, Gannon admits that “London was never the plan to begin with” when she first came to Hollins. However, “it was that semester abroad where I took the reins. Now, I’m very passionate about economic development and equitable development.”



Jenny Noyes ’23 Overcomes Crohn’s Disease and Sets the Stage for a Career as a Physician Assistant

When planning for college, Jenny Noyes ’23 knew that she wanted to study something related to biology for a possible career in healthcare. One of the main factors that convinced her Hollins University was the right place to do that was sitting in on Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Science Mary Jane Carmichael’s microbiology class.

“It was excellent,” she says. “I was ecstatic because along with touring campus and meeting students, it really helped me to make up my mind about coming here.”

Fittingly, the double major in biology and environmental studies (ES) is taking that very same microbiology class during her final semester at Hollins as she looks forward to one day becoming a physician assistant (PA), a licensed clinician who practices medicine in a wide range of specialties and settings.

“The bio and ES faculty are wonderful and supportive,” she says. “Anyone I’ve taken classes with has really given me guidance, and I’ve been lucky to have research opportunities.”

One of those projects involved studying the demographics of the feral cat population on campus. “I emailed Meg du Bray (an assistant professor of environmental studies at Hollins from 2020 to 2022) this hare-brained scheme over Winter Break,” Noyes relates, laughing. “I said, ‘I want to study this!’ and Meg said, ‘Okay!’ She was certainly a mentor to me and continues to be a friend.”

Last year, Assistant Professor of Political Science Courtney Chenette and Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Elizabeth Gleim ’06 recommended Noyes and helped her apply for an internship with the Virginia Tech Summer Undergraduate Research Program. “I studied tapeworms and tapeworm loads in wild canid species such as foxes and coyotes. It’s not something everyone wants to talk about, but it’s a particularly nasty variety of tapeworm called Echinococcus multilocularis. Fortunately, it’s very rare, but I did find it in Virginia.”

Noyes worked with Roger Ramirez-Barrios, DVM, at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. “Dr. Ramirez-Barrios was a wonderful mentor. I had so much autonomy working in the lab there and it was a great experience,” she says. “I owe Professor Chenette for helping me find that internship. She really encouraged me to do it.”

The senior has also found fulfillment beyond the classroom and lab. She’s been involved with the Hollins Outdoor Program as a trip leader and captain of the rock climbing team since her sophomore year. “That’s been a cool experience and one I didn’t necessarily expect when I first came here.” She has also served as a resident assistant (RA) since she was a sophomore, and this year is a Hollins lead RA. “Both of my parents were RAs, it’s how they met, so it was something I was definitely considering doing in college.”

For Noyes, working as an RA not only has provided new opportunities to meet other students (“You have a hall of 20 residents two years in a row, that’s 40 more people who are friends”), it’s also given her a unique perspective on successful interpersonal relations. “When I was a sophomore I had a few seniors on my hall, and I learned that I didn’t necessarily have to be the expert on everything. Part of leadership is knowing when to delegate and how to be respectful to those who have more experience than you in a certain area. It’s okay to be the loudest voice sometimes, but it doesn’t always have to be that way.”

Noyes’ philosophy as an RA, she says, is to be more of a coordinator than anyone’s boss, working together with people rather than telling them what to do. “That’s given me a sense of confidence and self-assurance that I didn’t have when I entered Hollins.”

Enjoying an active and accomplished undergraduate career is a source of pride for Noyes, especially in the face of a major personal challenge. At age 16, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, an autoimmune disease affecting the gastrointestinal tract where the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue, causing inflammation and damage. “I had to take a leave of absence in my first semester at Hollins because of liver complications from the medication I was taking,” she recalls. “I was really sick, and I was very lucky to have supportive professors.”

Fortunately, Noyes is now healthy and in remission. Still, “it’s a lifelong illness and I have to take immunosuppressant therapy. Every eight weeks I go to the hospital for an infusion of the drug Entyvio, which has been found to be very effective in treating Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis. I’m grateful for the medication and I’m doing very well now.”

Noyes’ focus at the moment is on building her qualifications to gain acceptance into a PA program. “I have all the coursework I need done at the undergraduate level. But depending on the school I choose, I will have to complete anywhere from 500 to 2,000 hours of patient contact hours (patient care experience) to meet the typical program requirements.”

To that end, Noyes recently passed the national registry exam to become an emergency medical technician (EMT) and plans to work in that field for the next year before applying to PA programs, possibly in obstetrics and gynecology. The process was demanding: Last fall as she was taking 18 credit hours at Hollins, Noyes was also enrolled in a rigorous three-month hybrid certification course that combined ongoing online textbook learning with in-person skills training one weekend a month in Blacksburg, generally running from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on both Saturdays and Sundays. “Those weekends driving back and forth from Blacksburg were rough,” she admits.

Noyes says she will be applying for jobs soon to serve as an EMT in the Roanoke area, and she’s “looking forward to having a little less school for a while.” At the same time, she’s eagerly anticipating launching her PA career. “Most PA programs are three years, and you sort of graduate as a third-year medical student,” Noyes explains. “You essentially are an intermediate medical provider, which is appealing to me. I’m really excited to get right into the field and start working.”



“I Can be a Leader, an Innovator, a Creator of Change”: Jasmine Carmichael ’23 Is Becoming a Catalyst for Public Health Education

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jasmine Carmichael ’23 began doing a lot of soul-searching. She had entered Hollins intending to become a pharmacist and had declared a chemistry major with a concentration in biochemistry. Yet, she was alarmed and discouraged by the amount of pandemic misinformation that was circulating around the Internet at that time. She worried about the challenges people could encounter in getting the proper guidance needed to make informed decisions about their healthcare generally, let alone regarding COVID-19.

Partly for that reason, by the second semester of her junior year, Carmichael realized that she was increasingly drawn to the field of public health. However, she wasn’t sure she could change majors so late in her college career. “I was scared,” she admits. “I thought there was no way I was going to graduate on time if I switched to public health.”

Nevertheless, Carmichael reached out to Assistant Professor of Public Health Abubakarr Jalloh to see if he thought she could make it work. “He looked over all the chemistry courses I had taken and said, absolutely, I could do it. I only needed about four more classes. Luckily, a lot of the courses I had already completed could be counted toward a public health major. I was really grateful I had taken them. I love public health and I’m so glad I changed.”

Jalloh praises Carmichael for pursuing “a passion for examining public health issues with a social justice/health equity lens. In particular, she has shown tremendous interest and promise in investigating the social determinants of health with a focus on addressing health disparities.”

“One of the things I have noticed since becoming a public health major is that oftentimes, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) people face the worst social determinants,” Carmichael adds. “These are the factors that keep people from being healthy, such as the lack of income, education, and living in poor neighborhoods, and they have such a big influence. Fortunately, social determinants are preventable, and I’m really interested in creating programs that can promote education, training, and access.”

A pivotal moment for Carmichael occurred last fall when she interned with the Roanoke nonprofit organization Total Action for Progress (TAP) and their Homeless Employment and Learning Program (HELP). “Essentially, we addressed the barriers that come with homelessness such as employment, criminal background, and substance abuse. We visited shelters that house pregnant and postpartum women and I got to do health education related to nutrition, self-care, and stress. This was the part of public health I liked.”

The gratification Carmichael received from the experience helped solidify the direction in which she wanted to take her public health major. “I realized how much I enjoyed nonprofit work. Going into those shelters, speaking to those women and hearing their stories, and learning about what they had to face in society and the things that are keeping them from being the healthiest people they could possibly be, that really inspired me to get into that work.”

During January Short Term this year, Carmichael followed up her TAP internship with an independent research project in which she studied the opioid crisis in the Richmond, Virginia, area and its impact on pregnant women, mothers, and families. The project complemented her work as a Virginia Medical Reserve Corps volunteer, in which she spent a month in a program designed to educate pharmacists in Chesterfield County near Richmond about the opioid problem and how they could help. “We were out in the communities talking to pharmacists about monitoring their patients with opioid prescriptions. We provided these pamphlets about how the medication might affect the patient and who they can go to if they have a question or a problem.”

As part of her training for the initiative, Carmichael learned how to administer Narcan, which is used to treat opioid overdoses in emergencies. “I would tell pharmacists to try to convince patients to take Narcan home with them (under Virginia law patients have the option of refusing it), because that could literally be the difference between life and death.”

Even though Carmichael has herself shifted her career plans away from becoming a pharmacist, she earned her certification as a pharmacy technician in December 2020 after completing a challenging nine-month course that culminated in passing a difficult, three-hour exam. “It was hard work,” she recalls. “Not only was I studying for the exam, I also had classes and was involved with extracurriculars. Luckily, I was able to do an online program for my tech work balance that with my in-person classes at Hollins. It was worth it – I love being a pharmacy technician and I’ll have that to fall back on should I ever decide to leave public health.”

Carmichael will begin Virginia Commonwealth University’s Master of Public Health Program this fall, and she’s also currently in the hiring process for the Public Health Associate Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “First you are referred for a fellowship and then you have to write a personal statement,” she explains. “I just submitted that and am waiting to find out if I get an interview. If they decide to accept me, I would begin at the CDC in October.”

If that occurs, Carmichael is hoping she can take night classes at VCU while fulfilling her fellowship during the day, “but if the CDC sends me to another location such as Alaska, I will likely defer my decision to attend VCU.” In any event, she would like to someday work at the CDC as a public health analyst. “I want to look at those programs and policies that directly affect people’s health and see how we can improve those.” Immediately after graduation this spring, she has an offer to work at a nonprofit organization focusing on maternal and child health.

Carmichael believes she has learned so much over the past four years about embracing the unexpected, both personally and professionally. “When I came here, I had my whole life planned out, but Hollins taught me that my path is not always linear and that you can change your mind and open it to explore new things. It’s okay if the plan you thought you were going to do doesn’t work out that way.”

And what would she cite as her biggest lesson? “I learned I can be a leader, I can be an innovator, and I can be a creator of change.”

On Her Journey to Becoming a Public Historian, Zoe Brooks ’23 Explores “Bloody Harlan” and 1930s Labor Conflict

History major Zoe Brooks ’23 grew up in the small town of Appalachia in Virginia’s Wise County, a mountainous region in the commonwealth’s southwestern corner whose history and culture are intertwined with the coal industry. As she began to consider topics for her senior honors thesis, Brooks was intrigued by the number of monuments to coal miners located within a relatively small area encompassing her hometown and nearby communities.

“There are parks dedicated to coal miners in Appalachia and in Big Stone Gap, where I went to high school, that are just 15 minutes apart,” she explains. “In Norton (also located in Wise County), and in Harlan County, Kentucky (which borders Wise County to the west), there are coal miner memorials. I wanted to look into why that was the case.”

But when she began researching Harlan County in particular and learned more about the often-violent conflicts there that stretched over decades between mine operators and workers who sought to organize, “I kind of got stuck in Harlan. I grew up knowing about ‘Bloody Harlan,’ and I got really interested in wanting to know what happened during the labor strikes there.”

As a result, Brooks is writing her thesis on the history of Depression-era labor unrest in southeastern Kentucky. She presented her preliminary findings this March at the 46th Annual Appalachian Studies Association Conference at Ohio University, which Ruth Alden Doan Assistant Professor of History Christopher Florio calls “a rare feat for an undergraduate.”

Even though she was seeking to immerse herself in events that happened less than one hundred years ago, Brooks learned that tracking down official or objective documentation would be more than challenging. “I realized that it’s literally impossible to figure out with complete certainty exactly what happened in Harlan,” Brooks says, “so I explored how different interpreters made sense of the unrest.”

Brooks took into account what she describes as “the insider/outsider dichotomy that comes with looking at Appalachian history. First, I researched outside authors who portrayed the miners either as abused victims suffering from capitalism’s inequities or as the passive victims of stereotypes commonly associated with the Appalachia region, such as what these authors deemed Appalachia’s inherently violent culture rather than as active leaders in their labor movement.”

Next, Brooks explored the perspective of what she describes as “the local elites, people from Kentucky who benefited from coal and benefited from keeping the mines open and making sure the miners weren’t making nearly enough to even be thought of as livable wages. They believed the unions were coming in to manipulate the miners into striking and push a communist agenda, proposing that it was not the mine operators or even the miners committing violence in Harlan, but rather dangerous ‘outsiders’ who wished to disrupt the community in southeastern Kentucky.”

In addition, Brooks argues that “despite the many differences among the interpretations of the Harlan County labor strikes, a key point of commonality was that all of these competing interpretations took away from the agency of miners and made them the victims of circumstances beyond their control.”

Finally, Brooks examined how the miners themselves viewed what they were doing at the time. “It was completely absurd to infer that the miners had no say in what was going on and that they had no leadership in the union.” She was able to draw upon valuable insight from a historian that Florio introduced to her. “He told me that when you talk about labor history, you would just assume the workers are involved, and when you talk about a labor movement, you assume workers are the ones who started and contributed to it, they’re the ones who are striking. But in 1930s Harlan, the interpreters who were not miners didn’t see the labor strikes that way. I was fortunate that I discovered that.”

A critical resource for Brooks was the digitized Herndon J. Evans Collection at the University of Kentucky, which includes newspaper coverage and other printed materials covering labor unrest in the state, particularly in Harlan County, between 1931 and 1933. Evans was the editor of the Pineville Sun in Bell County, Kentucky, and his collection also features “boxes and boxes of letters to him and from him,” Brooks says. “He was obsessed with the idea that communists were trying to wage a war of ideas in Kentucky, and he had tons and tons of magazines focusing on the communist presence in Harlan. But he also collected a lot of material from people who were saying that was not what was happening. Finding sources was hard at first, but locating the Evans Collection, that was very, very helpful.”

Brooks’ senior honors thesis is the culmination of a Hollins career in which she has excelled in both the classroom and in athletic competition. She captained the volleyball team and was named Hollins Student-Athlete of the Week in October 2022. “Playing volleyball has connected me to friendships and the coaches prioritize being a student. They want you to succeed athletically, but even more than that they want you to succeed in life, and I love that.” This month, Brooks was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, American’s oldest and most prestigious academic honor society.

Another pivotal moment for Brooks was her internship at Preservation Virginia’s John Marshall House in Richmond during the January Short Term of her junior year. Her supervisor was Meika Downey ’17, education manager for John Marshall House and five other historic locations in the commonwealth. “That month with Meika completely changed my outlook on careers. She is a public historian, and through this internship I found out I really do enjoy taking hard-to-understand primary source information, distilling it, and making it more accessible to everybody. History deserves to be taught, and it deserves to be taught in its entirety. The idea of having that as a career…there’s something really cool about that, and it made me want to become a public historian, too.”

After graduation this spring, Brooks is returning to a site where she enjoyed another internship opportunity both last summer and again during the 2023 January Short Term. Through AmeriCorps, she will be working with the Southwest Virginia Museum in Big Stone Gap. “During my internship, I did a little bit of everything, but mostly I worked with the historic preservation specialist. Now, I will spend this summer with the museum’s interpreters, which will be great.” After that, “the coming year is going to be full of applying to graduate schools.”

When she’s asked how she believes she’s grown over the past four years, Brooks recalls a recent conversation with her brother. “He said, ‘You’ve changed a little bit.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’, and he said, ‘I just feel like Hollins has made you a better person.’ I think, from my first year until now, I’ve become a lot more open to new experiences. I feel like I’m more understanding. Hollins has helped me meet people where they are rather than try to hurry them along. I genuinely feel like Hollins was the best choice for me. I’m happy that I came here because Dr. Florio and all the professors really care about the students. I can’t even picture what my life would have been like if I had gone somewhere else.

“I’ve really loved my time at Hollins.”








Wyndham Robertson Library Honors Undergraduate Research Award Winners and Finalists

Hollins University’s Wyndham Robertson Library has announced the winners and finalists of this year’s Undergraduate Research Awards.

The annual awards recognize exemplary student research projects completed in Hollins courses. The research projects showcase extensive and creative usage of the library’s resources; the ability to synthesize those resources in completing the project; and growth in the student’s research skills.

The awards feature a cash prize of $300 for winners and $100 for finalists.

The 2023 winners are:

  • Hailee Brandt ’25 in the First-Year/Sophomore category for The Forced Effeminization of Male Chinese Immigrants and the Consequences of This Process, recommended by Ruth Alden Doan Assistant Professor of History Christopher Florio;
  • Elizabeth Klein ’23 in the Junior/Senior category for Jewish Pioneers in the Service of Christian Whiteness in the 19th-Century American West, also recommended by Florio.

This year’s finalists include:

  • Ari Cogswell ’26, Sylvia Guillet ’26, and Alyssa Lawhorn ’26 in the First-Year Sophomore category;
  • Mars McLeod ’23, Paramita Vadhahong Painter ’23, and Caylin Wigger ’23 in the Junior/Senior category.

Profiles of the winners and finalists are on the awards webpage, and their entries are published in the Hollins Digital Commons.

The Undergraduate Research Awards are cosponsored by the library and the Office of Academic Affairs. This year’s judges were Assistant Professor of Psychology Seung-Hee Han; Assistant Professor of Film Nathan Lee; Professor of Art Emerita Kathleen Nolan; Library Student Assistant Milo Ramirez Pacheco ’25; Director of the Writing Center Brent Stevens; and University Librarian Luke Vilelle.