Rollins Announces More Flexible Format for Professional Advancement Programs

February 07, 2023

By Stephanie Rizzo ’09

A grid of images depicting both in-person and online classroom environments.
Photo by Scott Cook.

The College’s Professional Advancement programs will introduce later class start times and a hybrid model that combines in-person and virtual elements, making it easier than ever for adult learners and transfer students to finish their bachelor’s degrees at the No. 1 regional university in the South.

Beginning fall 2023, Rollins’ Professional Advancement programs will move to a new, more flexible format featuring classes that start later in the evening and a hybrid learning model that combines in-person and virtual components.

The shift is the latest development in the College’s long-standing commitment to serving the needs of Central Florida students who are trying to balance finishing their bachelor’s degree with existing responsibilities like work and caring for their families.

Rollins Professional Advancement offers a range of flexible and affordable undergraduate programs designed to help adult learners and transfer students finish their bachelor’s degrees and take the next step in their careers.

“We know our Professional Advancement students are juggling college with an array of other responsibilities,” says Rob Sanders, dean of the Hamilton Holt School, which administers Rollins’ Professional Advancement programs. “We also know how transformational a bachelor’s degree can be to helping folks advance in their careers and create a better life for themselves and their families. So we want to do everything we can to help students fit school into their lives, and we think these changes are going to make a Rollins education a reality for so many more students.”

In the new hybrid model, Professional Advancement classes will alternate between in-person and virtual sessions. Whether they are held on campus or from the comfort of anywhere, Professional Advancement classes will now meet at 6 p.m. or later so that students who work won’t need to rush to make it on time.

A college professor works one on one with a student during class.
Photo by Scott Cook.

More Flexible, Still Distinctly Rollins

While the new hybrid format will make it easier for students to finish their bachelor’s degrees, the Professional Advancement programs will still deliver the high-quality academic experience and personalized learning environment that have made Rollins the top-ranked regional university in Florida for more than 25 years.

For example, the program’s small classes will still average just 14 students. As a result, every student will receive individualized attention from Rollins’ expert faculty, who are consistently recognized among the best professors in the South by U.S. News & World Report.

Whether they meet in person or virtually, the College’s discussion-based classes will still prioritize engaged learning opportunities and interdisciplinary collaboration—core principles that have been synonymous with a Rollins education for more than 130 years.

“We will still deliver everything students have come to expect from a Rollins education,” says Sanders. “The classes will still be small, highly interactive, deeply engaging, and personal. By moving to this hybrid model, we’re simply taking a Rollins education and tuning it to meet the needs of working adults.”

Rollins Associate Professor of Communication David Painter not only understands the need for increased flexibility but also believes the hybrid model offers students the best of both in-person and online learning environments. In fact, Painter designed Rollins’ new master’s of arts in strategic communication as a hybrid program from the start.

“I like how this model allows us to leverage the benefits of both in-person and online instruction,” says Painter. “We can capitalize on the strengths of in-person sessions where we’re able to collaborate, brainstorm, and develop foundational concepts and ideas. You’re combining that with the flexibility of online learning, but you still have the ability to provide personalized support and develop meaningful relationships because of Rollins’ small classes and discussion-based approach.”

A college professor meets one on one with a student via video conference.
One-on-one video meetings between faculty and students is just one example of how Rollins’ personalized approach will play out in the new hybrid model.Photo by Scott Cook.

Looking Ahead

While the new format won’t debut across all Professional Advancement programs until fall, the experiences of students like health-care management major Kim Clayton ’23 offer a snapshot of the new model’s promise.

“I reached a point in my career where I knew that in order to advance professionally, I was going to need a degree,” says Clayton. “As a mom of three who works full time and is the sole provider for my household, I looked at a ton of options to find a program that would allow me to be there for my kids and my work, and maintain all of my obligations while still doing something for myself. That’s why I decided on Rollins.”

Clayton had accrued plenty of business acumen from years spent working in land development, but she wanted to learn how to apply those skills to a field that had always intrigued her—health care. Rollins’ health-care management program offered the perfect opportunity to shore up her existing knowledge in areas like management, accounting, and operations while channeling her passionate desire to help people. And because health-care management was one of the first Professional Advancement majors to adopt a hybrid model, Clayton was able to stick with the program through the pandemic, which otherwise disrupted her family’s already tight schedule.

“During that time, I was able to access all the support I needed through my professors and the directors of the program,” she says. “I never had to worry about finding child care during a time when my kids were home. And my professors were always available to me. That personalized attention is one of the things that sets Rollins apart.”

When classes began meeting in person again, Clayton quickly embraced the equilibrium of being able to gather with her peers.

“The flexibility afforded to me through this program made all the difference in my success,” she says. “It showed that the faculty and staff who developed this model really cared about me and my family and about making sure I had the highest-quality education available.”

A female graduate smiles at her family in the crowd during a commencement ceremony.

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