The second stop on our CICV tour of western Virginia was Hollins University, a well-known women’s colleges in the mid-Atlantic. And – because it’s such a highlight program for them – they even had us start our tour at the equestrian center, a stop that made my day!
Like most of its sister schools, Hollins is small, with a student population of just over 600 and a handful of co-ed graduate students in their master’s of arts and master of fine arts programs numbering just under 200 that brings them to a total student body of around 800. Of that number, about ten percent are riders but the university is quick to point out that, for all of the women there, the main focus for one hundred percent of them is to emerge as leaders.
The equestrian program boasts a long history and tradition of excellence in competition in the IHSA, the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, and in the Southwest Virginia Hunter/Jumper Association. Moreover, the staff of the equestrian program all work toward the shared goal of educating their students to be the best horsewomen that they can be both in and out of the saddle – a task they are aided in thanks to a wonderful group of donated school horses, many of which competed on the A and AA circuits in hunters and equitation prior to arriving at the school.
Because there is no equine degree or certificate program at Hollins, however, the students’ academic work must come first – and they must matriculate ready to work hard, as the Hollins curriculum is challenging. To help nurture those who wish to become leaders in a variety of industries (including the horse world) after graduation, the university’s Batten Leadership Institute teaches the students to work under pressure and in groups to allow them to absorb real world knowledge of how leadership functions. (Three or four internships completed while enrolled in BLI also enhance this knowledge.) And even students who don’t enter Hollins with an eye toward leadership are encouraged to take the institute’s foundations course to improve their group communication and teamwork skills. As such, approximately twenty percent of the student body are involved in the program.
In a very revealing (and laughter-inducing!) exercise, the leader of the Batten Institute had each counselor pair with another counselor while we stood in one of the campus classrooms. We had to stand very (!) close to each other (closer than the average person’s personal bubble normally allows) and examine our appearances for a long moment, then stand back to back, change five things about our appearances, and turn around to see what our partner had changed. The first round of changes were easy (glasses on or off, earrings missing or added, hair up or down) but after doing not two, but three rounds of changes, we often had to resort to borrowing items from pairs around us – with hilarious results!
The point of the exercise?
In order to become a successful and respected leader, first one must step out of his or her comfort zone and work under pressure in groups. (Our transformations were under a strict and short time limit!) It was a fun and unique look inside one particular program and its interworkings and we all had a good time with the exercise.
Outside of the BLI (which can be applied to any major) Hollins’ best-known major programs are creative writing, English, communication, and film but the sciences aren’t to be ignored, as the school boasts a one hundred percent placement rate of all of its students to vet school. (Riders, the equestrian staff are also happy to help their students find working student and internship positions over the summer if that’s of interest.)
Should Hollins be a school on your list? Contact me and we’ll see!