Tag Archives: Hollins

Meet Pareena G. Lawrence, Hollins President!

Pareena G. Lawrence became the 12th President of Hollins University in July 2017. During the same summer, the book she coauthored, Life Histories of Women Panchayat Sarpanches from Haryana, India, was published. The book considers stories of elected women leaders in villages across India. Her life, research, and professional accomplishments have elevated and continue to support women in her community and around the world.

Lawrence grew up in India. Her childhood was filled with a lot of rules and things she couldn’t do, and the only reason she wasn’t allowed to do them was simply, “because she was a girl.” The fact that women were so confined in her society sparked her eagerness for change.

“Changing the world and rules seemed wrong became a passion of mine at a very young age,” she recalls.

After she finished college in India, at the University of Delhi, she followed her friend’s lead and applied to some grad schools in the states. In the education department of the US embassy, she looked through pamphlets of colleges and wrote to them asking for applications. She found that continuing her education in America would be the best option for two reasons. The first was that she heard a PhD in America could be finished in a more reasonable time frame than in India. Second, she was surrounded by family in India that, sooner or later, were going to start to push her towards marriage, and she wanted to have her education completed before thought of marriage.

Two years she after she graduated from her University in India, Lawrence started at Purdue to work towards her PhD. She decided to take an education job while there was the hiring freeze in her intended field, international development. She planned to go back and apply for a job in that field after the hiring freeze was lifted. However, Lawrence found that education was the perfect place to put her passion for change. She thought her impact would be larger through higher education. She explains, “The most important thing for me to do was to help prepare [this] generation to be change agents of the world.”

Her last job before coming to Hollins University was the Provost, Vice President of Academic Affairs, a Augustana College. When asked why she took a job with Hollins, President Lawrence recalled her time at an all-women’s school she attended in India.

“The whole idea of ‘of course I can do anything’ and self-confidence came from that all-girl environment,” she explains.

This feeling stuck with her throughout various career positions in her life, so when she was offered the job at Hollins she already believed in their mission.

“I strongly believe that this education we have at Hollins and the environment we have is transformative,” Lawrence says. She also believes that, at an institution like Hollins, the students strive to be the best they can be and the support systems give them a chance to believe in themselves.

President Lawrence is a big believer in the importance of a liberal arts education, not just for women, but for all genders. To her, it works so well in a women’s institution because people are willing to take more risk in a place they feel safe and supported. For more information on President Lawrence and her accomplishments, visit www.hollins.edu.

Written by Lilith Turman

Extraordinary Local Women: Ethel Morgan Smith

emsEthel Morgan Smith grew up in Alabama but came to Roanoke to complete her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Hollins University in 1990. She is currently an associate professor of English at West Virginia University. While at Hollins, Ethel became connected to the population of African Americans who were descendants of former slaves who served on the campus. Many of the descendants themselves continued to work for the college in a variety of service related jobs, like cooking, cleaning, gardening, etc. From this relationship between Ethel and the community of African Americans, grew Ethel’s master thesis project.

From Whence Cometh My Help is the result of this endeavor. The book features many of the people in that community, and gives voice to those who got lost in our local history. Her work is very important for our community to understand our history and how it still affects people in here in the Roanoke Valley.

Her worked continued as she spent time in Germany. Her experiences there led her to writing Reflections of the Other: Being Black in Germany. This book chronicles her adventures in Germany and how she experienced it and how others experienced her as an African American woman.

Ethel has also had many poems and articles published and has won many awards for her work. She is currently working on a book profiling people of different social movements and their lives. Learn more about Ethel by visiting her website, www.ethelmorgansmith.com.

 

Written by Krista Knauer

Meet Emily Fielder

emily fielderEmily Fielder may not be a native, but the 2005 and 2010 Hollins University grad has certainly found her niche here in the Roanoke Valley. Currently a Project Associate at Virginia Career VIEW, Fielder also serves on the Boards of both Apple Ridge Farm and Junior League of Roanoke Valley. Somehow, she still finds time to pursue her doctoral degree. She is passionate about promoting local voluntarism and further developing the potential of other women through her roles in the community.

Nominated by Jennifer Bryant

Join us each weekday during the month of October as we recognize extraordinary women in our area! Nominate someone you know by emailing us: bella@beckmediagroup.com.