Though it was first established as Valley Union Seminary at its inception in 1842, a coed college, a decade passed and the school morphed in to the first all women’s school in the state of Virginia (and one of the first in the entire country). The school’s name changed to Hollins, operating off the principle that “young women require the same thorough and rigid training as that afforded to young men”, a mentality that has survived to this day.
Hollins University is still one of the premier colleges for women in the country, maintaining an entirely female undergrad student body to this day, though the graduate programs offered are now coed. The school, which now takes up 475 acres, has a student population of roughly 1,000 students (775 undergrad women and 261 coed grad students) and has made a name for itself through its own mix of solid liberal arts education, unique traditions, and some of historical firsts for colleges in this nation. They offer Bachelor programs in around 30 majors to their female student body, certifications, Master of Fine Arts and Master of Arts degrees in another half a dozen divisions (from Screenwriting to Dance), and a number of pre-professional programs (including Law and Medicine), and a fantatic 10:1 student teacher ratio.
One of the more unique features to Hollins is their tradition that all undergrads live on campus, so distance education doesn’t have much of a home here (even in their graduate programs), but the unique methods of the university don’t stop there. They follow a 4-1-4 semester calendar (with an intensive, shortened January semester that is usually reserved for internships, focused research projects, or studying abroad (Hollins was home to one of the very first abroad programs, the Hollins Abroad-Paris in 1955). The university also began one of the first Writer’s in Residence programs, as well as one of the first graduate programs in writing/children’s lit, and this focus on creative writing still survives today as one of the most popular majors. Pulitzer Prize winning writers have oft frequented the halls as students, they support two literary magazines (a relic of the past in most colleges), and has been lavished praise as one of “the most productive writing programs in America”. Other popular majors for undergrads include English, Business, and Communication Studies.
Many Hollins traditions stem from a close knit community of learners, sisters in education. Graduates of the school value their female only school experience, citing opportunities for leadership and team learning that wouldn’t normally exist for them in coed schools. There are numerous, Hollins-centric traditions (from their Passing of the Robes, a tradition that marks seniors passing the torch as they prepare to leave, to ADA, a secret society dedicated to school spirit) that bring this community of female learners together and form real bonds that help support each other through college.
The core undergrad general education stems from their own Education through Skills and Perspectives program (ESP), meant to give students a strong base education that is outside the normal arts and sciences. Classes meant to engender skills for the real world (writing, oral communication) and others meant to give a broader perspective of the world around them (Social/Cultural Diversities and Scientific Inquiry) fill in the gaps in their education, leading to more fully realized graduates with a greater grasp on the world before them.
Whether through their dedication to educating women, or their desire to extend that learning into the work world in their weekend/evening coed graduate programs, internships, and research, Hollins has spent more than a century offering award winning education that has made great strides in equalizing the college experience across gender lines.