Hollins University is a four-year institution of higher education, a private university located on a campus on the border of Roanoke County, Virginia and Botetourt County, Virginia. Founded in 1842 as Valley Union Seminary, it is one of the oldest institutions of higher education for women in the United States.
Hollins has since evolved into a full university with more than 1000 enrolled undergraduate and graduate students. As Virginia's first chartered women's college, all undergraduate programs are female-only. Men are welcome in the graduate level programs.
Known for its writing program, Hollins alumna include Annie Dillard, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1975, Natasha Trethewey, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007, Mary Garber, pioneering sportswriter, and Kiran Desai, who received the Man Booker Prize in 2006.
Initially established in 1842 as Valley Union Seminary, a coeducational college, Hollins became a woman's college in 1852. Three years later, it was renamed Hollins in recognition of benefactors John and Ann Halsey Hollins who donated generously to the school. Hollins Institute became Hollins College in 1911 and Hollins University in 1998. Hollins University has offered graduate programs since 1958.
Charles Lewis Cocke is the most recognizable force behind Hollins. The young mathematics professor from Richmond wrote at the age of 19 that he wished to dedicate himself to the "higher education of women in the South." Within a few years Cocke was principal of the institute which would become Hollins College. The motivating force behind the first women's college in Virginia and one of the first in the nation, Charles Lewis Cocke is properly known as the founder of Hollins. During an era when the education of women was thought to be a futile, possibly even dangerous business, Cocke wrote in 1857: "The plan and policy of this school recognizes the principle that in the present state of society in our country young women require the same thorough and rigid training as that afforded to young men." The main administrative building is named for him.
Hollins was the first college in Virginia to name a woman president, Matty Cocke, in 1901. It was also home to the first exhibition gallery in the Roanoke region in 1948. One of the first writers in residence programs in America was established at Hollins in 1959. Hollins was home to the first graduate program focusing on the writing and study of children’s literature established in 1993.
Hollins University Quadrangle is on the Virginia Register of Historical Places.
Tinker Day, observed since the 1880s, occurs in October. It became an official holiday in 1895. The surprise element, which was introduced in 1899, adds to the excitement of the day. Students are awoken at dawn by seniors, who bang pots and pans in their decorated graduation robes to celebrate the event. After the president's official declaration, classes are canceled and students gather to eat Krispy Kreme doughnuts before hiking Tinker Mountain in zany costumes with the faculty and staff. At the top of the mountain, students sing songs and perform skits before a traditional picnic of fried chicken and Tinker Cake.
In the weeks before the event, seniors will prank first-year students by running through the freshman dorms banging pots and pans and declaring it to be Tinker Day in the late night and early morning. These are called "Tinker Scares".
Class and Graduation traditions
Many of Hollins' traditions center around interactions between the classes, the transition from one year to another, and graduation. Convocation welcomes new students and recognizes the start of the new year. In correspondence with this tradition is First Step, in which seniors take their first steps across the Front Quadrangle, which is off-limits to underclassmen, to signify the official start of their last year. The tradition is typically accompanied by a lot of champagne.
Ring Night is an ever-evolving tradition in which seniors secretly adopt junior ring sisters. The juniors participate in skits and other silly antics in hopes of earning their rings and discovering who their "sisters" are. There have been some problems with hazing in past years, leading to the institution of mandatory hazing demonstrations before the administration-sanctioned event.
Hundredth Night marks 100 days before graduation. On that day, seniors gather at a party given by the senior class, reflect on their four years at Hollins through a slide show and skits, and enjoy food served by sophomores and juniors.
Passing of the Robes, begun in 1996, is a new tradition. Seniors who care to may pass their decorated robes down to juniors. It is also a day for other classes to pass on something special to the class below them.
The Rock, located on the lawn outside the Dana Science Building, has been called Hollins' billboard. It was first painted by the Class of 1982. Seniors spray paint colorful messages to congratulate, to celebrate, and to speak out on issues.
Secret Societies and Year-Round Traditions
ADA was founded in 1907. ADA promotes school spirit on the Hollins campus through skits, songs, announcements in the dining room, leading cheers at athletic events, and sponsoring the Red Cross Bloodmobile yearly.
Freya was founded in 1903. Freya is the name of a Norse goddess who symbolizes, among other things, happiness, love and true living. Freya was founded in hopes of creating a society that would embody the ideals by which it wished to live. While the members of Freya have passed in and out of the shadows of anonymity, Freya has always been dedicated to anonymous service. Among other activities, Freya members oversee the Freya scholarship fund and the Emergency Loan Program, both of which help students who may have been overlooked by traditional forms of financial aid. Freya has often been associated with progressive politics, as it walked in support of desegregation and women's rights far before these issues reached their heyday. Freya has been present and involved in most issues that press the campus body.
The most visible activity to the campus community are the "Freya walks." When an issue or conflict strikes near to hearts of Hollins women, Freya walks in honor of those issues and concerns. While the walking time has varied anywhere from 10 to midnight, members have always walked in black-hooded robes to protect their anonymity and carried candles to symbolize hope. In the past, women have turned off the lights in their room to allow Freya to walk in complete darkness. Freya's motto can be found on the flyers that they post the day of a walk: "But in the discrepancy that falls between what one is and what one could be, therein lies the challenge." Freya believes that Hollins women can be all that they can be, and wishes to assist any member of the campus that wishes to reach those goals. In essence, every member of the campus is a part of Freya, as every women is involved in the spirit of Hollins. Both ADA and Freya are elective, and membership is not open.
Founder's Day and Hollins Medals
Hollins Medals were first presented in 1967 to commemorate Hollins' 125th year. Since then, medals have been awarded to alumnae, faculty, staff, or Hollins friends who have "rendered notable services to American society at large or to Hollins in particular."
Founder's Day, observed in February, celebrates the birth and life of Hollins' founder, Charles Lewis Cocke. Members of the senior class (dressed in their robes) and one member of the campus community chosen by the seniors walk to the Cocke family cemetery, where they place a wreath on Mr. Cocke's grave. The community participates in the celebration through the Founder's Day Convocation, a ceremony that features a distinguished speaker.
Hollins offers small classes with a 10:1 student-teacher ratio in a variety of majors, the most popular being creative writing (in which undergrads take classes and workshops with graduate student writers), art, political science, and business. Currently Hollins offers graduate programs in dance, creative writing, children’s literature, liberal studies, playwriting, screenwriting and film studies, and teaching.
The Hollins study abroad program began in 1955, making it one of the first colleges in the nation to have such a program. More than half of Hollins students study abroad. Hollins runs its own programs in London and Paris; non-Hollins students are free to apply to the Hollins Abroad London and Paris programs. Hollins students can study through Hollins-sponsored programs in Argentina, Ghana, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Japan, Mexico, Spain, South Africa, and in various other countries through the School for Field Studies.
In January, students take innovative classes, do their own independent course of study with a professor, take off-campus internships, or study abroad with other Hollins students. The 4-1-4 calendar was one of the first such short terms in the nation, established in 1968.
Hollins' peer tutoring center is known as the Center for Learning Excellence CLE, situated in Middle East. The Writing Center offers students support and feedback on their writing interests, and the QR Center, established in 2002, offers students in Math 100 & beyond support.
The Fiske Guide to Getting Into the Right College describes Hollins as one of the “top women’s colleges in the nation,” and one of 15 “small colleges and universities strong in art and design.” Hollins was named one of “America’s 25 hot schools” in the 2005 Kaplan/Newsweek How to Get Into College Guide. Hollins received an academic rating of four out of a possible four stars in the 2005 edition of The Princeton Review’s The Best 357 Colleges.
Hollins offers majors in the fields of Studio Art, Art History, Biology, Business, Chemistry, Classical Studies, Communication Studies, Dance, Economics, English & Creative Writing, Environmental Studies, Film & Photography, French, History, Interdisciplinary, International Studies, Mathematics, Music, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, Religious Studies, Sociology, Spanish, Theatre, and Women's Studies.
Other academic offerings include: Arts Management Certificate, Certificate in Leadership Studies, Computer Science, Education, First-Year Seminars, German, Pre-Law, Pre-Med, Pre-Vet, Short Term.
The longstanding one-year Hollins M.A. in Creative Writing program underwent upheaval when it was made into a two-year M.F.A. program in February 2003, and increased the annual tuition paid by the students. Richard Dillard, who had chaired the graduate program in creative writing for 32 years, resigned from his position as director of the program to protest the changes. After a brief transition period, however, the program has regained its footing, and continues to be regarded as one of North America's best: witness Dillard's recent receipt of the George Garrett Award for Service to Contemporary Literature, presented by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs in recognition of, among other achievements, the life-changing effects of the Hollins program on more than four decades' worth of young writers. Recent graduates report (in responses to an anonymous survey) a very high level of satisfaction with their experience at Hollins, citing "top notch teachers" and a strong sense of community among students and faculty alike.
Hollins is well known for its riding program, being named a Kaplan "Hot School" for riding in 2004/2005. In 2005, the riding team earned a berth in the IHSA Nationals for the eighth straight year (14th time overall). The team has previously won two national championships. The nation's first women’s intramural sports team was established at Hollins in 1917.
Hollins is a member of Division III of the NCAA; they compete throughout Virginia in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. Intercollegiate sports include soccer, basketball, swimming, lacrosse, riding, tennis and golf. Hollins also has two current club sports: fencing and field hockey.
There are nine residence halls on campus. Most first-years live in Tinker and Randolph in singles or doubles. Sophomores and juniors generally live in West or singles in Tinker and Randolph, and primarily seniors (with a few exceptions) live in Main, or the university apartments across the street from campus. Housing choices are determined by a lottery number given after the housing deposit is paid in the spring; the lottery numbers are assigned randomly from within a preset range determined by class year.
All undergraduates are required to live on campus. The exceptions to this rule are "Horizon"(nontraditional) students, married students or those with children, those over the age of 23, or those whose official residence with parents or guardians is in the Roanoke Valley area.
All residence halls, houses, and apartments are smoke free.
Organization and Interest-Related Houses
Near East Fine Arts, commonly called NEFA, is one of the oldest of the specialty houses and is allied with the Arts Association. Not solely restricted to fine arts majors, NEFA boasts a population of highly creative students and is famous among the student population for its themed parties, typically featuring a "bo rhap" (singing and moshing to the Queen song Bohemian Rhapsody) and streaking amongst the students. Every year they have a haunted house on Halloween, and in the late fall, they hold "Beyond Folkfest", a festival for local musicians. ArtsFest is hosted by NEFA in the spring.
Otaku is located in Tinker House, the newest dorm on campus and it is the newest specialty house. Members of this House live on one hall of the dorm and it is encouraged that members of Otaku promote the hall's main interests in Science-fiction, Japanese Anime (アニメ), or Fantasy. However Otaku Hall promotes the exploration of all cultures (including such activities as Celtic Festival, Kite Festival, and other experiences that individual members bring to the hall). One activity the members of the hall are known for is their spring fundraiser "V.I.K.I.N.G. Day" during which the member of the house "P.I.L.L.A.G.E." for a local charity.
Sandusky House is one of the Hill Houses located behind East. Sandusky is the "service house" where all members are required to do a certain amount of community service to retain their rooms.
International and Language Houses
The Spanish House is situated next door to NEFA in East and is for students studying Spanish. The French House is one of the Hill Houses and houses students studying French. Carvin House is another Hill House, housing international students and students interested in international affairs.
Hollins has about 800 undergraduate students. About 89% are white. In the past, Hollins has had a reputation for educating white, upper-class women. But the student population is becoming less and less homogeneous, with more middle-class students and minorities. The LGBTQA population on campus is growing and active. OUTloud, the Gay-Straight Alliance on campus, is one of the most active and popular clubs around. The riding team is another prominent student population. Students are generally politically moderate to liberal, though there is a strong conservative voice on campus.
Campus organizations on Hollins campus serve to bring the community together and help students find their niche. Hollins has over 30 clubs and organizations. The vast majority of Hollins organizations have open membership. Honor societies, Freya, and ADA are closed societies.
Student Publications and Literary Societies
Hollins has two award-winning campus literary journals. The Album is published every semester and provides an alternative outlet for both traditional and experimental literary works. Cargoes is the annual Hollins literary magazine of student work and Nancy Thorp Memorial Poetry Contest winners. In July 2005, Cargoes was awarded the Undergraduate Literary Prize for content by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP). Grapheon, which is unaffiliated with other literary organizations, arranges programs of literary interest to the community, such as readings, teas, and socials. Hollins has two student newspapers. Hollins Columns, the student newspaper, serves as a source of communication to the Hollins community. The Quadrangle is the alternative, underground campus newspaper. It is dedicated to "filling in the margins and speaking of what other venues do not" and publishing views from all contributors. It is not recognized by the SGA, nor does it receive funding from the school. Spinster, the annual yearbook, preserves the memories and events of Hollins students. Hollins also has its own closed-circuit television station, HUTV.
Arts Association is a group of artistically inclined students interested in sharing their work and contributing to the Hollins art scene. All members of NEFA are members of the Arts Association. Alpha Psi Omega - Hollins has a very loud and active branch of Alpha Psi Omega, a national theater honor society. Foundation 42 is for sci-fi, fantasy, or horror enthusiasts. Founded in 1999, it allows members to explore their favorite aspects of the genre. Hollins Repertory Dance Company (HRDC) offers the opportunity for creative dance study, increased technical ability, composition, and performance by producing two major dance productions each year.
Spiritual and Religious Life Association provides activities and opportunities that nurture spiritual growth, education, and service such as informal programs relating world, personal, and intellectual issues to spiritual life, and annual community service projects such as White Gift Offering, Golden Rule Dinner, and Thanksgiving Food collection. SRLA also provides opportunities for students to gather for fellowship with each other and with students from other colleges. Hollins has two more specifically focused organizations. Bell, Book, and Candle is focused on the different branches and aspects of Pagan spirituality. It was formed in 2005. Hollins Christian Fellowship provides fellowship with other Christians of every denomination at weekly meetings where local pastors and students lead discussion and Bible studies.
Political and Cultural Groups
Hollins has both a branch of the College Republicans and a College Democrats. In addition to these umbrella organizations, Hollins has a number of politically and culturally focused groups dedicated to more specific causes. The Black Student Alliance (BSA) is dedicated to providing an awareness of the African American culture in Hollins and Roanoke through programs and service. They seek to advance diversity, creativity, self-expression, unity, independence and self confidence. They hold frequent campus-wide parties and "melt da mike" nights. The Global Interest Association (GIA) seeks to cultivate and promote an understanding and appreciation of the contributions, values, views and traditions of diverse cultures from around the world. OUTloud is the Hollins Gay-Straight Alliance. Members of this organization seek to work collaboratively both in and out of the Hollins community, educating and increasing awareness about sexual orientation. OUTloud seeks to provide a confidential forum for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) concerns in an open and positive environment, and to increase awareness of queer issues. Voice, the campus activist organization, concentrates on issues concerning consumerism, social justice, human rights, and the environment. Voice members strive to raise awareness for these issues. WA^2 (Women Who Appreciate Anime) promotes the viewing and appreciation of Japanese animation. The shorted version of the name is pronounced "WA squared." This club generally goes to two anime conventions a year: Nekocon and Katsucon. The group also runs a "J-Con" during the short term with anime viewing and events most nights.
Community Service Organizations
Hollins has Circle K, Colleges Against Cancer, and Habitat for Humanity branches on campus in addition to other, more tightly focused campus community service organizations. Hollins H4H was started in 1989 by a Hollins student and since then has funded/sponsored one house and has sent builder teams to numerous others over the years -- every year. Hollins H4H works closely with the local affiliate, Habitat for Humanity in the Roanoke Valley. CASA, short for Coalition Against Sexual Assault, is a student-run peer-counseling service with walk-in office hours five days a week. They also sponsor events like Take Back the Night, an emotional event with an open-mic, candlelit march and SlowWalk by HRDC; educational events for the campus community in classes, dormitory hall social events, and other outreach, advocacy and awareness-raising events. Students Helping Achieve Rewarding Experiences (SHARE) coordinates students who wish to serve as volunteers in the Roanoke area and internationally and to gain a deeper self-understanding through service to others. They assist with volunteer placements in the areas of: youth, elderly, homeless, crisis intervention, hospital assistance, and school systems/tutoring. SHARE also offers qualified students the opportunity to participate in a mini Peace Corps-like project in Jamaica during Short Term and Spring Break.
Chapel Music Students are invited to prepare musical offerings for weekly chapel services, Sundays at 7:30 p.m. Student-led vocal and instrumental music enhance each service. The Hollins United Gospel Singers (T.H.U.G.S.) seeks to minister to the Hollins community and the Roanoke Valley. The Gospel choir is open to all students, faculty, staff and administration.
Hollins has both a French Club and a Spanish Club. Neither require members to speak fluently and focus on the cultures surrounding their languages of choice.
Hollins also has three major honorary and scholarly societies. Omicron Delta Kappa is an honorary leadership society to which fosters the development of responsible leadership and promotes involvement in the college and surrounding community. Phi Beta Kappa, Iota chapter, was established in 1962 and recognizes outstanding scholarship and broad cultural interests in liberal studies. Pinnacle is a national honor society for adult undergraduate students which seeks to support leadership and scholarship.