Hello, Neighbor

July 27, 2021

By Stephanie Rizzo ’09

Lakeside Neighborhood
Photo by Scott Cook.

Welcome to Rollins’ Lakeside Neighborhood, a residential complex focused on health, wellness, and community that’s setting a new standard in liberal arts living and learning.

When Jared Mueller ’22 returned to campus last fall, he was feeling a little lost. The pandemic had disrupted the end of the previous spring semester and made connecting with friends over the summer difficult. Back on campus for the fall, Mueller was assigned to a random room selection, which made it more challenging to connect with his established community of peers.

“But then a new opportunity presented itself,” he says. “A friend from my international business cohort reached out to see if I’d be interested in moving in with him and his roommate.”

That friend was Matthew Hengelsberg ’21, a fourth-year resident assistant in Lakeside Neighborhood, the new 250,000-square-foot residential community perched along the Lake Virginia shoreline.

“I wasn’t sure how I felt about moving again,” says Mueller. “But then I decided just to go for it. And I have to say—hands down—it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Mueller and his roommates forged their own bubble of community during the pandemic. They’d meet up for study sessions and late-night chats. They’d hold movie nights in their communal living room and cook family-style dinner in their full-size kitchen while quizzing each other on global trade policy or international markets. They went door to door handing out candy on Halloween and supplies for root beer floats during finals. Mostly, they tried to support other residents who were just trying to make it through the weirdest year of their lives.

“I learned so much from my friends in Lakeside. They really acted as my mentors during that time, and they still do,” says Mueller.

His roommates encouraged him to follow in their footsteps and become an RA. He applied and got the position. This fall, he’ll have his own group of Lakeside residents to guide.

“If I didn’t have the opportunity to live in Lakeside with this group of people, I honestly have no idea where I’d be,” he says. “The relationships I built in Lakeside will last forever. They taught me more about supporting your neighbors than I ever would’ve learned on my own, and I hope to do the same thing for my residents.”

Students study in a Lakeside apartment common room.
Photo by Scott Cook.

The Setup for Success

Despite opening during one of the most challenging years in recent history, Lakeside Neighborhood has been an overwhelming success in Rollins’ continuing mission to revolutionize the way students live, learn, and engage with the world around them.

With space for more than 500 residents and dozens of communal areas that are open to all Tars regardless of where they lay their head, Lakeside is simultaneously expanding horizons and residential capacity. It’s a true living-learning community combining the best in independent living with countless features designed to promote health and well-being, and students are already thriving in this environment despite the myriad challenges of the past year.

In fact, they can’t wait to return to campus. Thanks to Lakeside, Rollins is poised to see the largest number of students living on campus in the College’s 136-year history, with an occupancy rate of 97 percent projected for the fall 2021 semester.

President Grant Cornwell delivers a speech at the Lakeside Neighborhood dedication ceremony.
President Grant Cornwell delivers a speech at the Lakeside Neighborhood dedication ceremony. Photo by Scott Cook.

During his speech at the Lakeside Neighborhood dedication ceremony in February, President Grant Cornwell shared the first line of a quote from famed philosopher and educational reformer John Dewey’s book, Democracy and Education:

“... the very process of living together educates,” writes Dewey. “It enlarges and enlightens experience; it stimulates and enriches imagination; it creates responsibility for accuracy and vividness of statement and thought. A man really living alone (alone mentally as well as physically) would have little or no occasion to reflect upon his past experience to extract its net meaning.”

When Dewey teamed up with former president Hamilton Holt to develop and refine plans for the Rollins College Conference in 1931, he never could have imagined that one day his words would be embodied by a facility designed to maximize learning via shared experience.

“We always knew we wanted to increase our residential capacity because we believe so deeply in the power of the residential experience and what it brings to the educational process,” says Leon Hayner, Rollins’ dean of students. “Over the years, there’s been lots of research that expands upon what Dewey said. We now know that living on campus leads to higher GPAs, greater personal satisfaction, greater community engagement, and better retention rates.”

Students studying by the pool at Lakeside Neighbhorhood.
Photo by Scott Cook.

So when the College set out to build a new kind of residential facility, we didn’t start with blueprints and technical specifications—at least not initially. We started with a list of Rollins’ core values of scholarship, service, citizenship, engagement, and leadership. And we asked a fundamental question: If a place could embody these key aspects of a student’s development, what would it look like?

The answer was Lakeside Neighborhood, where all Rollins students—not just Lakeside residents—can take advantage of the state-of-the-art fitness center or take a group class at the movement studio. They can meet up with friends and hash out the next great startup venture over Fair Trade coffee at the cafe, which is attached to the expanded C-Store, or engage in a group study session on the pool deck while getting their daily dose of vitamin D. They can spread out in the co-working space featuring large tables for group projects and smaller spots for independent study.

All of Lakeside, from the main atrium overlooking Lake Virginia to the latest tech in the private study rooms, is designed with student engagement in mind.

“And in that way, we built a program, not a building,” says Hayner. “The building is designed around facilitating the program, and not the other way around.”

Photos by Scott Cook.

Sustained Support

One major component of that program is mentorship from orientation to commencement. Mentors abound in Lakeside, whether it’s the dedicated team of resident assistants assigned to each floor or the staff of graduate assistants who live alongside undergrads and handle much of the day-to-day administration that keeps the facility running.

Several support-focused departments have found new homes in Lakeside thanks to its central location. The Office of Residential Life & Explorations oversees on-campus living and offers ongoing community support, while the Center for Inclusion & Campus Involvement facilitates student government as well as more than 150 student organizations that span everything from Greek life and academic societies to cultural and identity-based clubs. The Lucy Cross Center for Women and Their Allies provides a comfortable, inclusive space for forging connections and promoting social justice. Having these resources just down the hall means they’re integrated into the students’ daily lived experience, making support systems and outlets for engagement an inextricable component of residential life.

And then there’s the organic mentorship that comes with having the space to get creative. Last year, resident assistant Yoke Tassent ’22 taught virtual “Cooking on a College Budget” classes to residents looking to hone their culinary skills.

Students cooking in their Lakeside apartment
Photo by Scott Cook.

“I wanted to find a way to get my residents together in a COVID world,” says Tassent. “And I thought, ‘Well, food always improves the atmosphere.’ And having a few good recipes in your back pocket is an important skill for living independently.”

Tassent reached out to Dining Services, which was offering meal kits to residents in addition to conventional takeout. Tassent met with the kitchen staff and learned how to make some of Skillman Dining Hall’s most popular dishes, which she, in turn, passed along to students living in Lakeside.

“We’d come together online once a month,” she says. “I’d read off the instructions, and we’d all cook together. People could ask questions in the chat, and we all got to meet our neighbors in a safe fashion. And the kitchens in Lakeside are so great for learning to cook because you have the big island where several friends or roommates can gather and learn together.”

The program was only meant to run through the fall semester, but it was so successful that Tassent continued it throughout the academic year. Looking back on the experience, she says it perfectly encapsulates how Lakeside strikes a balance between fostering independence and building community.

“Having all of these programs in such close proximity is really useful to students,” she says. “It allows them to transition into adulthood while keeping a network of mentors close by.”

Students working out in the Lakeside gym
Photo by Scott Cook.

Wellness Front and Center

Another hallmark of becoming a global citizen and responsible leader is learning to care for yourself and for others. Health and wellness matter now more than ever, and Rollins is way ahead of the game when it comes to taking a holistic approach to well-being. The key? As with most things at Lakeside, it’s all about balance.

“Living in Lakeside during my senior year couldn’t have been more ideal,” says communication major and Lakeside RA Papaa Kodzi ’21. “It was great to have a place that felt like home, where I could study, work out, and bond with my friends in all sorts of different spaces. Connecting with my roommates at our weekly ‘family dinners’ and with other residents at the pool and gym are some of my best memories. I’m so glad that I got a chance to live there before I graduated, and I’d move back if they’d let me.”

Photos by Scott Cook.

Lakeside features a slew of community spaces designed for both contemplation and conversation, from a cascading terrace to the poolside fire pit, where students debate everything from dinner plans to that day’s class discussion on effective marketing campaigns. Also peppered throughout the space are smaller nooks designed for focus, independent study, and decompression. For the latter, nothing beats the restorative power of taking in the views of Lake Virginia. Despite all of these opportunities for privacy, you’re also right in the thick of it when you’re ready to re-engage.

“It’s no accident that we built Lakeside right in the center of campus so that it forms a constellation of spaces that include Olin Library, Kathleen W. Rollins Hall, and the Cornell Campus Center,” says Hayner. “The connection to the heart of campus makes it easier than ever for our students to connect with the community.”

Photos by Scott Cook.

The concept of balance and connection extends to the living areas, which deliver the best in both independent and communal living. Students benefit from private bedrooms and bathrooms while having seamless access to common areas like the living room, dining room, and full kitchen, where the multifunctional island is perfect for hitting the books or preparing a healthy meal with ingredients purchased downstairs in the C-Store.

When cooking isn’t on the menu, healthy fuel for the body—fresh-pressed juices, salads, and smoothies at the on-site cafe—is still never far from reach. Neither is further nourishment for the mind, body, and soul. In Lakeside’s 5,000-square-foot fitness center and attached movement studio, students take traditional group fitness classes like pilates or yoga and also receive instruction on mindfulness, nutrition, and meditation.

“Lakeside is so much more than a beautiful building,” adds Hayner. “It’s a fulfillment of a promise to deliver a 21st-century education and a wealth of experiences to our students in order to set them up to lead meaningful lives and productive careers.”

Poised for Progress

From the co-location of our signature programs to the reimagining of our dining offerings, explore all the different ways Rollins is building on more than a hundred years of liberal arts traditions to create a 21st-century campus centered on the student experience.

A study session in Kathleen W. Rollins Hall
Photo by Scott Cook.

Kathleen W. Rollins Hall

Rollins’ headquarters of applied learning, Kathleen W. Rollins Hall, is a launch pad to everything from study abroad and internships to social entrepreneurship and prestigious scholarships.

The all-new Rollins Greenhouse
Photo by Scott Cook.

Rooftop Greenhouse

A technological marvel sitting atop Bush Science Center, Rollins’ new greenhouse houses more than 800 species of plants and climate-controlled rooms designed for student and faculty research.

Rendering of the new Innovation Triangle at Rollins College.

Innovation Triangle

The College is undertaking an ambitious development project that will include an expanded Crummer Graduate School of Business, an all-new space for the College’s fine arts museum, and a 71-room expansion of the Alfond Inn.

A performance from The Lost Comedies of William Shakespeare.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Theatre & Dance Facility

Thanks to a $3 million grant from the Florida Charities Foundation, Rollins is planning for a new theater and dance complex, which will become the state-of-the-art home for student-run performance at Rollins.

Skillman Dining Hall
Photo by Scott Cook.

Skillman Dining Hall

Student success is powered by healthy fuel for the body, a core tenet of Rollins’ holistic approach to wellness. The College’s newly renovated main dining hall in the Cornell Campus Center offers everything from authentic international cuisine and made-to-order pizzas to innovative vegan and allergen-free creations.

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