Rollins College (visited 2/9/16)
Winter Park is a charming small-town, conveniently located on the outskirts of Orlando. It’s an attractive location because it’s a mix of small town with an accessible urban area; they can be at the beach in 45 minutes or downtown Orlando in 25. Rollins students interact with town every day, partly by choice and partly because of the community service-based learning and civic engagement that’s women into the fabric of the education. Students are connected to – and they contribute to – the community.
This is a residential liberal arts campus with a clear mission. The campus is well kept-up and attractive with a couple buildings on the National Register (the non- denominational Chapel which has a hand-painted ceiling and the Theater are listed).
The President talked extensively about fit when he addressed us. They want students who are going to take advantage of the school and fit into the fabric of the college. “I felt compelled to come here because of synergy of mission and location. It’s education tuned into the 21st Century; it’s diverse and provides a skill set to be global citizens and responsible leadership.”
“Rollins is not a spectator sport.” There’s all the learning that happens in Dialogue (their General Eds), in relationships between faculty and students, between peers, etc. They live in this community that has been well-suited for exactly this purpose.
The curriculum has 3 main components:
- “Dialogues” or General Education:
- It’s developmental in that students move together as a cohort, completing an FCC in the first semester and then into Neighborhoods in the spring of freshman year. This is to help them make connections because of the thematically based classes. Some examples are: Physics and Superheroes; Identities: Mirrors and Windows; Writing About the Magic Kingdom; Men, Masculinity, and Movies (“We watched Fight Club and Magic Mike. What’s not to like?”
- Skill-building. This program ensures that they have identifiable, marketable skills
- 100-level classes stress written communication and information literacy. They can test out of language, writing, and math, but must do health and wellness at Rollins. The Scuba class final exam was in the Caymans
- Major Requirements
- Electives: students must complete 16 credits outside of their major and Gen Ed
The Accelerated Management Program allows students to graduate in 3 years. Every year 35-40 students start. The yield is not as high as they’d like; many students start then start getting interested in a lot of things and don’t want to finish in 3 years, even though they can. Some simply change their mind. For students who are motivated and know what they want, it’s a great option.
The 3+2 Engineering program offers joint degrees with Wash U, Auburn, and Columbia. Only a few do this; more do it as a 4-2. They also have a program in Forestry with Duke, but this is done less frequently than the Engineering program.
Study Abroad is part of the culture here. They offer lots of summer programs to accommodate double majors, athletes, and others who can’t or don’t want to be away for a full year or semester. “We try to be mindful that not all students can take an entire semester off and still graduate on time, so faculty will offer field-study in May, summer, and winter that will carry academic credit.” They’ll work with people to find the program they want, and students can also do Study-Away in the US. Additionally, they offer a Pre-matriculation program: students arrive 2 weeks before orientation and go to Costa Rica with a professor. They accept about 15 students; they send out info to all accepted students and can apply after they deposited.
There’s a perception that students at Rollins are super rich, but a larger percentage attend with scholarships and financial aid. The average aid package is $35,000 and average indebtedness at graduation is $29,500. The Alfond Scholars Program is the most competitive program, providing up to 10 full scholarships (tuition, R&B, and fees). This is funded by the Alfond Inn near campus; the family donated the funds to build it with the stipulation that all proceeds go into the scholarships. “The competition is like American Idol for Brainiacs who also have a passion for global learning and giving back.”
Classes are small. There’s no going to class unprepared. If you don’t know what you’re doing, there’s no hiding it. The professor calls you out – but there’s also a lot of support. “There was this one time that I just wasn’t getting stuff. Class ended at 6pm, and I literally sat on the ground with my feet out in front of my staring at the board, not getting it. The professor sat on the ground next to me and stayed until 9 to make sure I got it.”
Students say that there’s a lot of openness in regards to political views, but it’s “very left-leaning” according to the student panel. “We’re trained to dialogue and not debate in res life. I feel that there needs to be more dialogue because that’s the way to learn.” Students generally are very happy on campus, but given the opportunity, they’d spend money on scholarships, parking, and lab space. Freshmen can’t have cars except for medical reasons, if they work, and a few other reasons. The President even takes a scooter to work!
The students love Fox Day, and the tour guide took us past the spot on campus where the fox statue gets rolled out in the middle of the night; when it’s placed out, it’s a day off of classes. “There’s even a camera you can see online so you don’t even have to get out of bed! You can just go back to sleep.”