Leon Hayner ’11MBA steps into his role as dean of students at a remarkable time for Rollins and society at large.
Rollins has tapped Leon Hayner ’11MBA to serve as the interim assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students, a role he officially assumed on June 1. The former senior director of student life and associate dean of students is moving into the interim role at an extraordinary time of change and uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic.
As the Rollins community is making plans for the return to campus in the fall, the self-described “chief student advocate and cheerleader” is already collaborating across departments to ensure a safe, supportive environment on all levels.
“It will look like a different campus in some ways, but the magic and spirit of community building and one-on-one mentorship and small class sizes—all those things that are core to the Rollins ethos—are holding steady and will remain,” says Hayner.
Against the backdrop of COVID-19, an economic recession, and amplified racial injustice and income inequality, Hayner sees multiple ways to make an impact. He notes that Rollins’ signature brand of interdisciplinary liberal arts education and emphasis on critical thinking are crucial to addressing such pressing challenges.
“Rollins is on a steep upward trajectory when it comes to some of the programmatic things we’re doing such as expanding on-campus living opportunities with the Lakeside Neighborhood and really delivering an unparalleled 21st-century liberal arts education through Rollins Gateway,” says Hayner.
The dean of students works with eight offices, 20 full-time employees, 12 part-time or graduate students, and more than 150 student employees, including resident assistants and peer mentors. The role provides guidance, leadership, and support to several key campus offices, including the Office of Community Standards & Responsibility, the Office of Student & Family Care, the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life, the Office of Accessibility Services, the Office of International Student & Scholar Services, and the Office of Title IX, which will receive new attention to satisfy new federal guidelines.
Hayner spent five years as Rollins’ senior director of student life, adding associate dean responsibilities over the past two years. He holds two master’s degrees, one in business administration from Rollins’ Crummer Graduate School of Business and another in education from Texas Tech University. Hayner started his career at Rollins as the director of residential life, a role he ultimately held for eight years.
Hayner completed a BA in communication from the University of Northern Colorado. Prior to moving to Florida, he spent several years as the student housing complex director working in student housing at the University of Kansas and Texas Tech University.
As a first-generation college student, Hayner enjoys being a role model, especially when he can guide other first-generation students through the structures of undergraduate life. When he oversaw the Office of Residential Life & Explorations, Hayner worked closely to train resident assistants and peer mentors, in addition to managing new-student orientations and the residence-hall system.
“I’m really proud of the relationships I’ve built with students, faculty, and staff over the past 13 years here at Rollins, and I’m planning to rely heavily on those relationships in this new role,” says Hayner. “Yes, I’m the dean of students, but I know our students’ success is a team effort.”
During Hayner’s time at Rollins, every residential facility on campus has been upgraded. He has helped drive the four-year creation of the state-of-the-art Lakeside Neighborhood, a 250-square-foot, five-story facility that’s taking shape along the southeastern shoreline of campus. This neighborhood sets a new standard for liberal arts living and learning by offering students private personal space surrounded by collaborative communal spaces all focused on supporting their health and well-being.
At Rollins, Hayner has also served in numerous volunteer service roles and on committees, including on the teams for Student Care and Intervention as well as Emergency Operations Planning and Response.
Hayner succeeds Meghan Harte Weyant, who came to Rollins at the same time as Hayner and served for 13 years, six of which were as assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students. Hayner’s role as assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students will continue on an interim basis for one year.
From left: Penelope Strater and Juan Escobar
Penelope Strater will take over Hayner’s former associate dean of student duties in addition to retaining her current position as director of Student & Family Care, which she has held since 2015.
Juan Escobar has been promoted to interm director of Residential Life & Explorations, where he most recently served as associate director. Escobar brings to the role more than 10 years of experience in higher education and student affairs.