Retiring anthropology professor Carol Lauer helped Rollins usher in a new era of gender equity.
Anthropology professor Carol Lauer is retiring after four decades at Rollins. (Photo by Scott Cook)
Nowadays, it seems hard to believe, but when Carol Lauer began teaching anthropology at Rollins in 1977, the College had no maternity leave.
“Having a baby was treated the same as any illness,” she says. “That was the insurance jargon of the day. There were so few women on the faculty that this notion of maternity leave did not come up much.”
The past four decades, of course, have seen tremendous progress. With Lauer serving as a catalyst for change, Rollins now has more policies and programs that promote gender equity and opportunity.
Lauer, who will retire from her full-time position this summer, held a variety of leadership positions to advance not only the concerns of women, but the overall quality of the College, says Joan Davison, professor of political science.
“She has helped women adjust to the demands of the profession, but she also has prodded Rollins to adjust to the needs of women,” Davison says. “Carol possessed an amazing talent to lead people to understand why certain policies simply were not fair in outcome. Yet she also focused on the day-to-day arrangements that would facilitate the work of faculty members by easing the stresses of working parent child care.”
Twice president of the faculty, longtime chair of the anthropology department, and a member of several committees, Lauer started an informal child care co-op among faculty parents, helped extend maternity leave for adoptions and dependent care, and was a vital part of Committee W, the first campus organization focused on female faculty and staff members.
In the 1980s, she led the charge to infuse the study of women and gender into Rollins’ curriculum, founding the Women’s Studies program. More recently, she helped start the Global Health program, which has become the fourth-largest minor on campus.
(Photo by Scott Cook)
Lauer has written and taught on subjects that range from preschoolers to monkeys, feminism to evolution. Long before “experiential learning and engagement” became a widely used teaching method, her classes often visited Busch Gardens to interact with primates.
“When I was a child in New Jersey,” Lauer says, “I would watch Jane Goodall of National Geographic on TV, and I thought, here’s a woman from the city who grew up in London and is able to go out and do this kind of work. I told myself, I can do this too.”
Ashley Kistler, current chair of the anthropology department, describes a typical day in one of Lauer’s classes.
“Picture a lobby roped off by crime scene tape and a floor scattered with bones, broken bottles, empty cigarette packs, and bullet casings, strewn about next to a chalk outline of a body,” she says. “Was it a late-night party that got out of hand? A grade dispute that ended with murder? No, just business as usual in the anthropology department, and the setting for a colorful assignment in one of Carol Lauer’s most popular courses, Forensic Anthropology, in which students analyze the evidence in a mock crime scene.”
“Throughout her 39-year career at Rollins,” Kistler adds, “and in classes ranging from Human Evolution to Introduction to Global Health, Lauer has used assignments like this one to highlight the importance and relevance of the discipline of anthropology to the real world.”
Lauer looks back on trips with faculty to exotic locales such as Morocco, the Galápagos Islands, Bali, and Tanzania as some of her favorite experiences. She’s also proud to have served on the search committee that recommended new president Grant Cornwell.
In retirement, Lauer will work part time to help Cornwell shape the College’s strategic plan. She’ll also assist Jennifer Cavanaugh, interim dean of faculty, with select projects while continuing to volunteer with the Winter Park Health Foundation.
Fittingly, one of Lauer’s finest students, Nolan Kline—who has a master’s in public health and a PhD in anthropology—will replace her on the faculty.
“I’m glad I chose this as a career,” Lauer says. “It was a stimulating and exciting environment. I made some wonderful friends and had excellent colleagues.”