For residents of Ward Hall, the successful transition to college is made easier by the art professor, former valedictorian, and outgoing toddler who live on the first floor.
Photo by Scott Cook
Prior to taking up residence alongside first-year students in Ward Hall, MacKenzie Moon Ryan admits to being “kind of an office junkie.” It’s safe to say she’s kicked that habit. As Rollins’ faculty director of the Living Learning Communities (LLC) program, Moon Ryan—an assistant professor of art history—is now smack dab in the middle of it all, sharing a first-floor apartment with husband James Ryan ’17 ’19MBA, not-quite-2-year-old daughter Imogen, and, well, let’s be honest, pretty much anyone on campus who wants to swing by for a chat.
Officially, she’s there to “foster collaboration between academic affairs and student affairs by integrating in- and out-of-the-classroom experiences in Rollins’ residence halls.” But that’s a mouthful. More simply, Moon Ryan’s job is to reflect the name of the program: live on campus, help new students learn holistically, and build community.
“I find myself being much more social in this role,” she says. “It’s really opened up my schedule and my flexibility, and I’m a lot more accessible now.”
Helping new students transition to college—and become successful beyond their first semester—is what drives Moon Ryan to serve as Rollins’ sole faculty-in-residence.
“The personal and professional really blend,” she says, “but I see that as an advantage at this point in life. I couldn’t be happier. Plus, everyone is jealous because I have a reserved parking space.”
In LLC halls like Ward, students are housed according to their Rollins Conference Course (RCC), a first- semester seminar class based on a broad range of topics. This creates a community where residents live and learn together, experiencing college life with a group of classmates who share similar interests. They also meet regularly with their RCC professor outside the classroom and often retain them as an advisor.
In addition to Moon Ryan, numerous faculty, staff, and students team up to make the LLC program a success. Residential assistants handle in-hall programming, graduate students live on campus and mentor undergrads, residential life staff make their home in Sutton Apartments, and professors from every discipline teach RCC courses.
When Moon Ryan picks up Imogen from day care at 3:30, they usually spend the afternoon traipsing around campus—from climbing stairs in the library to banging out a few notes on the practice pianos in Keene Hall. It’s a natural icebreaker too. “Imogen’s a great conversation starter,” she says, “and the students can always find something to talk about when my daughter’s present.”
Sometimes students stop in because they’re homesick. Other times they’re looking for personal advice or academic insights. Last fall, James—Rollins’ 2017 valedictorian—cooked all 18 of his wife’s RCC students a meal. Regardless of why they come to the apartment, one thing is certain: Titchfield, their adopted cat, is always game for a good belly rub.