Tien Nguyen ’22 Is Again Virginia’s Top-Ranked Female Chess Player

A Hollins University sophomore has been ranked as the top female chess player in the commonwealth for the second year in a row.

Tien Nguyen ’22 earned the honor at the 2019-20 Virginia Scholastic and College Chess Championships, held March 6 and 7 in Alexandria, Virginia. She and Chanmolis Mout ’23 combined to win second place in the College Section’s Blitz team competition, while Nguyen took third in the Blitz individual category. Nguyen also tied for third place in the tournament’s Standard competition.

“Tien is very smart and talented, and she deserves all of this,” said Mout. “This was my first tournament and she supported me throughout the event. She is a really good coach.”

Nguyen and Mout both thanked Maryke Barber, information literacy and arts liaison librarian at Hollins’ Wyndham Robertson Library, for sponsoring their trip to the tournament. “Without all her love and support,” said Nguyen, “we wouldn’t have been able to bring back four trophies to Hollins!”

The Virginia Scholastic and College Chess Championships this year welcomed more than 600 players who competed in accordance with their rating and their age group.  Along with Nguyen and Mout representing Hollins, the College Section featured players from the University of Virginia, College of William and Mary, Virginia Tech, George Mason University, and Longwood University.


Photo caption: Tien Nguyen ’22 (left) and Chanmolis Mout ’23 earned accolades at the Virginia Scholastic and College Chess Championships.


Entrepreneurship Team Earns Praise at Innovation Challenge

A team of Hollins students sponsored by the university’s Entrepreneurial Learning Institute received honors at the 2020 Elon Innovation Challenge, held February 29 at Elon University in North Carolina.

De Faustina Camacho ‘23, Olivia Dannon ‘20, Zahin Mahbuba ‘23, and Chanmolis Mout ’23 were recognized with an Honorable Mention and the Best Prototype Award at the annual event, where teams of students from several universities engage in a one-day social innovation competition to solve a compelling real-life issue. This year, 20 teams from four states developed solutions to improve student health and well-being on college campuses.

“For our project, we had to identify the value proposition, target market, and competitive landscape, as well as our market strategy and business model,” Dannon explained. “The solid foundation of business and entrepreneurial concepts our team has learned at Hollins was a large factor in our overall performance.”

She added, “I have always had a strong interest in innovation and entrepreneurship, and having this opportunity to put that interest into practice was rewarding.”

Mahbuba believes her presentation capabilities improved dramatically as a result of participating in the event. “Coming up with a problem and a viable solution in less than ten hours and then convincing a panel of expert judges really helped me grow my skills. I also learned a lot from watching others articulate their ideas and offer other methodologies toward solving problems.”

The first-year student is planning to employ what she experienced at the Innovation Challenge within her own campus community. “This further enlightened me as far as both problem finding and problem solving, and opens more doors for me to serve Hollins.”

Hollins’ Entrepreneurial Learning Institute combines the hallmarks of a liberal arts education – critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, and leadership – with the entrepreneurial spirit and mindset that are driving opportunity and business growth in the 21st century.


Photo: Members of the Hollins entrepreneurship team with Alyssa Martina, director of the Doherty Center for Creativity, Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Elon University (far left) and Karen Messer-Bourgoin (far right), director of Hollins’ Entrepreneurial Learning Institute and professor of practice in the university’s economics and business department.


Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest Recognizes Seven Young Writers

A South Carolina student has captured the top honor in Hollins University’s 56th Annual Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest.

The competition presents scholarships, prizes, and recognition for the best poems submitted by young women in high school. This year, 944 contestants from 650 high schools in 45 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and 17 countries in addition to the United States submitted works for consideration.

Luisa Peñaflor, a student at the Fine Arts Center of Greenville, won first place for her work, “This Is Not a Heritage Poem.” She will receive a $350 cash prize; publication in Cargoes, Hollins’ award-winning student literary magazine; ten copies of Cargoes; a renewable scholarship of up to $5,000 provided through the Creative Talent Award in Creative Writing for a total value of $20,000 in scholarship funds over four years (applicable if she enrolls at Hollins); and free tuition and housing for the university’s Hollinsummer creative writing program for rising ninth through 12th grade students.

Six other students earned second place honors in this year’s contest. Each of them will receive publication in Cargoes; two copies of Cargoes; a renewable scholarship of up to $1,000 provided through the Creative Talent Award in Creative Writing for a total value of $4,000 in scholarship funds over four years (applicable if the students enroll at Hollins); and a $500 scholarship to apply toward the Hollinsummer creative writing program.

The second place winners include:

Emma Rose Gowans: “2 Sides: reclamation & resurrection with my mother”
South Carolina Governors School for Arts and Humanities
Greenville, South Carolina

Hye In Lee: “A Kisaeng’s Sijo”
Bergen County Academies
Hackensack, New Jersey

Uma Menon: “Sonnet for Bilingual Women”
Winter Park High School
Winter Park, Florida
(A second poem by Menon was awarded finalist standing)

Maya Miller: “Two Lefts Then a Right on Orange Grove Boulevard”
Polytechnic School
Pasadena, California
(A second poem by Miller was awarded finalist standing)

Renee Morales: “crumbs, too, are food
Barbara Goleman High School
Hialeah, Florida

Hannah Grace Wehrung: “Man for Hire, Holmdel, 1964”
Douglas Anderson School for the Arts
Jacksonville, Florida

Nancy Thorp, a member of the class of 1960 at Hollins, was a young poet who showed great promise when she was a student. Following her death in 1962, he family established the Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest to encourage and recognize the work of young poets.

The Princeton Review Places Hollins Among Nation’s Best for Alumni Networks, Internships, and Value

Announcing its Best Value Colleges for 2020, The Princeton Review has ranked Hollins University as having the #5 Best Alumni Network in the country and #21 in the category Best Schools for Internships.

The Best Alumni Network rankings are based on college student ratings of alumni activity and visibility on campus, while the Best Schools for Internships are determined by student ratings of accessibility of internship placement at their school.

The education services company also selected Hollins as one of the nation’s top 200 colleges “for students seeking a superb education with great career preparation at an affordable price.”

The Princeton Review chose its Best Value Colleges for 2020 based on data the company collected from its surveys of administrators at 656 colleges in 2018-19. The company also factored in data from its surveys of students attending the schools as well as PayScale.com surveys of alumni of the schools about their starting and mid-career salaries and job satisfaction figures.

In all, The Princeton Review crunched more than 40 data points to tally ROI (Return on Investment) ratings of the colleges that determined its selection of the 200 schools for the 2020 project. Topics covered everything from academics, cost, and financial aid to graduation rates, student debt, alumni salaries, and job satisfaction.

“The schools we name as our Best Value Colleges for 2020 comprise only 7% of the nation’s four-year colleges,” said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s editor-in-chief. “They are truly distinctive and diverse in their programs, size, region, and type, yet they are similar in three areas. Every school we selected offers outstanding academics, generous financial aid and/or a relative low cost of attendance, and stellar career services.

“We salute Hollins University for these exceptional offerings and recommend it highly to college applicants and parents.”


Hollins Swimming Earns Fifth Straight Scholar All-America Team Honor

The Hollins University swim team has been selected as a Scholar All-America Team for the Fall 2019 semester by the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America (CSCAA).

With a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.51, the Green and Gold earned the honor for the fifth straight fall term.

“We are very proud of our swimmers both in the classroom and the pool,” said Ned Skinner, head swim coach. “Each one contributed to this accolade and I am very impressed by the way they take pride in their school work. In addition, two of our student-athletes achieved a 4.0 GPA, which is outstanding.”

The CSCAA named a record 762 programs from 480 institutions to the Scholar All-America Team. The teams were selected on the basis of their fall grade point averages and represent more than 17,000 student-athletes. Over 60 percent of the selections are from women’s programs.

Founded in 1922, the CSCAA is the nation’s first organization of college coaches. Its mission is to advance the sport of swimming and diving with coaches at the epicenter of leadership, advocacy, and professional development.


“I Want All Girls To Play Chess”: International Master Tien Nguyen ’22 Seeks Gender Parity In The Game She Loves

As a five-year-old growing up in Vietnam, Tien Nguyen ’22 received a present from her father that would not only have a profound impact on their relationship, but also spark a passion that would take her throughout the world and foster a dedication to inspire other women and girls.

That gift was a chessboard, and the initial benefit was giving Nguyen ample quality time with her dad. “He coached me to become a chess player and I was very happy because I could play chess with him,” she recalled.

Nguyen quickly developed into an exceptional player and in the ensuing years her talent took her to competitions in Vietnam and beyond: To date, she has played in ten countries, including India, Indonesia, Korea, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines, Russia, Thailand (three times), Turkey, and the United States. Winning the Asian Girl Championship earned her the lifetime designation of Woman International Master, which is the second-highest ranking given exclusively to women chess players by the World Chess Federation.

In this country, the United States Chess Federation (USCF) ranks Nguyen 67th out of 10,389 female chess players, or in the 99.4 percentile. Among players of all ages and genders, the USCF places her in the 98.1 percentile. The organization has awarded Nguyen the title of Candidate Master (given to players who achieve five performance-based “norms” in competition) for life, and has named her a U.S. Chess Expert, recognizing that she is among the top five percent of all USCF tournament chess players.

Nguyen said endurance – both physical and mental – is the key to thriving in the world of chess. “A typical chess game lasts from three to five hours and the only breaks are to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water,” she explained. To prepare for matches, Nguyen eats a healthy diet and engages in light exercise activities such as yoga or walking. “I also like to sit down and just look at the chessboard for hours to visualize moves inside my head. Between competitions, I play online a lot.” Maryke Barber, information literacy and arts liaison librarian at Hollins’ Wyndham Robertson Library, and her husband, are Nguyen’s host family here, and they introduced Nguyen to the Roanoke Valley Chess Club so that she could complement her online play with face-to-face practice.

When discussing her future goals, Nguyen doesn’t focus on personal accomplishments. “I really want all girls to play chess,” she said, “to learn about it and enjoy it.” Competing in the Virginia Scholastic and College Chess Championships during her first two years at Hollins (she will continue to represent the university in her junior and senior years), she was struck by the fact that “I was the only girl – they all looked at me like I was a museum exhibit! Some of the male players were upset when they lost a game against me. I got used to it.” Nguyen said one of her proudest moments in serving as a role model for girls and women in the game occurred this year when the 2019 National Chess Congress Standings for her U.S. Chess Expert section were released, and she learned she was co-champion with three male players.

Nguyen takes advantage of outreach opportunities to extol the joys of chess wherever she can. Last year during her spring break, she spent two hours teaching concepts of the game to 40 local elementary school students and clearly made an impact. “When I played with them I shook their hands the same as I would with professional chess players. Their teacher told me later that whenever they play now, they shake hands with one another.”

At Hollins, Nguyen successfully blends her love of chess with academic responsibilities. A psychology major, she will spend Short Term 2020 engaged in independent study researching chess and child development. Outside the classroom, she works four to five days a week in Hollins’ Quantitative Reasoning Center, where she tutors fellow students in mathematics. She is also active in Model United Nations (she was part of the Hollins delegation that traveled to Chicago for the organization’s national conference in November) and Model Arab League (she was named Outstanding Delegate, Social Affairs Council, at the Fourth Annual Appalachia Regional Model Arab League, held at Hollins in November 2018).

“I love the small and friendly environment at Hollins,” Nguyen said. “It’s so beautiful and wonderful here.”




Three Juniors Receive Celebrated Gilman Scholarship for International Study

Kloe Borja, Kycel Butters, and Jewel Smith, all members of Hollins’ class of 2021, have been awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship for study abroad.

The three juniors will each receive scholarships in the amount of $4,500. Borja, a biology major, and Butters, who is majoring in psychology, will spend Spring Term 2020 in Italy. Smith, a double-major in sociology and Spanish, will study in Spain this spring.

“We have had a few students from Hollins receive Gilman awards over the years, but having three in one year earning such high award amounts illustrates the excellent quality of the students we have here,” said Ramona Kirsch, Hollins’ director of international programs.

The Gilman Scholarship Program supports students who have been historically underrepresented in education abroad, including but not limited to first-generation college students, students in STEM fields, ethnic minority students, and students with disabilities. Since its inception in 2001, the program boasts 31,000 alumni representing approximately 1,300 U.S. institutions who have studied in over 150 countries.

Award recipients are chosen by a competitive selection process and must use the award to defray eligible study or intern abroad costs.

The Gilman Scholarship is a program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which fosters mutual understanding between the United States and other countries to promote good relations.


Creative Writing Professor Captures Dzanc Prize for Fiction

Associate Professor of Creative Writing Jessie van Eerden has been named the winner of the 2019 Dzanc Books Prize for Fiction, recognizing daring, original, and innovative writing.

Call It Horses, van Eerden’s third novel, was selected from a pool of hundreds of manuscripts and eventually judged by three celebrated Dzanc Books authors: Lee Martin (The Mutual UFO Network, Late One Night), Peg Alford Pursell (A Girl Goes into the Forest), and John Englehart (Bloomland), winner of last year’s prize. The story centers on Frankie Donne and her aunt Mave, who embark in 1990 on a road trip from West Virginia to New Mexico. Mave is running from her cancer treatments, while Frankie is trying to escape from a loveless marriage, fresh sorrow over a miscarriage, and years of grief over abandonment by her true love, Dillon. They reluctantly agree to take on a third passenger: Dillon’s new wife, Nan, who has her own reasons for fleeing west.

“I was so moved by this book, I sobbed at the end,” said Pursell. “And the language! What a gifted author.” Englehart stated, “Filled with poetry, working-class grit, and undogmatic spirituality, this novel shows us what we gain when we become outlaws in our own lives.” Martin added, “The final scene is one I’ll remember always.”

“This novel has been a long journey, several years of exploring the story of spiritual liminality experienced by a woman standing just outside of fulfillment,” van Eerden said. Of winning the prize she noted, “I’m grateful to all the readers of this manuscript, to those who came alongside me to read early drafts and to the editors and judges who read for the prize, for the ways each reader has helped to usher these characters into the world. And, I’m honored to have this opportunity to work with a press with such a commitment to artful, attentive fiction.”

Glorybound (WordFarm, 2012), winner of the Foreword Editor’s Choice Fiction Prize, and My Radio Radio (Vandalia Press, 2016), selected for the Top 10 of 2016 by Image Journal, are van Eerden’s two previous novels. Her portrait essay collection, The Long Weeping (Orison Books, 2017), won the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award.

Dzanc Books is a nonprofit organization committed to producing quality literary works and providing creative writing instruction in public schools through the Dzanc Writers-in-Residence program. It also offers low-cost workshops for aspiring authors.


Hollins Once Again Boasts Two Award-Winning Delegations at Model UN

Four Hollins students received honors at the 30th Annual American Model United Nations International Collegiate Conference, held November 23-26 in Chicago.

Hannah Jensen ’20 and Mollie Davis ’22 won Outstanding Delegation for the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, while Emma Jensen Babson ’23 and Bianca Vallebrignoni ’23 were named the Outstanding Delegation for General Assembly Second Committee.

This is the second year in a row Hollins has returned with two award-winning delegations from the conference, which draws over 900 participants each year.

In addition, Salima Driss ’23 and Jaiya McMillan ’23 argued a case before the International Court of Justice.

Katie Grandelli ’20 and Carly Collins ’21, co-presidents of the Model UN/Model Arab League Club at Hollins, spent hours outside of class time preparing students for the conference. Professor of Political Science Ed Lynch and Assistant Professor of Political Science Courtney Chenette serve as faculty sponsors.

Earlier in November, four Hollins students took part in the Capital Area Regional Model Arab League Conference in Washington, DC,  at the request of the sponsoring organization. Three of the students – Hannah Byrum ’20, Mary Elizabeth Cochran ’21, and Maria Jdid ’21 – served as chairs, and Jdid won the award for Outstanding Chair. Grandelli was honored as Best Secretary General for 2019.

Hollins students will attend the National University Model Arab League Conference at Georgetown University in March 2020.


Photo caption: A large delegation of Hollins students traveled to Chicago to take part in the American Model United Nations International Collegiate Conference.

Hollins Earns “A-Minus” Financial Health Grade from Forbes

Hollins University has received an “A-minus” grade from Forbes for fiscal fitness in the magazine’s 2019 report on the financial health of private not-for-profit colleges and universities.

Drawing upon the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the federal government’s main body for collecting and analyzing information regarding education in the United States and other countries, Forbes examined the finances of 933 private institutions across the nation with enrollments larger than 500 students. The publication then graded those schools “on balance sheet strength and operational soundness, plus certain other indicators of a college’s financial condition, including admission yield, percentage of freshmen receiving institutional grants, and instruction expenses per student.”

Forbes noted, “This year only 34 colleges received A-plus grades, and another 40 scored at least A-minus.” Hollins is thus among the top 75 of the 933 schools analyzed.

Only two private colleges in Virginia (the University of Richmond and Washington and Lee University) earned higher grades than Hollins.