As Neighboring Campus Faced Death, Hollins U. Set Itself Apart

March 18, 2016

Julia Schmalz

A year ago, when Virginia's Sweet Briar College was enduring a life-and-death struggle, another women’s college nearby was flourishing, despite the challenges that have become common to many single-sex institutions. 

“Ninety-eight out of 100 young women taking the SAT nowadays will tell you that they’re not interested in considering a women’s college,” says David W. Strauss, a principal with the Art & Science Group, a consulting firm. “Those that thrive have had to do very specific things and do them at a strategic level in order to thrive.”

Hollins University, in Roanoke, is the oldest undergraduate women’s college in the state and has offered coed graduate programs for more than 50 years. Even though it’s little more than an hour from Sweet Briar, the two institutions are miles apart in many ways. Nancy Oliver Gray, who has been at Hollins's helm for 11 years, put her university on firm financial ground and believes it's in a position to succeed in a tough climate. 

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Julia Schmalz is a multimedia producer. She tells stories with photos, audio, and video. Follow her on Twitter @jschmalz09,or email her at