15 Reasons Rollins is Florida’s Most Engaged Campus

December 18, 2018

By Audrey St. Clair ’03

Florida Campus Compact has named Rollins the Most Engaged Campus of 2018 for its demonstrated commitment to social and community engagement. Here are 15 ways the College is leading the charge in changemaking.

This past fall, Florida Campus Compact—a national coalition whose mission is to advance high-impact practices that enhance student civic engagement—selected Rollins as the Most Engaged Campus of the Year. This award recognizes Florida institutions for exemplary commitment to advancing the civic purposes of higher education by improving community life and educating students for social and community responsibility.

“Being recognized as the Most Engaged Campus by Florida Campus Compact acknowledges our institutional commitment to community and civic engagement,” says Meredith Hein, director of Rollins’ Center for Leadership & Community Engagement. “As an institution, our mission is brought to life every day through student engagement, faculty scholarship, administrative support, and community partnership. I am proud to be a part of an institution that is leading the way on the national level by fostering a strong commitment to this work.”

As we take a broad look at how the College is paving the way for the next generation of changemakers, the following 15 reasons rise to the top.

Alfond Scholars and Bonner Leaders participate in an Immersion focused on the rights of farmworkers not far from campus.
Photo by Scott Cook.

1. Immersions

From addressing farmworkers’ rights in immigrant communities to contributing to hurricane-relief efforts in Miami, Rollins’ Immersion program puts our students face to face with some of today’s most pressing challenges. These journeys of education, reflection, and action have resulted in transformative experiences that repeatedly land Rollins in the No. 1 spot nationally for the highest percentage of students who participate in alternative breaks. In the case of Arden Baxter ’18, it was her first Immersion experience working with immigrant farmworkers that set the course for her unique path at Rollins, where she combined her love of math and passion for service. She’s now pursuing her PhD in operations at Georgia Tech with the ultimate goal of helping aid organizations like the Red Cross and the CDC improve logistics after natural disasters.

Students have a round-table discussion in a Costa Rican rainforest.
Photo by Scott Cook.

2. Faculty-Led Field Studies

Interviewing a local researcher about reforestation amid a lush Costa Rican rainforest trumps sitting through a lecture on the topic any day. The same goes for learning about marine ecosystems, entrepreneurship, public health, and social justice. Our faculty-led field studies, which range from one to three weeks, take students right to the source of the 21st century’s toughest challenges, teaching values, nuance, and complexity in a way not possible through a textbook. From helping build an ecolodge at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro to installing water filters across rural communities in the Dominican Republic, Rollins field studies teach students to be great at good.

First-year student laying sod on SPARC Day, Rollins’ annual day of service for incoming students.
Photo by Scott Cook.

3. SPARC Day

Before ever setting foot in a classroom, first-year students dive right into one of Rollins’ core tenets: Life is for service. By participating in Rollins’ annual day of service, students get a glimpse of what can happen when they put their ideas to work in the world. Since Rollins founded SPARC Day in 2006, nearly 9,000 Tars have contributed more than 37,000 hours of service to an average of 24 community organizations each year. Students tackle issues like education, poverty, health care, and homelessness, their cumulative efforts this year resulting in a one-day impact on the community valued at $97,986.

Sam Sadeh teachings the basics of coding to local elementary schoolchildren.
Photo by Scott Cook.

4. Bonner Leaders Program

Developed by the Bonner Foundation, a national philanthropic organization based in New Jersey, the Bonner Leaders Program provides students who are passionate about service with scholarships, training, and enrichment throughout their time at Rollins. Bonner Leaders partner with nonprofit organizations focused on everything from education to the environment and work to enhance the organization’s ability to fulfill community needs. Because of the Bonner Leader Program, Sam Sadeh ’18 was able to leverage his love of technology and passion for service to found an after-school coding program at a pair of high-need Orlando schools, while Meredith Ewen ’19 developed an art program at a local nonprofit that serves children and adults with special needs.

Skylar Knight puts yard signs on campus to build awareness about the democratic process.
Photo by Scott Cook.

5. Democracy Project

When it comes to rocking the vote, Rollins is leading the pack. In 2016, the College received a Silver Seal from the ALL IN Democracy Challenge for achieving the highest voting rate among medium-size private colleges and universities. This past August for the second consecutive year, Rollins was one of just 150 campuses nationwide to be named a voter-friendly campus by a pair of national nonpartisan organizations, the Campus Vote Project and Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. Members of Rollins’ student-led Democracy Project like Skylar Knight ’19—a recipient of Rollins’ Crain Political Science Scholarship—are committed to engaging students and the campus in the electoral process. The group focuses on everything from fighting voter disenfranchisement to organizing monthly voter-registration drives, hosting debates between local candidates, and providing transportation to the polls.

Mary Vickers discusses issues important to migrant farmworkers for her student-faculty research project.
Photo by Scott Cook.

6. Millennium Fellows

Rollins was selected as one of just 30 colleges worldwide to host the global pilot program of the Millennium Fellows this past fall. Launched by the United Nations Academic Impact initiative and the Millennium Campus Network, the highly competitive fellowship is a prestigious leadership development program that empowers students to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on campus and in their communities. As one of the 15 newly minted Millennium Fellows, Mary Vickers ’20 is partnering with two community organizations to examine—through the lens of activist anthropology—how immigration enforcement policies are impacting the daily lives of low-income immigrants. Overall, Millennium Fellows’ projects are projected to positively impact the lives of more than 310,000 people worldwide.

Students prepare soil in residential lawns for planting of urban micro-farms.
Photo by Scott Cook.

7. Community Engagement Courses

By engaging in direct community-based work with nonprofits throughout Central Florida, community engagement (CE) courses allow students to apply what they’re learning in the classroom to the real world right here in our backyard. More than 200 CE courses have been integrated into the curriculum across more than half of the academic disciplines, proving to be wildly successful in delivering on the College’s mission to create global citizens and responsible leaders. For the 2017-18 academic year, 741 students enrolled in CE courses, the highest number on record since the designation was created in 2006. Projects have included creating a walking-tour app for the Hannibal Square Heritage Center, helping underserved fourth-graders prepare for state math exams, and turning residential lawns into urban micro-farms that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Kids dressed up for Halloween Howl on campus.
Photo by Scott Cook.

8. Campus and Community Events

Engaging the community—whether it’s in the spirit of service or just for plain ol’ fun—is at the heart of Rollins’ mission. Each year, Rollins plays host to some of Winter Park’s most beloved events, from Halloween Howl on Mills Lawn to SummerSERVE, which pairs students, faculty, staff, and alumni with community partners to address various needs, to R Community Fair, an annual event that engages local leaders with the campus community.

Morgan Laner pictured at an e-waste drive on campus.
Photo by Scott Cook.

9. EcoRollins and Sustainability Program

Caring for the environment starts with awareness and becomes a reality through action on the part of students like Morgan Laner ’18. Through these two groups—the former a student-run initiative focused mostly on events and the latter a campus-wide campaign geared toward infrastructure—Laner led multiple efforts to lessen Rollins’ carbon footprint. She worked with dining services to revamp the campus’ recycling program, organized e-waste drives, and shined a spotlight on farmworkers. She also contributed to existing initiatives like the on-campus organic garden, bike-share program, and the use of disposable food containers. At Rollins these kinds of opportunities to effect real, lasting change are as prolific as the 100-year-old live oaks that call campus home.

Rollins students participate in nonprofit internships focused on underserved communities in Michigan.

10. Nonprofit Internships

In today’s competitive marketplace, internships have become increasingly valuable in positioning undergrads for success in graduate school and the workforce. Thanks to the support of the Rhoda Newberry Reed Foundation, Rollins students have the chance to pursue competitive internships specifically in the nonprofit world. Just this past summer, Carla Daza ’20, Brandon Manbahal ’19, and Noelle Wurst ’19 interned at a trio of Michigan nonprofits, working to empower young girls to become first-generation college students, providing food and housing to underserved communities, and helping teens grow and succeed through artistic expression and community leadership.

Social entrepreneurship students implement ideas around human-centered design thinking at the AdventHealth Innovation Lab.
Photo by Scott Cook.

11. Ashoka U Changemaker Campus

In addition to Campus Compact’s recognition of Rollins as one of the leaders in engaged learning, Rollins was among the first liberal arts colleges in the South to be named an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus back in 2012. The College shares the designation with only 37 institutions around the world. Ashoka U continues to be impressed with Rollins’ strong curricular offerings in social innovation, robust serving-learning opportunities, and the strength of support and excitement from senior leadership in Rollins’ current and future work around changemaking.

Students collaborate in the AdventHealth Innovation Lab.
Photo by Scott Cook.

12. Social Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation

In 2013, Rollins founded the first social entrepreneurship major in the world to be accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the hallmark of a top-quality business education. Since then, the desire among college students to want to improve the world around them, to become leaders who are not only successful but socially conscious, has grown exponentially. As a result, the College launched a new social innovation major this fall aimed at giving enterprising students the knowledge and skills they need to address societal problems in creative, systematic, and sustainable ways.

Political science professor Don Davison works with student on original research.
Photo by Scott Cook.

13. Committed Faculty

For the past decade, Rollins faculty members have been consistently recognized by Campus Compact for their contributions beyond the bounds of the classroom. In 2015, communication professor Anne Stone won the Engaged Scholarship Award for a project in which she and her students applied principles of communication to help older adults showing early signs of memory loss. In 2017, political science professor Don Davison won the Graham-Frey Award for his outstanding contributions to the development of civic learning and engagement in sustaining our participatory democracy. And just this past fall, anthropology professor Nolan Kline received the Early Career Engaged Scholarship Award for his efforts to create collaborative relationships with community members and organizations that display a shared commitment to advancing social justice goals like health care for vulnerable communities.

Second Harvest Food Bank parked on campus for a community event.
Photo by Scott Cook.

14. Community Partners

Rollins has forged relationships with more than 200 community partners that are leading the way in making a difference. When Second Harvest Food Bank needed new strategic digital materials, Rollins communications students delivered. Fleet Farming’s goal of turning residential lawns into micro-farms continues to be reached with the help of Rollins’ burgeoning crop of social entrepreneurs. At the nonprofit Opportunity, Community, Ability (OCA), the lives of adults and children with disabilities have been brightened by co-creating theatrical performances with Rollins students and faculty. Rollins students benefit from these partnerships just as much as the community, gaining hands-on, real-world experience, interpersonal skills, and invaluable perspective.

SJ Renfroe ’18
Photo by Scott Cook.

15. Industrious Students

While Rollins is proud of its awards and recognition, the most important endorsement of the College’s changemaking credentials is the success of our students and graduates. SJ Renfroe ’18, whose time at Rollins studying anthropology ignited in her a devotion to righting wrongs, is now at Columbia getting a master’s in human rights studies. During Elise Letanosky ’07’s time as a Tar, she helped build affordable houses in Puerto Rico and experienced life in South Africa, which prepared her for her current role in Bangladesh as the country director for People in Need, an international aid organization that implements humanitarian relief efforts. Sam Barns ’11 ’12MBA is changing the world on one of the planet’s grandest mountains by building an ecolodge to be owned and operated by the community—and Rollins students are helping him do it through political science professor Dan Chong’s Tanzania field study focused on community development.

Rollins students walking to class.

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