By Joyrenzia Cheatham, The Whetstone

When you look around Dr. Stephanie Holyfield’s office you see a wall of books. And you’ll see a cluttered desk, with scattered papers and egg cartons.

“People bring them to me for our chickens,” she said. “We have 25 laying and we just got 20 chicks. It will be a few months before they start laying.”

Holyfield, 48, who teaches in Wesley’s history department, runs a 4-acre farm with her husband, Jim, a retired landscaper. When she’s not teaching, she not only enjoys her chickens – she also enjoys her cats.

“I like to take pictures and videos of my cat and view other people’s cat videos and pictures,” she said. “I listen to an extraordinary number of audio books because I can do that when I have more mundane tasks to do. There isn’t much I do that is not related to my job other than gardening and the occasional Netflix binge.”

Born in Big Stone Gap, Va., she attended high school there.

“There’s a great book by Adriana Trigiani titled Big Stone Gap,” she said. “There’s a movie, too, but I heard the accents were terrible and I can’t bring myself to watch it. Some people love it, others not so much.”

She attended Milligan College in Tennessee for her Bachelor’s degree, James Madison University back in Virginia for her Master’s, and the University of Delaware for her PhD.

“The best two years of my life were at JMU,” she said. “If I had a time machine….”

She said she got a full scholarship at UD.

“In the world of academia, full funding is like the holy grail,” she said.

Holyfield’s only child, a daughter, Valarie, who graduated from Wesley in 2016, attends James Madison University.

“She is in a Public History MA program,” she said. “It’s kind of cool that she has some of the same professors I had.”

Holyfield said she is proud of her PhD.

“That was the culmination of many years of hard work, and once I crossed that hurdle it was like being admitted to an inner circle,” she said. “The pursuit of a PhD dominates every aspect of life when you are in the middle of it. Getting the monkey (a very large monkey) off your back is gratifying beyond measure.”

Holyfield said she also enjoys traveling. Her favorite places change.

“Before spring break, I would have said Barcelona, but now I may have to say Granada or Seville (Spain),” she said, referring to a class trip to Spain in March. “I’m also quite fond of Trentino in northern Italy. Since I am from the mountains (of Virginia), other mountain regions resonate.”

There are many places she still wants to see.

“I’d hit Germany, Poland, Austria, Turkey, Italy (again), possibly Algeria, the Netherlands (again), Chile, Guatemala, & Argentina,” she said. “Somewhere in there I’d stop for a few days in Iceland.”

Dr. Ethan Hawkley said she is a great colleague.

“I could not pick a better person to work with,” he said. “She loves her students and always helps them. She is very generous and helped me as a new faculty.”

Paige Barbour said she is easy to talk to.

“She is the,” she said. “She is always interested in new experiences. I had two study-abroad trips with her and both trips are full of memories I made with her.”

Madison Collins said she cares about her students.

“She wants everyone to be successful and will help in anyway that she can to make sure that happens,” she said. “She can answer any question and solve any issue. I had a few with advising and she helped me fix them so that I could continue to work toward my degree. One time, she stayed with me for an extra hour, until 6:30, to help make a plan so I could graduate in 2019.”

There are a few things no one knows about her.

“When I graduated from high school, I won the library award for reading the most books,” Holyfield said. “I built sets for three musicals. I’m pretty handy with tools.”

She said there is at least one thing that she would change about her life.

“I would have more children,” she said.

Holyfield said women have to make harder choices about careers and family.

“I went all the way through my MA, my PhD coursework and exams, and the first part of my dissertation research as a single parent,” she said. “It was hard and I still don’t know how I did it. “