A Conversation With the President

President Grant Cornwell reflects on Rollins’ unique location—from our top-ranked campus and the cosmopolitan charm of Winter Park to the ever-expanding opportunities Orlando offers.

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

Q: Our campus is often recognized for its beauty. While this recognition is well deserved, what would you like our campus to be recognized for in addition to its beauty?

A: In addition to its aesthetic qualities, what’s beautiful about the campus is that its design is attuned to our mission. Our campus fosters intimacy and relationships and that is what a Rollins education is about. Everywhere you go on the Rollins campus you find courtyards, small spaces, places for people to be together in conversation. That is the way learning really takes place at Rollins—in the context of human relationships. A liberal education is about relational learning. It’s about learning in conversation with people, and importantly, talking with people who don’t necessarily think like you do.

Q: Rollins and Winter Park are entwined by both history and geography. How does the closeness of Winter Park contribute to the value of a Rollins education and our mission?

A: At Rollins, you don’t have to own a car or take a cab into town. You simply step foot across Fairbanks Avenue and all of a sudden you’re in this very cosmopolitan, very sophisticated small community. When you’re in Winter Park, you feel like you’re in a very cultured small town and yet we’re surrounded on all sides by this global city of Orlando. It’s that nesting that makes our location so ideal.

Q: Based on the Rollins’ location in Orlando, what do we offer students that other liberal arts colleges can’t?

A: Most of America’s finest liberal arts colleges are located in rural communities. Think about Grinnell. Think about Hamilton. Think about Bowdoin and Bates and Colby. They are all in quintessential college towns where the college is the town. That was a viable notion for parts of American history, but I think it’s becoming increasingly untenable. With Rollins, you have a traditional, residential liberal arts campus right in the middle of a global city. We are extraordinary for that. Our location allows us to live out our mission to educate students for global citizenship and responsible leadership not just in theory but in practice. Our students can go out into Orlando and enjoy all of the opportunities of a global city. They also can meet and engage all of the challenges of a global city. It really is the ideal place for a liberal education tuned to this century.

Q: Orlando has been tapped as a top “American City of the Future.” What does the city’s growth mean for Rollins students?

A: Orlando has a national and international reputation for entertainment and theme parks, but increasingly it is a gravitational center for high-tech entrepreneurship and intellectual capital as well. There aren’t many urban areas in the U.S. that can say they are growing at the rate Orlando is, and population growth is linked with job growth. The outlook for the Orlando job market is fantastically bright and it needs educated labor. To have Rollins here and have the top-ranked graduate business school in Florida right on campus with all of the economic opportunity of Orlando—that’s a huge set of stepping-stones for our students.