Hollins Theatre Majors Earn Top Honors from KCACTF Region IV

The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) Region IV has presented two Hollins University seniors with prestigious awards in its Design, Technologies, and Management category.

Elizabeth Dion ’22 received the Stage Management Fellowship Award, while Nabila Meghjani ’22 won the Heart of the Art Award in Costume Design. Both were honored for their work on Hollins Theatre’s Main Stage production in October 2021 of Caryl Churchill’s The Skriker.

Elizabeth Dion '22
Elizabeth Dion ’22

“According to the nominee list, 168 students in Region IV were nominated for the Stage Management Fellowship Award, and 71 were nominated for the Heart of the Art Award in Costume Design, so we’re extremely proud of both Liz and Nabila for their recognition,” said Assistant Professor of Theatre and Theatre Department Chair Wendy-Marie Martin.

The Stage Management Fellowship Award is earned based on professionalism and completeness of the prompt script and other paperwork; personal demeanor and communication skills based on interviews and at workshops; and written materials submitted prior to the KCACTF Region IV Festival. Dion, who is double majoring in theatre and international studies, will represent Region IV at the KCACTF National Festival in Washington, D.C., in April, and have the opportunity to present work and network with student and professional stage managers from across the country.

Nabila Meghjani ’22
Nabila Meghjani ’22

To earn a Heart of the Art Award, a student must be “deemed to have exhibited an immense amount of passion for their work,” according to the KCACTF. Meghjani, a double major in theatre and gender and women’s studies, typified the award’s standards for “a student who [the respondents] could tell poured every ounce of their energy into their project or their presentation.”

KCACTF is a national theater program involving 18,000 students annually from colleges and universities across the country. Since its inception, KCACTF has given more than 400,000 college theater students the opportunity to have their work critiqued, improve their dramatic skills, and receive national recognition for excellence. More than 16 million theatergoers have attended approximately 10,000 festival productions nationwide. KCACTF Region IV represents colleges and universities in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Virginia.

Hollins Indoor Track & Field Earns Highest Ranking Ever

The Hollins Indoor Track & Field program has received its highest ranking in school history from the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).

In the newest edition of the NCAA Division III Women’s Indoor Track & Field National Rating Index (TFRI), released February 1, Hollins is ranked number 15 in the USTFCCCA South Region. This is Hollins’ first appearance in the USTFCCCA TRFI this season.

The USTFCCCA is a non-profit professional organization representing cross country and track & field coaches of all levels. The organization represents thousands of coaching members encompassing NCAA track & field programs (DI, DII, and DIII) and includes members representing the NAIA and NJCAA, as well as a number of state high school coaches associations. The USTFCCCA serves as an advocate for cross country and track & field coaches, providing a leadership structure to assist the needs of a diverse membership, serving as a lobbyist for coaches’ interests, and working as a liaison between the various stakeholders in the sports of cross country and track & field.

President Hinton Elected AAC&U Chair

Hollins University President Mary Dana Hinton has been elected chair of the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) Board of Directors.

“I’m so grateful to the extraordinary group of higher education leaders who serve on the AAC&U Board of Directors,” said AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella. “I look forward to working with and learning from this year’s board members as we strive toward our shared objective of advancing the vitality and public standing of liberal education by making quality and equity the foundations for excellence in undergraduate education in service to democracy.”

The AAC&U supports the educational mission of colleges and universities across the global landscape of higher education and partners with campus leaders and educators at all levels. Founded in 1915, its vision of educational excellence is focused on the learning all students need for success in an uncertain future and for addressing the compelling issues faced by democracies and global communities—regardless of where they study, what they major in, or what their career goals may be.

Hollins Playwrights Dominate Selections for KCACTF Region IV Festival

Works by three student playwrights from the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University have been chosen for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) Region IV Festival, which will be held online February 1 – 6.

Mothers and Terrorists by David Beach, which received the 2021 KCACTF Region IV John L. Cauble One-Act Play honor, will be staged this year with a full virtual production on Thursday, February 3, from 7 – 9 p.m. EST. Sarah Cosgrove’s I Lived to Tell, a Cauble recipient for 2022, will be performed on Friday, February 4, from 6 – 7 p.m. EST. Cherished by Rachel Graf Evans, winner of the KCACTF Region IV’s 2022 David Shelton Award (the region’s highest award for full-length, student-written plays) will be presented on Saturday, February 5, from 7 – 10 p.m. EST.

Playwright’s Lab Director Todd Ristau said the selection of the three plays for this year’s festival “continues Hollins’ unbroken string of successes with KCACTF Region IV. Over the years, our student playwrights have garnered awards in nearly every category of playwriting at KCACTF, up to and including the National Student Playwriting Award and the Kennedy Center Gold Medallion. Last year, all three regional John L. Cauble One-Act Plays were by Hollins playwrights, and though they normally only nominate two of those three to Nationals, they took the unprecedented step of nominating all three.”

In addition to a reading with a professional response session for the playwright at the regional festival, Ristau added that the Shelton Award comes with the expectation of a full production of the winning play the following year. “These plays are also automatically nominated to Nationals in the full-length play category. Hollins has had numerous Shelton-winning plays over the years, with most of them featured in our Hollins-Mill Mountain Winter Festival of New Works. These plays frequently receive higher national awards for both the text as well as the production value in design, directing, and performance.”

KCACTF is a national theater program involving 18,000 students annually from colleges and universities across the country. Since its inception, KCACTF has given more than 400,000 college theater students the opportunity to have their work critiqued, improve their dramatic skills, and receive national recognition for excellence. More than 16 million theatergoers have attended approximately 10,000 festival productions nationwide. KCACTF Region IV represents colleges and universities in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Virginia.

Children’s Literature M.F.A. Student Wins New Voices Award

Maleeha Malik, a student in Hollins University’s Master of Fine Arts program in children’s literature, is the winner of Lee & Low Books‘ 22nd annual New Voices Award.

Established in 2000, the award is given annually by the children’s book publisher for a picture book manuscript by a writer of color or Indigenous/Native writer.

Malik, a second-grade teacher from Baltimore, Maryland, was honored for At Home in My Skin. The manuscript features a child with vitiligo – a skin disorder that causes depigmentation – who embraces their individuality by drawing connections between their skin’s ever-changing patterns and the designs in nature. Malik was inspired by her experiences living with vitiligo and a solo camping trip she took where she found patterns in nature that mimicked those on her own skin. She wrote the manuscript last summer in her African American Children’s Literature class at Hollins taught by Michelle Martin, the Beverly Cleary Endowed Professor for Children and Youth Services in the Information School at the University of Washington. The renowned author, essayist, lecturer, book critic, and community literary activist helped Malik shape the manuscript for publication.

“Malik hopes young readers, especially those with noticeable skin conditions, will read At Home in My Skin and know they belong in this world – that there is space for everyone to love and thrive in their unique skin,” Lee & Low Books said in a statement.

Malik will receive a $2,000 cash prize and a publication contract.


Unoma Aguolu ’24 Named ODAC Women’s Basketball Player of the Week

The Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) has honored Hollins Basketball‘s Unoma Aguolu ’24 as its Women’s Basketball Player of the Week for the week of November 15.

Aguolu led Hollins to three victories in the past week; overall, the Green & Gold is off to a 3-1 start this season, its best opening slate of games in over a decade.

The sophomore guard from King George, Virginia, averaged 23.0 points and shot 56.3 percent from the field to go with 5.0 rebounds per game over the three contests. She began the week with 20 points, three rebounds, two steals, and two blocked shots in a 74-65 win over Virginia-Lynchburg. In the first game of the Agnes Scott Tip-Off Classic, Aguolu scored 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field in an 82-49 victory over the host Scotties. She added seven rebounds (five offensive), two assists, and two steals. She capped the tournament and the week with 23 points in a 76-71 win over Sewanee. She chipped in five rebounds with an assist, steal, and blocked shot.

Over Hollins’ first four games Aguolu is averaging 20.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. She has scored the most points (83) so far in the ODAC, powered by the most field goals (30-of-55) and free throws (19-of-40) made.


Submission Deadline for 2022 Margaret Wise Brown Prize Is January 15

Publishers of picture books released in 2021 are invited to have their works considered for the 2022 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature. The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2022.

Presented annually, the Margaret Wise Brown Prize recognizes the author of the best text for a picture book published during the previous year. The award is a tribute to one of Hollins University’s best-known alumnae and one of America’s most beloved children’s authors. Winners are given a $1,000 cash prize, which comes from an endowed fund created by James Rockefeller, Brown’s fiancé at the time of her death. Each recipient will also receive an engraved bronze medal as well as an invitation to accept the award and present a reading on campus during the summer session of Hollins’ graduate programs in children’s literature.

Judges for the 2022 prize include:

  • Meg Medina, author of the 2021 Margaret Wise Brown Prize winner Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away and the Newbery Award winner Mercie Suárez Changes Gears.
  • Marla Frazee, author-illustrator, recipient of the Boston Globe Horn Book Award for The Farmer and the Clown and two Caldecott Honor medals.
  • David LaRochelle, recipient of multiple children’s choice awards for his many picture book titles, including Geisel Award-winner See the Cat.

The publisher should submit four copies of each book they wish to nominate for the Margaret Wise Brown Prize: one copy to Hollins University and one copy to each of the three judges. Books must have been first published in 2021; reprints and translations are not eligible. The winner will be announced in May 2022.

Please contact Lisa Rowe Fraustino at fraustinolr@hollins.edu for the judges’ addresses and further submission instructions.

The study of children’s literature as a scholarly experience was initiated at Hollins in 1973; in 1992, the graduate program in children’s literature was founded. Today, Hollins offers summer M.A. and M.F.A. programs exclusively in the study and writing of children’s literature, an M.F.A. in children’s book writing and illustrating, and a graduate-level certificate in children’s book illustration.

For more information about the Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature, visit www.hollins.edu/mwb.

Virginia Academy of Science Honors Hollins Student Researchers

Two research projects conducted by three Hollins University chemistry majors were recognized at the 2021 Virginia Academy of Science (VAS) Fall Undergraduate Research Meeting, held recently at Hampden-Sydney College.

Megan Brown ’23, Nupur Sehgal ’23, and Tram Nguyen ’24 earned the event’s top award in the Medicine category ($750 in research funding) for “Let’s Go Fishing: Catching Cysteine-Containing Proteins in Cytoplasmic Pools.”

Megan Brown '23 and Tram Nguyen '24
Megan Brown ’23 (left) and Tram Nguyen ’24

They also received honorable mention in the same category for “C-glycosylation Through Reductive Halide Atom Transfer Reaction with Photo-Irradiation.”

The three students are all enrolled in a research lab of Assistant Professor of Chemistry Son Nguyen, who also attended the Fall Undergraduate Research Meeting and served as a judge in the event’s Biochemistry category.

“I am so proud of Megan, Nupur, and Tram, and am lucky to have them in the research lab,” Nguyen said. “They work very hard and very productively.”

Nupur Sehgal '23
Nupur Sehgal ’23


Nguyen and the three students will present at the national American Chemical Society meeting in San Diego in March 2022. Brown, Sehgal, and Tram Nguyen will share their research results at the 2022 VAS Spring Undergraduate Research Meeting at the University of Richmond in May 2022.


Top photo (left to right): Tram Nguyen ’24, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Son Nguyen, Nupur Sehgal ’23, and Megan Brown ’23 at Hampden-Sydney College for the 2021 VAS Fall Undergraduate Research Meeting.

As a Stanford University Innovation Fellow, Zahin Mahbuba ’22 Hopes to Impact Hollins and Beyond for Years to Come

Zahin Mahbuba ’22 is passionate about becoming a force for building experiential and entrepreneurial learning in the educational programs of developing nations. This academic year, the international studies major and economics minor from Bangladesh is participating in a Stanford University program that she hopes will help her in establishing a basis for achieving that goal, while at the same time promoting initiatives for students at Hollins.

Mahbuba is one of 251 students from 65 institutions of higher learning in 15 countries to be named University Innovation Fellows (UIF) for 2021-22. The program, run by Stanford’s  Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (d.school), empowers students to become agents of change at their schools. These student leaders create opportunities to help their peers build the creative confidence, agency, and entrepreneurial mindset needed to address global challenges. Fellows create student innovation spaces, start entrepreneurship organizations, facilitate experiential workshops, and work with faculty and administrators to develop new courses. They serve as advocates for lasting institutional change with academic leaders, lending the much-needed student voice to the conversations about the future of higher education.

“The new fellows are designing experiences that help all students learn skills and mindsets necessary to navigate these uncertain times and to shape the future they want to see,” said UIF co-director Humera Fasihuddin. “They are giving back to their school communities, and at the same time, they’re learning strategies that will help them serve as leaders in their careers after graduation.”

During her first two years at Hollins, Mahbuba worked closely with Karen Messer-Bourgoin, who previously served as professor of practice in business at Hollins. “She helped me with all my entrepreneurial endeavors,” Mahbuba said. She learned about UIF from Alyssa Martina, director of Elon University’s Doherty Center for Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship, whom she got to know when Hollins took part in the Elon University Innovation Challenge.

When Mahbuba was presented this summer with Hollins’ first-ever Changemaker Award, participation in UIF became financially attainable. The honor includes a $5,500 grant, made possible by an anonymous donor. “It’s the donor’s belief that the world’s biggest and most difficult problems can be solved by embracing an entrepreneurial mindset and by working diligently to affect change in areas where innovation is needed most,” Mahbuba stated. When deciding how to use the award, she said her overarching goal was that “I didn’t want it to be an experience for myself. I wanted to leave a legacy on which students could embark.”

With Assistant Professor of Political Science Courtney Chenette as her faculty sponsor, Mahbuba embarked on completing UIF’s rigorous application process. “I answered questions about what innovation means to me, what resources would I acquire to build upon the entrepreneurial ecosystem on our campus if the president gave me a blank check, and even what three superpowers I wanted. I made a video where I talked about what excites me. Professor Chenette contributed to my application by describing what entrepreneurship means at Hollins, and I had to get recommendation letters from other faculty.”

As a UIF candidate, Mahbuba was then required to complete a four-week training program remotely this fall. Guided by Joshua Cadorette, a Stanford UIF mentor, she learned “how you can build stuff, how you gather resources, get people on board, things like that.” In collaboration with Chenette, she is spending the next several months at Hollins engaged in a project she conceptualized herself.

“I’m focusing on immigrant populations and refugees and their take on entrepreneurship,” Mahbuba explained. “When refugees are forced to migrate, they often come to America or other Western countries. English is not their first language, and they don’t have a lot of documentation to look for work. They end up becoming entrepreneurs, and I love that innovative mindset. I want to take that idea and make experiential learning opportunities for our students: How can you can create things in your environment and ecosystem that don’t exist yet, but you know should be there? It doesn’t even have to be a device – it could a change in policy.”

During her fellowship, Mahbuba is engaging in a design-thinking framework that is also the focus of “Sustainability and Social Innovation,” a Hollins first-year seminar for which she serves as a student success leader. “Exposing our new students to that is going to be a game changer,” she said. “It’s real, meaningful work, and also has value to one’s knowledge and skills.”

Mahbuba’s fellowship will culminate in March 2022, when she travels to California to spend ten days working with Stanford’s d.school and Silicon Valley startups. “You get exposed to the entrepreneurial ecosystem and connect with people who are actually working on projects,” she said.

As Hollins’ first participant in UIF, Mahbuba is a pioneer for future Hollins students who wish to pursue the program. In fact, cohorts usually include up to seven fellows from a particular college or university in a given year. “I’m really excited to be a part of that,” she noted, “and I’m sure students will be thrilled to get the opportunity to work with Stanford and access their resources.”

Next spring, Mahbuba will graduate after three years at Hollins. She is exploring Ph.D. programs in higher education policy and education reform. “Working with Stanford’s d.school can offer so many ideas on how I can make that structure work for me. When you talk about higher education and policy reform, this will give me a unique mindset and a set of skills.”

Above all, Mahbuba is committed to developing ways to positively impact communities globally whenever possible, especially in regard to young people. “I can’t talk about social innovation enough and why it’s so crucial in moving youth forward. They’re going to be the world’s changemakers. This is something I hope to build on and maybe take it back to Bangladesh, where I can start my own university fellowship program.”

Mary E. “Mary Beth” Hatten ’71 Elected to the National Academy of Medicine

A Hollins alumna has received one of the most notable tributes in the fields of health and medicine.

Mary Elizabeth “Mary Beth” Hatten ’71, Frederick P. Rose Professor and head of the Laboratory of Developmental Neurobiology at The Rockefeller University in New York City, has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM). The honorific society features more than 2,000 members chosen by their peers in recognition of outstanding achievement.

In announcing the recognition, The Rockefeller University noted that Hatten’s research “has shed light on the mechanisms of neuronal differentiation and migration in the cerebellar cortex. During development, neurons must travel from their birth sites to their proper adult locations in an intricate concert of molecular, genetic, and spatial events. Mapping these processes – and how they can go awry – is essential to understanding various brain diseases and developmental abnormalities, including childhood epilepsy and medulloblastoma, a prevalent metastatic brain tumor that affects children and originates during embryonic development.”

Hatten joined Rockefeller in 1992 and was appointed the university’s first female full professor and the first female to lead a research laboratory there. “Early in her career, using innovative real-time imaging, Hatten demonstrated how developing neurons migrate along the lines of glial cells, supportive cells of the nervous system that are implicated in disease pathology,” the university said. “Her research has revealed various molecular regulators of migration, including Astn1, which is a receptor critical for glial-guided migration, and Astn2, which was recently shown to facilitate efficient brain activity and has been identified as a risk factor in neurodevelopmental disorders when mutated. Another key discovery from the Hatten lab was mPar6, which helps control the speed of neuronal migration along glial fibers. Most recently, Hatten has been exploring how changes in the DNA-packaging complex chromatin help guide formation of the cerebellum, the part of the brain that enables learning and the execution of complex movements.”

The announcement of Hatten’s election to NAM also noted her work in co-creating GENSAT, the Gene Expression Nervous System Atlas, in 2003. “This genetic atlas of the mammalian brain is a critical resource for labs worldwide that are researching the central nervous system.”

Hatten was one of a trio of Rockefeller researchers to earn NAM membership this year. “Each of these remarkable scientists has reached important milestones by boldly following the most interesting and pressing scientific questions of our times,” said Richard P. Lifton, the university’s president. “I am immensely proud to be a colleague of these three great Rockefeller faculty and delighted that they are receiving this prestigious honor.”

During her distinguished career, Hatten has received many other accolades, including the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience Investigator Award; the Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award; and a Faculty Award for Women Scientists and Engineers from the National Science Foundation. In 2015 she was presented the prestigious Max Cowan Award, which honors a neuroscientist for outstanding work in developmental neuroscience, and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2017. She is also a recipient of the Hollins Distinguished Alumnae Award and was the featured speaker at Hollins’ 175th commencement exercises.

Photo Credit: The Rockefeller University