My Rollins Life: Defining Leadership

February 14, 2022

By Carley Matthews ’22, as told to Adrienne Egolf

Carley Matthews ’22
Photo by Scott Cook.

Carley Matthews ’22 isn’t trying to fit a certain mold of leadership—she’s using her own voice and style to redefine the role.

Carley Matthews ’22 didn’t set out to become a campus leader when she started at Rollins. As a student at Olympia High School in Orlando, Florida, the psychology major says she was shy and introverted and came to college worried about making friends. But she faced her fears and dove headfirst into getting involved on campus. She joined the Black Student Union, became a first-year representative for Rollins’ Immersion program, which pairs students with service learning opportunities, and joined the club volleyball team.

Now the social justice advocate is on the precipice of transitioning from an intern into a full-time team member at the OnePulse Foundation after she graduates, working for the organization’s education program doing outreach to the LGBTQ+ community in Orlando. Hear from Carley in her own words about how living and learning at Rollins has helped shaped her into the person she always wanted to be.

A grid of images depicting Carley Matthews ’22 on an Immersion experience in Savannah, Georgia, assembling hygiene kits for the homeless, and visiting the Pulse memorial in Orlando.A grid of images depicting Carley Matthews ’22 on an Immersion experience in Savannah, Georgia, assembling hygiene kits for the homeless, and visiting the Pulse memorial in Orlando.
From left: Carley Matthews ’22 on an Immersion focused on food insecurity in Savannah, Georgia; assembling hygiene kits for the homeless with her EMBARK cohort; visiting the Pulse memorial in downtown Orlando.

A Home Base

“Fitting in was definitely at the forefront of my mind coming into a predominantly white institution. But being a part of the EMBARK program really helped. This program at Rollins helps students from underrepresented backgrounds transition to life in college. We got to meet before classes even started our first year. Later, I became a student coordinator so I could help other new students find their way. This experience really gave me the confidence I needed to grow socially, personally, and academically, and the staff in the Center of Inclusion & Campus Involvement [CICI] has become like family to me.”

What Drew Me In

“In high school I was interested in a number of different things, so I wanted my college education to look like that. At Rollins I immediately had these opportunities to get involved with so many different aspects of campus and they’ve ultimately been things I’ve been involved with all four years. I was a first-year representative for Rollins’ Immersion program, shadowing leaders of the program that facilitates service-learning projects. Now I’m an Immersion coordinator. I’m also the president of Black Student Union, which is one of the first clubs I joined when I came to Rollins.”

Seeds of Advocacy

“My first year I was dead set on being a clinical therapist and working with youth. I still want to work with young people, but my goals have shifted to nonprofit work because I’m very passionate about social justice. I want a career where I’m always changing, learning, and growing. Having the interdisciplinary approach at Rollins allowed me to broaden my perspective. I still want to be a therapist—it’s just not the only thing I want to be.”

Carley Matthews ’22Carley Matthews ’22

In My Own Skin

“The Black Student Union was one of the first clubs I joined, and I had always been a kind of leader in the background. All of the staff and faculty mentors definitely saw the need to push me to the forefront and lovingly challenged me to step into a position that would prepare me for what I wanted to do in the future. Now it’s my goal to stand in leadership roles like the one I have now as the president of BSU and use my voice for good.”

Space to Practice

“I’m currently taking Psychotherapy with my advisor, psychology professor Andrew Luchner. It’s a class and a lab course, where we have the space to practice therapy skills. It’s designed to be like a seminar class in a graduate program, which is really cool. You dive into not only how to help other people but also to be self-aware about your own issues. There’s a lot of introspection while at the same time learning how to help other people.”

Community Connections

“My favorite thing about campus life is that everything is in close proximity. Throughout my college experience I’ve been close to my RA and close to my peer mentors. The Office of Residential Life & Explorations has been very intentional about the kind of living and learning experiences they want their students to have and I’ve felt that. I love getting involved in the different activities they do, whether it’s yoga or a movie on the lawn. There’s always something to do.”

Black Student Union winning the annual Lip Sync battle at Rollins.Black Student Union winning the annual Lip Sync battle at Rollins.

A Memorable Victory

“One of my favorite memories with the BSU would have to be the campus-wide Lip Sync battle in 2020. I wasn’t in the dance, but I was the manager and got to see behind the scenes and help everyone put in the work. We all got closer during that time. We danced to a medley of songs by Beyonce, Maze, and Megan Thee Stallion—and we won!”

Real Relationships

“I’ve had so many mentors all across campus. Denisa Metko in the Center for Career & Life Planning was so pivotal in helping me get my first internship with the OnePulse Foundation and preparing me for that experience. My academic advisor, Dr. Luchner, has been amazing and an ongoing source of support. Teasa Mays, assistant director of diversity and inclusion in the Office of Admission, and everyone in CICI have been so integral to my time at Rollins. They’re so committed to students, and I’m grateful to be in community with them. Whether it’s a phone call or going out for coffee or out to lunch, all of these people check in with me in a way that makes me know they really care about me as a person.”

Light and Potential

“When I got a grant to cover the rest of my tuition, I was extremely thankful. As a first-generation college student, I’m so grateful for the staff and faculty who saw potential in me and helped me navigate the financial aid process. It’s been a substantial help for my family. I have two younger sisters who are looking at colleges, and now I get to help them on their journey as well.”

A tent representing the OnePulse Foundation in Orlando.A tent representing the OnePulse Foundation in Orlando.

Hands-On and Up-Close

“I earned a Rollins Gateway Fellowship to intern at the OnePulse Foundation in summer 2021 as a communications specialist and then in the fall transitioned into the role of educational programs intern in charge of creating workshops that centered LGBTQ+ experiences. I did a workshop on radical empathy. Considering the political and social times we’re in, it was important for me to include something about understanding experiences and identities that are different from yours. That was very special to me and helped lay the groundwork for the role I’ll take on at OnePulse after I graduate, continuing the work of educational outreach.”

Photos by Scott Cook.

Carley’s Favorite ...

  • Place on campus: Lucy Cross Center for Women, Gender & Sexuality
  • Study spot: The Tower Room in Olin Library
  • Park Avenue hangout: Central Park, especially the area by the rose garden
  • Campus dining venue: Dave’s Boathouse for the comfort food and relaxed vibe

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