Rollins Wins 3 Awards from Florida Campus Compact

Professors Sharon Carnahan and Gabriel Barrenche as well as the Rollins College Democracy Project are recognized for their commitment to helping students develop the skills of active citizenship through participation in public and community service.

In 2014, 25 candidates took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States as new citizens. The naturalization ceremony was held on the Rollins College campus thanks to the Democracy Project. (Photo by Scott Cook) In 2014, 25 candidates took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States as new citizens. The naturalization ceremony was held on the Rollins College campus thanks to the Democracy Project. (Photo by Scott Cook)

Two professors and the Rollins College Democracy Project have received awards from Florida Campus Compact, a group of more than 50 college and university presidents that promotes service learning and engaged scholarship.

  • Psychology professor Sharon Carnahan, executive director of the Rollins College Child Development & Student Research Center, won the Engaged Scholarship Faculty award.
  • Professor of Spanish Gabriel Barreneche, interim associate dean of Arts & Sciences, was recognized for Engaged Scholarship Research.
  • And for cross-departmental collaboration on its Democracy Project, Rollins received the Student Affairs Partnering with Academic Affairs Award.

This is the ninth consecutive year Rollins has won awards from Florida Campus Compact. Recipients will be honored November 5 at the organization’s annual gala in Boca Raton.

Fitting Tribute on 25th Anniversary

Sharon Carnahan (Photo by Scott Cook) Sharon Carnahan (Photo by Scott Cook) In the early 1980s, being a single mom on government assistance gave Sharon Carnahan a tremendous amount of empathy for struggling mothers and families. Though she’s been happily re-married for 26 years and is celebrating her 25th year at Rollins, those lessons continue to shape her scholastic pursuits.

“I had a master’s degree, a divorce, and a baby all in the same year,” she says. “I became acutely aware of the issues all working parents face: inflexible and expensive childcare, work schedules, navigating the public assistance labyrinth, finding affordable housing. I developed a rapport with and sensitivity to working parents’ struggles that has stayed with me to this day.”

Carnahan’s engaged teaching and scholarship takes four forms:

  • At the Child Development & Student Research Center, she oversees a highly popular laboratory preschool in which Rollins students work closely with individual children and their families.
  • In disciplinary-specific capstone courses, she trains students to transfer classroom knowledge to community-based programs for children and families, observe and evaluate, provide feedback, and present their work at a conference.
  • Through community engagement courses and international field studies, she has led students since 1991 in focusing on quality-of-life issues locally with Apopka’s migrant farmworker community and internationally with the rural women and children in Costa Rica.
  • She actively promotes community engagement on campus through a number of events—from service learning to social entrepreneurship—and in 2010 was awarded the Cornell Distinguished Faculty Award for Service. 

“My earliest memories involve helping people,” Carnahan says. “I come from a long line of teachers. I couldn’t imagine not having a life of service.”

What Comes Around, Goes Around

Gabriel Barreneche Gabriel Barreneche Gabriel Barreneche is being recognized for his research, which includes four peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters on the topic of language acquisition and service learning as well as the book he co-edited last year, Educational Technology for the Global Village, which explores the intersections of technology, service learning, and international education.

But for Barreneche, the beauty of engaged scholarship research lies in its cyclical benefits: His students’ service-learning projects fuel his academic research, and that research helps improve the next round of service learning he infuses into each course.

“Faculty research at Rollins should always find its way back to the classroom,” he says. “That’s the heart and soul of our institution. Service learning is a vehicle for improving students’ language skills as well as a way to achieve critical learning outcomes such as intercultural competence and civic awareness.”

Since starting at Rollins in 2003, Barreneche has integrated service learning and community engagement in his teaching of Latin American literature, culture, and the Spanish language. Over the past nine years, students in his Spanish for Advanced Communication and Business Spanish courses have teamed up with Junior Achievement of Orlando to bring the J.A. curriculum to Spanish-speaking students in local schools.

He also developed projects with the Apopka Family Learning Center (where students mentored children from immigrant communities) and Winter Park Library’s Lifelong Learning Institute (where students taught basic conversational Spanish to senior citizens).

This is the second time Barreneche has been recognized by Florida Campus Compact. In 2008, the group awarded him its Service Learning Faculty Award. 

Nonpartisan Approach to Civic Engagement

Launched in 2012 to help develop students as holistic, active citizens, the Rollins College Democracy Project was born out of a national call for institutions of higher education to do more to make civic learning deep and meaningful.

Members of the Democracy Project learn about the origins and benefits of SunRail, the new commuter train. Members of the Democracy Project learn about the origins and benefits of SunRail, the new commuter train.

The nonpartisan initiative has become an active force on campus and in the surrounding community, hosting voter-registration drives, a naturalization ceremony in partnership with Associate Professor of Political Science Julia Maskivker, and a mayoral town hall forum, among other activities.

With a strong partnership between student affairs and academic affairs, the Democracy Project promotes cross-campus collaboration in helping students, staff, faculty, and the administration elevate civic education and democratic action.

A student takes a selfie with Representative John Mica at the Florida Hospital Health Village SunRail station. A student takes a selfie with Representative John Mica at the Florida Hospital Health Village SunRail station.

“We empower students to make informed decisions about their government and politics,” says Marissa Corrente, associate director of the Center for Leadership & Community Engagement. “These two areas profoundly affect their personal lives and nearly every aspect of the world around them. Through programming, not only are students asked to think critically, but they are also given the opportunity to teach, advocate, and engage their peers, faculty, and staff.”

Former Surgeon General Antonia Novello congratulates a new U.S. Citizen. The naturalization ceremony was held on the Rollins College campus thanks to the Democracy Project. (Photo by Scott Cook) Former Surgeon General Antonia Novello congratulates a new U.S. Citizen. The naturalization ceremony was held on the Rollins College campus thanks to the Democracy Project. (Photo by Scott Cook)

The Democracy Project is staffed by an associate director (Corrente), a student employee (James Ryan ’17), and a board of student ambassadors, and works closely with faculty on a number of projects and initiatives.

“The mission of the initiative,” Corrente says, “is really just an application of Rollins’ mission of global citizenship and responsible leadership. It allows students to draw on what they’ve learned in the classroom and expand their knowledge by engaging with their campus and local community.”

A boy waves an American flag during the United States naturalization ceremony on the Rollins College campus. A boy waves an American flag during the United States naturalization ceremony on the Rollins College campus.