A Light in the Dark

January 13, 2021

By Rob Humphreys ’16MBA

Students in caps and gowns walking to their commencement ceremony.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Now more than ever, we need the support of alumni, parents, donors, and friends to rally around our students as they face extraordinary challenges. When you share your light by giving to Rollins, you make it possible for our students to share theirs.

For the better part of a year, Rollins College—our students, faculty, staff, and venerable 135-year-old institution itself—has faced dark times in the fight against COVID-19.

In this, our struggles are not unique. What sets us apart, however, is the tremendous power of our alumni and friends to step up and provide rays of hope through timely financial support.

Parents rallying to cover student emergencies. Alumni funding new scholarships for need-based aid. Donors whose unrestricted gifts address crucial, unbudgeted needs.

These are but a few examples of how the Rollins network is coming together to tackle the fallout of our generation’s greatest health and economic crisis. Of course, much work remains. And every dollar makes a difference in the life of a deserving student.

Will you invest in the global citizens and responsible leaders poised to help light the to recovery? Explore the many different ways you can help.

Students walking beneath blooming yellow trumpet trees on campus.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Student Emergency Fund

When the pandemic hit in March, student applications for emergency support quickly outpaced available funds.

In response, Humberto Castillo P’21 led a Parents Council initiative to support the newly launched Student Emergency Fund, a crowdfunding effort to offset food and housing insecurity, the loss of part- and full-time jobs, and other financial difficulties.

Castillo asked members of the Parents Council to match his $3,000 contribution, and they responded by raising nearly $38,000. “That’s the kind of impact we can have if we all pull together,” he says.

Looking ahead, the Student Emergency Fund will continue to evolve as student needs change. To date, 144 donors have raised nearly $185,000, but there is always a need for more to help ensure that our students can continue learning and growing at Rollins.

Students walking with bikes on campus under the oak trees.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Area of Greatest Need

How do you budget for a black swan event? With the onset of COVID-19, Rollins had to pull substantial funds from other areas to prepare the campus for a safe and productive 2020-21 academic year so the important work of creating the next generation of global citizens and responsible leaders could continue.

All of a sudden, things like rapid testing, contract tracing, physical barriers, and copious amounts of hand sanitizer were top priorities. Not to mention software and technology upgrades to connect in-person and remote learners. Unrestricted gifts to The Rollins Annual Fund help the College maintain financial flexibility.

Shortly before students returned to campus this fall, Tony DeChellis ’84 P’21 pledged $100,000 to The Rollins Annual Fund—which supports everything from financial aid to classroom technology—in addition to $10,000 for the Student Emergency Fund.

“The generosity of past alumni afforded my classmates and me a great educational experience,” says DeChellis, whose son, Alex ’21, graduates in May. “As the leadership at Rollins maps out the course for the future, I am honored to do my small part to support their vision. It is my hope that fellow alumni will consider doing the same.”

Students in caps and gowns walking past the campus rose garden on graduation day.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Without the generosity of donors, Rollins never would have been a reality for psychology major and studio art minor Alysia Rivers Rodriguez ’21, who aspires to work as an art therapist for at-risk youth.

Growing up in Melbourne, Florida, Rodriguez was part of the Boys & Girls Club. Now, as a Cornell Scholar and Bonner Leader, she gives back by volunteering with the same organization that supported her growth and development.

“I have so much gratitude for the scholarships I have earned,” she says. “They have helped me get where I am today in both my academic career and life journey.”

Overall, more than 85 percent of students in the College of Liberal Arts receive some sort of financial aid. For the fall 2019 first-year class, 96 percent received a grant or scholarship, both need-based and otherwise, and more than 20 percent of Tars receive federal Pell Grants.

Ellie Rushing ’19 meets with her Career Champion mentor Ann Marie Varga ’82 ’12MLS.
Ellie Rushing ’19 turned an internship at <em>The Philadelphia Inquirer</em> into a full-time role as a reporter.Photo by Scott Cook.

Undergraduate Job Shadowing, Internships, and Externships

Thanks to support from the funded internship program now known as Gateway Fellows, Ellie Rushing ’19 was able to spend every waking moment of her internship at the South Florida Sun Sentinel chasing stories instead of worrying about financial burdens. She ended the summer with an extensive portfolio of more than 30 stories, enabling her to land a postgraduate internship at The Philadelphia Inquirer, where she’s now a full reporter.

“Without the funding and support of the Gateway Fellowship, my career path could have looked vastly different,” says Rushing, whose recent article was tweeted by Hillary Clinton. “This fellowship makes it easier for all students to have equal access to career opportunities.”

Research shows that students compensated for internships during their college years receive quicker job offers. Currently, about 60 percent of Tars graduate having served in an internship, and our goal is to get that number to 100. Donors can help ensure that “unpaid” doesn’t limit students’ options for gaining this invaluable hands-on experience.

Brandon McNichol ’19 and one of his mentors, chemistry professor Kasandra Riley.
Presidential Scholar Brandon McNichol ’19 was able to pursue dual passions for music and science at Rollins and is now a med student at Northwestern University.Photo by Scott Cook.

Rollins Annual Fund Named Scholarships

In response to COVID-19, Rollins created a new avenue for unrestricted, need-based aid in the form of named Annual Fund scholarships. Payable over a four- or five-year period, these $50,000-and-above gifts can be named for the donor, a loved one, or a business or organization.

The first to take advantage of this opportunity to expand access to Rollins’ innovative interdisciplinary curriculum was the 22-member Alumni Association Board of Directors.

“The Share the Light campaign does a great job of identifying the immediate needs of the College,” says Alumni Board co-president Mai-Han Harrington ’10 ’15MBA. “We hope the scholarship not only financially assists students in need, but also encourages other alumni to help set the momentum for giving for years to come.”

Crummer of Graduate Business School students collaborate on a project.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Crummer Graduate School of Business Named Innovation Funds

Furloughed from her job during the pandemic and with limited family resources, Sophie Steckerl ’19 ’21MBA faced mounting financial challenges to staying in the master’s program at Crummer, and her part-time work-study job as an international admission counselor at Rollins only goes so far.

“I’m not the only Crummer student experiencing hardships,” she says. “I remember at the beginning of my Crummer experience hearing from alumni who graduated during the recession of 2008 and 2009, not knowing what the future holds. Now that’s me.”

Steckerl, whose goal is to work in the beauty industry, is thankful that Crummer is giving her the skills to pursue that passion, with a focus on marketing and international business.

Similar to named funding opportunities for undergraduates, $50,000-and-above gifts to the Crummer Graduate School of Business can provide scholarships in all four degree programs.

Whether it’s investing in timely curricula updates or supporting students facing financial struggles, named innovation funds empower Rollins’ leadership to respond to current circumstances and prepare students to lead organizations and communities amid new challenges.

Morgan Snoap ’20, Cristina Toppin ’21, and art history professor MacKenzie Moon Ryan debut their original African art exhibition at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum.
Morgan Snoap ’20, Cristina Toppin ’21, and art history professor MacKenzie Moon Ryan debut their original African art exhibition at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum. Photo by Scott Cook.

Cornell Fine Arts Museum Student-Centric Opportunities

For art history majors like Morgan Snoap ’20, hands-on opportunities at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum turned dreams into reality.

A 2020 valedictorian and two-time Curatorial Fellow, Snoap partnered this past spring with art history professor MacKenzie Moon Ryan and fellow Tar Cristina Toppin ’21 to curate an original exhibition of African art at CFAM, Florida’s first college museum to be accredited by the American Association of Museums. Today, the budding art historian is pursuing a PhD in African art history at Boston University.

“Not only did my work at CFAM deepen my art historical knowledge and research skills,” says Snoap, “but it also taught me how to share that understanding and love of art with the greater public. I will always value and cherish my experience at CFAM and credit it with my continued success in the field of art history.”

Named funding opportunities are available to provide students with paid, on-campus internships and experience curating exhibitions at CFAM, preparing them for careers in everything from collections management to public relations.

Student clearing a field on an Immersion in the Everglades National Park.
On an environmentally focused Immersion in the Everglades, hands-on learning leads to lasting impact. Photo by Scott Cook.

Undergraduate Career and Service Immersions

Lucas Hernandez ’13 wasn’t sure what he wanted out of life, or a career, until he went on his first Immersion to Washington, D.C. But that service leadership experience, followed by nine more community engagement trips to points near and far, catalyzed his sense of purpose and crystallized his career path.

After graduation, Hernandez served in a variety of roles for public agencies and charitable organizations before becoming the director of Microsoft Philanthropies’ corporate partnerships in the U.S. and philanthropic efforts in his hometown of Miami.

“In our world of constant transformation, the most valuable skill is adaptation,” says Hernandez. “Rollins’ focus on civic engagement and student-led service-learning initiatives like the Immersion program completely transformed my personal and professional trajectory.”

Hiring managers and executives are 78 percent more likely to hire college graduates who participated in a service-learning project with a community organization. And that bodes well for Rollins, where, in 2019 alone, 350 Tars contributed over 2,500 hours of service to 25 nonprofit community partners across the country.

Peer mentor Jacob Battad helps a first-year student on an optics lab.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Undergraduate Peer Educators

A hallmark of the Rollins experience is the ability to hone transferable skills through student-to-student endeavors such as Peer Mentors and Bonner Leaders. By their very nature, these programs double student engagement, serving as vehicles for both leadership development and mentorship, and the College is committed to bolstering their infrastructure of support.

When donors fund undergraduate peer educators, they provide opportunities for students like Sunny Toreihi ’20, whose experience in the Bonner Leaders Program sparked a passion to fight domestic violence through political advocacy. She’s currently serving as an AmeriCorps public ally in Rollins’ Center for Leadership & Community Engagement and will begin a master’s program in public policy next year at Georgetown University.

“I committed to Rollins because of my scholarship through the Bonner Leaders Program,” says Toreihi, “and that provided me access to service opportunities at a very early stage. Volunteering with organizations and understanding the complex experiences of local communities invigorated my passion for domestic violence justice in my professional career.”

Share the Light promotional digital graphic.

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