A Rollins Year in Photos
August 13, 2021
By Stephanie Rizzo ’09
As we welcome the start of a new semester, let’s reflect on the myriad ways Tars across the globe rallied this past year in the face of adversity, living out the ideals and values of our mission at every turn.
It’s safe to say that 2020-21 was a time like no other in living memory. And while the year threw the Rollins community plenty of curveballs, Tars far and wide met those challenges with their signature blend of innovation, optimism, and hustle.
From home-brewed hand sanitizer to outdoor classrooms, students, faculty, and staff prioritized safety without sacrificing the College’s mission to provide the best liberal arts education around. Along the way, they rallied around new traditions while embracing new methods for old ones. It was a year filled with undeniable struggle, but there was plenty of joy to be found on America’s most beautiful campus.
As we head into a brand-new semester, let’s take a moment to celebrate everything that made the 2020-21 school year one to remember.
Before the fall semester even started, Isaac Gorres ’21 joined forces with biology professor Brendaliz Santiago-Navarez to study microbes on a 14th-century painting in the Cornell Fine Arts Museum’s collection. Gorres pursued the project as part of Rollins’ Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship Program, with the ultimate goal of discovering better methods of preserving precious masterworks for future generations.
At the onset of the pandemic, the Rollins chemistry department brewed up homemade hand sanitizer to donate to first responders. The project was so successful that chemistry professors James Patrone and Laurel Habgood recruited students to help ensure Orientation Week was stocked with enough sanitizer to keep students, faculty, and staff germ-free.
The first cohort of students moved into the all-new Lakeside Neighborhood on Rollins’ southeast side of campus. Among the many features that Lakeside offers are private bedrooms—meaning nobody has to compromise when it comes to decorating their space exactly how they like.
All around campus, first-year students met one on one with their Rollins College Conference (RCC) faculty advisors to map out the first leg of their academic journey. RCC advisors serve as some of the first mentors students meet on campus, guiding new Tars as they get a feel for the liberal arts experience at Rollins.
Social distancing didn’t mean that students were stuck in their rooms last year. With an average fall temperature of 85 degrees, Rollins’ Winter Park location provided the perfect opportunity for Tars to get creative with their outdoor study spots.
Officially launched in the fall, the Rollins esports club has been one of the fastest-growing intramural teams on campus. Students gathered in the esports lounge, a LAN-style hub filled with state-of-the-art PCs, to cheer on the Rollins Rampage as they competed against other collegiate teams around Florida.
The pandemic also didn’t stop the student-led The Democracy Project from registering over 200 new voters ahead of the November 2020 election. On a Saturday in October, several Tars joined President Grant Cornwell and Peg Cornwell at the Winter Park Library for early voting.
Dozens of fall classes were held in newly fashioned outdoor classrooms all over campus. Chemistry professor Ellane Park’s Chemistry of the Nano-World utilized a hybrid model, with some students joining virtually and some enjoying the beauty of campus as they learned about the hidden world of nanoparticles.
Other classes were taught solely online, such as education professor Deb Wellman’s course on early education. High-tech media carts—complete with a 65-inch TV and high-definition IPEVO cameras—enabled faculty to engage remote learners through a shared whiteboard along with breakout discussions and text chats via video conferencing platform WebEx.
The year 2020 changed the social and political landscape in more ways than one, including shining a spotlight on racial justice and activism. State Rep. Anna Eskamani joined students on campus to advocate for racial equality during one of several Black Lives Matter protests throughout the year.
Lots of folks picked up new hobbies during quarantine. Residents in the new Lakeside Neighborhood—where apartment-style suites come equipped with full kitchens—took advantage of the Blue and Gold Apron meal kits offered by Dining Services to whip up delicious, healthy creations right in their residence halls.
It’s not every day you see a duel break out on Mills Lawn, much less several duels. Then again, you never know what to expect from Rollins’ hands-on curriculum. In November, members of Claire Strom’s Key Events in the History of Democracy class took to the quad to re-enact three conflicts that dramatically altered Western ideals of freedom. Luckily, the losers walked away with nothing more than a better sense of history.
The College once again teamed up with Full Sail University to ring in the holidays with Songs of the Season—this time socially distanced and masked up outside at Seneff Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
Students in Sarah Parsloe’s Difficult Dialogues in Health Communications community engagement (CE) course teamed up with Michelee Puppets during a virtual workshop focused on communicating difficult topics to grieving communities. Using their newly acquired skills, students went on to create an instructional video on effective communication techniques for Children’s Grief Awareness Day.
In a year where so many celebrations looked different than normal, it was nice to kick off a new tradition that focused on helping others. The first annual Thad & Polly Seymour Acts of Kindness Day honored Rollins’ beloved 12th president, Thaddeus Seymour ’82HAL ’90H, and his widow, Polly, by encouraging the campus community to engage in acts of kindness both big and small. Among the highlights were volunteers showing up for Thad’s favorite charity, Habitat for Humanity.
An interdisciplinary team of Rollins faculty, staff, and students spent the spring semester collecting untold stories from the Great Migration for an original art installation that will be installed in Kathleen W. Rollins Hall in 2022. The project will be completed in collaboration with venerated British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare and will feature a collection of 600 hardcover books, each bound in African wax paper and bearing the name of a poet, philosopher, or historian with personal or ancestral ties to the 20th-century Great Migration.
Throughout the year, Rollins’ brand-new Lakeside Neighborhood offered students a host of places to gather, create, and unwind. During the official ribbon-cutting ceremony, President Cornwell hailed the innovative living-learning community as central to the College’s ongoing mission to focus on wellness, collaboration, and experiential education. One of the best things about Lakeside is that it’s open to all Tars, regardless of where they live.
Biology students took a springtime trip to Mead Botanical Garden, just a five-minute drive from campus, to study Florida’s vast and diverse array of vertebrates with biology professor Bobby Fokidis.
March 2021 marked one year since the U.S. was rocked by the appearance of COVID-19. During “Fiat Lux: An Evening of Remembrance and Hope,” students, faculty, and staff were invited to share their wishes for the future on the tree of hope.
Students had the opportunity to create a cuddly friend at the Bear-able Immersion experience sponsored by the Center of Leadership & Community Engagement.
For critical media and cultural studies and studio art double major Renee Sang ’21, Rollins provided plenty of pathways to tackle social justice issues behind the camera. This documentary filmmaker and photographer reflected on her journey from her first year as a Bonner Leader to her last scene before she embarks on a new adventure to graduate school.
Dozens of students, faculty, and alumni came together in April to complete an ambitious shoreline restoration project spearheaded by Sustainability Program coordinator Jason Makris ’23. With the aid of a Green School Grant from the City of Winter Park, Makris and team planted hundreds of native aquatic plants along the lakeshore just in time for Earth Day.
Vaccinations also rolled out in April, and along with them came a dose of hope for the future. Rollins joined in President Biden’s College Vaccine Challenge to fully vaccinate half the U.S. population by July 4.
Three senior studio art majors—Renee Sang ’21, Andrea Czafit ’21, and Melissa Rodriguez ’21—were selected to debut an original exhibition at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum. Ethos featured work tackling broad themes of representation, race, community, and activism.
Rollins completed construction on a state-of-the-art rooftop greenhouse that sits proudly atop Bush Science Center. The new space houses more than 800 plant species and climate-controlled rooms designed for student and faculty research.
Fox Day held onto its cachet as the best day of the year, especially now that the Lakeside pool deck is open. Students could show off their artistic side at a paint-along, take to the lake for some fun on the water, or get their heart rate up by learning how to throw a real jab. To top it off, the picnic was back in full effect, complete with mac and cheese.
Students in Claire Strom’s History of American Sexuality course joined forces with the LGBTQ History Museum of Central Florida to curate one-of-a-kind exhibitions on safe spaces for local queer communities.
The year culminated with an especially meaningful commencement, where Rollins welcomed back graduates from the 2020 school year who missed their ceremony due to the early days of the pandemic. The class of 2021 celebrated its own milestones, including seven valedictorians. The day was filled with joy as friends reunited and congratulated each other on making it through a year full of challenges. And as always, everybody agreed that Tars are better together.
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