This past summer, Rollins broke ground on an ambitious building project that will breathe new life into a campus icon, Mills Memorial Hall. We recently sat down with President Grant Cornwell to get the inside scoop on what the rejuvenated Mills will mean for current and future Tars.
LW: The new Mills will feature a modern layout and 21st-century amenities, but with this renovation the College is investing in much more than a state-of- the-art facility, isn’t it?
GC: When we went through the strategic planning process, we identified a number of things that we’re going to do differently to either get better at delivering on our promises to our students or make us more competitive in our market. Many of those initiatives called for new or reimagined spaces that would allow us to fulfill that vision. But we’re not investing in buildings per se. What we’re really doing is investing in our programs. We have all of these programs that are core to our mission and are extremely important to our students and their current and future success. With the new Mills, we’re investing in these programs, bringing them together, and lifting them up.
LW: Because of its location, Mills has always felt like the heart of campus, but this renovation promises to make Mills the heart of our mission too. What does it mean when we call Mills a mission-driven center?
GC: Our mission is to educate students for global citizenship and responsible leadership, empowering them to live meaningful lives and forge productive careers. Many of our programs that do that most powerfully are going to be centered in the new Mills. Ask our students how they’re growing as global citizens and responsible leaders and how they’re being prepared to put their educations to work in the world, and they’ll cite our study abroad programs and faculty-led field studies. They’ll cite SPARC Day, Immersions, and community engagement courses. And they’ll cite internships, mentorships, and professional research opportunities. We’re collecting all of those and more in Mills, and creating a powerful nexus of impactful initiatives right in the middle of campus where students can conveniently tap into them.
LW: Mills will bring together 10 curricular and co-curricular programs in an environment that encourages interdisciplinary collaboration. What’s the goal in co-locating programs like the Center for Career & Life Planning and the Center for Leadership & Community Engagement?
GC: The liberal arts are all about bringing different points of view into conversation and realizing new things that you couldn’t see if you were in your own silo. We have all of these well-established programs doing fantastic work, but many of them are isolated in their physical domains all across campus. The new Mills will not only bring all of these programs together, but it’s also designed to build upon their synergies. It will be full of high-impact spaces where our students, staff, and faculty will be able to meet, work together, and develop innovative ideas and opportunities. It will be a hive of engaged learning, creative problem solving, and entrepreneurial thinking. It’s hard to predict exactly what will come out of that collaborative environment, but that’s part of what makes this project so exciting.
LW: The Rollins community is deeply connected to the look and feel of our campus. Should they be worried about new building projects like Mills?
GC: It was three years ago now that The Princeton Review identified Rollins as having the most beautiful campus in the country, and the first thing everyone says when they step on our campus is, “Wow, this is beautiful.” The renovation of Mills and other strategic building projects will only accentuate that. We’re not changing the campus vernacular. Everything is being designed with Rollins’ traditional look and feel, and we’re taking buildings that were old and tired and making them very special and very Rollins. At the same time, we’re investing in spaces that elevate the things that have always made Rollins great—close partnerships between faculty and students, entrepreneurial thinking and courageous action, rigorous and relevant academics, and a commitment to communities in our backyard and around the world. The new Mills will honor our past while preparing our students to create a brighter tomorrow.
From once-in-a-lifetime international adventure to Orlando’s best internships, find out what the new Mills Memorial Center will mean for current and future Tars.