Photo by Judy Watson Tracy

President Duncan interacts with students from Rollins' community partner Fern Creek Elementary School. (Photo by Judy Watson Tracy)

Fiat Lux: Conversation with the President

An interview with Rollins’ 14th President, Lewis Duncan

2010 Presidential Award. Photo by Laura J. Cole

Rollins has logged an exceptional record of engaging its students in community service:

• one of six colleges or universities to receive the highest federal recognition—the 2010 Presidential Award
• named one of the country’s top 20 most engaged campuses by USA Today
• recipient of a special 20th Anniversary Engaged Campus Award from Florida Campus Compact

We asked Rollins’ president, Lewis Duncan, to consider the role of community engagement in the education of today’s Rollins student.

Q: How does the College’s focus on community engagement contribute to the value of a Rollins education?

A: Rollins is committed to providing our students with an applied liberal education. Community engagement, both locally and globally, is a manifestation of this commitment to putting the principles of liberal education into real-world practice and represents a core value of our institution. By design, our students’ educational experience is informed by and engaged in the many complex challenges of the modern world.

Q: Eighty years ago, Rollins made its mark as a pioneer in pragmatic liberal education. What is the role of the liberal arts college in 2011?

A: Today there continues to be great variation among schools that are generally described as liberal arts colleges, and the subsequent roles of such schools reflect this underlying variability. At Rollins, we continue to subscribe to the pragmatic principles of an applied liberal education as the strongest foundation for our graduates to enjoy a flourishing life of the mind as well as successful professional lives. Our graduates are well prepared for a fast-changing world, accomplished in such broadly transferable skills as critical and moral reasoning, quantitative thinking, and communication.

Q: How does service learning support the practical application of the liberal arts today?

A: Students are increasingly seeking the uses and applications of the skills and knowledge they learn as part of their higher education. Service learning offers a highly effective and societally compelling opportunity to engage their education in addressing challenges and needs in the world around them.

Q: Rollins’ mission states that we educate for global citizenship and responsible leadership. How does community engagement help us achieve that goal?

A: Community engagement represents an immediate opportunity to practice responsible leadership in service to society and human needs. It teaches our students about the diverse world around us, and how they—as active citizens and as members of larger organizations—can make a real difference. Current Rollins service projects extend from our local communities of need to global communities.

Q: How do you engage in the community?

A: In a considered effort to balance local, state, national, and international commitments, I serve on the boards of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, Winter Park Health Foundation, and Bach Festival Society of Winter Park; the Florida Technology, Research and Scholarship Board; the Association of American Colleges and Universities LEAP (Liberal Education and America’s Promise) Presidents’ Trust; the American Council on Education’s Commission on International Initiatives; and numerous ad hoc and standing federal research advisory committees. It is also an honor to sit as current chairman of the Associated Colleges of the South and president of the Southern University Conference of Presidents.