What a Rollins Classroom is Really Like

August 03, 2021

By Robert Stephens

Rollins outdoor classroom
Photo by Scott Cook.

Go behind the scenes of a Rollins classroom through the eyes of 10 recent grads and find out how our commitment to individualized attention, real-world application, and more is helping them thrive everywhere from Amazon to Harvard.

You’ve fallen in love with our lakeside campus. You can’t wait to start exploring the globe on your first study abroad experience. And who wouldn’t be excited about living in one of the world’s fastest-growing and most thrilling cities? Your #RollinsLife is shaping up to be nothing short of spectacular.

Well, guess what? You should be just as excited about your classes. After all, this is Rollins: the headquarters of engaged learning. At Rollins, our intimate and personalized learning environment is designed to maximize engagement. A Rollins classroom is about application over memorization, mentoring over lecturing, and hands-on research over data downloading.

But don’t just take our word for it. Find out why meaningful engagement and individualized attention matter by exploring our classroom experience through the eyes of 10 recent Rollins grads.

A Supportive Start

Our Rollins College Conference (RCC) model is just one of the reasons we were ranked among the top 100 colleges in the nation for best first-year experience in 2020.

jacob battad at rollins college conferencejacob battad at rollins college conference
A physics major at Rollins, Jacob Battad ’18 is a CRM/email analyst at Foot Locker.Photo by Scott Cook.

Jacob’s Experience Like many incoming first-year students, Jacob Battad ’18 kept his weightiest questions to himself: How will I manage the expectations? How will I pay for my study abroad semester in two years? Then he met his cohorts in his Rollins College Conference, a seminar-style course designed to ease the transition to life and academics at college.

“Our class delved into myths about college. Those discussions and the time we spent together eased my nerves.”

Battad also had a mentor who helped him save money for his semester abroad in New Zealand. The RCC meant so much to Battad that he later became a peer mentor himself.

“I’d tell first-years: ‘Pick a major you enjoy. You’ll learn skills that can be applied to all kinds of jobs.’ Look at me—a physics major working in marketing for Foot Locker.”

What to Expect Think of your RCC course as the blueprint for success at Rollins and beyond. It’s a great opportunity to make friends because you’ll be paired with 16 of your fellow first-years, as well as a peer mentor whose job is to show you the ropes. Your RCC professor also serves as your faculty advisor for your first year, so you’ll have a built-in mentor from day one.

Individualized Attention

Thanks to a student-faculty ratio of just 11:1, our expert professors have the freedom to focus on you.

karina barbesino using a computerkarina barbesino using a computer
As an international relations and Asian studies double major at Rollins, Karina Barbesino ’19 earned a trio of prestigious scholarships. Today, she’s working at the intersection of science and international affairs at Harvard’s Belfer Center.Photo by Scott Cook.

Karina’s Experience Karina Barbesino ’19 didn’t want to sit and listen to a stream of lectures in college. She wanted to directly engage her professors, hear the voices of her peers, and have a voice herself.

“In my first Chinese class, Dr. Li Wei encouraged us to have open conversations. It’s similar to what I do now in a think tank at Harvard, where we have to become instant experts on new topics. The classroom discussions at Rollins showed me how to better understand complex topics and were a way for instructors to understand each student.”

The understanding showed when Barbesino landed Fulbright, Boren, and Critical Language scholarships. “The letters of recommendation were personal because the professors knew my story. Those relationships have been catalysts for my career path.”

What to Expect For the second consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report ranked Rollins No. 1 in the South for commitment to undergraduate teaching. At Rollins, our professors aren’t detached lecturers droning on and on in an overcrowded auditorium. They are expert guides who help you uncover your passion and give you the tools and opportunities to reach your goals.

An Intimate Environment

A Rollins education is powered by relationships, especially the partnerships between our inventive faculty and industrious students.

Brandon McNichol in biochemistry labBrandon McNichol in biochemistry lab
At Rollins, Brandon McNichol ’19’s professors nurtured his dual passions in science and music. Today, he’s an MD candidate at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine.Photo by Scott Cook.

Brandon’s Experience Whenever Brandon McNichol ’19 came to Rollins for a community music school as an 11-year-old, he’d catch glimpses of professors and students spending time together. When he arrived as a first-year student, McNichol already felt a sense of belonging.

“It was more than straight academics. My music teachers knew about my pre-med aspirations, and my science teachers knew about my passion for music.”

Before graduating, McNichol performed a 30-minute cello recital in Keene Hall. There in the audience were all the music professors and science professors he’d invited. Today, as he works toward a medical degree, he says, “I still feel like they’re pulling for me.”

What to Expect Expect professors who not only know your name but also understand your interests and ambitions. Expect experts who will work side by side with you on everything from original research to life-changing service. Expect to be mentored and challenged every day to unlock your unique potential to make the world brighter.

All of the World is Your Classroom

Interviewing a local researcher atop a rainforest in Costa Rica trumps sitting through a lecture on the topic any day. Going straight to the source through one of Rollins’ myriad international experiences teaches values, nuance, and complexity in a way textbooks never can.

Caroline Rosendahl studying abroad in the Dominican RepublicCaroline Rosendahl studying abroad in the Dominican Republic
Caroline Rosendahl ’19’s experience installing water filtration systems in the Dominican Republic paved the way to her current career at Siemens Gamesa, a Spanish-German renewable energy company.Photo by Scott Cook.

Caroline’s Experience Growing up in Thailand had given Caroline Rosendahl ’19 a unique worldview before she enrolled at Rollins. But going on a field study to install water filtration systems in the Dominican Republic with chemistry professor Pedro Bernal opened her eyes even wider.

“I only knew of the DR for tourism. Seeing kids walk to the river for water and families building shelter with scrap wood reminded me of rural Thailand. It elevated my interest in sustainability.”

Rosendahl has taken that interest into her data analytics position with Siemens Gamesa. “I love finding ways to reduce waste. The DR experience reminded me never to take resources for granted.”

What to Expect At Rollins, you’ll make an impact around the world in everything from community development to disease prevention. From semester- and summer-long programs to one-of-a-kind faculty-led field studies, you’ll explore the world and test your ability to make it better.

Fascinating Faculty

Our professors use both their passion and their expertise to inspire our students on their own personalized pathways to success.

Julian Grundler conducting cancer researchJulian Grundler conducting cancer research
Julian Grundler ’18 conducted cancer research alongside chemistry professor Ellane Park at Rollins and MIT. Today, he’s continuing his quest for more efficient cancer treatments as a PhD candidate at Yale.Photo by Scott Cook.

Julian’s Experience As a high school senior in Germany, Julian Grundler ’18 had minimal interest in chemistry. Then, as a first-year at Rollins, he studied the different types of hops used to make beer and methods to keep guacamole from turning brown. In one class, chemistry professor Ellane Park brought the science fiction book Prey.

“She had us explore whether certain futuristic materials in the book could be realistic someday using nanoparticles.”

Today, as a PhD candidate at Yale, Grundler is working in a lab to see how nanoparticles might be used in more efficient cancer treatments. “Rollins’ professors showed me how interesting chemistry can be, so perhaps I can help make the impossible possible.”

What to Expect Well, don’t worry about getting bored. Your future professors are passionate scientists, performers, artists, and entrepreneurs who employ everything from chocolate to comic books to keep you engaged and instill a curiosity for lifelong learning.

Cool Classes

At Rollins, we don't do run of the mill.

Christina Perez Diaz teaching childChristina Perez Diaz teaching child
Cristina Perez Diaz ’17 ’19MBA took plenty of cool classes at Rollins, including this one in which she was challenged to teach philosophy to schoolchildren. She says she still uses that experience today as a human resources specialist at Amazon.Photo by Scott Cook.

Cristina’s Experience Whenever Cristina Perez Diaz ’17 ’19MBA looked over the menu of classes before a semester, more than a few piqued her interest. The Study of Sleep and Dreams. The Mind in the Machine. Math for Social Justice. One in particular is with her to this day in her human resources job at Amazon: Teaching Philosophy to Kids.

“It challenged me to think outside the box. We went to a school and taught philosophy to kids who were on the autism spectrum, and they understood it with ease. That gave me a new perspective about how we learn that I use today—and an experience that I will always treasure.”

What to Expect Browse the Rollins course catalog, and the creativity of our faculty is immediately clear. Instead of taking English Composition, you’ll master the art of clear and persuasive communication by Writing About Pixar Shorts. Instead of Intro to Philosophy, you’ll develop critical reasoning through courses like Sci-Fi, Philosophy, and Film. Bottom line: If the intimate format and individualized attention of a Rollins classroom doesn’t keep you engaged, then the material will.

Real-World Application

You'll hone your newfound knowledge and skills through real-world experience.

Deanna Loew helping a local food-service startupDeanna Loew helping a local food-service startup
Creating a branding and PR campaign for a local food-service startup was the perfect preparation for Deanna Loew ’17’s fast-paced career in public relations.Photo by Scott Cook.

Deanna’s Experience How in the world would a class called The Science and Culture of Chocolate prepare Deanna Loew ’17 for a public relations career? She got her answer shortly after graduation when she found herself repping a boutique candy shop.

“That’s one of many examples where a class later tied into my work.”

For her Advanced Public Relations class, Loew and her classmates created a branding and PR campaign for Farm & Haus, a local cafe and catering startup. “It was like an internship without officially being an internship. The owners used everything we created—Powerpoints, pitches, website …” Loew stops. “It sounds like I’m explaining my current job.”

What to Expect At Rollins, you’ll learn by doing, so get ready to put your education into action. Many Rollins courses will pair you and your classmates with local companies and organizations, allowing you to develop your know-how through hands-on application and giving you the kind of real-world experience that employers covet.

Your Classroom Isn’t Bound by Four Walls

At Rollins, you’ll put your ideas to work in our backyard and around the world.

Morgan Laner restoring local wetlandsMorgan Laner restoring local wetlands
As an environmental studies student, Morgan Laner ’18 put her ideas into action on the daily—from piloting a more accessible campus recycling program to restoring local wetlands. Today, she’s creating a more sustainable future as the zero waste program coordinator at the University of Texas at Austin.Photo by Scott Cook.

Morgan’s Experience Morgan Laner ’18 is quick to confess: “I’m not geared for traditional research.” That was fine with her professors because they knew that her research interests stretched outside a lab.

As a junior, she studied for a semester in Australia, observing behaviors toward recycling. Upon returning to Rollins, she proposed pilot programs to make recycling more accessible and to eliminate the use of plastic bags in dining services.

“My advisor, Amy Armenia, encouraged me to structure my senior thesis around my interactions with people and watching. The whole experience allowed me to make a difference beyond a written paper or a classroom.”

What to Expect Rollins is known for the intimacy and engagement of its discussion-based classes, but don’t expect to be tethered to a round table all the time. Marine biology students study at SeaWorld, social entrepreneurship majors help local startups get up to speed, and music majors perform at one of the country’s top venues.

A 21st-Century Toolkit

You’ll develop knowledge and skills that stand the test of time—from creative problem solving and collaborative teamwork to critical thinking and clear communication.

Jack Allen leads change as a project managerJack Allen leads change as a project manager
The communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills Jack Allen ’18 developed in his Rollins classes are helping him lead change as a project manager at The Walt Disney Company.Photo by Scott Cook.

Jack’s Experience During his visit to Rollins as a high school senior, Jack Allen ’18 ran into physics professor Chris Fuse. “I was surprised that he took 45 minutes to listen to and answer my questions.” A few months later, he sat in Fuse’s Principles of Physics class, surrounded on three sides by floor-to-ceiling whiteboards.

“He’d tell a student to grab a marker and work out a problem, and he encouraged others to help. A lot of classes were designed like that, for free-form interactivity. In my work for Disney, listening and communicating well in small diverse groups is crucial. It’s very similar to my experiences at Rollins.”

What to Expect You’ll learn to think across barriers and work in diverse teams to design strategies that resolve real-world problems—exactly the kind of experience that employers demand.

Interdisciplinary Approach

Our interdisciplinary curriculum encourages you to make connections across a variety of subjects, from biology and business to English and environmental studies.

Isaac Gorres in biochemistry classIsaac Gorres in biochemistry class
Rollins’ interdisciplinary curriculum helped Isaac Gorres ’21 earn a 2020 Goldwater Scholarship, the nation’s top undergraduate science award. It’s also preparing the biochemistry/molecular biology and art history double major for a career in contemporary art conservation.Photo by Scott Cook.

Isaac’s Experience Isaac Gorres ’21 can hardly contain his excitement. Two complex topics are being discussed: DNA metabarcoding and oil paintings from the 1550s. Confused? For Gorres, this creates a beautiful intersection into one interesting subject. From a lab in the Bush Science Center, he explains how he swabs artwork so he can study the bacteria on it.

“This is a brand-new field,” he says through a smile that no mask can hide.

Gorres thought he wanted to double-major in a hard science and art history. “But I didn’t know what I’d do with that combination. So my instructors have allowed me to craft my research and figure it out. I love where the two disciplines are taking me.”

What to Expect Thinks of Rollins as an education without borders. You’ll learn to make connections across multiple perspectives and tackle complex problems through a variety of lenses.

Rollins students walking to class.

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