A Conversation with the President

As Grant Cornwell prepares to take the helm as the College’s next president, he discusses what drew him to Rollins.

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

Q: You’ve mentioned a few times how you were drawn to Rollins’ mission to educate students for global citizenship and responsible leadership. Why does that resonate with you?

A: In short, this is precisely what liberal education has to offer the world and what Rollins does so well. We know that globalization has created challenges and opportunities that are complex. To best address and harness both, the world needs smart, creative, effective leaders with a well-calibrated moral compass. A liberal education like the one
we offer at Rollins is the best way, maybe the only way, to calibrate that compass in a manner adequate to the task while also preparing graduates for prosperous careers and engaged adult lives.

Q: What do prosperous careers and engaged lives look like, and how do you think we best prepare students for both?

A: Gallup and Purdue University recently released a report called “Great Jobs, Great Lives,” which surveyed more than 30,000 alumni from various colleges across the U.S. The intent of the study was to discern what really matters in college. The principal finding of the study is this: For those who report having “great jobs,” meaning not just a healthy income but also a robust sense of purpose in one’s work, and who report having “great lives,” meaning a real sense of fulfillment and well-being, what mattered most to them in college—and what they credit for their success—is having professors who cared about them, made them excited about learning, and took a personal interest in their development. In short, what really matters is having faculty and staff who are mentors to students. This describes the kind of learning culture that Rollins provides, and it is through these relationships that our graduates are launched in their pursuits of meaningful lives and productive careers.

Q: How do you think Rollins is situated to make good on our mission?

A: A liberal education for the 21st century must be pursued in a learning community that is rich in diversity. Liberal education, especially in this era, is only possible on a campus where students, faculty, and staff mutually engage one another in the mission, sharing perspectives from diverse backgrounds. This is why Rollins seeks to welcome into our community members who bring all manner of diversity of backgrounds and perspectives: racial, ethnic, gender, socioeconomic, faith traditions, regional, international, and political. Excellence in fulfilling our mission presupposes this kind of diversity. What is fortuitous is that the campus, situated as it is in Central Florida, makes the task of building this kind of diversity, this kind of campus community, highly achievable.

Q: What’s your first order of business?

A: I have already begun a diligent project of listening and learning. Before I can be a worthy collaborator in charting a course for the future of Rollins, I have to come to know its people, its history, and its culture. My wife, Peg, and I have both thrown ourselves into all things Rollins, and we feel so fortunate to discover every day how much there is to love about this fine college.

Cornwell will begin his Rollins presidency July 1.