Brave New Academics

Rollins ushers in a new era of classroom innovation


By Leigh Brown Perkins






Compromise always sits at the head of the negotiating table.

It urges innovation to cool its jets, while pressing tradition to rev its engines.

When a college undertakes curricular reform—which can either be a dry exercise of necessity every few decades, or a radical, fresh expression of a campus’s values—compromise can keep the ideas flowing.

“This is where the rubber meets the road,” said Interim Provost Laurie Joyner.

For Rollins, crafting a new curriculum has meant compromising neither tradition nor innovation, even though hashing out the details takes time and, yes, compromise.

“As we step across the threshold of this new millennium, if our goal is to prepare our students to truly become informed participants in some of the great debates, issues, and challenges of the 21st century,” President Lewis Duncan said at the opening of the 2007 Colloquy that sparked this latest round of curricular reform, “should we not invest some time, some essential time, in exploring the fundamental concerns facing the world today, and giving thought to the great issues challenging the human condition?”

In the four years since the Colloquy, the Rollins community has invested much thought in its curriculum in the broadest sense, as well as in the specific content of individual classes.

Bold ideas are in the works.

Dated concepts are on the way out.

While the curriculum is on the verge of a new era, Rollins’ reputation for innovation is almost as old as its Walk of Fame. Hamilton Holt paved the way with his experimental “Conference Plan” of the 1930s, aspects of which remain at the College today.

“What mattered to me in coming to Rollins [12 years ago] was the freedom to do things in the classroom that were not normal,” said Professor of Physics Thom Moore, who holds the Archibald Granville Bush Chair of Science.

“I have to hand it to the administration. They support us trying crazy ideas that have the distinct possibility of failure. And they don’t blink. They encourage that kind of creative risk-taking.”

And so, with 80 years of experience in academic originality, Rollins begins to construct a modern framework of courses to meet the needs of a new kind of student entering a brave new world.

Here, a sample of the future.



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