Lewis M. Duncan might not arrive at work in a flying car like George Jetson. While a future president may hover in one someday, cruising over the bumpy brick roads of Rollins College suits Duncan just fine.
“It is not our intention to be getting bigger,” said Duncan, president of the Florida’s oldest college. “It’s just our goal to every year get better.
“So unlike a number of other schools, particularly in this area, growth is not the answer to what our vision for the future is.”
Rollins, which is celebrating its 125th year, has developed much like a fine wine, only becoming better with age. It’s a national trendsetter in liberal arts education, Duncan said.
“The evening programs are stronger than ever, and the Crummer School is the top MBA in Florida, so what’s not to be thrilled about?” he said.
The right size
Though Rollins’ budget has remained healthy during the recession, the physical campus won’t be expanding anytime soon.
Senior psychology major Lucy Dibrigida is just one member of the Rollins community who has benefited from the school’s small size and is happy it won’t be growing with the times.
“You’re getting that one-on-one personal attention where you can ask questions and not feel awkward,” said Dibrigida, who sees classes with 100-plus students as a bit overwhelming. “You can really see where you want to go with your life, and you have the extra help.”
She added that, while major changes have been slow, big changes will depend on what future students create a demand for. Personally, she likes the school as it is.
“As of right now, I think Rollins has a really good thing going on with the way they set up their programming and classrooms,” Dibrigida said. If Rollins makes any changes, she would like to see the amount of graduate programs increase.
Duncan is looking forward to one change that will take place sometime in the next few years.
“The college is intending to partner with a hotel builder/operator, and we’ll be partnering in the development of an inn across the street from Rollins,” he said. Having a place to stay so close to Rollins will be a nice convenience for visiting family and friends and potential future Tars.
Someone else who’s looking forward to the construction of the inn is Michele Meyer, Rollins’ director of community engagement. She said the hotel won’t just be a place where guests can rest their heads, but it will foster engagement with the Rollins community.
“This generation is very passionate about service and getting involved,” Meyer said. “At the end of the day, our liberal arts education is really about connecting the head and the heart.”
Meyer, like Duncan, understands that schools can continue to develop in more ways than just by adding more buildings.
“It’s not so much physical growth, but it’s academic depth. It’s growing the academic opportunities that we offer to our students,” Meyer said. “In the next 10 years, Rollins will continue to be a leader in academic excellence and a leader in curriculum innovation.
“I think in 10 years, you’re going to see Rollins really being a global leader in those areas.”
Rich in culture
In addition to creating an inn, Meyer and Duncan hope that the community that already surrounds Rollins will take advantage of the cultural events that the school provides.
“I think taking advantage of what local colleges can provide for communities is something that a number of folks have forgotten about,” Duncan said. “We are just in the second year of starting something called the Winter Park Institute.”
The Institute, or WPI, housed in the historic Osceola Lodge, offers seminars, master classes, performances and more to the community at large.
Duncan’s hopes are that the WPI will foster discussion amongst the community regarding issues facing today’s world, and with the types of students Rollins caters to, that shouldn’t be a problem, Meyer said.
“They’re really thinking about the greatest challenges of the 21st century,” she said. “Students are selecting Rollins because of these unique opportunities. It gives you an education that will absolutely change and transform your life.”
Kennedy at Rollins
Rollins College’s Winter Park Institute will host acclaimed author, environmentalist and attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in a discussion titled, “Green Gold Rush: A Vision for Energy Independence, Jobs and National Wealth” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4 at the Alfond Sports Center, 1000 Holt Ave. The forum is open to the public and free of charge. Visit Rollins.edu for more information.